Siskiyou CU: Stabilizing Their Accounting Function

A $96M, Northern California credit union overcomes key person risk and staffing costs by outsourcing

Siskiyou Credit Union is an $96M organization located in Yreka, CA, – a small northern California town. Like many other credit unions Aux has encountered, they were struggling with several common pains in their accounting department: key person risk, finding and affording skilled staff, and training.

The executive team at Siskiyou are some of the most passionate credit union folks we at Aux have ever encountered. They are hard workers, dedicated to the credit union cause, and quick to adapt in this wild world. It made sense then that they would be quick to embrace a shared services model when things got bumpy at Siskiyou in early 2020. 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.

🤔 The Challenge:

Sudden and shocking staff changes, combined with planned retirements, made for an urgent need for deep credit union accounting expertise at Siskiyou CU, and not many places to turn to obtain it.

Becky Ives

"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


In this case study, we will investigate how Aux’s 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

  1. The benefit of having a team with deep, credit union-specific accounting expertise at your fingertips;
  2. The real, pervasive problem of lack of skilled staff across the country;
  3. How Aux and Siskiyou implemented services quickly (less than two weeks) to address urgent needs; and
  4. Challenges, tips, and advice for partnering in shared services model – and how it doesn’t make sense for everyone.

The Aux Team 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.”

“Someone who is able to step in and understand credit union accounting, who can talk the talk and walk the walk with us was extremely important,” says CEO Ives.

We’d be remiss to not acknowledge how proactive Siskiyou was in finding a solution to their problems, which benefited them mightily. Not every credit union takes such an aggressive and open approach to finding a solution, which can create massive structural issues to an accounting function over time. Desperate hiring of inadequate staff, lack of training, and messy, inconsistent processes can create real problems, many where Aux has had to step in and “put out the fire.”

But Ives knew what damage a disruption would do to Siskiyou. “I’m going to come right back to the fact that I worked with Byrd for 24 years, and I knew what that disruption was going to look like. I didn’t have any choices – I had to bring some stability to my credit union.”

👏The Benefit:

Access to a team with deep, credit union-specific accounting expertise that can be up-to-speed in just weeks.

Growing Pains

Siskiyou has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years. At the time of writing, they’ve recently surpassed the $100M in assets mark and expect further growth in the coming years. This growth has been a catalyst for Ives to take a hard look at how things were done before. “A credit union of this size and with the kind of growth that we’re experiencing can no longer depend on, and be at the mercy of, a limited talent pool in our area. We have to make sure that our accounting is in a solid foundation and a controlled environment,” says Ives.

We have to know that we can depend on it to function day out without any interruption. Stabilizing our account environment is a top priority for myself and my board.” – CEO Ives

The truth is that many credit union executives are near retirement age. Many have been in the business their whole lives – 25, 40 years. They are seeing growth in their credit union but trying to understand what will happen after they retire. Gone are the days where credit unions can expect to have an executive stay for decades, and with each transition, comes disruption. “People don’t stay in jobs like they used to stay. There are more moving pieces and training that has to take place on a constant basis to cover aspects of accounting and daily balancing. My goal moving forward with these pieces is to alleviate the need to be two and three deep in some of the most critical areas of the credit union,” says Ives.

I’ve had my examiners ask me if I was still looking for a CFO,” says Ives. “And my answer has been that I’m never going to shut the door to that option, but I’m also not going to shut the door to the stability that this new third party partnership brings to our credit union.”

Ives, too is planning on retiring within the next five years. “I don’t want to get that phone call Byrd got!” Byrd laughs – because what else can you do?

Unexpected Benefits

Many credit unions accounting partners do not anticipate the relief of having trained accounting staff three-deep that Aux brings. Once survival mode wears off, credit unions can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The Aux Team even stepped in and took over all daily processes for a Wyoming credit union client during the solar eclipse of 2017 so the staff could take the day off and watch it.

“As we move forward with the daily balancing and transactions, we’re not constantly trying to make sure that we are trained two or three deep for people, in case of a family emergency, sick leave, maternity leave, family emergency vacations…all of those things that  happen,” says Ives. “It also relieves stress within the management team as well. It’s still going to get done.”

