Leagues foster collaborative solutions to threat

Leagues foster collaborative solutions to threat

Credit unions are well-positioned to show leadership and to assist Americans affected by the crisis.

March 18, 2020

Credit union leagues throughout the country are helping their member credit unions find collaborative solutions to the COVID-19 threat.

Tom Kane, president/CEO of the Illinois Credit Union League, says he spends much of his day coordinating and communicating with member credit unions and state regulators as a “go-between.”

He says credit unions have questions about holding the annual meeting and board meetings virtually, and about limited lobby hours and loan modifications.

“There are a lot of questions about what credit unions can do for their members and employees,” Kane says. “Credit unions never figured they would shut down most of their direct member interactions and have most of their staff work from home.”

To that end, the league also hosts human resources to assist credit unions with staffing issues and a small credit union community to deal with the multiple issues they’re facing.

The Illinois League reduced staffing from 115 to roughly 10 employees on Tuesday, and Kane says the offices will be virtually empty, with all staffers working from home in the next day or two.

He says leagues can serve as valuable facilitators during crises like the current one. “Credit unions want to collaborate, and leagues can bring people together when they may not otherwise find each other. Credit unions have never experienced anything like this, but we will get through it by keeping our focus on doing what is best for our employees and members.”

Virtual meetings & regional huddles

The Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) has organized meetings for CEOs, small credit unions, and special councils, as well as regional huddles and forums on the COVID-19 threat.

In the spirit of unity, NWCUA has opened its COVID-19-related meetings and resources to members, nonmember credit unions in the region, other leagues, and to leaders of credit unions from other states who’ve requested access. More than 1,046 people attended virtual meetings held in mid-March.

NWCUA has created a Coronavirus Preparation & Response Resources website for credit unions. It includes guidance from health and regulatory agencies, compliance information, media outreach resources, and collateral for credit unions to share with their members.

NWCUA-backed legislation passed last year allows credit unions in Oregon and Washington to hold virtual annual meetings. The association is working closely with CUNA and NCUA to propose legislative changes to the Federal Credit Union Act that would give federally chartered credit unions the same flexibility.

“COVID-19 is presenting unprecedented challenges,” says Troy Stang, NWCUA president/CEO and CUNA Board chair. “A situation such as this knows no borders; it will impact every community.

“Our role as credit unions’ trade association is to provide every possible resource and to convene our members and nonmembers alike in responding to their needs and their members’ needs. This is a critical time for collaboration, and we are so impressed with how the credit union movement is working together.”

Basecamp improves collaboration

The Indiana Credit Union League has set up a Basecamp group for credit unions to interact and share information specific to the pandemic response. Basecamp is a project management tool through which participants can hold conversations and share documents.

League President John McKenzie also is collecting information that will be shared with the Indiana congressional delegation regarding how Indiana credit unions help their members with hardships. He shared a link to the comprehensive CUNA/leagues survey that also collects this information.

Additionally, the Indiana league has adopted a policy allowing employees to work remotely to maximize social distancing. This will not impact service to credit unions as the league already had remote access available to most employees as part of its overall business continuity plan.

The league has postponed its in-person meetings and conferences.

Regulatory guidance

The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) is providing its member credit unions with a resource page that includes regulatory guidance.

MnCUN has also hosted webinars on pandemic preparedness and human resources concerns. It partnered with the Baker Group and Deep Future Analytics to host a webinar next week on economic and investment implications of the pandemic.

MnCUN leaders are holding calls daily with member credit union CEOs and have streamlined communications with regulators.

The Maryland and DC (MD|DC) Credit Union Association organized a call with a group of CEOs and several NCUA representatives, including the agency’s eastern regional director, as well as the Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation.

The group discussed how to maintain a high level of confidence in the financial system while protecting the health and safety of credit union staff and members during the COVID-19 outbreak. The commissioner agreed to work with credit unions to allow them to adopt reasonable, precautionary measures to reduce the amount of face-to-face interactions between members and staff.

The MD|DC Credit Union Association has distributed to lawmakers and posted on its website a list of credit unions with members in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., area with contact information.

