Are you or someone you know interested in a career in financial services and have a passion for team leadership? A career as a branch manager might be the right fit for you. We talked with Branch Manager J T Thomas to learn more about what a day in the life of a Pelican Branch Manager looks like.
How would you describe what you do?
The best way to describe what I do is to say that I make sure my branches are as efficient as possible. I help train and increase the knowledge of my team so that they can grow within their current position or beyond. I was always taught that you can tell that someone’s a good manager when the branch runs the same whether or not its manager is in the office. That is something I strive for with my branches.
What does your typical workday look like?
My typical workday starts by making sure the branch opening procedures are done so that we can open on time for our members. During the day, I fill in where my branch is short at the time. I help do teller transactions, process loans for members, handle any issues that my branch or members are having and make sure all reports are completed on time. At the end of the day, I make sure everything balances for the branch, and I reply to all emails and voicemails that I was unable to get to during the day.
What is something unexpected that has come out of being a branch manager?
I’d say that my passion for teaching and developing my staff and interpreting analytics is something that was unexpected. Growing up, I always enjoyed math, but now that I have been given more access to the numbers behind the scenes, my mind has opened up to new things. To see someone you are working with grow and thrive is an indescribable feeling. I love cultivating ideas from others to help show them what is possible for themselves.
What’s the biggest challenge of being a branch manager, and how do you overcome that?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge is time management. In this career, just like many other careers, you will be pulled in many different directions. All of them are equally important, but you must find a balancing ability to get everything completed.
What is the most rewarding part of your career? Are there any stories to go with this?
In my current position, the most rewarding thing is to help develop talent and to see how that talent grows within the organization. Most of the knowledge I have obtained was learned due to errors I have made. I love to make sure other employees can learn from mistakes I have made in the past.
Betty Whitlock, who is currently the Branch Specialist at the Conway location, started as a teller and didn’t have the most confidence in herself to grow. She has since grown into an incredible asset for Pelican State Credit Union and its members.
What skills do you need to do well as a branch manager?
I feel that developing “people skills” is a huge asset needed in this career. You will encounter people with many different personalities from not just members, but your team as well. You will need to be able to adapt to handle every person differently.
Are there any common misconceptions people have about your career?
Many people have the perception that if they don’t see you being very busy or if they are not aware what you are doing, it must not be that difficult. I would never say my position is more difficult than any other position at Pelican State Credit Union or in this industry. Every position has its challenges, including being a Branch Manager.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a branch manager?
If you are employed under a branch manager, I would say shadow them as much as you can. Let them know that you have an interest in advancement and would like to learn more about what they do. An old manager of mine taught me that you should go as high as you can because you should never want to limit yourself. If you’re not in the industry, I would say dive right in! You never know what you can handle until you experience it.
What did your career path look like?
I was hired at Pelican State Credit Union as a teller at our Shreveport location. My prior experience was being a head teller with Credit Union Service Centers. After a little under two years of being a teller, I was given the opportunity to become a Member Service Representative (MSR) Trainee at our Conway location. Within a year, I moved from MSR trainee to MSR and then to Assistant Manager. I have been a Branch Manager for the past four years.
Do you have a favorite member moment that you’d like to share?
Some of the ones that stick with you the most are when members get emotional after you are able to help them with a loan. The essence of what we try to do in the credit union industry is help people. It’s a good feeling when members are so happy they can only express their emotions with tears.
I would not be able to just pick one of my member moments and say it that stood out from the others. I would rather talk about a member named Anthony from our Conway Branch. He helped me decide to move from our Shreveport location to our Conway location for the Branch Manager promotion. When he became a member of Pelican, he was in the process of starting to repair his credit with our Nationally Certified Credit Counselors. Today, he is one of our success stories with great credit history, and he’s the proud owner of his own home. He will talk about Pelican with everyone who asks him where he banks. Not only did we help him, but he helped me accept an opportunity that help put me in the position that I am now.
Do you have a story to share about your favorite Pelican Branch Manager? Let us know in the comments below!