So you work in the banking industry. Or, at least, you want to.
But… you want something more. Maybe a little more fulfilling, maybe a little more rewarding.
Don’t ignore that feeling. I know that the most important decision you will make on the job market is where you work. I have had more than one potential job candidate express dissatisfaction with previous positions at national banks because they feel like just another part of the machine. One of my candidates remarked that she didn’t want to leave the industry (she had spent several years working as a teller at two different banks), but she wanted to find a place where she felt valued, and that served customers as more than just customers.
Overall, she told me that:
She didn’t feel close to the people she served.
She didn’t feel valued by the company she worked for.
She didn’t feel like they were making any sort of difference in people’s everyday lives..
It’s easy to see why an employee would get frustrated when they don’t feel valued. It might be a little harder to wrap your mind around the notion of a bank teller as someone who is looking to serve a community or the people around them. But when I staff credit union jobs specifically, it's mainly because of what you can do as part of a credit union staff. It’s less about what you do and more about what you represent.
Obviously, I suggested that she try a credit union. I told her that there are several reasons why you’d want to work at a credit union, all of which speak to what she was looking for at the time. If you work with a credit union, you can enjoy being a valued and valuable part of a team that serves a community (often long-term) by making providing support, comfort, and stability for members of that community.
How Credit Unions Operate
Credit unions aren’t privately owned. That means there aren’t any corporate board meetings or C-level executives driving the company for profit.
As an aside, it is important to know that private banks are actually privately owned, and operate on a model of profit generation. That typically comes through a combination of two approaches:
First, banks can (and often do) invest money in risky ventures in order to turn a profit. And when I say “invest money” I mean invest your money--the money you deposit in your account.
Second, they often push products and services that tie individuals to the institution for a profit. These include lines of credit (and even credit cards now) and initially-low fees that become higher over time.
So Why Would You Want to Work With a Credit Union?
That depends on the kind of work you want to do.
The main reason many people work at credit unions are that they are reliable, solid, and responsible members of their financial communities. That means that
They serve the community they are rooted in, whether that is a town or an entire region, and
They maintain particular regulations about how they maintain and protect the deposits of their members.
You might not think of a bank as a community organization, but as I’ve written about before, credit unions are often the financial centers of the communities they serve. Following that, if you want a community-facing position that does more than customer service (although customer service is part of the job) then working with a credit union can prove much more rewarding.
Also, if you are a people-oriented person looking for a job where you interact with customers regularly, especially where you can get to know life-long customers, then working with a credit union can be incredibly rewarding. These institutions are places where the local population is invested (literally and figuratively).
Reliability and Stability
Credit unions will also give back more regularly to their customers, and provide the stability that many large banks on a for-profit model may not.
Think about the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis, most credit unions stayed open versus many banks. The truth of the matter is that credit unions are, by law and by their responsibility to their members/owners, more conservative with their money. Deposits in credit unions are also insured in much the same way they are with banks.
Working With a Credit Union Is About Community
Because credit unions are more community-focused, and show less emphasis on profits, they tend to be more intimate places where long-time members of the local community are able to keep their money, borrow money for purchases, and save money for future investments.
With this in mind, the staff of a credit union has a much more intimate connection with those customers. They often serve as the frontline for the credit union’s community efforts, and good tellers at credit unions form relationships with customers that make those customers feel secure in where they put their money.
Furthermore, you’re more likely to be part of a team than at a large bank. Credit Unions function on a motto of community first, which means that they want their customers to feel like the organization is part of their community. It’s not uncommon for tellers, representatives, and customers to all know each other by first name, and for the staff to have a pretty good understanding of what that person needs.
If you work in the financial industry and you’re looking for something that will root you in your local community, then I wholeheartedly recommend looking into credit unions. Better yet, contact me email@example.com and we can chat more about potential employment opportunities in credit unions, and get the ball rolling on your future career.