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Safety first when reopening lobbies

This post is provided by Credit Union National Association (CUNA), World Council's direct member organization in the United States.

As organizations across the United States reopen, credit unions are keeping one thing in mind when deciding when to resume branch operations: Safety.

That means “safety for our staff, their families, our members, and our community,” says Bridget Staffileno, vice president of community affairs at $343 million asset Jolt Credit Union in Saginaw, Michigan.

In many cases, that means installing plexiglass shields, wearing masks and gloves, enforcing social distancing measures, establishing cleaning protocols and taking other steps. Ultimately, each credit union determines when it’s time to reopen its lobby doors.

Jolt created an internal task force to develop a “Staff Stay Safe Playbook.” It outlines steps to ensure safety, such as adding signage, installing germ shields, requiring masks, limiting the number of people in branches and enforcing social distancing, says Staffileno, who serves on the Michigan Credit Union League’s COVID Crisis Response and Recovery Task Force.

Jolt rolled out a “slow and measured process toward being fully open to members again,” Staffileno says.

While it won’t be business as usual, the credit union will provide “a ‘wow’ member experience in-branch, online, and through mobile,” she says.

A phased-in approach

In Pennsylvania, the government is reopening the state with a three-phase system for each county. Ardent Credit Union in Philadelphia plans to reopen its lobbies in a phased approach that mimics how the counties in its membership area progress through the state’s three phases, says Rob Werner, president/CEO of the $719 million asset credit union.

The approach calls for first reopening branches with vestibules or plexiglass dividers set up near the door to conduct transactions. This allows Ardent staff to maintain social distancing while serving members, which is safer for all involved.

The second phase will enable opening the branch lobbies for sit-down visits by appointment only. The final phase will include fully opened lobbies with plexiglass separators at the teller pods.

Ardent has provided branch drive-thru lanes since the beginning of the pandemic.

“This feels so counter to how we typically operate,” Werner says. “We’re such a people-based organization, and putting any sort of separation between us and the member feels different to us from a culture perspective. But the safety of everyone is our highest priority right now.”

Some credit unions have already found that level of safety and have reopened lobbies.

Canvas Credit Union in Lone Tree, Colorado, is one.

The $2.7 billion asset credit union did a soft opening of its branch lobbies May 11 so staff could get used to the new routines and procedures. Foot traffic was not heavy, and the process went smoothly.

The credit union did more member outreach, including a video from the CEO about the reopening, later in the week.

“The safety of our members and our internal family is paramount to our operations,” says Chris Chippindale, chief operations officer. “Canvas has assessed in detail how we can continue to support our community while ensuring we remain steadfast in our health efforts. And while all of our remote services and drive-thru operations will always be available for our members, we now have a strong approach that supports wellness in our lobbies, too.”

One member, a doctor, commented positively about the steps Canvas took to support health and wellness in the reopening, says Tansley Stearns, chief people and strategy officer.

Never closed

During the height of the pandemic, lobbies at most of Peach State Federal Credit Union’s branches remained open.

As of May 15, only two of the $544 million asset credit union’s branches remained closed. Lobby access at all other locations is now limited to no more than 10 people in a branch at a time, with six-foot social distancing.

“As conditions and guidance changed, we made the necessary adjustments to protect our members and employees while keeping branch lobbies open,” says Crystal Schmidt, executive director of retail services at the Lawrenceville, Ga., credit union. “For lobbies that were closed, the primary factor for reopening is staff availability.”