The nation’s credit score union leagues have been filling the vital roles of serving to credit score unions handle by the unprecedented challenges created by the coronavirus well being and financial disaster. The commerce teams rapidly sprang into motion in March regardless of not understanding fairly how to reply, they usually tailored alongside the manner, realized beneficial classes, developed greatest practices and collaborated with their league companions. Now, they’re getting ready with assured optimism to maintain credit score unions on monitor for development no matter what the future may deliver.
“What’s next? Where are we going to end up? We will cross that bridge when we get there because we know that this whole COVID situation has proven the resiliency of the credit union movement,” Emily Leite, SVP of advocacy for the Ohio Credit Union League, mentioned. “I think we are going to go through waves of this, but I am looking forward to getting to the other side of it with credit unions [continuing to do] all of the cool things they do for their members every day.”
The first state commerce to meet the many challenges of COVID-19 was the Northwest Credit Union Association, which serves greater than 175 cooperatives in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
“The Northwest was the nation’s first COVID-19 ‘hotspot’ with the earliest confirmed cases diagnosed in Washington. We worked quickly to create the playbook, focusing on our member credit unions’ and their members’ needs,” Troy Stang, president/CEO of the NWCUA, mentioned. “Because we were first impacted, we shared what we were doing throughout the league system, during AACUL [American Association of Credit Union Leagues] meetings, by sharing access with other leagues to our resources website and inviting other leagues to participate in our membership meetings. In the spirit of collaboration, we also invited the handful of Northwest credit unions that are not NWCUA members to attend our meetings – and they did.”
The commerce group navigated pandemic response in 4 phases: The onset, the transition, enterprise reassessment and alignment, and future-focused administration.
“At the onset of the pandemic, we immediately reimagined service to and collaboration with our members, as it was quickly apparent that COVID-19 meant we would convene differently,” Stang mentioned. “On Sunday, March 15, we held our first virtual meeting with more than 200 Northwest credit union movement leaders, where we began assessing the impact of the pandemic, and how we could provide credit unions with the knowledge and tools they needed to repurpose their services to their teams and members. This initial meeting was ahead of the ‘stay home’ orders issued by the governors in our states. Our forums met twice weekly during the first three months, and we continue to convene at least monthly today. In addition, on that day, we stood up regional huddles for NWCUA liaisons to meet weekly with credit unions located in the same communities. The regional huddles provided, and continue to provide, a platform for sharing resources and information.”
Somewhat mockingly, Stang noticed that the affiliation has by no means felt nearer to its member credit score unions despite the fact that it has been months since they’ve been ready to collect in particular person.
Facing a Pandemic on the Heels of a Merger
For Patrick Conway, president/CEO of the CrossState Credit Union Association, 2020 began off robust, as he was wanting ahead to a model new chapter of formally launching his newly-formed commerce group that resulted from the merger of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association and New Jersey Credit Union League.
“We were introducing a new trade association to our members in both states and then, like everybody else, had to go remote,” Conway mentioned. “We sent everybody home on March 16. That really changed our planning for how we would continue to build relationships with our credit unions and interact with them, even from a new organization standpoint, let alone just the regular servicing and providing resources to our members in those states. I think our team did a good job pivoting quickly for what we thought would be a two-week remote period, which has now turned into seven months or more. They did a great job proactively meeting the needs of our credit unions in both states as those needs continued to evolve throughout the pandemic.”
Because CrossState serves 518 credit score unions of all asset sizes, the affiliation held custom-made webinars for these with related asset sizes and in related circumstances. Executives mentioned concepts and greatest practices for a way they had been coping with pandemic-related challenges. The webinars additionally hosted authorized, regulatory and different employees specialists to reply questions and supply steering.
While the state trades take a whole lot of satisfaction in constantly delivering efficient advocacy initiatives, Conway noticed the pandemic enhanced CrossState’s advocacy efforts.
“We’ve seen much more collaboration not only amongst ourselves in the credit union industry, but also with other industry and business organizations,” he mentioned. “For example, in addition to collaborating with the banking trade associations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, we also worked with the local chambers, the state chambers and trade associations representing other industries, because in many cases we had similar views. Those coalition efforts I think led to great advocacy successes as well.”
The League of Southeastern Credit Unions discovered itself in an analogous state of affairs earlier this yr, as COVID-19 hit just a few months after it closed its consolidation with the Georgia Credit Union League. LSCU presently serves 333 credit score unions in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
“LSCU was quick in its preparation for a possible COVID-19 situation,” LSCU President/CEO Patrick LaPine mentioned. “By the time President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, we had already formed a COVID-19 task force to monitor the situation. Around the same time, the communications team launched the league coronavirus resource center.”
