Credit Unions beefing up on staff

January 8, 2012

Human resources manager Teisha Williams has uploaded at least 20 job listings to the State Employees Credit Union of Maryland’s Web site in the past two months.

The Linthicum-based financial cooperative typically has a handful of openings at any given time, but lately there has been a greater need for financial consultants and tellers.

SECU, like many other credit unions in the Washington area, experienced a surge in new accounts amid the anti-bank sentiment that swept the country last fall. That activity, coupled with branch expansion and an uptick in mortgage refinancing, has been leading institutions to beef up on staff.

“There has been an increase in the volume of activity and credit unions are positioning themselves for further growth as the economy continues to improve,” said John Bratsakis, head of the Maryland & D.C. Credit Union Association, which has an aggregate list of more than 50 job openings at area institutions on its Web site.

It’s unclear how many available positions there are at local credit unions as the Labor Department does not drill down that far in its job openings data.

According to the Credit Union National Association, full-time employment at local credit uions dropped to 2,864 in September 2011 from 2,878 a year earlier as investments in information technology eliminated the need for some staffers. Yet industry observers say hiring picked up as credit unions experienced growth in membership throughout 2011.

Last year, SECU added 14,335 customers, 28 percent of whom signed up following Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5, when consumers were encouraged to move their money out of big banks to avoid fees. During the week of the event, sparked by Bank of America’s short-lived plan to levy fees on debit cards, the number of new checking accounts at the credit union rose 62 percent over the same week in 2010 and 2009.

“Business is increasing because more people are switching to credit unions, so we have to have the staff to meet their needs,” Williams said.

Educational Systems Federal Credit Union chief executive Chris Conway said the furor surrounding banking fees led new customers to his door. The Greenbelt-based credit union, which serves members of the education field, added 1,000 members tlast year.

Conway pointed out, however, that membership and headcount have been growing steadily for years. “We’ve hired because we’re expanding a few positions each year, and have done so for the last decade,” he said, noting the credit union currently has six job openings.

At NASA Federal Credit Union in Upper Marlboro, new loan originators are in demand as more members seek to refinance their mortgages, said chief executive Doug Alliman.

“With rates as low as they are, we’ve seen activity pick up in that area,” he said.

NASA FCU, Alliman added, has ramped up its marketing to educate consumers about their eligibility to join, contributing to a 20 percent increase in new members. A number of credit unions started such campaigns last year, which Bratsakis of the credit union association suspects contributed to industry-wide growth.

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