It’s also providing a central resource and guidance page on its website that includes updates on decision making by local, state, and federal officials. The page also has guidance on human resource issues, business continuity planning, and how to support members, plus links to government, regulatory, and credit union-specific resources.

“We are processing the considerable information we’re receiving and gathering it in a balanced and thoughtful way to offer our credit unions access to the essential guidance and resources they need to continue to serve their members while protecting the health and safety of staff,” says MD|DC Credit Union Association President/CEO John Bratsakis.

“We appreciate the active engagement of our state and federal regulators as we work together to help credit unions navigate this unprecedented situation by providing clear guidance in a rapidly changing situation.”

Preparedness resources

The League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU) launched the Coronavirus Preparedness Resource Area, available on its website to member credit unions. The site includes information about the virus and its spread, business continuity and disaster recovery, protection and prevention, member support, and tools to communicate effectively about the virus.

The league provides weekly updates for member credit unions, and will host a webinar about the coronavirus threat on Friday, March 20.

“The League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates continues to actively monitor and respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” says Patrick LaPine, LSCU president/CEO. “Our internal LSCU Coronavirus Task Force has been meeting regularly to ensure the safety of our team members and business continuity across all functional areas.

“These are unprecedented times for our nation and world,” he continues. “LSCU & Affiliates is committed to providing our member credit unions with access to resources and assistance to help them navigate the current crisis.”

LaPine says the league has challenged its employees to think about their positions differently and how to pivot to meet the needs of its member credit unions.

“From crisis comes opportunity,” he says. “Credit unions are well positioned to show leadership in our communities and to assist Americans impacted by this crisis. It’s time for us to do what we do best: people helping people.”

Daily updates

The Heartland Credit Union Association has set up a resources page it updates daily for its member  credit unions  It includes links to health organization websites, state-specific health departments, industry guidance for credit unions, scam information, and more.

For the next seven days, the association will limit communication to its members to only Coronavirus/COVID-19 related information. This includes social media posts. After seven days, the league will determine if this should continue.

Every Monday, the league will send an email update from President/CEO Brad Douglas to member credit unions.

Leaders from member credit unions have inquired with the league about what other credit unions were doing during the current health emergency. As a result, the Heartland Credit Union Association is connecting credit unions via hour-long conference calls to share ideas and experiences.

The league hosted six calls on Tuesday with three more scheduled for Wednesday. It will continue scheduling these calls as needed.

“During this uncertain time, it’s more important than ever to do what our industry does best: help people,” Douglas says. “This constantly changing situation has affected everyone one way or another, and we are making every effort to keep in touch with our credit unions and assist and support them in any way possible.”

A collaboration hub

The Iowa Credit Union League is providing resources and serving as a hub for collaboration with its membership, says Andrea Dose, director of member services.

The league is in close contact with its state regulator and local government agencies, relaying information to credit union leaders as new information and programs become available, she say.

The Iowa League has a web page that provides links to resources for credit unions. Late this week, it will begin hosting a series of virtual roundtables for credit unions to collaborate and share best practices.

These virtual meetings will feature experts from human resources, operations, and regulatory compliance to answer questions and offer guidance.

The Iowa Credit Union Foundation Board voted to create an emergency relief fund to help Iowans financially impacted by the pandemic. More information about this will be available soon.

Dedicated resources

The Ohio Credit Union League (OCUL) has leveraged a dedicated COVID-19 resource center and its biweekly newsletter, eLumination, to equip member credit unions with the latest information and tools.

OCUL has connected its members to business continuity model policies and compliance support to answer questions around COVID-19.

League advocacy efforts have shifted to minimize the economic severity for credit unions and their members and member businesses. This includes encouraging NCUA to move to remote or delayed examinations, apply capital forbearance, and permit virtual board and membership meetings.

OCUL is working with the Ohio congressional delegation to fully fund the Community Development Financial Institutions and Community Development Revolving Loan Funds to immediately infuse capital into the market to ease lending and service barriers for credit unions.