Members Will Turn to their CUs: Here’s How You Can Come Through
By Beatriz Hartman, Financial Wellness Solutions Leader, KOFE
Someone recently asked me what the difference is between credit unions and banks. Instead of giving the technical answer, I just said, “Banks have customers, credit unions have members.” During a financial crisis, that difference becomes more apparent than ever.
Members will turn to their credit unions for advice in a way that customers won’t do with their banks. But where do you find that valuable information to help your members overcome the current crisis?
Whether it’s COVID-19, the Great Recession, 9/11, or the dotcom bubble – just to mention a few since the millennium – you have options.
Your content provider
If you have one, your content provider should already be producing valuable content that you can share with your members. Since this is a time when your members are looking to you as a credible source for advice, take advantage and update your website, adding resources and sharing with your members how your credit union can help.
Your financial wellness partner
Do you have a financial wellness partner? If so, ask how fast this partner can provide last-minute content. In fact, if you already partner with a financial wellness provider, they should have already provided you with COVID-19 financial related content and resources useful to your members.
Much of this is information they already have: online calculators that estimate how much interest you owe on certain kinds of debt, videos explaining savings techniques, glossaries defining need-to-know financial terms.
That’s because every crisis – whether a global pandemic or a localized natural disaster – differs in its physical damage, but it’s all so similar in its financial destruction. So content providers and financial wellness partners who have been around for a while already have a knowledge base to draw upon.
Your own credit union
If you have neither a content producer nor a financial wellness platform/portal, try reaching as many members as possible on your own – especially those low- to moderate-income families who will need your resources the most. Your website is a great start, but you should also try to use email and even social media. When things go back to normal, you should try to have printed resources readily available at the branch.
One-on-one financial counseling
During these tough times, there’s one crucial service you can offer to your members as a credit union: One-on-one financial counseling.
Some of you have already certified staff to become credit counselors. But you must be prepared with a back-up plan – because during a crisis of this magnitude, your staff may not be equipped to handle the volume.
If you have a financial wellness partner, ask if they offer one-on-one financial coaching or credit counseling services. Additionally, some financial wellness providers will have the ability to help your members with debt-resolution options beyond personal or consolidation loans.
Whatever you do, remember that just being present in the moment matters to your members. Even if you just contact them with a reminder that you’re available, that makes a difference. If you offer fee waivers or loan deferrals, explain those in plain English to your members through your website, email, and social media.
By the time the crisis finally ends, your members will appreciate not just the practical financial advice, but also the caring you exhibited for their welfare.