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Tag: COVID-19

You Can’t Shake Hands In Cyberspace

Originally published on CUInsight.com

You’re expecting another, “back in the days before COVID-19” reminiscing post. Too bad. This topic came to me years ago. You know, BC…Before Coronavirus. Yes, that time really did exist. It’s not just a dream.

Why mention the time frame?

Because it helps you understand that some of today’s challenges aren’t new. For many, remote work is our normal. In fact, getting to meet people IRL (in real life) was a special treat! In case it’s not obvious, the “our” here is me. I work remotely.

Take a look at some of my event posts to feel the excitement of being around other people. Yes, even for this introvert.

What’s Changed?

Ha! What hasn’t changed? Amirite? There’s no minimizing the enormous impact that-virus-which-shall-not-be-named has on society and business. Many, if not all of us, had to adapt to rapidly-changing norms and precautions.

When in-person became “no way”, those who could and weren’t already took shelter online. You joined us on Zoom, a platform we’ve been accustomed to for years. It’s like we’re innovators. Ok, not the way to blaze new paths. You’re welcome here as long as you need.

What Hasn’t Changed?

People Working
Who’s craving this?

People want to interact with other people.

In fact, maybe that’s changed too, because in our physical isolation, the desire to connect is even higher. Either way, for some things, there’s no replacement for an in-person experience.

At the same time, the concepts of digital transformation charge onward. Sure, it meant moving faster than you ever thought possible, but you did that because you’re awesome. Now, it’s time to think about the why. “Why did we need to implement these digital solutions?”

Yes, an unprecedented global event happened. I suppose we can’t really ignore it. At the same time, it forced an acceptance of where things are moving. Tasks which can be made easier and more convenient by using an app or website…should.

This is a golden time to look at what parts of your operation should be driven by human interactions and which can improve with digital ones. Naturally, there will be overlap, but that awareness can help guide your planning strategy, no matter what crazy events transpire.

Digital transformation doesn’t mean making everything digital. It means evolving to provide the best service, experience, and human connection with the right tools in the right ways. At your core, you’re a bunch of people working to help lots more people.

How to Adapt?

Chameleon
Get it? Adapt?

To be honest, the hardest part is the human element. Sharing data or other forms of information (interactive charts, whiteboard, etc.) is actually easiest on a platform like Zoom. Cue that time your whole team struggled to load a file off a USB drive for the meeting.

Digital stuff works great on these services. Cloud-based sharing makes secure and simple transfers possible. No more wondering if that computer’s USB ports are disabled, or if this browser is allowed to load Dropbox. Or if your emails went to spam.

Where we struggle most, and I bet you also, are the casual interactions. For all the love I have for great Zoom happy hours, you know it’s not the same as actually meeting up. As of now, no tech can replace that experience (I’m looking at you, future Apple AR Glasses).

There’s real value to meeting in person, even if we’re wearing masks. Since that’s not a feasible or potentially safe option for many people, here’s some suggestions on comfortably embracing video chat (with qualifications).

Make Video Chat Awesome (Or at least better) For Your Team

Woman with Mask on Video Chat
Good thing…you don’t have to go to this extreme.
  • Help equip your team with good cameras, lighting, and mounts/stands for their cameras (Trust me, being well-angled and lit makes such a difference both for you and other’s confidence)
  • Recognize that you can’t look people in the eye while looking them in the eye (even if it looks that way)
  • Make it ok to mute or turn off video during conversations. It’s like casually looking away in-person; not a bad thing. If someone stares you in the eyes constantly in-person, it’s uncomfortable.
  • Don’t force video chats to be “casual”. It feels weird. Empower your team to set up one-on-one or group conversations in the same vein as they would just meet up in the kitchen or hallway. Business meetings match your culture now as before.
  • Of course, also…use it like kids in remote schooling; to let your team express themselves and show off (if they want) part of what makes them happy. (Every kid wants to share their toys, bedroom, and walk the class through their house.)
  • Sometimes, audio is enough. Just because you can use video doesn’t mean you must. Recognize the potential for personal intrusion it has over audio-only.

Staring Isn’t Caring

The bottom line on keeping team engagement going is to help it be as close to organic as it would be in an office. And you can carry this over to members as well!

For member interactions which previously happened in-person, provide the option for them to use a video chat. Offer a simple video guide on your app or website to get them going. Sure, this is a rip-off of your ITM video tellers, but members don’t have to go somewhere.

See? That you already have or are considering them means you’re on your digital transformation journey! We’ll make it all as good as in-person, you just watch!

Except for that shaking hands thing.

Coronavirus: How Your Credit Union Can Make A Difference [Video]

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.

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