How Credit Unions are Navigating COVID-19: An Interview with Honor Credit Union
During the second week of March, it became clear that the global pandemic, COVID-19, was going to change the day-to-day operations of credit unions. The industry, like many others, had to — and still is trying to — learn how to best adapt to the changing circumstances — figuring out how to maintain a high level of member service while taking the proper measures for the safety of members, employees and the community.
Unsurprisingly, Michigan credit unions have taken things a step further. More than figuring out how to maintain the status quo of business operations, they have asked, “How can we be of service during this financially stressful time?” The answer to this question has been an overwhelming across the board and continues to evolve every day.
MCUL talked with Honor Credit Union VP of Marketing Stacey Dodson to discuss how Honor is navigating all of these current credit union concerns and commitments.
MCUL: How do you see credit unions playing a vital role during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Whitmer’s recent Stay Safe, Stay Home order, in particular?
SD: As an identified “Critical Service,” credit unions play a vital role during the COVID-19 pandemic in ensuring that members have access to their money in order to continue conducting financial transactions and to purchase needed items to take care of themselves and their families.
We are also responsible for calming any fears that members may have about the safety of their money during uncertain times. As a federally insured financial institution through the NCUA, it’s imperative that we reassure our members that their money is safe and available during and after this public health crisis. We are a community partner, and we will do our part to help our members and our communities through these difficult times.
What services have you amended to assist members?
Honor rolled out a comprehensive financial relief package to help our members through this temporary public health situation. In an effort to provide solutions for all situations, the Honor Financial Relief Package offers a variety of services, including:
- HELOC, Personal and Auto Loan and Credit Card
- 90 Days No Payment
- Refinance any loan held at another financial institution, or refinance an existing Honor Credit Union loan for cash out and pay nothing for 90 days.
- Here2Help Loan
- A personal loan special of up to $3,000 with a fixed rate of 7.99% APR and max term of 18 months. This loan also qualifies for the 90 days no payments offer.
- Business Loan Payment Relief
- Mortgage and Home Equity Payment Relief
- Temporary Fee Changes
- Overdraft transfer fee ($10) and early withdrawal fee on certificates are waived.
- Courtesy Pay fee is reduced to $19 per item (check, ACH, or in-person).
Our members are our owners, so we’ve encouraged them to reach out to tell us what they need. We’re open and ready to work with them on a plan with solutions to fit their situation.
What has been the most difficult transition for the credit union?
As a community-focused institution, our biggest challenge has involved the transition to an environment of social distancing. We love our team and our members and we miss the in-person interactions! But we’re still here; we’ve simply shifted the way we serve our members while keeping our commitment to take care of each other. Our members know that they can still access their accounts and interact with us through our drive thrus and on multiple digital platforms. We’ve embraced flexibility and creativity to continue to deliver exceptional member service for our credit union family.
Has there been any decision you’ve made during the transition that worked out better than expected – something that you would suggest other credit unions do?
We decided at the very beginning to provide our team members with a daily update to keep everyone connected and in the loop. Clear communication is key during any transition, and it is especially critical in a rapidly changing environment. Each member of our team receives a daily update delivered to their email inbox, Monday–Friday, with timely information, including: updated policies and procedures (in compliance with government guidelines), creative solutions and services to help our members, best practices for remote workers and new ways to connect to each other. An informed team is an effective team.
We also started an email group to encourage our team to submit suggestions and recommendations for how we could best take care of each other and our members. Great ideas come from all across the organization, and we wanted feedback from the front-lines and the back-office to ensure that we were covering all aspects of member service and surrounding our members with care.
We would suggest that other credit unions implement a daily update and a dedicated feedback loop to keep their teams informed and engaged.
How are you communicating with your members about your change in operations, the safety of their finances and other information?
We are committed to a clear line of communication with our members to keep them informed and updated on how we are shifting our service to remain open and available to meet their needs. We are utilizing a variety of communication channels, including email, social media, outdoor signs, billboards, website, radio and traditional mail to get the message to our members that we are here and ready to help.
We want our members to know that their money is safe and available, and that they will continue to have access to their accounts via drive-thru service, ATMs, call or text, online banking and our mobile app.
We want our members to hear our voice and feel safe and secure about their financial situations, so we will continue to make ourselves available to take their calls and answer their questions. We even launched a dedicated webpage for our response to COVID-19; a one-stop shop for detailed information regarding the Honor Financial Relief Package, FAQs about our service during this time, member communications (emails/blogs) and “Healthy Habits” as recommended by the CDC. This page is updated regularly with new and helpful information for our members and you can find it here.