Have you ever wondered how your accounting function stacked up against peers? Were you lacking in certain areas, strong in others? Aux’s best kept secret is their unique perspective based on a compilation of dozens of credit union accounting departments they’ve worked with. Truly, no one else in the industry can offer such a viewpoint and practical advice. “An unexpected benefit of working with Aux was that it allowed me to view our internal processes and documents though a different lens,” says Byrd. “Seeing them through the eyes of the Aux Team and hearing their comments on what we already had in place was reaffirming. I was relieved that they were very pleased with our existing documentation.”

Tips and Tricks

Partnering with an outsourced accounting provider isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain type of credit union culture for it to be successful – one that is open to collaboration and willing to work hard at communication. Aux has been providing accounting assistance for over five years now, and the keys to a successful accounting partnership remains steady – honesty, communication, and organization (if possible!)


“It’s challenging, but you need to provide honest feedback about your needs and expectations. Tell them that this needs to be done faster or that you’re not doing that quite right. Being able to get tasks done in the manner that you need them done is hugely beneficial,” says Byrd.

Credit unions not only have to be honest with their accounting partner, but also with themselves. Sticking their heads in the sand won’t help anyone, and in fact, could severely injure your credit union– (we’ve seen it).  As Byrd attests, “You cannot just count on a magic wand to do it because it’s not going to happen that smoothly if you don’t prepare for it. We were fortunate that the preparation was being done for years. If you are constantly hiring people, maybe it’s time to look at a third party and have an early discussion with folks on what’s going to be needed to streamline your function.”

“When you start to see that people are retiring or leaving within your credit union, it’s time to use the people you still have on staff to help you put together a good structure (instructions, work sheets)  to prepare for the transition.” – CFO Byrd.

Documentation and Organization:

“One of the most important components for any credit union looking at making this kind of transition is looking within and seeing what they have in place and can bring to the table to aid in the process. They need to look in their structure to understand what the transition’s going to look like. Look within and be sure to have someone in house that can walk the walk and talk the talk with your vendor to help them do the job for you”, explains Byrd.

“It’s much more difficult for your outsourced partner if you fail to give them policy procedures, worksheets, and how-to’s,” advises Byrd.  Siskiyou was certainly ahead of the game with accounting documentation. The transition benefited heavily from Byrd’s quarter-century of meticulous documentation. Even if your credit union doesn’t have the Siskiyou-level of accounting organization and process management, that shouldn’t deter you from seeking out help.


Communication is perhaps the most important component of a successful accounting partnership. “The credit union needs to know what’s going on, because there is an expectation from when it was being physically done in the credit union, and that needs to be transformed when handing it over to somebody else,” says Byrd, continuing, “Our timelines that need to be met because there are other employees in the credit union, waiting for this information before they can move forward with other tasks.” But there is such a thing as too much communication. “We don’t want to be buried in communication – there has to be a happy medium. We’ve set up a weekly call where we can all get together and make sure that we’re getting at least weekly communications,” says Byrd.


The Aux and Siskiyou partnership is a cherished one and we hope you found this study valuable in your journey to improve your accounting function. We urge you to consider the shared services outsourcing model if you are struggling to find and retain staff and stabilize your function. To recap, below are the benefits Siskiyou has gained from partnering with the Aux Accounting Team:

  1. Mitigation of key-person risk;
  2. Stabilization of accounting department from vacations, emergencies, resigning, etc.;
  3. Obtaining perspective on the health of accounting function based cumulative consulting experience; and
  4. Reduction of training and resources from hiring churn.
Siskiyou FCU

About Siskiyou CU

Siskiyou Credit Union’s mission since its inception was and will remain “Service you expect, at a cost you can afford, by people who care.”

We believe everyone has the opportunity to achieve their financial goals. We believe shared responsibility enhances the quality of life in our community. We do this by offering products and services to fit your life, your needs with compassion and integrity empowering you to live the quality of life you want.

Siskiyou Credit Union was founded in 1962 when two visionaries wanted to offer county employees a safe and affordable place to keep their hard earned pay. After many moves, changes, and charter expansions, Siskiyou Credit Union expanded our charter to the entire community in January 2001.  Ever since, we have been serving community residents with a full range of financial products that offer high interest, low fees, and stellar member-focused service.

Today, we are over 8,600 members strong with over 100 million in assets and look forward to a bright future ahead.

Learn more at

Wondering if our full-service accounting assistance could help your credit union? Reach out to us for a zero-salesy, zero-pushy chat.👇

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