ARVADA, Colo.-The most effective recession survival strategy for Partner Colorado CU here wasn't about what was cut, but what wasn't cut.

"The one thing we sustained during the recession was our focus on employee satisfaction and employee morale," said Sundie Seefried, CEO at the 24,000-member, $230-million Partner Colorado CU here. "It didn't matter what news I had to deliver to them; it mattered that they understood it and were educated and were part of the process. They didn't have their benefits cut, they didn't have their pay raises frozen for three or four years. They were willing to take reductions in staff by attrition, because they knew it was offsetting the fact that their pay and benefits would stay intact."

The CU had to trim expenditures to maintain employee salaries and benefits, however, and Partner cut out staff functions such anniversary breakfasts and other employee social functions. PCCU also cut certain strategic initiatives, including renovations on one branch. Even though the architectural design was already halfway done, credit union officials put a halt on it, saving the institution about $10,000 per month. Seefried said some employees weren't especially happy to be working in a temporary trailer, but it was better than not working at all.

Not On The Road

One of the biggest savings came from cutting back on travel and conferences, which saved the CU about $100,000 annually. As staff left due to attrition, other employees were shifted to different positions, bringing down total staff by about 10 employees (both full-time and part-time).

Seefried noted that the cuts didn't last as long as she had expected; budgets have been restored, renovations completed and staff rehired. "The recession hit hard in 2008 and 2009, but by 2010 we were rehiring all of those positions."

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