Interview: COVID-19 Driving Lasting Change in Credit Union

5/5 - (4 votes)

If you are like many CEO’s, you see that business may never be the same as a result of coronavirus.  It is challenging to pivot your business, your workforce, and your communication during rapid, unforeseen change. In this interview, we’re bringing you a long-time CEO to provide an inside look at what positive lasting changes might arise from COVID-19. F12 client Roberta Bobicki, CEO of Revelstoke Credit Union, also shares some of the challenges that lead to rethinking their service delivery model.

Watch the full interview

Or jump to the topic that most interests you:

02:48 – Impact on business

05:41 – Pivoting to work from home

08:24 – Innovations inspired by the pandemic

11:24 – Flexibility from partners

12:39 – Ramping up communication

13:42 – 2 keys to navigating the pandemic

14:51 – Well prepared to pivot technically


Q & A

Hello I’m Roberta by Becky and I’m the CEO at Revelstoke credit union I’ve been in the credit union system 42 years now and the CEO for the last 13. My career has basically been a lifetime lender our credit union is 210 million in assets we also have an insurance subsidiary and so overall we have just over 50 employees and Revelstoke credit unions been incorporated since 1963

Q: Has the pandemic impacted business?

A: Middle of March basically March 11th we just sort of had a real eye-opening awareness of what was going on Revelstoke is an international tourist destination spot we have a world-class ski hill here heli skiing snowmobiling you know all of that sort of thing and right out of the gate middle of March we heard that there was four diagnosed cases of covid 19 in our small community of just over 7,000 people so everyone basically really stood at attention right away so with our I don’t know if you want me to just go into this but what we did basically in a 10-day period was we went from the hyper cleaning and reducing contact with members appointment based unless it was frontline or at the insurance office a couple of days later we said okay this is escalating so we reduced our hours for a couple of days and by the end of that first week we just realized we needed to do something further in the meantime I had sourced material we had a sneeze guards built for all of our member facing employees but by the end of the week we just said no this we have to take it the next step further so what we actually chose to do is we closed our premises both in insurance and the credit union to public access there was a collective sigh of relief breathed from all of our employees they were so appreciative of that to know that they were being taken out of harm’s way at least while they were at work and right from day one we started changing the delivery of our services and they were so committed to making it work I had a lot of press releases within the community lots of contact and communication with the staff and we found were going on to just about a month now and there’s not a service that we’ve not been able to provide to our members so as far as impacting business from the service delivery point of view it has really really gone well and been extremely well received by the community Revelstoke credit union has a strong reputation for social responsibility in the community and we are hearing nothing but appreciation and commendations for how the staff is handling all of their inquiries.

Q: Wow that’s fantastic. Before kind of before the the pandemic how did you approach work from home or did you approach it?

A: So prior to that our our management team prior to the pandemic was all hooked up and had the capability to work from home do the VPN and they could get right into their desktop from home most of them still worked in the office but you know they had access off hours and on weekends what happened after we decided that everyone else was going to need the ability to work from home we have an Information systems department with two employees Todd and Maya and they just dug right in and in record time they had the majority of the employees up and able to actually work from home so F12 was really instrumental in helping get that going once we kind of figured out who we needed to contact and work out the kinks and the bumps so now we probably have half the staff working in the office and half of them working from home.

Q: Oh wow okay she’s still got quite a few in the office then.

A: Yeah we have our staff there’s fifty of them everyone remains on the payroll and everyone continues to work full-time.

Q: That’s awesome very cool and-and-and from a I guess from a client perspective have you seen any any impacts from volumes or anything like that?

A: Not so much of course changing the the delivery method we’re doing a lot more manual we’re encouraging people if they want to pay bills that they normally would have come in the branch for we’re encouraging them to drop those sorts of things into the night deposit what’s been interesting you know once we shifted from the whole premise and looking after the staff and the members perspective I had to shift over to them thinking about the financial impact so what we did for a couple of week is we just asked for people with pending loans and mortgages just give us a minute to catch our breath because there’s no question then every business in town except essential services is closed that affects cash flow you know it’s far reached thing so you do need I needed some time to kind of get a grip on all of that.

Q: Yeah makes a lot of sense. I think it’ll be interesting to see through the experience what will kind of permanently change and in terms of how businesses operate and are there other changes in your business that you foresee being adopted long term?

A: Absolutely in all honesty Brad when you when you are forced to try something out like this and it’s worked so successfully I don’t think we’ll ever go back to doing business exactly the same as we used to a small credit union in a small community will all be required to have a face-to-face offering but I think that our members behavior and how they do their banking will have shifted so much that can see a lot of them not going back to that that old way of having the face-to-face.

