Recent months have brought substantial lending challenges, including pandemic-related job losses, the lack of vehicle inventory, and growing competition, says Debbie Shephard, lending manager at $75 million asset Northern Colorado Credit Union in Greeley, Colo., and a member of the CUNA Lending Council Executive Committee. Through it all, she’s kept her focus on what’s best for members with out-of-the box loan products and competitive rates and terms.
Debbie Shephard: Listen to your members. Be flexible. Remember who you work for. Because we develop relationships with our members it was easy for them to come to us for help. We made sure we didn’t make anything more difficult for members during this time. We offered emergency loans and deferrals, and our members were so grateful.
Being flexible while everyone figured out this craziness was key. Thinking outside the box and asking ourselves how we can help worked for us and our members.
A: Between COVID-19 job losses, lack of inventory for automobiles, rates, competition, and the refi boom, there’s quite a list. As a smaller shop, getting borrowers’ attention to give us a shot is our greatest challenge. We have some amazing products and rates, and despite staffing issues we have great turnaround times and service. With so many people in the last year or two refinancing their mortgages and paying off debt at astounding rates while reducing future spending, replacing that volume has been a challenge.
A: We were trying to think of what members need and different ways to give back to them. Young adults just starting out or even older folks who have never relied on credit often have a difficult time getting a loan without a co-signer when purchasing a vehicle for the first time.
We developed this product so it was affordable for members while mitigating risk to the credit union. Our goal was to provide reasonable down payments, make sure we didn’t put people in unreliable vehicles, give them a break on the rate, and not require a co-signer.
A: Our members look to us to keep up with the products, services, and conveniences that are out there. They want personal service and for us to know them, their families, and their stories. But they still want all the bells and whistles the big shops have.
We’re lucky to have a board and a CEO who are supportive in developing areas around technology and service. We may not have everything, but we’ve kept up well while retaining that hometown service our members want.
A: Marketing is our biggest challenge against the big shops. We’ve kept up with the products that make sense for our credit union and our members, and we have some of the best rates in our area. Marketing, however, is where we feel a little left behind. We simply do not have the resources. We’re efficient with stretching our marketing budget, but we are limited.
A: I could not do my job without being a member of the CUNA Lending Council. When you have 16 employees total, you wear a lot of hats.
I can’t count how many times I have needed help answering a compliance question, finding a new vendor, or developing a policy or procedure. Between the white papers, roundtables, library, and communities, I have all the help I need.This article appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.