Workers Credit Union Provides Personalized Financial Coaching To Members Through The Workers Way™

Workers Credit Union Provides Personalized Financial Coaching

In a Nutshell: The North Central Massachusetts communities that Workers Credit Union serves are known for their diligence and commitment. Those attributes are also what more than 125,000 members expect of their credit union. Workers Credit Union expresses its member connection most prominently through The Workers Way™, a personalized, judgment-free, one-on-one financial coaching program. Offered as a member benefit, The Workers Way helps all members acquire tools and skills to overcome setbacks and achieve their financial goals.

With more than 125,000 members and more than $2.6 billion in assets under management, Workers Credit Union has grown far beyond its pre-World War I origins in North Central Massachusetts. But the attributes of the people who started the credit union still influence its approach to member services.

Workers began in the community of Fitchburg when a printing company owner sought a charter for an institution to serve his fellow Finnish immigrants. The charter promised to recruit only members who were “honest, industrious, and of good habits.”

Those remain apt descriptors for the area’s population, though it’s considerably more diverse now than it was then. Only a short drive from Boston, North Central Massachusetts is a land of rolling hills and rural communities where the past remains very much in the present.

Workers Credit Union logo

“The way I explain it is that the people we serve are ordinary people who do extraordinary things,” said Elizabeth Hayes, Chief Member Experience Officer and Executive Vice President at Workers. “They’re hardworking, they pay their bills, and they have high integrity.”

So when the Workers invited members to participate in listening sessions after rolling out interactive teller machines throughout its branch network in spring 2023, more than 400 people responded. The credit union had made some changes, and members wanted to know about them.

“They were ready to talk,” Hayes said.

Hayes and her team hosted two sessions where members were able to share their experiences and staff could listen and respond. They learned that although older and younger members appreciated the new technology and its convenience for routine transactions, members of all ages still valued the credit union’s 17 branches and its local commitment.

“We learned that even our younger members like to work with their local branch,” Hayes said. “When it comes to things like their first car, their first home, and even their first credit card, local still is very important to people.”

Empowering Members to Achieve Financial Wellness

Listening session attendees were most concerned with the impact the new interactive teller machines had on employees. Hayes and her team assured members that the credit union laid off no employees due to the rollout and video tellers appreciate the increased flexibility of being able to work remotely and being able to serve a larger number of members from a wider geographic area.

“They wanted to know the employees were cared for,” Hayes said. “Whether we’re working with small businesses, individuals, or community groups — including new immigrant communities — our members want the opportunity to talk with us and build the deep relationships they value.”

Workers Credit Union spends much of its time encouraging area small businesses through its robust business services division. It offers savings and checking accounts, credit lines, and loans, including SBA loans, to fit various business use cases. Business insurance and merchant services are also available through the credit union.

Elizabeth Hayes
Elizabeth Hayes is Chief Member Experience Officer and Executive Vice President at Workers.

Workers offers a complete portfolio of personal financial services, including checking and savings accounts, CDs and money market accounts, and mortgages and personal loans. It also operates a retirement planning and investment center and offers a whole gamut of insurance products.

Member and business success stories attest to the credit union’s effectiveness in offering low-rate, high-yield products that outcompete what area for-profit institutions can provide with service to match.

Workers Credit Union considers itself a tech-forward institution that maintains a human connection in everything it does. Rolling out the interactive teller machines provides evidence of its tech focus. Yet Workers Credit Union deploys employees in every branch to assist members with the new technology and operates a robust contact center with video tellers.

“We provide excellent service through our video tellers,” Hayes said. “We want to have the technology available so members have a choice in how they engage with us, whether it is in person, with a video teller, or on the phone depending on their situation. We want to encourage those relationships and that human connection.”

The spring 2023 listening sessions confirmed that.

“We learned that member choice is exceedingly important,” Hayes said.

The Workers Way Features Certified Financial Coaches

Workers Credit Union extends its flexibility to the financial counseling it delivers through The Workers Way. Certified financial counselors allow all members to schedule as many personalized, one-on-one coaching sessions as they need to regroup after setbacks, build practical financial plans, and achieve money goals.

“I’ve worked in credit unions my whole career, and I’ve never seen an institution go to this degree where we’re available to set up plans with each member,” Hayes said. “Members can feel confident that the advice they’re getting is credible and that they can believe in it.”

Members make appointments, meet with a dedicated financial coach in person or virtually, review their financial history, conceptualize their financial future, and put the right action plan together to achieve the desired outcome.

Workers Way coaching session
Members may schedule unlimited personalized coaching sessions through The Workers Way.

Workers Credit Union intentionally designed The Workers Way to focus on relationship building and goal planning. It trains its financial coaches and relationship managers to match products and services to solutions only when it works to the member’s advantage while advancing the organization’s goals.

Putting members in control of the program helps many feel comfortable overcoming stigmas around financial struggles. Many members address sensitive topics they would hesitate to discuss with family.

Members set the pace, scheduling sessions as frequently as biweekly. They’re free to continue meeting with a counselor until they meet their goal or reach a point where they feel confident on their own. Counselors and relationship managers are proud of the opportunity to work with people and change their lives.

“Financial decisions can either make or break you,” Hayes said. “We set it up in a structured manner but also with sensitivity and care. It’s not unusual for sessions to tap into different emotions and end with a hug.”

Building Trust Through Human Connections

Coaches will even go to where the members are, meeting them in coffee shops and other public places before, during, and after work. It’s more evidence of how far Workers is willing to go to provide this crucial benefit to as many members as possible.

“We fashion unique solutions through plans that fit members’ unique needs,” Hayes said.

Workers Credit Union is sticking to the decision to roll out those interactive teller machines in its branches. But it realizes some of the stereotypes around generational financial services don’t hold water in its communities.

Hayes said members of all ages appreciate Workers’ branch presence even if they don’t visit the branches particularly often. They favor branches for what they say about the credit union’s community commitment and status as a job creator. They want humans available in branches and call centers to answer complex questions and shepherd members as they acquire products and achieve milestones.

“Older folks enjoy using the new technology once they understand it and feel comfortable,” Hayes said. “And even younger folks have questions and want to talk to people.”

As North Central Massachusetts continues to diversify beyond its early 20th-century role as a community for Finnish immigrants, Workers Credit Union designs programs to meet members where they are in appropriate languages.

Members should feel confident that Workers Credit Union will be whatever they need it to be, whatever the future holds.

“We’ll continue to focus on understanding our members and serving them well,” Hayes said.