Metro Credit Union plans to pay its front-line staff a minimum of $50,000 per year, provided they learn a new skill outside their primary duties.

A new program at Chelsea-based Metro Credit Union will pay branch and service center staff – both new hires and existing employees who apply for the program – a minimum annual salary of $50,000, higher than some of the recent wage adjustments made by large national banks. 

To be part of the program, which Metro is calling its “universal program model,” employees will need to learn at least one function outside of what their regular job requires.  

In addition to helping with employee development, the credit union sees this program as contributing to its growth strategy as the $2.6 billion-asset institution looks to expand its membership and branch footprint.  

“It’s a very unique program, and we see it as being a strong partnership between our employees and the organization’s goals and objectives,” said Robert Cashman, Metro Credit Union’s president and CEO. “The goal is to have the best level of service that we can provide to our members and at the same time, giving our employees the opportunity to expand their knowledge base so they themselves have further career paths.” 

The $50,000 annual salary, about $24 per hour, is well above national and state averages for bank tellers. The median wage last year for tellers nationally was $17.46, about $36,300 annually for a full-time employee, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even in Massachusetts, where tellers receive a higher wage than anywhere else in the U.S. except Washington, D.C., the mean wage a year ago was $19.44, about $40,400 annually, according to the BLS.

“Not only can they make a strong contribution to our ongoing expansion efforts, but this allows them to have a better sense of what other opportunities are there.”

— Robert Cashman, president and CEO, Metro Credit Union

Like employers across industries, banks and credit unions have been raising wages over the past year, responding in part to labor shortages, job-hopping and employee expectations. Some companies have also sought to respond to financial challenges lower-income and customer-facing employees faced during the pandemic 

Bank of America plans to increase its minimum wage to $22 per hour this month as it moves toward its goal of paying $25 per hour by 2025. Santander Bank in April began paying a minimum of $20 per hour.  

 Employees Look to Shift Roles 

With Metro’s new program, which begins on July 1, employees will need to learn at least one skill outside of their primary job responsibilities, such as assisting in the lending division, answering calls or emails, operating an interactive teller machine or handling digital inquiries through video banking or chat. Each new skill learned will provide employees with a fixed bonus each quarter.  

Branch and service center supervisors in the program will earn annual pay of $52,000. Staff members designated as universal service specialists – employees who will assist in various areas of the credit union – will have multiple skills as part of their primary job function and earn at least $55,000. 

The credit union has already received interest in the program from external and internal candidates, Cashman said, including back-office staff looking to move into branch or service center roles. He added that Metro expected that employees would want to move from back-office jobs into retail roles based on conversations with staff about their career paths.  

“We anticipated – and it’s coming to fruition – that there are people that are very interested in taking advantage of these additional learning opportunities,” Cashman said. “Not only can they make a strong contribution to our ongoing expansion efforts, but this allows them to have a better sense of what other opportunities are there for their careers, gain additional knowledge and become more marketable in skill sets, both internally and externally.” 

 Training Aids Expansion 

The program coincides with Metro Credit Union’s expansion in recent months as its branch footprint has expanded from 14 to 19 locations. Metro also acquired two small municipal credit unions within the past 18 months, and its field of membership expanded last year to include most of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.  

In addition to helping employees develop skills, the new program helps with the credit union’s expansion as well.  

Cashman said having staff trained in multiple job functions will ensure that members receive the same level of service regardless of which channel they use to contact the credit union – in-

Diane McLaughlin

person, by phone or through a digital service.  

The credit union will use several tools to determine how to assign jobs, Cashman said, including historical data to forecast when additional staff are needed for certain job functions and current metrics that could point to a need to shift assignments on a day-to-day basis. He added that some staff will be assigned to a permanent location, while others could work at different branches. 

Paying higher wages to branch and call center staff also acknowledges the challenges these employees have faced during the COVID pandemic, in addition to helping Metro offer competitive wages.  

“We believe in what we call compensation by contribution,” Cashman said. “We thought that the right thing to do is to do what we can to provide a stable environment for our members and at the same time to properly compensate our employees for the commitment to the job that they’re doing.” 

Higher Wages Part of Credit Union’s Strategy

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 3 min