State Employees’ is leveraging its 50-location call center network to keep contact work going.
The credit union’s 267-branch network is on drive-thru-only status. The five without drive-thrus are limiting lobby access.
The credit union also has ramped up sanitizing and is rotating branch staff to limit their exposure.
State Employees’ Credit Union ($41.4B, Raleigh, NC) has been practicing social distancing long before the coronavirus hit.
Mike Lord, President and CEO, State Employees’ Credit Union
The nation’s second-largest member-owned financial cooperative has distributed its call center operations across the Tarheel State since 2009. Currently, the credit union has 50 such locations, primarily at branches. Created to help provide jobs in the communities it serves, the network also adds resilience to the credit union’s ability to weather this storm.
“It’s worked out well both as a means of employment and for disaster recovery and business continuity,” says president and CEO Mike Lord. “If we have storms in the eastern part of the state or wildfires and floods in the west, we can reroute traffic through these contact centers.”
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The COVID-19 outbreak is presenting a more challenging situation, Lord adds. In response to the virus, SECU has closed the lobbies at 262 of its 267 branches that have drive-thrus. In the other five, it is limiting foot traffic to three members at a time.
“We may have to eventually close those branches, if we feel there’s a greater risk of exposure,” Lord says.
Of course, business can continue digitally and by phone, but closing the branches would eliminate access to the one service that can’t be done online: safety deposit boxes. There's the safety of employees to consider, too. SECU is rotating staff at its branches, sending half home for a week at a time, to further limit exposure. It also is extensively cleaning and making hand sanitizers available.
“We found some locally and have an order out for more,” Lord says. “We haven’t been caught in a total shortage there. We’re doing well so far.”
According to Lord, the credit union hasn’t seen a significant cash run but branch activity remains high. And, as a major lender and the largest mortgage lender in the Tarheel State, he does expect to see a slowdown as “people hunker down.” Meanwhile, SECU already has policies in place for helping financially strapped members, including some measures put in place during the Great Recession.
“We have the ability to scale those up if we need to,” Lord says.
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Communications with members also is important. Lord has a video posted now on the SECU website explaining how the credit union is responding to the crisis and what it will continue doing for members.
“We’re asking for their patience and to use alternative means of banking outside the branch whenever possible,” the CEO says. “These are such unusual circumstances, and we’re all trying to learn a new normal.”