Coronavirus: Continuity & How Your Financial Institution Can Help

Offering a Hand Climbing Sunset
(Last Updated On: September 14, 2023)

Note: This article is presented in its original form. Some of the market information and health guidance may not be current. Social distance and wear your mask. And continue to serving your members most affected.

Original notice from March 2020:

GreenProfit Solutions President Joe Winn, Credit Union Geek, addresses the challenges and opportunities in this new normal. And swings a lightsaber.

COVID-19! Coronavirus! Pandemic! Bear market!

Breathe. In a well-ventilated and cleaned area. Away from everyone else. Now wash your hands.

Whew. You’re exhausted from it all. I get it. We all get it. And yet, staying informed is essential.

Hey, at least now you’re probably doing so from home, which invites its own set of challenges. And you continue to work to improve the institution.

For the safety of your staff, their families, and those of your members. What a burden to carry!

No wonder so many companies are implementing work-from-home policies. As a company which has always operated that way, “welcome to the club!” Social distancing is built-in, if we need to, with no interruption to our ability to serve you.

Of course, this isn’t the only message you’ve read. It’s probably not even in the first dozen. So there’s nothing from a preparation standpoint you haven’t already heard. Wash your hands. Stay at home. Follow local and CDC advice.

We’re not doctors. We just listen to those who are. And our goal here is to offer some ideas specific to our industry.

Get Latest Info Here

If you want up-to-date info on coronavirus, the CDC is the place to visit.

This message is for you. Yes, you, in the financial services industry striving to help people through a challenging time.

Serving When It’s Most Needed

GreenProfit Solutions has worked with credit unions for over a decade. And that’s just the beginning.

The executive team has even more credit union history. 1980s, if you must know. We developed the first computer-based menu-selling platform for your MSRs. It was on floppy disks.

So we’ve been there with you through a lot of challenges. And our goal has always been to help you run at your best. Which also means serving your members and community.

By now, your team has discussed the direct and immediate effects from the pandemic. You’re doing your best to keep the virus out of offices and branches. Many are probably closed, or on limited hours. That’s an important first step.

Perhaps you’re even thinking of ways to provide assistance for members affected. That’s perfect. Because millions will suffer substantial impact.

As you look to help members, consider if you are “Living Your Why”. And find Joe’s TARDIS.

Programs to Help Members

Short-term and bridge loans are great. These are going to be a popular product in the coming weeks and months, as immediate pay falls. During the most recent government shutdown, many credit unions offered 0% loans matching paychecks.

If you’re able, do it again. Or as close to 0% as able. I know the trade groups are working to get that set up for all credit unions, and banks are doing similar. Of course, the question becomes: When can people pay it back if they can’t go out?

What else? Well, let’s think. Every industry and field will be impacted.

As always, the poor and financially vulnerable will suffer the most. How can you extend a hand to help them today and prevent future challenges (the long-tail effects of the pandemic will be massive)?

Remember, most people live paycheck-to-paycheck. For many, that cycle will get interrupted. Which is bad for them and your loan repayments. This is a great time to bring out that skip-a-payment option. Also, if able, extend grace periods for delinquencies.

What about normal spending practices? Encourage top-of-wallet use by suspending debit card fees during the crisis period (or offer fee forgiveness). Just because you can’t work doesn’t mean your necessities get cheaper. Even if some people are stockpiling toilet paper.

You may have canceled your in-person events, but that doesn’t mean members can’t still get the same great deals. Look to your car buying service in lieu of car sales. There will be a significant slowdown in the market, but cars will be sold.

Then get creative and dive into your social media efforts! Make some videos to show how members can do most or all of their banking in your awesome app!

Most important, dive into your data. In the same way you identify “most likelies” for buying a car, opening a credit card, or applying for a mortgage, do the same for risk factors. See if you can find members at the highest risk from the economic effects. Then proactively offer your support with specific programs.

