McFARLANE, Wis.-Credit unions can learn a thing or two from regional and community banks when it comes to succession planning, and one person is saying that CUs should keep that in mind when it comes to planning for 2013 and beyond.

"By and large, most credit unions are not properly prepared for succession issues," said Joe Tripalin, national marketing director for OM Financial Group, which specializes in executive retirement plans for financial institutions. "Sometimes people end up focusing on the CEO; obviously that's an important position, but there may be other important positions that need your attention. For instance, business lending may be an important component of your credit union's efforts in 2013. In many cases, it may be a one-person effort at business lending. Well, what happens if that person leaves? What kind of back-up do you have? What plans do you have to step in and fill the void?"

As a result, Tripalin noted that the first step CUs should take is identifying those key positions for succession planning, followed by making sure a process is in place to groom employees to take over-including cross-training-so that someone can step in immediately to replace that employee or cover that position during the search for a replacement.

An Area of 'Concern'

This isn't just an issue for 2013, stressed Tripalin. "This has been an area of concern for credit unions for a long time. I don't think they do a particularly good job of preparing for these kinds of events and, unfortunately, in some cases it really does cause problems for the credit union."

Tripalin suggested that in some cases boards of directors don't focus on those issues the way they should, but he also said that sometimes regional and community banks are better prepared for succession planning than their CU counterparts because their board members often come from a business background.

"In many cases, [CU boards] are long-retired individuals, and that's different at smaller banks."

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