On March 20, the league held its first webinar designed to assist credit score unions by the pandemic, which was attended by greater than 200 credit score union staff from the three states. Because it has been profitable in serving to credit score unions tackle coronavirus challenges, the league continues to maintain this weekly webinar at this time.
“As we worked internally and with our member credit unions to weather the pandemic, the league noticed struggling small businesses in many of our local communities,” LaPine mentioned. “The Southeastern Credit Union Foundation created the Credit Unions Care Challenge, a program supported by 75 credit unions that has raised more than $925,000 for deserving local businesses and charities.”
Shifting to Virtual
The Heartland Credit Union Association, which serves 185 credit score unions in Kansas and Missouri, additionally sprang into fast motion, posting on its website a complete useful resource web page again on March 2.
“[It] soon became a one-stop shop for credit unions with 250-plus resources,” HCUA President Brad Douglas mentioned. “Our communications shifted to [being] pandemic-related only to ensure the most valuable information was reaching our credit unions. We worked around the clock to ensure laws and regulations included credit union-friendly language and met with every legislator and government agency multiple times.”
Although the HCUA had an in-person occasion scheduled for March 24, the commerce group managed to flip it right into a digital occasion inside days. The affiliation then transitioned almost 20 occasions to a digital platform, together with its conference and annual assembly, which it hosted in partnership with the Illinois Credit Union League.
The digital two-league conference, referred to as Boost, was held over three days in late September and attracted greater than 750 credit score union representatives from 91 credit score unions in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.
In addition, Boost hosted almost 25 audio system, whose shows included centered deep dives and various demos, plus a digital exhibit corridor with 40-plus exhibiting firms. A joint lunch session facilitated small-group dialog utilizing Zoom’s breakout session characteristic. While credit score unions had been ready to take part in joint periods collectively, every league additionally hosted a number of league-specific periods.
“Shifting from an in-person convention to an online environment is no easy task, and our leagues worked together to make it happen,” Douglas mentioned.
Ramping Up Communications
Tom Kane, president/CEO of the Illinois Credit Union League, which serves 238 credit score unions, referred to as Boost a spectacular success. Also proving profitable, notably throughout a disaster, has been an aggressive communications technique, Kane famous.
“What we eventually came to call town hall calls, we were having initially two or three times a week,” Kane mentioned. “In the morning we did the large credit unions and the afternoon we did the small credit unions. We split it because the issues they were facing were very different. There were so many things happening at the state level, and we have the most state-chartered credit unions of any state, so it was a big deal for our credit unions.”
The city corridor calls additionally featured Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), NCUA Board Member Todd Harper, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs and different prime officers.
“I spend a lot of time writing and summarizing topics and answering questions because I want that information to get out to the CEOs,” Kane mentioned. “In the past I typically would only do a newsletter once a month, but now I literally sometimes do a newsletter every day. Credit unions appreciate it because there is so much going on.”
Todd Mason, president/CEO of the Maine Credit Union League, mentioned his group has additionally been leveraging an aggressive communications technique to maintain in fixed contact with the state’s 54 monetary cooperatives. Its digital city corridor conferences have featured prime officers equivalent to Maine Governor Janet Mills, NCUA Board Chair Rodney Hood and others, who’ve led discussions to assist and assist credit score unions by numerous COVID challenges.
Behind-the-Screen Advocacy, Networking and Education
Leagues’ advocacy initiative-related conferences additionally had to change from in-person to digital.
“We, like most, have transitioned to virtual meetings with members of Congress and most state lawmakers,” Dan Schline, president/CEO of the Carolinas Credit Union League, mentioned. “However, we’ve skilled no much less connectivity. In lots of our digital conferences we’ve got discovered lawmakers are notably centered and attentive as we’ve shared details about the nice work credit score unions are doing, and their challenges and alternatives as we transfer into 2021.
The CCUL serves 124 credit score unions in North and South Carolina.
Though the commerce associations have efficiently transitioned their advocacy, training and communication initiatives to digital platforms, Rick Pillow, president/CEO of the Virginia Credit Union League, mentioned creating rewarding networking alternatives stays a problem. However, the group has been making some headway in that space for the 116 credit score unions it serves.
“Our membership has long identified our networking opportunities as an important value delivered as part of league membership, and during the past couple of months we’ve provided informal virtual networking meetups for our credit union HR staffs, marketers and young professionals,” Pillow mentioned. “Members are appreciative of these efforts, but obviously, we all long for a return to in-person networking opportunities.”
One of the greatest classes realized for the Cornerstone League – which was previously referred to as the Cornerstone Credit Union League and serves greater than 552 credit score unions in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas – was that it had the skill to quickly adapt, grow to be extra nimble and speed up its efforts to reply to the disaster.
