First West Credit Union

First West Credit Union

May 02, 2012 10:00 ET

No More Wasting Time: First West Credit Union Saves Half a Million Minutes in Day-To-Day Operations Using Lean

Shaving a Year of Time Off Processes Benefits Members and Employees as First West Strives to Keep it Simple

LANGLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - May 2, 2012) - First West Credit Union today announced that its Lean program has created 562,000 minutes-or over a year's worth-of time-savings for the credit union in its first year of implementation. These results were achieved through First West's organization-wide focus on Lean, which included training almost 25 per cent of employees. Nearly half of the time-savings to date are in areas that directly impact service to members while the remaining time-savings created efficiency improvements in several back office processes.

Creating exceptional experiences by keeping it simple

"I'm sure that most of us agree that long-term loyalty and satisfaction has a correlation to our experiences," says Launi Skinner, CEO, First West Credit Union. "When a company values our time, makes a process easier, eliminates paperwork or offers more in terms of service-in-person or online-we value them more because they've shown they value us. We're attracted to positive, simple, refreshing experiences-ones where we leave saying, 'Wow, I really felt good about that.' Our Lean journey is designed to do just that: ensure our members' experience with us each time is enjoyably simple."

Results achieved from Lean in the first year include eliminating over 4,200 hours of time spent by employees processing overdrawn account transactions and reducing the documentation for personal bank account openings by 25 per cent. Identifying unnecessary steps in service processes also helped First West streamline approvals for commercial mortgages, eliminating 900 hours as a result and ensuring faster approval times for members.

"For most consumers, shrinking wait times is just as important as offering a good rate or convenient hours," says Derek Nakamoto, assistant vice-president, continuous service improvement at First West Credit Union. "Banks and credit unions tend to differentiate themselves on easy-to-copy things like rates or products, but the customer experience is also important. What if a consumer could get the right product at a great rate but with an incredibly easy and exceptional experience? That's what we're working on at First West and our first-year results are showing great promise."

Going Lean - embraced organization-wide; 25 per cent of employees are Lean trained

Lean principles are embraced across First West, including the First West board and leadership team. To date, nearly 25 per cent of employees have received Lean training. In 2011 alone, First West gained five Lean Blackbelts and 26 Lean Greenbelts. Employees can receive training in both introductory and advanced courses, with formal certification through Vancouver-based Lean Sensei International, a world-renowned Lean coaching and training firm.

Following on the success of its commitment to Lean, working in collaboration with Lean Sensei, First West created Lean for Service, tailoring principles that were formerly used in manufacturing companies to better suit financial services. Through Lean, every employee is engaged to be a problem-solver and solution-creator at First West-not just a select few or a specialized department.

According to Lean Sensei president David Chao, "For a first-year Lean organization, First West has one of the most impressive and thoughtful approaches to Lean that we've seen-they're serious about Lean and are in it for the long-term. The continuous improvement mindset is being woven into its culture, so for years to come, members will reap the benefits of the credit union operating lean, eliminating waste and reducing costs. We're extremely honoured to be First West's Sensei."

Skinner adds, "Never underestimate the possibilities that can be achieved by a group of people driven by a common vision to see real-life change happen. Gaining over a year's worth of time-savings is just the beginning of our journey to keep it simple for our members. Great service is not easy and fantastic experiences don't just happen. It takes the concerted effort and the commitment of all parts of an organization to make them happen consistently. I'm proud of the successes the First West team has achieved already though our Lean journey and I know our local brands, Envision Financial and Valley First, will continue to differentiate themselves in the market as we further maximize the value we bring to members."

About First West Credit Union

First West Credit Union offers members the financial strength, comprehensive product selection and extended branch network of a large financial institution while maintaining local brand identities and a unique grassroots approach to service. Led by Launi Skinner, First West is British Columbia's third-largest credit union with $6.6 billion in assets under administration, more than 169,000 members and close to 1,400 employees. It operates 37 branches throughout the province under the Envision Financial and Valley First brands. For more information on First West Credit Union, visit or follow on Twitter at @firstwestcu.

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