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From Credit Unions, For Credit Unions

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Brian Branch Gives International Credit Union Perspective on COVID-19

While on one hand, it strikes me that social distancing is lonely work, on the other hand, I have also been struck with the sense of community of our international network. 

I have heard from or talked to many of our international colleagues. Most tell me similar stories that their borders are closed, internal travel is restricted, businesses are closed, public gatherings are not allowed, and in some cases, only one person per family is allowed to go out to the grocery store, doctor or financial institution. Health care is overwhelmed, schools are shut down and small businesses are not operating. Not all can work at home. 

Many credit unions in the industrialized countries have closed their lobbies and provide services via drive-ups and digital channels. Credit unions in less digital contexts are still providing face-to-face services, at risk but also determined to serve their members. We provide suggestions on how to space out their lobbies to avoid crowding, provide tellers with gloves and sanitizer, wipe down counters and place glass or plastic in front of tellers. 

Credit unions are initiating loan restructuring such as deferred payment, reduced interest and lengthened terms to help members affected by illness or loss of employment. Insurance partners are gearing up to assist with the coming increased health and death payments. 

In all cases, they tell me they are seeking to balance their services, now critical to families who need cash in a time of uncertainty, the safety of their staff and their institutional financial stability.

In some cases, governments have announced debt forgiveness, put a moratorium on loan payments or limited loan payments to interest-only. Some governments have placed restrictions on withdrawals of savings. We provide national associations with policy suggestions on allowing credit unions greater flexibility on restructuring loans themselves based on the circumstances of the member, allowing credit unions to advance emergency loans to members, reducing documentation and extending provision terms for state mandated loan forbearance. 

Where policy makers are not leading  ̶  I hear a significant difference in local anxiety. I also hear of social and community leaders stepping up and, as we have seen so often, credit unions stepping out to address what they can do for both their members and their community.

It is a global pandemic. Credit unions everywhere are trying to support their members in this crisis. Those I talk to ask what is happening to credit unions in other countries and how those credit unions are responding. This is a time when your support allows us to provide that global network glue that lets our international colleagues know how other credit unions are responding to their members and their communities in this time of need.    

We begin to prepare for the bad and the good that will happen next. Credit unions, especially the small and the undigitized, will suffer as their staffs are affected by illness and their financials are stressed by the financial fallout on their members. And because credit unions responded to the best interests of their members in a time of crisis (as they always do), we will see enormous commitment of loyalty from existing members; we will see increase in membership; we will see increased savings' inflows with the flight to safety.  

Stay safe and stay well,


Brian Branch
President & Chief Executive Officer