NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa–Credit unions and their members may never be more thankful for online services and mobile access than they are this week in many parts of the country.
Credit unions and their employees across the Midwest are hunkered down and attempting to stay warm—and safe—as record cold weather hits the region. The bitter conditions have also meant few members are looking to borrow, according to CUs who spoke with CUToday.info.
Officials have called conditions “instant frostbite” as temperatures plunged to 50 below in many areas. According to the National Weather Service, about 212-million Americans, or 72% of the continental U.S. population, are seeing or have seen temperatures drop below freezing.
“Not much to see here in Iowa but an ocean of white, a blowing flag, and a frozen backside of Herky the Hawk,” said Jim Kelly, chief marketing officer, University of Iowa Community Credit Union, of the view from his office. Herky the Hawk is the athletics mascot of the
University of Iowa Hawkeyes; his “frozen backside” can be seen in the picture at right.
“When the projected high is negative 13 degrees, there are not a lot of people out kicking tires or house shopping,” continued Kelly. “Thank goodness members can do a lot of their business from their phone or tablet these days. Our advice to them is to stay home, safe and wait for a warm 10-degree day to come out.”
David Mooney, president and CEO, Alliant Credit Union in Chicago, where the post office is holding off on delivering mail and many flights have been cancelled, said ACU’s primary concern is the safety of its employees.
“To avoid exposing them to the dangerous conditions expected, we decided to close our offices on Wednesday,” Mooney said. “Because of our digital-first model, there will be only limited impact on service to members as most services can be accessed through self-service channels, and many of our employees are able to work remotely.”
Remember First Responders
In Ohio, Becky J. Landis, CEO/president of State Highway Patrol FCU in Columbus, had a reminder for all drivers about protecting the lives of first responders.
“Please remember to slow down or move over whenever you see flashing lights on the roadway,” Landis said.
A Lesson Learned
In Irondale, Ala., Corporate America Credit Union said it learned its lesson from the “Snowmageddon” storm of 2014 that paralyzed Birmingham and surrounding areas and was better prepared this time around for extreme weather. During that storm, snow and ice stranded workers, residents and motorists across the area. Many CACU employees spent the night at the office, others at a nearby hotel.
This time around Corporate America CU said it had already booked rooms at local hotels in the event inclement weather affected travel, and 20 employees volunteered to stay in nearby hotels in order to get to work. One staff member was assigned to shuttling employees back and forth from the hotel to the office in a four wheel drive vehicle.
“If this 2019 winter weather proves to be another Snowmaggedon, we are ready,” said CACU President/CEO Pete Pritts. “I have never been around a more willing and loyal staff – they are ready to do what it takes to provide uninterrupted service.”
Standing By To Help
In Milford, Conn., John Holt, president and CEO of Nutmeg State Financial CU, said his shop is always ready to assist with emergencies in the community.
“When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast a few years ago, we helped people the community with low-interest loans. Homes and cars in New England face all kinds of weather-related damage from ice, wind, frozen pipes, fallen trees and more—so we remind members periodically how we can help with damage caused by mother nature,” Holt said.
The CEO emphasized that Nutmeg is always ready to deploy its mobile branch, which includes an ATM, to areas that have lost power.
“We also recently participated in a large coat drive with our local homeless shelters to help ensure people stay safe and warm,” said Holt. “We work hard to be fast and responsive because we want to make sure we are ready to help people as quickly as possible. We see this as our opportunity to build a solid relationship by being there when it matters most.”
Sign Goes Viral
In Minot, N.D., Town & Country CU has achieved some notoriety after a photo of its sign went viral. The sensor on the sign was defective and recorded the temperature as -196 degrees. The sign appeared on several local news reports, according to the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas.
Better Weather On The Way
Aspire FCU in Clark, N.J., is ready even if the cold snap knocks out power in the area. CEO Thomas O'Shea told CUToday.info the credit union has a new, powerful generator.
"We are prepared to serve our members," said O'Shea. "We are a digital CU – no branches – so our call center is our lifeblood. The generator powers our computer room and nearby spaces. And, we have a backup, after hours, overflow call center relationship with PSCU. So in the event we are unable to get to t
he office, PSCU will jump in while we thaw out."
A lot of snow and a lot of cold are whipping through Lathrup Village, Mich. But Michael Poulos, CEO of Michigan First CU, remains optimistic.
“People in Michigan are pretty rugged when it comes to weather, so we haven’t really seen any unusual needs that would warrant special programs,” he said. “Weather in Michigan is generally cold in the winter and warm in the summer. It got down to 13 below zero last night, but we’re headed for the mid-40s over the weekend. The only thing we can be sure of is that spring is getting closer by the day!”