This might reveal weaknesses in your systems, where you are simply unable to provide these services or discover this data. Take note and when some degree of normality returns, bring your concerns to the LOS or core provider to see if they can be addressed.

Personalization of financial services isn’t going to go away after this crisis. Use it to discover any weaknesses you may have.

Ensure Business Continuity

These policies may also extend to your own staff. Most likely, they’ll also miss work at some point. Are you equipped to let them work from home (when they feel well)? Stress test your main systems today to see what the minimum “skeleton crew” is for your institution.

Ask your IT team if you have VPN or other secure traffic channels for remote access. Then check to see if you have enough site licenses to handle a large portion of your staff. And consider keeping it long-term.

Because this, too, is something you’ll need to attract top talent. Work from anywhere some of the time can be a powerful tool to recruit great staff. And many people who are doing it now will be resistant to giving it up entirely.

You’re not going to any events anytime soon. Good. Step up your webinars and consider Facebook/Twitter livestreams to answer questions members may have. Make them fun and quirky (be yourselves); people want entertainment and info now.

Don’t be afraid to embrace e-mail. People are getting a ton of it right now. And if what you share offers value and not panic, it’ll get read. Provide a calming, reasonable, and actionable set of tools in your messages.

In fact, this leads us to…

Dark Edison Light Bulb

Innovate in a Crisis

The companies which emerge from this outbreak the strongest will fall into one of a few categories:

  1. “Too big to get hurt” – What they do and offer is so widespread nothing can hurt them for long.
  2. “Government helped us out” – Some industries are going to get bailed out by taxpayers; likely airlines, cruise ship operators, energy companies, etc.. Whether it’s appropriate is not for us to decide, but it’s going to happen. However, we do believe credit unions and small financial institutions should be in that group.
    • Emergency funds and lending abilities enable you to directly assist more people.
  3. “Necessity is the mother of invention” – When things got tough, you put on the old thinking cap and went to town. Your brainstorming is more impressive than anything we will share.

Your lobbyists will be hard at work on #2. The section we care most about right now is #3. Consider asking your members. Seriously, use your social media, website, and other channels to find out what’s worrying them the most.

Make it an institution-wide effort, with a single campaign unifying video posts from staff, members, and a landing page to bring it all together. On that page, share links to trusted sources, feature members and staff, update it daily, and present how you think you can help.

Then, ask them to share their thoughts and fears (anonymously). From these responses, you’ll have a better picture on how to make a difference than any of us could solely through our Slack channels.

We’ll Get Through This. Together.

Ok, not literally together. More like, “together in spirit and mission”. Your goals haven’t changed. And this is actually when credit unions and other small financial institutions can shine.

People don’t think much of their banking options until a crisis emerges. We’re there right now. Here’s where you make a difference.

This is when the leagues, national organizations, individual credit unions, and you, yes, you, must come together. We’re not the smartest people in the room. But I guarantee that you, in some specific way, are. So let your idea be heard!

You can bet the fintechs, Big Tech, and Big Banks are thinking of ways to profit from this outbreak. Maybe their motivations are good. Maybe they’re not. We can’t know. However, what gets attention and succeeds will have effects for years from now.

So grab your hand sanitizer, bales of toilet paper (really?), and start your quest to help your members…and change the world!

The team at GreenProfit Solutions is always here to help you increase your successes and overcome your challenges. Visit our Learning Library at any time (gloves not required) to get the unbiased information you need to make the greatest impact on your members’ lives.

We wish you good health.

Keith and Joe WInn

Joe Winn & Keith Winn
GreenProfit Solutions

Image credits: Climbing silhouette by Sasin Tipchai and bulb by freestocks-photos from Pixabay.

Joe Winn - CU Geek

Blogger. Speaker. Futurist. Part-time Jedi.

Dedicated to helping your credit union, large or small, deliver mission-focused financial empowerment to your members. And make a positive impact on your community while you’re at it.