“Within a week of the pandemic declaration, we were hosting weekly webinars and virtual roundtable meetings that gave us insight into the struggles that our members were facing, while allowing us to share breaking news,” Cornerstone League President/CEO Caroline Willard mentioned. “Almost overnight, we created a feedback loop for member communications that had seemed like a pipe dream prior to the pandemic’s onset.”
What’s extra, the Cornerstone Foundation launched the Pandemic Response Strategy, a program designed to assist tackle points brought on by the pandemic and create a way of group and monetary well-being. The technique encompasses 4 elements: A toolkit for monetary counselors, a monetary counseling certification program, free one-on-one monetary counseling and reasonably priced e-learning.
The Mountain West Credit Union Association, which represents 141 credit score unions all through Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming, additionally quickly shifted most of its communications channels to a digital platform.
“We have shifted 90% of our education programs to online – including bringing in the latest options to assist with the pandemic and its impact,” Scott Earl, president/CEO of the MWCUA, mentioned. “We were able to offer eight specific regulatory webinars to help members and created 20 new COVID-19 education programs, [which are] all offered virtually.”
The affiliation’s fall Hike the Hill periods additionally went digital, had been renamed “DC From Your Desk” and facilitated larger credit score union participation.
The MWCUA’s basis additionally participated in partnerships with native meals banks that had been experiencing rising calls for from shoppers. Through the basis’s COVID Relief Program, $250,000 was donated to 17 organizations all through communities in Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming.
Providing Community Reassurance and Aid
Leagues additionally performed a vital position in selling messages all through their states that credit score unions had been protected and sound establishments that anxious shoppers might depend on amid COVID’s uncertainties.
“Early on, there was a lot of consumer concern about safety and soundness, so we initiated a cooperative advertising campaign and ran pretty extensive ads to reassure consumers that their deposits were federally insured, and that credit unions were open for business and serving their needs,” Dave Adams, president/CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League, which serves 213 credit score unions, mentioned. “For the second half of the year, we’re running ads now about what credit unions are doing to help members save money and make smart financial decisions. Everyone is looking to save money, whether it’s because someone in the household lost their job or [because of] other financial pressures from the uncertainties of COVID.”
The adverts are working, Adams mentioned, as a result of the league has seen a surge of shopper site visitors at the CU Link website the place guests can view extra details about Michigan’s credit score unions. The league has additionally seen very excessive ranges of click-thru charges on promotional movies posted to social media websites. It additionally shared the movies with credit score unions to use of their efforts to reassure members.
In addition to reassuring nervous shoppers, the state trades performed a key half in serving to their member credit score unions maintain monitor of how they had been serving to members in want of their communities.
“We developed and distributed a survey every week that strategically targeted the areas where credit unions were delivering real-time tangible financial relief to their members,” Diana Dykstra, president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, which serves 306 credit score unions, mentioned.
This included questions associated to mortgage forbearances, shopper mortgage extensions, enterprise mortgage extensions, emergency COVID-19 loans, price waivers and enterprise mortgage/grant facilitation through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
“Doing so helped us immediately quantify with one powerful voice to state legislators, the news media and society at large how our credit unions were stepping up daily for their members and communities,” she mentioned. “We told our credit unions’ member relief story in both states through our news relationships, news releases, real-time data and advertisement spots. We distributed relevant and useful news to statewide consumer media, as well as statewide political and trade media that state and federal lawmakers read. Having been in discussions with their respective staffs, we showcased how we worked with and honored requests by California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office and Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s office – as well as state regulators – to have credit unions offer major immediate financial relief to members. We especially spotlighted the positive financial impact that these discussions had on local consumers.”
The Cooperative Credit Union Association, which represents 202 credit score unions in Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, additionally leveraged the coronavirus disaster to promote the credit score union distinction.
“Our Better Values, Better Banking consumer awareness campaign has been prominent in all four of our states, reaching millions of people and raising consumer awareness of how credit unions are assisting members,” Ron McLean, president/CEO of the CCUA, mentioned.
Leagues additionally helped show credit score unions are higher banking choices for shoppers, as they had been instrumental in serving to credit score unions meet the deluge of PPP functions for his or her enterprise members.
Leite of the Ohio League mentioned employees members spent many lengthy, arduous hours deciphering the SBA guidelines and different provisions to allow companies to apply for and safe their PPP loans to make it by the pandemic shutdown.
“We wrote guidance quickly and got it off to our credit unions when the PPP program went live so our credit unions had something in the arsenal to help their members,” Leite mentioned. “I was really proud of the CUNA league system and the Ohio League at that moment in the sense that nothing else mattered at that point in time to make sure that we got it out and got it right for our members.”
In collaboration with different organizations, the league additionally labored with the Ohio Congressional Delegation to enable privately insured credit score unions to supply PPP loans to their members. Those credit score unions had been inadvertently disregarded of the PPP laws provision that outlined eligible lenders.