It’s said that a bank is happy to lend you an umbrella when it’s sunny but wants it back when it starts to rain.
At Border Federal Credit Union in Del Rio, Texas, Cristina Covarrubias understands bad things happen to good people. The collections supervisor at the $236 million asset institution holds the umbrella when members need it most—those behind in their loan payments. She does it with compassion, creativity, and kindness.
She also brings colleagues tacos and coffee each day, believing “a taco is a great motivation to start the morning.”
Covarrubias and her staff determine if members are experiencing long- or short-term issues, and they seek solutions such as deferred payments, payment reductions, or referrals to financial counseling.
Covarrubias is inspired by the chance to improve members’ financial health. “I’m proud when I make someone’s day when they’re going through a hardship,” she says.
Members ask to work with Covarrubias specifically, and many send notes of appreciation.
“We serve low-income, underserved communities,” she says. “Working in collections, we face challenges every day. My biggest challenge is when we run short of options to help members who have large loan balances and are going through serious hardships, such as severe medical conditions or even terminal illnesses.
“To find solutions for these members, we analyze cases as a team,” Covarrubias adds. “We look at the situation from different angles to design strategies for each case based on trends and the supporting documentation members provide. By following this approach, despite economic downturns, we’ve maintained delinquency and charge-off ratios below 1% for more than 13 years.”
She pioneered an analysis of key metrics across the credit union, tracking data such as collectors’ call volume and delinquency and charge-off ratios. Metrics also measure loan officers’ individual loan portfolios, including their individual delinquency and charge-off ratios.
The analysis includes charts showing loan-growth trends, loan origination by credit score, and delinquency and charge-off performance.
Border Federal has shared this strategy with multiple credit unions, and NCUA examiners have praised the approach.
Covarrubias also implemented a program to use GPS devices on vehicles financed with higher-risk loans, as well as on repossessed vehicles that members have redeemed.