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CUNA council white paper discusses juggling priorities
MADISON, Wis. (7/27/12)--The operations and branch managers who keep credit unions' branch operations in motion typically are experts in juggling priorities, according to a new CUNA Operations Sales & Service Council white paper.

"Juggling Priorities in Branch Operations Management" is based on information gathered from a variety of sources, including six operations and branch managers at four credit unions.

The white paper explores the tactics used by managers to balance multiple demands. For example, operations and branch managers must meet member needs, nurture employees, reinvent processes, pursue strategic goals, introduce new initiatives and serve a critical role on special teams and task forces.

Operations and branch managers alike play a pivotal role in driving significant changes within the credit union, said the paper. In some cases, they may help drive these changes as part of teams working on special projects that impact culture, compensation, products and services, and front-line operations. In other situations, they are responsible for helping employees adopt changes in their daily work life based on initiatives driven by other managers, the executive suite or the board. In either scenario, they play a key role in making sure that plans turn into reality in day-to-day operations, the paper said.

"You have to be a visionary person who isn't stuck on 'the way we've always done it,'" said Laura Enquist, director of branches at $1.6 billion asset Spokane (Wash.) Teachers CU. At the same time, managers must be willing to make adjustments to new ideas until they work, or even abandon them if they don't improve.

The responsibilities of branch operations managers and branch managers also can vary, depending on the size and organization of their credit union. At smaller credit unions, a branch manager may even double as the branch operations manager. Small to mid-size credit unions may also combine the operation manager's role with other responsibilities, such as collections or compliance.

Operations and branch managers interviewed for the white paper said they believe the branch will survive the increasing emphasis on electronic interaction because members still want and need face-to-face interaction in some situations. At the same time, these managers recognize that as the number of branch transactions declines, the role of the branch will evolve to focus on relationships.

Finding the right balance will be crucial as operations and branch managers work to satisfy day-to-day demands with long-term priorities, the paper said.

"You're always going to have more than you can do on your priority list," said Marshall Pipkin, branch manager at $749 million asset Firstmark CU, San Antonio. "Be strategic in the ones you decide to attack."
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