The President's Perspective
by Jeff Olson

What a difference a week makes. As I was driving to the office last Monday, everything appeared to be “business as usual.” Folks here in the capital city area were heading to work and the morning traffic was normal. By Wednesday, that all changed as businesses were closing and employees were sent home. Many state and municipal employees were asked to work remotely. By mid-week many of our credit unions closed their lobbies and began serving members through drive-up windows, and encouraged members to utilize ATMs, mobile apps or their online banking platforms. By the end of the week, our staff here at the Association were engaged in web and phone conferences with lawmakers, our system partners, and peer groups.


At the national level, the U.S. Senate approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will directly help individuals affected by this pandemic crisis. As we kick off this week, Congress is expected to finalize additional legislation that will directly help businesses, such as guaranteed, zero interest, business loans to employers that have been impacted. In addition, over the weekend, members of Congress were meeting and working on an economic stimulus package to help American citizens and businesses work through this crisis. 


The impact of the coronavirus is being felt across every aspect of American life now. For some, it’s hit close to home and has added stress to our personal lives. My 90-year-old mother was hospitalized last week in Minnesota with pneumonia-like symptoms. Thankfully, she tested negative for the coronavirus. For me, I was looking forward to having a surgical procedure today (Monday) to correct a debilitating orthopedic issue that I have been dealing with since early November. However, that fell victim to COVID-19 as all elective and non-essential surgeries here were postponed. So, as I sheltered myself in this weekend and practiced good safe “social distancing,” I had plenty of time to pause and think about it all.  


One thing that stood out as I reflected on the last ten days is that when there is a crisis, or when people are hurting, that’s when the credit union movement is at its best. Certainly, the movement has seen its share of stress over the last decade. But as I visit with many of you and hear the many things that our Dakota credit unions are doing to serve members and their communities as this unfolds, I am reminded of the important value we offer our members. Same is true for the Association. What we do now, and how we respond, helping you navigate through this crisis, will define the perception of CUAD and the CUNA-League system for the next several years. We are stronger together and can better serve our communities when we collaborate.


Conference Call with ND Senator Cramer.


North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer and Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari hosted a conference call on Thursday, March 19 for all North Dakota Financial Institutions. The purpose of the call was to share and discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the financial services industry and the important role financial institutions will play over the next several months. Things are still fluid at this point, but be sure to check out the related article in today’s Memo for more complete coverage.


CUAD launches Safety and Soundness Message on Social Media.


In response to member and consumer concerns during this threat, the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas produced a short video message promoting the safety and soundness of our credit unions, and reminding the public that we stand willing and ready to serve our members as their financial needs arise. In fact, we are just a click or phone call away. Visit our CUAD Facebook and Twitter feeds to view and share this message.


Open Your Eyes Awareness Campaign Paused as CUs Focus on COVID-19 Response.


As we all navigate through this threat, many brands are struggling to pivot, retool, and adjust their strategies as to not unintentionally offend, or be perceived as tone deaf. As such, the CUNA Awareness LLC (where I serve on the board of directors) has decided to temporarily pause the Open Your Eyes to a Credit Union® digital campaign. This pause will allow us to calibrate our marketing assets and develop new appropriate messages (we’re open, we’re safe, we’re here for you, etc.) to reach targeted audiences in this much different consumer environment. The pause began at the end of last week, and will last no longer than necessary as we know it is very important for the credit union brand to be positively presented in the market. At this moment, we believe the pause, given the consumer environment, could last into May. We will, however, be diligently reworking, updating and building new material to get back to the market as quickly as possible.


Member Crisis Communication Tools and Resources available through CUNA MAP Program.


We know your business operations are quickly evolving due to the COVID-19 response, and your members are looking to you for information about the services you provide. There are now two COVID-19 MAP templates to help you communicate with your membership. Many of your members are worried about how the pandemic may impact their ability to access financial services. Now is a time when credit unions need to reinforce that a member's money is safest in an insured institution. These resources are available to MAP members. If you’re not a MAP member you can opt in at this link: MAP program is a benefit of membership. Please contact Jay Kruse if you have any questions regarding this program.


Special Offers to Assist You in Maintaining Member Contact. 

Two of our CUNA Strategic Services partners have reached out with an offer to assist credit unions in maintaining contact with their members during this Covid-19 Pandemic.


Member Access to Branch Services via Video During Covid-19 Restrictions.

CUNA Strategic Services’ alliance provider, POPi/o, is ready to help address this challenge and for a limited time, is offering a limited number of FREE video seat licenses per credit union to provide web-based video collaboration for your members to contact the credit union. The POPi/o platform allows members to click on a link you post on your webpage, social media channels, or e-mails.  The member can interact with credit union staff to exchange documents including photo ID’s, review documents, and provide signatures to authorize new accounts, new loans, and address other urgent account needs. Timing is essential, so POPi/o has agreed to work overtime to enable you to GO-LIVE to your members within just a few days. 


Text Messaging Platform for Member Communication.
Eltropy, another CUNA Strategic Services Alliance provider will waive setup, implementation and platform fees for 90 days so that credit unions can use Eltropy’s - 1:Many Text Messaging capability to reach out to Employees and Members. The only cost the credit union will have to bear, is the "pass through" texting fees of $0.01/Text. This fee is paid by Eltropy to telcos (ATT, Sprint, Verizon etc.) for sending text messages. Eltropy and the credit union will sign a simple, 90-day "free" proof of concept (PoC) form to get started. Once the form is signed, Eltropy will create a separate texting "environment" for the credit union to use.

These are both limited offers being presented on a first-come basis. To learn more about either offer, please contact George McDonald 701.250.3942


I sincerely wish you, your family, and your employees good health and safety through this difficult time.




<< Go to Memo List