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Workforce Optimization Case Study for FirstOntario Credit Union

March 19, 2014

The $2.6 billion FirstOntario Credit Union (FirstOntario) has made significant gains in controlling their workforce costs with the help of FMSI’s staff productivity reporting and branch scheduler.  By providing detailed monthly metrics highlighting their optimal staffing levels based on demand, FMSI helped FirstOntario achieve a 16% decrease over the last year in their average labor cost per transaction for their front-line staff.

Growing in the Right Way

Five years ago FirstOntario had a strategic shift towards strongly focusing on organic market growth.  They wanted to avoid adding a potential excess number of new employees to support their growth, while not burdening their staff with an increase in business.

“With our staff cost 25% higher than our competitors, we were very conscientious about adding staff in the right ways during our growth mode,” says Kelly McGiffin, the President and Chief Executive Officer at FirstOntario. “FMSI provided us with the metrics to effectively control our cost, allowing us to know precisely where and when we needed the right number of staff.”

FirstOntario has been able to decrease its total staff expense as a percentage of total assets from 1.9% to 1.2% in the last five years—all while doubling in size.

Objective Data for a Unionized Labor Force

Having objective staffing data from FMSI was especially helpful for FirstOntario during discussions with their unionized labor force.

“The FMSI optimal staffing reports allowed us to sit down with the union and show them objectively where it makes sense to add more FTEs and conversely where it doesn’t,” says McGiffin.  “Initially the union representatives were a little suspicious of our intentions with the FMSI data.  However, they quickly realized it was not simply a staff reduction initiative, but rather a powerful tool that helps us invest more wisely in our business, which ultimately would create new jobs.”

FIrstOntario has the largest union for any financial institution in their geographic foot print.

Reinvesting the FMSI Savings

FirstOntario has been able to partially fund their growth strategy by reinvesting the labor cost savings they have earned by better aligning branch staff with account holder activity.  McGiffin pointed out a number of crucial pieces in their growth strategy, including:

  • Advertising
  • Hiring new employees
  • Specialized training
  • Developing and supporting the right culture
  • Investment in alternative account holder conduits (remote deposit capture, online)

“A lot went into our growth strategy and the FMSI solution is one of the most useful tools in our toolbox,” says McGiffin.  “There is no doubt in my mind FMSI has helped us save a tremendous amount of money, and has been a crucial part in growing our business over the last year.”

Since implementing the FMSI system, FirstOntario has reduced their excess waiting for work expenses by 50%, and they have improved their front-line staff productivity by 19%.

Best Practices from FirstOntario Credit Union CEO

  • To help determine your true workforce optimization, look at the trends of your staff cost relationships and how it relates to the rest of your business (see staff expense as a percentage of total assets mentioned earlier in this case study).
  • Share the FMSI reports with your branch managers.
  • Understand that there is no silver bullet when it comes to growing your institution.  Touch all the bases, because they are all important.
  • Create a culture where your employees have pride in the business.

FMSI has helped FirstOntario systematically control their branch staff costs, resulting in significant savings in the proper way.  With the savings from the FMSI initiative, FirstOntario continues to grow their market share, and reinvest those savings into meaningful means of growing the Credit Union

About FirstOntario Credit Union

In business since 1939, FirstOntario Credit Union has more than $2.9 billion in funds under management, serves over 90,000 Members and offers a full suite of banking products including daily banking, mortgages, lines of credit, loans and investments.  FirstOntario operates 27 branches serving 13 communities across the Hamilton, Halton, Niagara, Haldimand/Norfolk and Oxford regions and Membership at FirstOntario is open to anyone.  FirstOntario is a proud advocate of the communities they serve and supports many important community organizations.  FirstOntario is a founding sponsor for Hamilton Hive, and supports Co-operative Young Leaders (CYL) and youth at risk through Soupfest.  FirstOntario also offers a scholastic bursary program and a microlending program in the Hamilton and Niagara regions.  For more information please

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