Armed with an accounting degree, Meghan Horne went on an exhaustive job search, trying to find something that would allow her to use the degree.
She applied to over 100 jobs, none of which had anything to do with accounting. She drove by the Wendell State Employees Credit Union branch, saw that it was set to open and decided to apply.
She was placed in the first crop of call center employees who received training in Raleigh but returned to her local branch once training ended.
That was about a year ago. Now Horne is a loan officer at the branch and eight employees have taken on the responsibility of handling calls from the credit union’s customer assistance lines.
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The State Employee’s Credit Union has spent the past 18 months decentralizing some of its call center operations, which were based in Raleigh. Two locations – one on Six Forks Road and another on Hillsborough Street – are still open with employees, but 130 positions have moved across the state, mostly in rural areas with high unemployment rates.
“The credit union supports ... residents, so they really try to pull all their resources they can from North Carolina,” Horne said.
“A lot of employees have started at the contact center and it kind of speeds along the process (of moving up),” she said.
Call center employees can help SECU customers with matters ranging from checking an account balance to helping a customer apply for a loan.
Wendell branch manager Mike Walsh said bringing contact center employees into local branches gives the branch a chance to make the best use of space in the new facility and help push those employees into higher positions, should they want to move up.
Walsh said he would like to keep the call center employees and move them through the ranks, like Horne did.
They can move up to different parts or even move up within the call center arena, where they can write mortgages or do lending over the phone.
Across the state
Moving cell center positions out of Raleigh did not mean moving people, which was one of the goals of the effort.
Vice President of Branch Operations Jamie Applequist said the company’s call center staff was growing anyway and they had two options: Build another building in Raleigh, which might mean relocation for some employees or look at branches across the state with that had room to house a handful of new employees.
Then, the company could also hire locally and help put residents back to work.
“Some of the areas we targeted had a very high unemployment at that time and we thought we could help the economy in those areas as well,” Applequist said.
Most of the 130 employees that were part of this effort were new hires but there were some who were able to move from Raleigh back to their home towns, Applequist said.
Wendell welomed eight employees, the second-highest number of employees among the 27 locations with new call center positions. Walsh said they had extra room in the branch because it was built to accomodate future growth.
Clemmons, near Winston-Salem, had nine new employees placed in a local branch and has the most of all locations with new call center employees.
Accordng to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Raleigh metropolitan area had a 5.6 percent unemployment rate as of July. The state, and the Winston-Salem area, had a 6.5 percent unemployment rate in the same time period.
The Butner SECU location, the only other Triangle-area location to house call center employees, took on four new workers.