One Credit Union CEO (And Dad) Gives Some Fantastic Advice About Covid-19
As our entire country changes hour-by-hour during this evolving public health crisis, I reached out to someone I know very well and trust for advice in times of crisis… My dad, Marshall Boutwell.
It turns out he has some amazing words for all of us, including the teams at credit unions and community banks who are navigating this unprecedented situation. It just so happens that he’s where my love for credit unions began, and he’s the President/CEO of Peach State Federal Credit Union, which currently serves over 60,000 members in Georgia and South Carolina.
Here are 7 Key COVID_19 Crisis suggestions I learned that you might find useful:
Remain flexible and work with members on a case-by-case basis if necessary.
Split up departments into different physical locations, so that if someone in one branch gets sick you’ll have back up staff in that department in another location who won’t have to quarantine for two weeks.
Be open to working from home options for your staff, even if initially you didn’t think it would be possible.
Give members payment relief. Period.
Stay up-to-date with your local health department so that you can make staff aware of the current level of infection in your area.
Encourage your staff to reach out to each other virtually, continue team meetings with video technology and provide support where and when they need it.
Recognize what’s going well. And be ready to change and evolve as the situation evolves.
Here's more detailed highlights from our Covid-19 conversation:
My Question: We know that face-to-face banking and social distancing are a factor for financial institutions and branches are closing lobbies, limiting hours, and reducing contact with other staff and customers to ensure safety for everyone. But what are your other biggest challenges that might be useful for people to understand? And how are you handling those?
Dad’s Answer: Our emergency management plan was sufficient, but we are continuing to make adjustments and changes as we need to and that’s important. For example, we found ways to send more staff home to work. Our five-member IT team have been magnificent. It’s going to make us a closer knit, stronger and better organization.
This is a national issue and we all have to get in this together. I have never been more proud of my team than right now. From the top to the bottom everyone is reaching out and asking is there anything I can do to help?
We have a call center that has been dispersed to their homes. The IT department has gone above and beyond. We’ve split our staff up so no single location has all of one department so that if there is an infection in one area we will have back up personnel in different locations. With people continuing to be able to work from home and going paperless we are able to do all of our services for all members. Not a single service has been eliminated.
My Question: This week the Fed dropped interest rates to almost 0%. How has that change influenced what your CU is doing for your members? Would love to know more about emergency products you are developing to support members in need.
Dad’s Answer: We are giving people payment relief on EVERYTHING including mortgages. Giving a couple of months immediately and will consider additional. Case by case. We are taking increased risk to help members. Making loans to members who are unemployed.
We are not offering 0% signature loans, because there is some risk, but we will make loans with good and fair low rates. We aren’t massively advertising but we will on a case by case basis fit loans to meet the needs of our members. And we will do it in a caring and sensitive way.
(Marshall Boutwell and his three Grand Children)
My Question: I’m from Generation X and Americans my age and younger have never really had to experience a time of shortage or national sacrifice like so many previous generations did. Can you offer those younger people any guidance or wisdom on how to approach this crisis and make decisions during this time?
Dad’s Answer: I think that the younger generation, when they look back, will see all kinds of benefits from how people have pulled together. People are reaching out and helping one another. This is springing up all over the country. People are coming together in a positive way and this will create lessons learned for all generations.
When we get through this initial crisis the economy will start coming back and there is nothing more potent than the US economic machine and the free market economy. The entrepreneurial spirit we have in this country has overcome all kinds of crises in the past and it will do it again.
We keep persevering. It is the land of opportunity and this gets proven generation after generation. I’m 73 and I’ve seen war, recessions, economic ups and downs and there’s not a better place to be in the world than this country.
My Question: Is there anything else you want people to know right now to help them through this time?
Dad’s Answer: We are monitoring the local Department of Health statistics every single day by county every single day so that we know the progress of the infections. Right now about half of the counties we serve have no cases or only one case of infection. This will grow, but we share this information with our staff because it helps keep employees calm.
Cleaning crews are doing more disinfecting at night and we are implementing all sanitizing recommended.
We would love to hear more about what your CU is doing to help members deal with this crisis. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org as we will continue to share ideas in the coming days and weeks.