NEW YORK-Tucked away on Long Island, New York, in a busy residential section is a branch of Municipal CU that Nicole Bonura calls home.

Bonura has that feeling about the Elmont office she manages thanks to the bond she has with members. That close connection was evident when Bonura returned this year to take over Elmont after leaving the location as assistant manager four years ago. She was assistant manager at Elmont from 2005 to 2008, when she moved over to direct the Oceanside location.

"The first week I came back to Elmont there were so many members who heard I got transferred back and came in to say hi and welcome me home," said Bonura. "They told me what a good job I had done here. I was so pleasantly surprised by the members, that they remembered me after four years. I did not expect that."

What members told Bonura they liked about her was her patience and ability to listen and help them find the right products that fit with their financial needs. Bonura said that four years down the road, many members' lives have been improved by recommendations that she and the rest of her Elmont staff have made. "It's just confirmation of what we set out to do here and that it is working."

Bonura, also regional manager of Municipal's central region, added that during the recession the credit union's ability to help members became that much more evident. "While it was a difficult time for us all, it really placed a spotlight on the credit union and how we can help our members."

The Elmont branch is a busy office, topping 11,200 transactions last month. Bonura said members-such as firefighters, police officers, sanitation workers, doctors and nurses-take a great deal of pride in the community Municipal serves, primarily employees of the city of New York. "Our members are very aware of what MCU stands for and most have been with us for a long time. They often start their city career, join the credit union, and then retire being a member of the credit union."

Bonura's approach to assisting members, listening to them and determining their needs, is similar to her style for managing staff. She said it is important to pay attention to the needs of employees, key issues they may have as a team or individually.


Empowering the Staff

Advice Bonura gives a new branch manager starting out in the role: "Give the staff the confidence to ask a question no matter how small. If they don't know how to do a certain teller transaction precisely, ask someone. Let your staff know they should not be afraid to make a mistake, but that if they make one to learn from it. All my employees know they can call me and I will help them."

At the Elmont office, and throughout the $2-billion MCU system, members often stay with the credit union their entire lives, said Bonura. "It really is like a family here, and I certainly got a good understanding of that when I came back to run this branch."

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