Two weeks into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Australia Hoover, president at $320 million asset CDC Federal Credit Union in Atlanta, reflects on how the credit union continues to serve members, the next issues it may have to address, and one silver lining from the pandemic.
The credit union serves Centers for Disease and Prevention employees, among other groups.
Australia Hoover: I think we're a lot like everybody else in the country right now. We are concerned. We've got a lot of folks who are afraid. They're worried about their own health and the health of their loved ones, their family, and friends. But more than anything, we're committed to doing what we can to be there for our members and for those who are in need around us in our community.
Our doors are open. I'm still coming into the office every day. We've got folks who have decided they needed to telework and, where that's possible, we allow them to do that. We are an essential service. We're a credit union people rely on for their sustenance in life, so we need to be available to them.
Hoover: It happened so fast we didn't have a lot of time to plan. A lot of our response was instinct and relying on a general business continuity plan we had in place prior to this.
We talk about disaster recovery and business continuity, so now we just had to test what we had been planning for. We just instinctively kicked in with what felt like were the right things to do at the time.
Hoover: We created a task force that includes folks from human resources, the retail side, and our accounting team, and we talk about what the plan needs to be. What are the capabilities in every area of the credit union? How are our people doing? Are there any issues or growing concerns? Do they have enough supplies?
We keep tabs on that. Managers talk to people and check in with them. That’s who we've got to rely on.
We're just trying to make it through. We all have our own personal concerns and problems at home to contend with. We want to make sure work is not an additional source of stress for anyone.
We have a phenomenal team, who want to be here to help the membership.
Hoover: First and foremost, we need to take a look at staffing across our industry and the talent we've got inside of credit unions. We need qualified people in the information technology area, operations, and the front line—folks who are cross-trained, who have a variety of skills, and who can do multiple jobs when staffing is short.
Second, we need to take a good hard look at our technology and the offerings we have and make sure that our members can access and engage with us without having to do it in person. On that note, you need to have support staff with remote access capabilities to be able to support that.
We need to get a lot more capable and serious about how we deal with these issues.
Hoover: The people and the lives that have been impacted by this. I try to find a silver lining in every cloud, but I worry about people’s well-being. I want to make sure we're doing everything we can to support our employees and the members who depend on us.
We have to be at our best to give them the opportunity to be at their best. I think the economy will rebound. Hopefully there will soon be a successful treatment for this particular virus.
But the damage that can be done in the meantime to the health, well-being, and the psyche of human beings isn’t so easy to repair. That's what I'm focused on right now: Making sure we're a source of inspiration and a place they can turn to for some good news.
Hoover: This is a tremendous opportunity for us to reset our priorities as a country and as a world. Without getting too philosophical, we've gone down a path I think has been more destructive than constructive.
We’ve taken many things for granted, such as sick pay or what it means to be an employee or an employer. We should consider, what are the real needs people have? What responsibility do you have as an employer to those who work for you?
I hope we can do even more to address the people’s needs and make sure credit unions are on the front lines of helping people. We've always done that, so this is just another example of how we can lead the charge and be the example for how we treat employees and others.
We might need to be the model for economic reconstruction in individuals' households. That might be where the rest of the nation looks to make this recovery happen. We’re in a tremendous position to make people's lives better. I'm proud to be a part of that.