Article

Five Tips for Transitioning Branch Operations to a New Normal

reset restart reopening sign on wooden table in front of blue background
By Jill Homan

4 minutes

Being agile, decisive and responsive during times like these are key to a future of thriving, not just surviving.

The COVID-19 pandemic is possibly the most serious challenge credit unions have faced in nearly a century. While credit unions were deemed critical infrastructure and able to remain open for the most part throughout the coronavirus pandemic, most locations had to shift their workforces to remote work, reduce hours, close lobbies and rapidly transition to digital solutions to safely keep services available. With isolation parameters being scaled back or lifted in some states, many credit unions are seeking to expand hours and services to help maintain a stable economy and fully meet their members’ financial needs—all while practicing social distancing requirements and maintaining compliance with regulatory mandates. As credit unions carefully consider how to reopen their branches, here are five tips to follow as we gradually and cautiously shift toward normalcy following this significant public health event.

1. Prioritize the Health of Employees and Members

The return to a pre-coronavirus world will take time. While it is tempting to jump right back into the old way of doing business, medical and business experts indicate that significant health precautions will continue to be necessary for the foreseeable future, maybe even into next year. As part of the reopening process, team leaders need to carefully construct plans to implement best health practices that align with employment laws and guidelines for shared spaces for employees and members. While these plans require some patience and long-term thinking, the benefit to the credit union, employees, members and community are well worth the efforts. Demonstrating commitment to your members and community will no doubt have a positive impact on the success of the credit union today and in the future.

2. Be There for Small Businesses

Many small businesses are frankly outraged with how the megabanks handled the initial Paycheck Protection Program loan process, and research shows that more than five out of 10 of these enterprises are looking to move their accounts to smaller institutions as a result. Even before their bad experiences during the pandemic, nearly six in 10 small businesses were thinking of switching banking relationships, according to a survey by CUES strategic partner Cornerstone Advisors, Scottsdale, Arizona, and fintech provider Autobooks, based in Detroit. Credit unions should create a clear account-opening process for businesses and provide consistent communication. Like personal relationships, business relationship bonds forged during difficult times often result in a thriving, long-term relationship after the storm has passed.

3. Kick Up Critical Communications

Digital advertising trends have taken an intriguing twist in the wake of the coronavirus. Internet searches for financial services increased significantly, indicating that the general public is feeling the financial stress of pandemic and preparing for an economic recovery that may take quite some time. It is more important today than ever before for credit unions to provide highly relevant and valuable resources to members through consistent and convenient digital communication. Credit unions have access to a wealth of consumer information, and with that, an unprecedented ability to create relevant, actionable messaging to members and potential members. This data needs to be utilized properly in order to give consumers the experience they want, including information about locally available resources, financial planning support and help for using digital services.

4. Offer Relevant Financial Services

Throughout the pandemic, many credit unions have stepped up to serve as community leaders and advocates for their members—many of whom are in need of financial guidance and support. Forward-thinking credit unions are promoting such necessary products and services and doing so with empathy. For example, credit unions often run travel promotion campaigns throughout the summer months; however, this season, shifting to promote “skip a payment” or low interest consumer loan products is more appropriate as income levels may have fluctuated due to the pandemic. Our credit union clients are using digital services and seeing elevated (sometimes double-digit) click-through rates, demonstrating that a healthy balance between community outreach campaigns, financial literacy and relevant financial products are resonating.

5. Focus on Leadership

Your staff and members are stressed and anxious and need personal leadership from your credit union’s executive team. Give your employee team a positive mission and help them perform. Keep them focused on the well-being of your membership, both physical and financial. A sense of purpose will drive them forward and increase their sense of accomplishment.

This pandemic has resulted in continuously evolving and changing ways of conducting business and meeting member needs and expectations. However, during these periods of change, success will be achieved by those organizations able to quickly adapt to their new environment and provide services to members while ensuring employee, member and community safety. Being agile, decisive and responsive during times like these are key to a future of thriving, not just surviving.

Jill Homan is president of DeepTarget, a fintech company developing and deploying an open, data-driven customer engagement and cross-selling platform for credit unions and banks.

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