Credit Unions And Coronavirus, Lessons In Leadership, Small-Town Branching

Five can't-miss data points this week on

This week, is helping readers understand the credit union response to the coronavirus outbreak with a free webinar and a best practice guide. In addition, we have lessons in leadership from the CEO of a border town and shine a spotlight on a small-town branch strategy for dispersed members.

Here are five can’t-miss data points.

60 Minutes

The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has created a sense of urgency among many credit unions to review, update, or even create pandemic plans and policies. As the virus continues to spread globally, credit unions simply can’t wait to take action. In a time like this, the cooperative model can really make a difference if we come together and share best practices. That’s why Callahan & Associates will be hosting a 60-minute virtual event featuring a panel of credit union leaders across the US. Panel participants will share their plans and perspectives on the matter at hand including, but not limited to, personnel management, travel, disaster recovery, branch services, member impact and more.

Request Recording: How Credit Unions Are Addressing COVID-19

4 Credit Unions

The coronavirus wake-up call came early for BECU. After all, approximately half of the known U.S. deaths from the illness it causes COVID-19 have occurred in a single nursing home in suburban Seattle. The nation’s fourth-largest credit union responded quickly. We’ve had a pandemic plan in place for several years, but we began focusing on the coronavirus in mid-January and issuing communications to our employees beginning on Jan. 24, says Al Wilson, BECU’s director of cybersecurity business resilience. West Coast credit unions are currently at the epicenter of the outbreak, but that could change. Here’s how four are maintaining operations amid the pandemic.

Read: Pandemic Response: How 4 Credit Unions Cope With Coronavirus


As a teenager, Maria Martinez wanted to become an accountant. Perhaps prophetically, a high school career aptitude test suggested an alternative path. It said I should be a social worker, says the CEO of Border Federal Credit Union. She didn’t want to be a social worker. So, Martinez became an accountant. When her husband took a job in the border city of Del Rio, TX, in 1994, Martinez began a monthslong job search for employment in the small community located 150 miles west of San Antonio. She joined Border which at the time had slightly more than $30 million in assets as the vice president of lending and three years later threw her name into the ring when the CEO announced his retirement and the credit union started looking for a replacement. She earned the job. Here, Martinez talks about her leadership style, her three decades in the industry, and why credit unions need to focus on the underserved.

Read: Maria Martinez On Leadership

16 Years

After 80 years carrying the name of its original and still largest sponsor, Together Credit Union has a new brand but an old hand helping ensure critical relationships continue to grow and thrive. Larry Sewell became vice president for corporate partnerships and advocacy at the former Anheuser-Busch Employees Credit Union in 2017 after 22 years as the venerable institution’s vice president of training and development. With 16 years of Air Force service under his belt, Sewell was already a veteran when he joined the credit union in 1995. Now, more than two decades later, the longtime planner, facilitator, and trainer has been charged with ensuring Together builds on its role as a provider of responsible, reliable financial services to its nationwide membership and as an advocate for the credit union movement on a state, local, and federal level.

Read: What’s In A Name: Vice President For Corporate Partnerships & Advocacy


Across America, rural banks have been closing, driven in part by the growing use of mobile and digital banking services. Banks closed branches in rural counties at a rate of 14% between 2012 and 2017, with poor communities seeing a 50% decline in branches. In many towns, the loss of a branch means fewer visitors and less commerce. East Idaho Credit Union, however, is bucking that trend with an ongoing branch renewal and expansion program. The 85-year-old credit union has branches serving areas as large as 145,000 and as small as 3,108.

Read: A Small-Town Branch Strategy For Dispersed Members

Happy Reading!

March 16, 2020

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