Q: That’s really interesting to hear about some of those lasting changes that may happen so and it sounds maybe around communication with clients and kind of interaction transactions is that that you see probable change happening?

A: it is I mean I can see lenders if clients have an interest in doing you know a Teams type interview like this instead of taking two hours out of their day I could have a lender sitting at home having a virtual interview with a potential borrower and when your only point of contact is basically document signing you know and there’s a lot of people that actually I think would prefer that than interrupting their day and coming and sitting in an office for for two hours basically yeah I could see it in wealth services as well where it gets little tricky is you know that the front line and our seniors that still get their checks in the mail I know the government has really worked towards trying to get everybody to have them electronically deposited but they’re still going to be a need I think for face-to-face with that and then the ICBC on the insurance end of things it was wonderful that they came up with being able to renew your ICBC insurance over the phone as well so yeah I do think the services will be shifting for sure I because we’re a credit union I don’t ever want to lose that personal touch with people because especially for us smaller ones that is what sets us apart is we do have the volumes of employees that we to provide that personal service so I’m hoping that it doesn’t ever come to where there’s you know 90% no contact but definitely there’ll be a shift.

Q: Right interesting okay and have you you kind of touched on it there and you seem flexibility notable flexibility from vendors partners through this time?

A: Absolutely yeah yeah our community as I paid really has taken this pandemic seriously and so I’ve experienced a real openness from our vendors from our partners let’s figure out how to make this work where it works for everyone haven’t really you know in early days there were a couple of naysayers that well this is just terrible and you shouldn’t be doing this but I’ve only had one complaint in nearly a month about the fact that we were closed and the banks were open and yet when you hear people that are trying to make contact with the banks they’re so overwhelmed with requests for payment relief that there’s one in two our waits at their call centers so I think that we’re knocking it out of the park by the fact that somebody phones and within two minutes talking to my person.

Q: That’s awesome congratulations that’s ready here yeah and in terms of communications so kind of shifting a little bit to how are you communicating with the team through the crisis? I know in the beginning that called it kind of touched on it but maybe if you could just kind of describe a little bit how that formatted and maybe cadence has changed with with your with your staff with customers and/or suppliers.

A: Sure so communication has been really really important through this and we’ve always been a strong communicating credit union to start with but I really really ramped it up right from the the get-go when this issue came about because people fear what they don’t understand and if they don’t have the information you leave yourself open to people coming up with you know they’re not being told what’s what’s happening and that we’re doing then they’re gonna just sort of think the worst probably so at the front end as far as the staff went I you I was in the office at the time when we had our initial communications and was just very candid and honest with them I actually accepted a lot of feedback then lonely shifted where I wasn’t working from home I am intouch through Teams we try for the overall meeting as frequently as possible once every couple of weeks the management team I connect with each manager on a daily basis there’s a really strong communication flow going as far as our external partners I’m probably doing three to five conference calls a day yeah communication lines are wide open.

Q: More specifically in terms of shifts how how have you seen or have you seen shifts and how technology is used?

A: Well it’s absolutely come to the top of the pile you know we’ve had the ability now we’re actually using it and you know we we shifted over to F12 a couple of years ago and I don’t intend this to be an ad for f12 but had we not we would not have been in the perfect position that we were to handle this to shift to to doing our business through technology as opposed to face-to-face you know we had all the tools at our fingertips and just a few glitches to work out the kind of massaged it into what we needed the the systems to do for us and I’m so thankful that we made that change two years ago as well as as well as for the you know the cyber increase in cyber crime and the attacks and that sort of thing I sleep really well at night knowing that I don’t in-house have to worry about who’s trying to do a brute force attack

Q: And just just to kind of round out the discussion here this for the benefit of other businesses and business leaders have you found something that works really well and that’s a very open-ended question is there something that’s kind of top of mind that you said gosh this is this has really been key to to our leading the transformation to the pandemic?

A: I would probably narrow that down to fold number one communication as I was saying with the public in general the press releases that I did along the way I probably did four press releases within two and a half week period that were very specific and and made it very clear what our intentions were and reassuring that our services were still absolutely there to be delivered so communication was huge and part two of that was to be really reassuring as to the fact that services are not discontinued were not closed for business we’re not at risk of going under we’re a very very strong credit union so to maintain the confidence in your customer of the service that you’re providing and again I couldn’t be prouder of our staff right from day one they started getting that sense of confidence in the public building it right from day one of the new delivery of services just amazing what they’ve done really.