How This CU Overcame Key Person Risk and Staffing Costs by Outsourcing Accounting
June 23, 2021
Is your credit union one of the many that are burdened with finding, affording, and retaining skilled staff – especially in such a specific niche as credit union accounting? Do you struggle with key person risk and separation of duties, and turnover? If it was challenging before to keep an accounting department running smoothly, it’s even worse now, with massive upheavals in employment and costs.
Siskiyou Credit Union feels your pain. Sudden and shocking staff changes, combined with planned retirements, made for an urgent need for deep credit union accounting expertise, and not many places to turn to obtain it.
"We have to know that we can depend on accounting to function day in and day out without any interruption."
-Becky Ives, President/CEO, Siskiyou CU
Siskiyou Credit Union is an $96M organization located in Yreka, CA, – a small northern California town. Read on to learn how our accounting assistance service came to the rescue in a time of great uncertainty and stress for this credit union, as well as the makings of a strong accounting partnership.
Areas of focus include:
The benefit of having a team with deep, credit union-specific accounting expertise at your fingertips;
The real, pervasive problem of lack of skilled staff across the country;
How Aux and Siskiyou implemented services quickly (less than two weeks) to address urgent needs; and
Challenges, tips, and advice for partnering in shared services model – and how it doesn’t make sense for everyone.
We sat down with Becky Ives, long-time CEO of Siskiyou CU, and Brenda Byrd, equally long-time CFO-turned retiree-turned CFO again (we’ll explain.) They shared with us their ugly, very bad start to 2020. Byrd had spent two years training her replacement – and sadly the replacement left Siskiyou after just one year. Then, shortly after, another key person from the accounting team went on maternity leave. Suddenly and without warning, Siskiyou’s accounting team vanished. “We were in a situation where we were not going to have our in-house accounting available anymore. Ok, where do we turn?” sighs CEO Ives.
Ives reached out to her trusted network at TCT Risk Solutions and Richard and Associates, who does their internal audits. They in turn recommended Aux as a possible outsourced accounting solution. Previously, Ives and Byrd had little knowledge that such a turnkey, robust service existed—let alone who Aux was.
The Challenge of Finding, and Affording, Skilled Staff
It seemed like the Aux Accounting Team’s extensive industry experience and skilled team, trained three-deep on each client, might be a remedy to Siskiyou staffing plagues. The partnership moved quickly.
“Once we had the conversation with the Aux CFO and her team, we felt pretty comfortable moving forward with the process. I was also fortunate enough that Byrd came out of retirement to help. From the time we got the two-week notice, we were on the phone with the Aux Team within 48 hours and had our decision made and a contract signed within about a week’s time,” explains Ives. In addition, Siskiyou received notice that the state and insurance regulators were coming in for their two-year audit during this time. Consequentially, Byrd came out of retirement to help Ives with the credit union’s accounting function and finding a new replacement. Talk about stressful!
We wanted to take a moment to address how common Siskiyou’s staffing woes are in the industry. The Aux Accounting team has worked with dozens of credit unions over the past five years, in all shapes and sizes. Staffing and key person risk is as pervasive a problem as they come, and not confined to one region. California, however, is a hotspot, both in affording and finding skilled staff. In Siskiyou’s case, their woes included the latter.
“We’re in a very small city at the very top of California,” explains Ives. In 2019, Yreka’s population was 7,500. Only 45,000 people live in the entire county, and the closest mid-sized city, Eugene, OR, is 200 miles away. “Byrd was with us for 24 years and looked for a replacement for six years,” said Ives. “It’s very, very hard to find a candidate that has the qualifications and has the necessary passion for accounting. It’s not everybody’s forte, even if it’s something they feel they want to learn.”
Do any of these pain points strike a nerve with you? Read of the rest of the case study below to learn how Siskiyou overcame their struggles.