Part of a Small CRA Team? Here’s How to Get the Help You Need

Are you part of a small CRA team? Many CRA departments are made up of only one or two people, and this makes it difficult to get everything done. 

You’ve been charged with meeting the credit needs of your community, which means tracking, managing, and reporting your bank’s community development data, not to mention finding and pursuing CD loans, services, and investments. And you’re expected to do it all with very little internal or external help. 

Now, maybe this is a bit on the extreme side, but you get the picture. Your job as a CRA professional is hard! 

Your title may be CRA Officer, but chances are you’re also over fair lending, compliance, BSA, complaints, and more. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had some help juggling all these roles? 

CRA isn’t typically very high on your executive management team’s to-do list, so chances of getting another team member to help carry the load are slim. But that doesn’t mean you should lose hope. Here are some ideas on how to build a strong CRA team (and get the help you so desperately need) without adding to staff. 

Show executive management why more support is vital

Building support for your CRA program needs to start with executive management. If your management team doesn’t support your program or see the need for it, then building support elsewhere will be very difficult. 

According to Pulse Learning, “Approximately 70% of change initiatives fail due to negative employee attitudes and unproductive management behavior.” If you can get executive management on your side, you’re much more likely to build the internal support you need in each department. 

A great time to talk to your management team is right after your CRA exam. Right now, your program is top of mind, and you may have the leverage you need to make some changes. Pay attention to examiner feedback. If they say your team is understaffed, your management team may perk up and add another team member (wouldn’t that be nice?). At the very least, they may send some more resources your way. Hey, we take what we can get, right?

looking over paperwork

Train departments throughout your bank

Once executive management is on your side, it’s time to take your CRA program to each level of the bank. There are lots of employees at your bank whose jobs correlate somewhat with what you do in the CRA department. They may not realize it yet, but there are plenty of ways for them to support you and your work. You just need to train them!

If you take the time to properly train the different departments in your bank on CRA-related topics and how they can help, you’ll likely find yourself with more support in the future. 

Some of the departments you should periodically train include small business, mortgage loans, commercial lenders, marketing, retail, and investment/treasury departments. 

Ideally, you should strive to get in front of each team three times per year. This might start with a formal CRA training and turn into sending them an email reminder or a CRA report that highlights how their team is contributing to the CRA program. This will keep team members up-to-date on any new regulations and will help keep your program top of mind. If you train team members to watch out for CRA opportunities, you’re almost guaranteed to come across new services, loans, and investments that are eligible for CRA credit. And this means you’ll have to do less work finding these opportunities yourself. 

As you train your bank to watch for CRA opportunities, be sure to explain how CRA is a win-win for their department. Your co-workers are busy, and they’re not going to take the time to look for CRA loans unless they can see how it benefits them. 

Set goals with each department

While training these departments, it’s a good idea to set some goals. This will keep everyone on the same page and help you track your progress. Make sure these goals are specific and measurable. For example, you could set a goal with the lending department that each team member needs to submit three qualified CD loans per quarter. Now you’ll have that many more CD loans per quarter, all without you having to do extra work! 

You can even incentivize each department by offering a pizza party to those who accomplish their goals or some other kind of reward. After all, research has found that team incentives can increase performance by as much as 44 percent. And the more participation you get, the better!

training with whiteboard

Hire an intern

Another way to strengthen your CRA team without adding to permanent staff is by hiring an intern. Interns cost very little and can help take a lot of projects off your plate. You might hire an intern for short-term projects like CD loan documentation, performing a self-assessment, mining for CD loans, and more. Or you might hire an intern for a longer amount of time and get a lot done with an extra set of hands. 

If you hire an intern, do your best to mentor them and help them in their budding career. Don’t you wish you’d had a little more guidance when you were young and deciding what you wanted to do with your life? It can’t just be me. 

Outsource some of your work

If hiring an intern isn’t an option, you might consider outsourcing some of your CRA work. This might work well for CD loan mining or verification, data integrity testing, or smaller, short-term projects. You could take a look at some freelancing agencies or find someone on LinkedIn with the necessary experience. Heck, you could even hire your nephew if you really need help.

Leverage technology

And last but not least, you should always take advantage of available technology. Traditionally, managing a CRA program has been very manual and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. The fewer processes you do manually, the more work you can get done and the better you can serve your community. 

One way to turn many of your manual processes into automatic ones is with Kadince. Kadince is community involvement software made for financial institutions. Kadince makes it easy to track, manage, and report all your CRA data so you can spend less time worrying about how you’re going to get everything done and more time running your CRA program and building a strong internal team. 

Ready for more? 

Are you new to the CRA?  Click here to join us for a free webinar on the CRA Essentials! 

Are you ready to master the art of identifying community development loans?  Click here to learn more! 

Jaidyn Crookston is the author of this article and is the content manager at Kadince. She graduated from Southern Utah University in 2021, where she studied creative and technical writing. Jaidyn has always loved how words work together to create a strong message that can be used for good, which is something she tries to do through her work with Kadince. 

The key concepts in this article came from a Kadince webinar with Linda Ezuka, founder of CRA Today. Linda is proud to partner with Kadince to offer free webinars and inspiration to take your CRA programs to the next level of impact.