Peer Mentors Help New Branches Get Up And Running

A new branch concept and new teller model requires a creative take to staffing at an Oregon credit union.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • A new branch concept at Rivermark Community Credit Union relies on universal employees and video tellers.
  • The credit union has opened five of these branches since 2014 and has developed a peer mentorship program to complement its universal staffing model.

In October 2014, Rivermark Community Credit Union ($829.2M, Beaverton, OR) opened its first member resource center a branch evolution that replaces in-person tellers with video technology that connects members to off-site staff.

To maintain that personal touch in the branch, the credit union relies on universal employees at these locations to greet members, open new accounts, process loans, and more.


Rivermark Community Credit Union
Data as of 12.31.17

HQ: Beaverton, OR
ASSETS: $829.2M
MEMBERS: 89,634
ROA: 0.60%

But the new staffing model left the credit union in a bit of a training trap: Rivermark had historically paired new tellers with veteran ones for on-the-job training. But since the credit union introduced universal tellers from scratch, there was no opportunity for peer training: Rivermark’s first universal tellers had no peers.

In this Q&A, Randy Bresee, vice president of member experience at Rivermark Community, discusses the opening of a new member resource center (MRC) in March 2018 and how the credit union adapted its training program for its universal employees.


How did Rivermark Community approach teller training before it introduced member resource centers?

Randy Bresee: In the old days two years ago is the old days in the financial services world new tellers went through a week or two of training. When they came back to the branch, we’d have them work side-by-side with a teller mentor who would help them answer questions, process transactions, the whole thing.

Randy Bresee, Vice President of Member Experience, Rivermark Community Credit Union

How have the member resource centers made training more challenging?

RB: Our video tellers are now all housed in our headquarters, and we have universal employees on-site who need guidance on things like, How do I greet members coming into the MRC? How do I define what they are there to do, and how I can help them? Do I need to help them with a kiosk? Do I need to put them in our scheduling software? Do I need to take them back to start with a relationship process?

Because of this model, we don’t necessarily have enough folks who can mentor others.

6 Tips To Run A Mentor Program

Bresee offers six tips for credit unions considering a mentor program:

  1. Pick the right talent: Find employees with the people skills necessary for member interaction who are also tech savvy.
  2. Employ formalized training from your training department (which the Rivermark calls its Employee Resource Center) to provide workplace basics to the employee.
  3. Use your top float pool team members, or some other identified employee group, to provide mentorship/shadowing on-site with employees. In Rivermark’s case, its float pool are its highest trained loan and new accounts specialsts, which is why it assigns one of these folks to a new universal associate as they are available.
  4. Use other locations and employees with a similar universal model to assist the new employee gain additional workflow perspectives.
  5. Assign a mentor from your float pool who can be a resource for the new universal associate through phone conversations and email follow-ups after the formalized training.
  6. Ensure regular weekly coaching sessions occur once the new associate is in the branch full-time.

How do you work through that challenge?

RB: We found we needed to alter our training for our member resource centers. Initial training now takes about two months because staff needs to know more than just how to conduct a teller transaction, they need to be an expert on all the other stuff, too.

We also took a two-pronged approach to mentoring. First, our float staff are experts. They can work in our contact center, our interactive solutions specialist department, in a branch basically anywhere in our credit union. They can open memberships, lend, the whole thing.

If a floater is not assigned to a specific branch, we pair them up with a new employee to walk them through as much as they can. But because they’re often covering for employees who are out sick or on PTO, the strategy doesn’t work 100% of the time.

What’s the other prong?

RB: We sent the hires from a new location to another location for a day. We made them a schedule to expose them to different people, sit down with different employees, see how the workflow looks, and apply what they learned to how the MRC operates.

That turned out to be a wonderful process to ready the team. We’ve been open for several weeks and we’re finding these folks are well trained.

You learn a certain way of doing things in college, but then you graduate and go into the world and it’s not really the same as you’ve learned in your books.

Randy Bresee, Vice President of Member Experience, Rivermark Community Credit Union

Is there anything formal about the mentorship or is it more of a Big Brother-Big Sister form of oversight?

RB: Big Brother-Big Sister. The MRC concept is still new, and we’re tweaking design to better serve members. The training process is like that as well. We’re still finding the best way to expose new hires to the work to get the MRCs up and running.

It’s one thing to have a department head train, and another to have a coworker do it. Do new hires have any reaction to this process?

RB: It’s super positive because it is a peer. You learn a certain way of doing things in college, but then you graduate and go into the world and it’s not really the same as you’ve learned in your books. You get great basics. Here, it’s your peers who are telling you what’s happening and situations that might actually occur.

Plus, it creates a relationship between the trainee and the trainer. Trainers do this work every single day, so they’re a great resource to reach out to and ask, Can you help me solve this problem I ran into?

This interview has been edited and condensed.


April 23, 2018

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