Credit unions in the path of Hurricane Sandy put their promise of service excellence to the test following the devastation created by the late October storm.
Despite having multiple branches sustain damage and numerous power outages, employees at Municipal Credit Union ($1.7 billion, Queens, NY) were determined to ensure that members had access to their money.
“We had deposits coming in at the first of the month but were still dealing with power outages, which was impacting ACH and direct deposit,” says Mike Mattone, AVP Communications and Public Relations for MCU.
Mattone says that employees arrived with generators and assistance; working day and night to manually input ACH deposits. “With mass transit being down and two of our branches still unable to be opened, we had as many employees come into the branches as possible to help.”
Credit union employees worked tirelessly, despite facing their own personal loss from the hurricane. “We told members to just come into the branches and if the deposit had not been added to the system we could look up the deposit history,” Mattone continues. “If the incoming deposit was very similar or the same in our history we would just advance the money to them.”
Mattone says that MCU took an especially hard hit as two branches, Oceanside and Coney Island sustained damage that have put both locations on hold indefinitely. “We don’t have a date as to when the branches will re-open but we are working with our members and employees to re-direct them to the closest branch near them in the meantime.”
Before the hurricane hit Mattone says that the credit union had a disaster recovery plan, but had no idea that the hurricane would cause as much damage and destruction as it did.
“Being located near the World Trade Center, we devised a disaster recovery plan following the attacks in 2001,” he says. “We had the plans in place but unfortunately due to the extensive amount of power outages and flooding where our main office is located, what we had planned didn’t work up to the capability to what we needed.”
NEFCU ($1.9 billion, Westbury, NY) has been waiving member NSF and Courtesy Pay fees and allowing CD withdrawals without penalty throughout the ordeal. “Also, many school districts around here were closed including the administrative offices,” explains John A. De Ieso, Chief Information Officer/SVP. “We had noticed that several school districts had not processed their payroll deductions to NEFCU, so as a service to our long-time school district members; we posted credits to their accounts in the amount of their last payroll deduction, so they would not be without funds in this crisis. We have since worked with the districts on the logistics, but when there was nobody around to contact, we felt it was best to just be there for our members.”
“We also setup a special hotline phone number that goes to our best reps with priority treatment for those hit by Sandy’s wrath and have setup a group of experts on insurance, forbearance, collateral loss and special loan programs to act as a Tier 2 Service Team,” he continues. “We have clearly informed the team that getting top notch priority service and relief for those affected is an organizational priority.”
De Ieso adds that during the storm itself, NEFCU’s systems, backup plans and disaster recovery plan performed admirably. “Our members never lost access to their funds through ATMs, their Debit Cards, Home Banking, Shared Branching and other remote delivery channels. Our core system was accessible by all those channels throughout. We did close all branch locations on Tuesday, but critical staff reported to work to ensure member credits were posted, and key systems remained up. Our biggest challenge was power to our satellite branch locations, but teams were on standby at each branch to get the operations up and running quickly once power was restored one by one. Currently all of our branches have power and are operating online.”
Credit Unions Lend A Helping Hand
Although Bethpage Credit Union ($5 billion, Bethpage, NY) sustained power outages at its branches, the credit union is now 100% back to capacity and is finding ways to help its community brethren.
In a November 7 press release, the credit union announced that it is working closely with the United Way of Long Island and the American Red Cross of Long Island to support those impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
The credit union set up the Bethpage Disaster Relief Fund with the United Way of Long Island that will match every donation up to a total of $50,000. Additionally, Bethpage donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross Relief Operation.
“We at Bethpage send our thoughts and prayers out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy, and pledge our commitment to do everything we can to help our community get through this difficult time,” said Kirk Kordelski, President/CEO, Bethpage Federal Credit Union. “We encourage those lucky enough to make it through without significant loss to join in to support your neighbors. By donating to the Bethpage Disaster Relief Fund, your financial contribution will be matched by Bethpage and distributed by the United Way of Long Island to provide strong, local support to our friends and families in need.”
In addition to outreach efforts the credit union is also offering special emergency home equity loans, auto loans and lines of credit to those impacted by the storm.
Other credit unions, like Freedom Federal Credit Union ($200 million, Bel Air, MD) are also helping out by urging members to contribute to National Credit Union Foundation’s (NCUF) online disaster relief system CUAid.coop to raise money for members in need of help after Hurricane Sandy.
Local Credit Union Associations Sending Help
Last week, William J. Mellin, president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of New York issued important communication to all credit unions, reassuring them that help is on the way.
“As you all know, the damage from Hurricane Sandy continues to impact many of our New York credit unions,” he wrote in his message. “I have spoken personally with several credit unions in the affected areas, and our member relations team is also working diligently to get in touch with 150+ potentially impacted credit unions. As we reach them, we’re collecting information about their operational status and needs. We have already coordinated resources like generators and laptops and will continue to do as much as possible. Until power is restored in critical areas, it is difficult to fully assess the situation.”
Mellin adds that credit unions, chapters, individuals and credit union system providers can all give to the statewide Disaster Relief Fund, encouraging donation and sharing this opportunity with credit union employees and members.