bank security

It's in the Bank

Dedicated account manager coordinates security at credit unions

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 helping 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 around.

"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 training.

"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 management."

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 the position.

"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 and parents.

"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.

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