It's in the Bank
Dedicated account manager coordinates security at credit unions
- By Richard Lisko
- Mar 04, 2010
For more than 75 years,
GECU, an El Paso,
Texas, credit union, has
served its members and
developed into El Paso's
largest locally owned financial institution,
with more than $1.2 billion in
deposits and $1.4 billion in assets. As
it continues to grow with 15 locations,
including branches and new satellite
centers in local schools, GECU holds
true to its mission statement: People
GECU has more than 281,000 members
using the credit union's products
and services, including excellent checking
rates, savings and retirement plans,
home and vehicle loans, low service fees
and financial education.
A Multilayered Approach
There are many challenges to protecting
a financial services firm. Growing institutions
like GECU need coordinated
security across multiple sites. GECU assists
hundreds of members daily at each
service center, and they are committed
to protecting their members' assets.
Financial institutions have visible
monetary activity day in and day out,
making them susceptible to unwanted
attention. In many cases, security officers are the initial deterrent and the first
line of defense, which means they must
be highly trained, prepared for emergencies
and ready at a moment's notice.
When GECU looked to enhance its
security program, its goal was to create a
professional, highly skilled, visible presence
at each location, giving credit union
members, employees and the community
a feeling of safety and security.
Another security challenge GECU
faced was the recent addition of satellite
branches located in El Paso high
schools that are operated by the students.
The new security provider had
to consider the mix of student safety
and security along with the security of
GECU members and employees and
their financial assets.
GECU risk management manager
Maria Guerrero was looking for a seamless
security program across all GECU
sites. She needed a dedicated team, a
go-to person and someone who could
manage the security officers while she
focused on the larger security picture
and other responsibilities.
In May 2007, AlliedBarton suggested
establishing an account manager,
dedicated solely to the GECU account,
who would put together a committed
team and serve as Guerrero's go-to person
and the main point of contact for
all security matters. This would facilitate
open lines of communication across
each branch, its employees, security officers and GECU senior management.
"We were very impressed with Allied-
Barton," Guerrero said. "Their commitment
to training practices and customer
service and the professionalism they portrayed
was exactly what we were looking
for. They met all of our requirements
and were very member-oriented."
On the Front Lines
AlliedBarton knew the skills and reliability
they brought to the table would
be the positive change GECU was looking
for in a security program. Under
the direction of AlliedBarton account
manager Victor Romero, the security
team took action in turning the program
"We knew that in order to create a
successful program, in response to these
challenges, we had to develop a positive
relationship and partnership with the
GECU management and its members,"
Romero said. "Each branch and satellite
has a manager on site that we communicate
with daily. In addition, it is
important to follow consistent security
practices across all locations and share
information with all managers. GECU
has an open-door policy, and we are an
integral part of their team."
GECU looked to AlliedBarton and
their best practices for quality initial
and ongoing training programs for the
security officers. In high-profile facilities,
it is important that security teams
are well trained and participate in continuous
"We were able to show them the
value of a dedicated account manager
and the proactive role I would play in
the total security program," Romero
said. "I am responsible for the account,
to ensure the training of our officers
and to relay important information to
Hiring the right security officers also
was part of the solution. Romero became
involved in the security officer recruiting
process. With a financial client like GECU, it takes a special officer to
handle the daily tasks of a high-profile,
high-traffic facility. Romero knows the
account best and uses the support of
AlliedBarton's national resources to assist
in creating the ideal security team.
"We have created a program that
works," Romero said. "I have developed
a quality team of officers who are just
as dedicated to this account as I am. We
use AlliedBarton's training programs to
stay a step ahead."
Establishing an account manager
was a relief for bank officials.
"Victor responds to our every need,"
Guerrero said. "If there is extra security
required for an event, I know that
Victor has the additional resources, and
he quickly responds."
This highly trained team, which has
earned the respect of the GECU managers
and risk management group, has
taken on a lot of responsibility. Each
morning, Romero and his team complete
a security check of the buildings
before the GECU staff enters, adding
an extra layer of safety and security
for employees and members. The AlliedBarton
security officers monitor the
lobby in each service center, managing
access control and alarm response.
A Sense of Security
To continue building their relationship
and enhance collaboration and communication,
the local AlliedBarton team
sits down with GECU senior management
each quarter. At these meetings,
branch managers can address security
issues, and AlliedBarton is able make
modifications to the program.
"Our quarterly meeting is a great
way to get everyone on the same page,"
Guerrero said. "All of our branch managers
are aware of the issues facing different
offices and can take proactive
measures at their site."
Because the security officers are so
carefully recruited and selected, Romero
knows his officers are the right fit for
"We have a unique combination of
security considerations at some of the
GECU locations," Guerrero said. "The
satellite locations in schools combine a
financial institution with students. Our
security teams are focused on the needs
of a financial setting but also sensitive
to the security concerns of students
"The AlliedBarton team has brought
a positive change and a whole new level
of respect to our security program. The
dedicated account manager was the right
choice for GECU. Victor has each site
under control and updates our branch
managers and risk management team."
As this financial institution continues
to expand through multiple
service centers and branch offices, the
more than 710 GECU employees have
confidence in the AlliedBarton security
team to ensure safety and security
at all locations.
This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Security Today.