While members have been confined to their homes over the last several weeks, many still want and need convenient access to in-branch and ATM services. And while many credit unions have had to make the difficult decision to temporarily close their branches for the safety of their employees and members, those that participate in shared branching have been able to continue serving the needs of their members as well as guest members – keeping the cooperative spirit of the credit union industry alive during these unprecedented times.
Two such credit unions — Jefferson County Federal Credit Union and The Tennessee Credit Union – are prime examples of why shared branching is so important to the credit union mission. As participants in the CO-OP Shared Branch and CO-OP ATM networks, both credit unions continued to offer drive-through service and support to members and non-members, exemplifying the #CreditUnionHeroes that make our movement so special.
Branch Employees Going Above and Beyond to Serve Members
“When we closed the in-office service at our branches, we never considered stopping shared branch participation,” said Heather D. Walter, CEO of Jefferson County FCU, based in Louisville, Kentucky (www.jcfcu.org). “We didn’t do drive-through service before, but we met with nearby credit unions in Tennessee and Indiana to make sure we were coordinating. They are great partners and we launched drive-through service.”
Credit union employees stationed themselves outside to service members driving into the branch parking lot. “We considered setting up separate stations for members and guest members, but quickly concluded that would only create confusion,” said Walter. “Our staff members are the heroes. They kept things moving, made sure visitors knew the lines were being attended to, wiped down the equipment and put in many, many more steps than usual moving in and out of the office to complete transactions.”
The credit union has 36 employees serving 10,000 members, and Walter points to their members and guests as heroes, too.
“People have been very understanding and patient under the circumstances,” said Walter. “On Fridays we have cars lined up around the block. And, for many, they hadn’t used drive-through for financial services before, so it was a new experience for them. That’s a credit to both them and our staff, who made the new process as convenient as possible.”
Living up to the Name ‘The Volunteer State’
When COVID-19 hit, James McBride, Executive Vice President of The Tennessee Credit Union in Nashville (www.ttcu.org), quickly pivoted to ensure his staff of 86 employees were ready to help Tennessee CU’s 26,000 members. The Tennessee CU had had a unique “dress rehearsal” for COVID-19 with the emergencies created by the tornados that struck the state in early March
“The tornados damaged the building of another credit union, and we sought them out to help as part of the shared branch network,” said McBride. “There’s a real cooperative movement in Tennessee – we’re the ‘Volunteer State.’ When COVID-19 started, we sought to get out in front of this thing. We paid close attention to the CDC and local authorities while providing member service. We held our lobbies open as long as we could, but finally closed them when we hit a curve in health risk. But we asked ourselves before that, how do we continue branch service?”
The Tennessee CU has nine branches, all with drive-through windows. To ensure positive ID of members and visitors in a social distancing world, the credit union narrowed down service to the window with the camera producing the sharpest image. One example of heroics here was that the DMV in nearby-Kentucky had shut down. What do with visitors with expired driver’s licenses? “We decided to go ahead and take care of them,” said McBride, “after reaching out to the Tennessee CUL for their guidance, and making sure we weren’t stepping into some kind of hole. In fact, we haven’t turned away a single shared branch guest.”
McBride noted that at the onset of the pandemic, the credit union saw a few spikes in cash withdrawals, but that settled down in the ensuing weeks. “In addition, shared branch visitor transaction volume hasn’t increased,” said McBride. “Other credit unions in the area are taking the same approach as us, so their members aren’t going elsewhere.”
The credit union has received letters from members expressing gratitude to staff for the outstanding service they received. “We have commitment to ‘every member, every day, every time,’ said McBride. “People are struggling right now, so we try to show them a smile with each visit – it may be the only time they interact with another human being all day.”
“Our visitors are our fellow Tennesseans,” said McBride. “It’s really quite simple. I had a credit union mentor and she would always say, ‘the key is to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.’ When we do that as a movement, we win.”
“I would like to thank Jefferson County FCU and the Tennessee CU, and all the credit unions that are part of shared branching – you may not recognize it, but all of you are heroes!,” said Dr. Kathy Snider, SVP Group Owner Engage Products, for CO-OP Financial Services.
CO-OP Financial Services, in fact, introduced #CreditUnionHeroes to make sure credit unions are recognized. Learn how you can participate on social media.
As parts of the country begin to slowly reopen, the branches and ATMs that are part of the CO-OP Shared Branch and CO-OP ATM networks will be more vital to members than ever. Learn more about how to become part of the CO-OP Shared Branch and CO-OP ATM networks.