Providing Financial Stability In a Crisis
In the midst of an unprecedented worldwide crisis, frequent change has been the lone constant. Loss of employment, financial instability, health concerns — the stories are endless.
Lori Hall, American Airlines Federal Credit Union’s Senior Vice President Member Experience, has another story to tell. Her message? Taking care of the Credit Union’s members is one constant that won’t be going anywhere. If anything, the Credit Union’s efforts have met an extraordinary challenge with even more regard for the specialized needs of its members.
“We were founded during the Great Depression by a small group of American Airlines employees,” Hall said. “They got together and said during turbulent times, we should be able to count on each other to navigate the storm. Today, we have assets of $8.4 billion with 46 branches across the country. But the heart of who we are as we’ve grown has remained unchanged … And you don’t see that clearer than when you’re in these crazy, turbulent times.”
The global upheaval brought about by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic necessitates quickly finding ways to navigate everyday tasks, including financial well-being. Working tirelessly to spread the message that they are open for business, Credit Union team members devised strategies and measures to help provide peace of mind for members and serve the basic financial needs that don’t stop when shelter-in-place becomes the new normal.
Several key loan and savings account enhancements and programs were put in place to help members manage finances. Automatic 30-day deferrals were issued on all consumer and business loans for 112,000 members during the month-long first phase, with an automated process created in April to request up to three additional self-selected deferrals. Additionally, 400 deferrals for real estate loans were issued in March and credit card deferral requests accepted by phone.
With members in need, streamlined qualification for emergency loans of up to $3,000 was created to get cash in hands. The Credit Union has funded more than $6 million in loans to date. What would normally have taken weeks for the Credit Union to work through was accomplished in days by team members who worked around the clock to set them up.
But the assistance didn’t stop with facilitating these loan options as a resource. Credit Union team members also conducted wellness checks on most members with loans to find out where they may need help — refinancing to lower payments and talking through available options for handling their loans and accounts.
“We plan to be by these members’ sides,” Hall said. “We’re in the process of calling members, just checking in on them, and that’s going over so beautifully. It’s a scary time for a lot of people.”
The Credit Union has used their website as a vital resource to help members understand the impact of legislation that could benefit them, including Economic Impact Payment information; FAQs about the CARES Act and its application to mortgage and student loans and traditional IRAs; and awareness related to fraud schemes that have developed during the current crisis.
With social distancing a part of the new norm, the Credit Union team knew they needed an expanded mobile resource. Smartphone and table app service enhancements allowed mobile deposits to savings accounts (previously only checking members could deposit), in addition to mobile deposit limit increases to accommodate larger economic impact payments.
With branch services limited, call centers became members’ first point of human contact. Hours were expanded from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., with many team members whose jobs were limited by the pandemic learning new skills to be able to support unprecedented call loads.
“The Credit Union closely monitored member feedback in order to provide timely and automated solutions that our members could access remotely,” said Susan Longley, Vice President of Servicing Operations. “New processes were developed in order to provide members with solutions, which added convenience not only while our branches were closed, but also far into the future.”
At the branch level, team members trained quickly to take on additional roles, with staff at 22 of 46 branches dedicated to nontraditional functions.
To address members who prefer in-person transactions, baby monitors, tablets and physical barriers were set up, enabling live communication from socially distanced space outside branch doors. A branch in Euless, Texas, extended drive through hours, along with testing of single-person vestibules to close Texas Home Equity Loans, while a branch in Hurst, Texas, was converted to a mortgage loan production hub.
Caring for its members is the Credit Union’s mission, and that is especially true when unparalleled challenges arise that require taking this commitment to another level.
“We have the programs and the ability to help,” Hall said. “Financial wellness counselors who help create a family budget, someone who will talk to your creditors, restructure your debt — all done with no fees attached. And we offer a safe haven for members moving their money to an institution they can trust. We know that difficult financial times are on the horizon for a lot of our members, and we’re going to be there to see them through. That’s the heart of the matter.”
For the latest of what American Airlines Credit Union can do for members, visit AACreditUnion.org/covid-19.