Through their collaborative and relationship-based approach, credit unions can “raise the bar for the entire country” on consumer financial well-being, CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle told attendees at the 2020 CUNA Lending Council Virtual Conference.
Nussle says the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created a “tipping point” for financial well-being that credit unions can influence through their high-touch value proposition with members.
“That high-touch value will probably be the difference in connecting with people on this issue going forward,” Nussle says.
Entering the pandemic, most Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, Nussle notes. “Now, we have an opportunity to double down on financial wellness with every individual. That includes what we already do, but on steroids.”
Jim Block, executive vice president/chief operating officer at BCU in Vernon Hills, Ill., and chair of the CUNA Lending Council Executive Committee, says there have been some “green shoots” in consumers’ financial health this year—namely that consumers have paid down debt and increased savings overall.
“But the overall segment of our society that doesn’t have a financial plan is huge,” Block says. “The most important message credit unions can articulate to their members is how we can be part of the solution and really help them.”
Nussle says lawmakers will take note of the way credit unions advance their communities through efforts to improve financial well-being “because they know the government can only do so much. The local initiative is still going to be the most impactful.”
Credit unions have made just such a case during the pandemic. Nussle cites CUNA statistics that show nearly 95% of credit unions offered loan modifications during the first months of the pandemic.
Plus, credit unions facilitated more than 170,000 Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loans, averaging $49,000 each.
“When things are at their worst, credit unions are at their best,” Nussle says. “We were born through adversity.”
Nussle notes the recession will likely require a long recovery, and businesses will require the long-term relationships and commitments credit unions are willing to make.
Block agrees. “Credit unions are designed to be different. We’re here for our members.”
Nussle says “there’s never been a better time” for the Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union digital marketing campaign, which has raised more than $50 million and is live in 24 states.
CUNA has gone “all in” on providing a seamless digital experience for its members and stakeholders, he says, citing the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference, March 2-4, which has been migrated to a premium virtual platform.
With that new platform comes new perspectives, Nussle says, and new opportunities to involve more credit union professionals and volunteers.