How A Lending Machine Combats The Coronavirus

Financial Center First embraces two guiding principles to help members lessen the financial fallout from COVID-19.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Financial Center First created a two-pillar member service plan that rests on access to money and peace of mind.
  • Pinpoint analytics and aggressive outreach have helped sustain loan production while the credit union collaborates on how to re-open branches.

CU QUICK FACTS

Financial Center First Credit Union
Data as of 3.30.20

HQ: Indianapolis, IN
ASSETS: $609.9M
MEMBERS: 68,778
BRANCHES: 8
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 5.7%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.5%
ROA: 0.52%

“The best defense is a good offense” is a quote variously attributed to a legendary football coach, military theorist, or boxer, but it’s also now Kevin Ryan’s strategy for member service in the time of COVID-19 at Financial Center First Credit Union ($609.9M, Indianapolis, IN). 

The president and CEO of the Hoosier State cooperative said his team first went on the defensive as the coronavirus pandemic clamped down on his membership and everyone else participating in the U.S. economy.

“We were asking ourselves a lot of defensive questions,” Ryan says. “How do we handle this? How can we keep branches open? Then, we got to the point where we had to play offense.”

To do that, Financial Center asked one simple question: What do members really need from us?

The credit union decided the answer to that question was access to money and peace of mind. So, those became the two pillars of Financial Center’s offensive strategy to help members deal with the crisis. 

To execute its new strategy, the credit union is using analytics to identify members who might need help right now or benefit from a product or service they’re not using. Then, the team is looking to marketing communications, online services, outbound calling, and internal workflow and response systems to execute on insights derived from those analytics. 

“Now more than ever is the time to come alongside our members to help them through this difficult time in their lives, because that’s what being a credit union is all about,” longtime executive vice president Cam Minges says in a report outlining the credit union’s approach.

An eight-page report outlines and illustrates Financial Center First Credit Union’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Download here.

2 Pillars For 1 Result

For the first pillar — access to money — the credit union encourages members to tap into home equity loans and refinance existing loans, especially car loans, to put more money into their pockets. For the second pillar — peace of mind — it offers fee waivers, skip-a-pay, and competitive deposit rates. It also reassures members of the cooperative’s overall safety and soundness.

Kevin Ryan, President and CEO, Financial Center First Credit Union

Ryan took the helm at Financial Center a decade ago after years of sales in the credit union industry. The CEO says he still considers himself a sales guy and is avid that members have the right products at the right time and the right people to push them out.

For example, the credit union recently introduced a vehicle loan with no payments for 90 days on a refinance or new money purchase and $500 cash back. It also offers a bridge loan that members can pay back within 60 days at no interest and a reasonable interest rate based on risk after that. 

For the staff, the credit union offers a new incentive plan that focuses on outbound calls and easier payouts, especially in the areas where the employee specializes.

“We have strong people with great backgrounds in different areas, like mortgages and HSAs,” Ryan says. “Give them the tools they need and the products to sell, and the results roll in.”

The results? Ryan says his lenders finished April at 113% of their goal of $21,393,506, producing $24,276,282 in new loans.

“Our lending hasn’t suffered much so far,” the Financial Center CEO says.

Refine your credit union's response to COVID-19 using the Ideas In Action: Pandemic Response page, a hub for all of our articles, webinars, and policies concerning the COVID-19 outbreak.

Competing For The Greater Good

Ryan makes clear that he sees sales as a source of healthy competition within his staff, and equally clear that it’s all about the member in the end.

“The conversation always starts and ends with how we care about and want to help the member,” Ryan says. “If there is no sale, that’s OK. We tell them we appreciate talking to them, and we often hear back that they appreciate us calling. 

“We will not sell things to people that they do not need,” he adds. 

But, how does Financial Center know what members need? That’s where Minges and his long experience in analytics comes in.

Time For Data Diving

Using a mix of software tools he bought or built, Minges leads the credit union’s effort to extract core data and comb it for clues about who might need what and when, especially right now.

Cam Minges, Executive Vice President, Financial Center First Credit Union

The effort began with an outreach campaign that kicked off as the credit union’s relationship bankers were settling into the safety of working at home, newly tied into the CRM system that Minges has built and refined over the years.

From direct deposits to direct outreach, analysts are greasing the gears of member service as they spin like never before. Learn more in “4 Questions That Show How Analytics Supports A Solid Response To COVID-19.”

The first wave included 20,000 members but will eventually reach all 68,778 of them. The credit union also uses analytics and a lead generator that Minges built to determine what might be happening in a member’s financial life and then generate call lists and scripts for products that meet those specific needs.

In the first three weeks of April, Financial Center targeted calls to 1,931 people, of whom 1,011 talked to the credit union and 92 initiated a new car or mortgage loan over the phone.  

“That might not sound like a lot,” Ryan says. “But that’s $7,739,000 in loan production, including $266,369 just yesterday.”

Internal Operations And Looking Ahead

Ryan says his credit union was quick to close lobbies and will be slow to re-open them, following official guidance and the shared experience of his own team and his colleagues, including the 60 or so members of the Indiana Credit Union League who consult together regularly.

“The coronavirus will still be here, so everything will happen slowly,” Ryan says. “We’ll err on the side of protecting members and staff.”

But the lending and member communications machine will roll on. 

“Just because there’s a pandemic doesn’t mean people’s financial lives have to come to a halt,” Ryan says. “We’ll make sure to the best of our ability that it doesn’t for our members.”

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May 4, 2020


Comments

 
 
 
  • I was just talking to one of our credit union clients about their plans to reopen their branches and we realized how credit unions have a different concern than banks. It isn't just the health of the employees to worry about, but also the members. That is one of the great things we enjoy about being a part of the CU Community -- the customer is more than just a consumer, they are a member. Thanks for the great read and stay safe.
    Anonymous
     
     
     
  • And thank you for your kind remarks. You stay safe, as well.
    Marc Rapport