Training Top 125 Best Practice: FORUM Credit Union’s Lending Academy

Learning within a flipped classroom structure, Lending Academy participants complete self-guided homework, instructor-led classes, virtual coaching calls, and on-the-job observations.

The financial services industry is growing and changing at a rapid pace. With each new regulation and policy change, FORUM Credit Union strives to ensure every member is well informed in order to make the best decisions for their financial health. This requires a high level of expertise from employees, as members view them as trusted advisors. Lending Academy is a five-week, intensive training program designed to equip upcoming new lenders with the tools and skills they need. The learners for this training program are members of the Retail Delivery business unit, which represents one-third of the total employees in the credit union.

Program Details

Learning within a flipped classroom structure, Lending Academy participants complete self-guided homework, instructor-led classes, virtual coaching calls, and on-the-job observations. Each week focuses on a different area of the lending process.

During Week 1, new lenders are introduced to the basic concepts of the lending experience. A crossword puzzle of common lending terms introduces terminology in a way that is comprehensible for even the least experienced employee, while serving as a fun review activity for those who already have basic lending knowledge. FORUM’s Loan Products and Loan Process workbooks allow learners to work at their own pace and ask questions as necessary. Week 1 allows FORUM to gauge each learner’s level of expertise in order to ensure everyone is on track for success throughout the rest of the program.

Week 2 dives into the specifics of federal banking regulations and FORUM-specific resources. The Lending Rules & Regulations video outlines the details of various regulations, combined with a self-guided worksheet to verify knowledge transfer. Multiple workbooks walk participants through FORUM’s rate sheets, cheat sheets, and income verification requirements. Each workbook is designed to align with internal documentation, which allows FORUM to ensure learners are able to accurately read each document and explain the information to a member.

Week 3 introduces the concept of Payment Protection, which FORUM offers through CUNA Mutual. Participants complete eCourses and worksheets detailing each type of protection FORUM offers. The first in-person class of Lending Academy features a CUNA Mutual representative, who contributes as a subject matter expert to provide helpful information and sales techniques. Learners participate in “Musical Features and Benefits,” during which they rotate through learning stations to identify the features and benefits of payment protection from the perspective of CUNA, FORUM, and the member. Learners then are challenged to role-play explaining the advantages of protecting a loan to a member.

Weeks 4 and 5 cover the specific details of each type of collateral-secured loan product, as well as hands-on practice submitting loan applications in FORUM’s training environment. Subject matter experts from several departments, including business unit vice presidents, are invited to class to provide learners with real-world scenarios and expertise. During the final week of Lending Academy, participants review all previously covered material in preparation for the final exam.

Successful graduates receive a certificate and leather-bound branded notebook, hand delivered by members of the Organizational Development team.

Short-term reinforcement includes assessments and shadowing experiences. Long-term reinforcement includes monthly coaching sessions with branch managers and regional branch managers.


Seven recent graduates of Lending Academy have seen a 341 percent increase in loan applications submitted and loan dollars disbursed after they completed the program. In 2018, FORUM surpassed its loan and net income goals.


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