Credit Union Leaders Share What’s Working During Uncertain Times

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Karan Bhalla Photo
CU Rise Analytics

4 minutes

Success stories about product adaptation, personalization, workplace culture and CUSOs

With plans continuously in flux amidst the evolving pandemic situation, nearly every credit union is re-evaluating strategies across the board.

With no guide for the array of new challenges, collaborating and sharing best practices has become even more important within the credit union community. With that in mind, CU Rise Analytics recently hosted virtual sit-downs with credit union industry leaders to gain insights into their coronavirus responses.

These snapshots from the resulting interview series showcase how credit unions are creatively retooling their approaches in key areas of credit union management.

Adapting Product Strategy

CUES member Rick Weber, President/CEO, $465 million CBC Federal Credit Union, Oxnard, California

Prior to the pandemic, CBC FCU had already taken an innovative approach to reimagining its checking account offerings. With inspiration from the subscription-based models used by leading tech companies like Netflix and Amazon, and equipped with deep member insights derived from data analytics, CBC FCU launched its subscription-based “EPIC Checking” in 2018, which bundled its checking account product with tiered additional services and benefits.

As President/CEO Rick Weber tuned into the multitude of concerns of CBC FCU’s members, the credit union recognized the opportunity to update its EPIC checking products to reflect the rapidly changing times. It became clear that members’ financial wellbeing was a source of anxiety for them. In response, CBC FCU enhanced its checking account benefits to include insurance coverage, identity theft protection and prescription drug discounts.

Because so many new checking account sign-ups are coming in online, work is underway to create a mobile application process that facilitates completing membership application, checking account signup, or new loan applications within minutes.  

Watch the full interview.

Personalized Digital Service

CUES member Vicki Roscoe Erickson, SVP/Marketing and Communications, $470 million TopLine Federal Credit Union, Maple Grove, Minnesota

In a stroke of good timing, TopLine FCU’s recent technology upgrade put the credit union in good digital shape when the pandemic hit. But instead of simply counting on its online and mobile platforms to meet member needs, SVP/Marketing and Communications Vicki Roscoe Erickson further leveraged the CU’s digital strength to deliver personalized and responsive service.

TopLine FCU created specialized member assistance teams and supported them with digital tools for maximum efficiency. A new “Member Assistance COVID Help” landing page on the website directed members into a dedicated digital portal with information about available resources. A form was created so members could easily reach out for help online, then receive a personal phone call from the appropriate member service team.  

As digital activity grew, TopLine FCU used data analytics to closely monitor and analyze changes in members’ transactional behavior. These insights underpinned highly targeted outreach efforts that ensured each member received the appropriate offers and support based on their individual circumstances.

Watch the full interview.

Maintaining Workplace Culture

Tom Davis, CEO, CUES Supplier member Trellance, Tampa, Florida

As the country began to shelter in place this spring, transitioning to a remote work environment was the easy part for data consulting and business intelligence firm Trellance. It already operated an agile workplace that gave employees flexibility, but CEO Tom Davis understood that maintaining a positive, collaborative and productive work environment against a backdrop of uncertainty and fear would be the real challenge.

After reviewing its business continuity plans, Trellance gave employees the green light to air their concerns. This made the employees feel heard, and helped managers to identify the issues that were manageable and solvable. With extra intention, it was still possible for the company to remain true to a “servant leadership” approach that conveys support for employees, listens to their concerns and makes them feel valued–even remotely.  

Trellance prides itself on a highly collaborative workspace, and made use of digital platforms like Microsoft Teams to facilitate cooperation and maintain the feeling of face-to-face interaction with video meetings. The organization had to compensate for the loss of informal–yet highly fruitful hallway conversations with more scheduled meetings, but made sure to build in personal elements that kept the team spirit alive.

Watch the full interview.

The Future for CUSOs

Nick Evens, President, The Veridian Group, Waterloo, Iowa

Though the pandemic caused a quick economic contraction, Nick Evens believes credit unions will continue to find value in credit union service organization investments. In many ways, the pandemic actually heightened that value.

The increased pressure for more digitization, more quickly has credit unions turning to established fintech companies for help delivering seamless online service to members quickly and conveniently. As the country continues to adjust to life with the coronavirus, there’s little doubt the demand for digital will only increase.

This is good news for existing CUSOs with established products and services. Early-stage CUSOs have likely seen a pull-back in investments, and may need to lengthen their timelines for raising capital and rolling out to the market.

The need for predictive and prescriptive analytics was already trending, but it has taken on new significance in today’s environment. Particularly as the current low interest rates squeeze profitability, credit unions can use data analytics for greater efficiency and preparation for what’s ahead. Through more sophisticated analysis, credit unions can deeply understand what’s happening in each area of the portfolio down to the level of the individual member, and how the collective data patterns point to future trends.

Watch the full interview.

Long before the pandemic started, credit unions had positioned themselves as the people-first financial services providers. That spirit of “we’re here for you” is evident now more than ever and is revealing itself in new ways throughout the industry as new challenges foster more cooperation, collaboration and information-sharing within and among credit unions. This may become a part of the “new normal” that everyone can welcome.

Karan Bhalla is CEO of CUES Supplier member CU Rise Analytics in Vienna, Virginia, a global CUSO helping credit unions leverage the power of data to better understand their members

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