Update 4/3/20: More videos focused on CUs “Living Your Why” of the mission. Edits at end.

I have a lightsaber. Which automatically makes it awesome.

COVID-19! Coronavirus! Pandemic! Bear (and now back to bull) 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.

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 someone who’s always lived that way, can I just say, “welcome to the club?”

Ok, there’s nothing I can share which you won’t find literally everywhere else, from your LinkedIn feed to every alert on your phone. Plus, I’m not a doctor. I’m not an expert in any aspect of public health. I just listen to those who are.

Get Latest Info Here

If you want up-to-date info on coronavirus, Ars Technica (my favorite news site) has a daily updated article you can reference at any time. They’re trustworthy and committed to details that matter.

So why am I even writing this post? And, even better question, why are you still reading? Thanks, by the way!

Serving When It’s Most Needed

Because I do know credit unions. At least, strategies to help them run at their best, which includes 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. That’s an important first step. Perhaps you’re even thinking of ways to offer short-term personal loans to members.

It’s about “Living Your Why” of the CU Mission.

Programs to Help Members

Short-term loans are great. I recall during the most recent government shutdown, many credit unions offered 0% loans matching paychecks. Do it again. Or as close to 0% as able. 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. Most people aren’t stockpiling toilet paper.

You may be canceling 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. 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.

Ensure Business Continuity

I should mention, 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.

It’s time to skip the events. The league gatherings can wait. Industry conferences are fun, but not when everyone’s terrified of coming within 6 feet of the poor chap allergic to pollen. Besides, you’re all on the email list, anyway.

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” – You just know some industries are going to get bailed out by taxpayers; think airlines and cruise ship operators. In the case of credit unions, it might be beneficial, as it could 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. I’m sure the results of that brainstorming would be more impressive than anything I could write here.

Your lobbyists will be hard at work on #2. The section we care most about right now is #3. I know it sounds crazy, but my suggestion is to ask your members. Seriously, use your social media, website, and other channels to find out what’s worrying them the most.

I see it as a credit union-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. 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.

As an aside, I’m not the only one to come up with these exact ideas. PwC advised financial institutions on their coronavirus response. Basically, it’s a prettier version of this post.

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 can shine. You exist to provide a better choice for people in their financial lives. Here’s the time to step up.

This is when the leagues, national organizations, individual credit unions, and you, yes, you, must come together. I’m not the smartest person 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!

Update History

Update 3/31/20: That other video update was fine. This one is better. And in this post! It congratulates credit unions and their staff, as well as poses some challenges to create new opportunities in the future.

Update 3/27/20: I shared a video discussing how a return to normal simply won’t happen, but that you can implement “digital transformation” today to meet the new normal.