Operations

Serving Those Who Serve

CUs face many challenges as they serve members deployed around the world.

August 10, 2011
KEYWORDS family , services , troops
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Serving Those Who Serve

  FOCUS

  • Financial education to troops and their families is a core CU service.
  • Technology supports deployed or relocated servicemembers’ financial needs.
  • Board focus: Deployment can lead to loan delinquency. Strengthen loan policies and regulatory compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

 

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq sometimes hit painfully close to home for military credit unions. Some employees of military credit unions have spouses currently serving in combat. “We’ve already had two of our employees’ husbands killed in Iraq,” says Craig Chamberlin, president/CEO of $678 million asset Marine Federal Credit Union, Camp Lejeune, N.C. “That’s tough duty, and it’s a time when you provide all the support you possibly can for the families.

“It’s important to recognize that these are America’s heroes,” Chamberlin continues. “Even if there wasn’t an armed conflict going on, they’re America’s heroes because of what they’re willing to do. We need to do everything we can to take care of them.”

While the loss of an employee’s spouse is rare, it underlines the stress and anxiety credit union employees and members live with constantly. Military credit unions do everything they can to alleviate a portion of that stress by financially preparing their members for deployment.

These credit unions remain fiercely committed to meeting the financial needs of their members and their families—whether the military makes up 5% or 95% of the credit union’s members. And more challenges lie ahead with the planned drawdown of more than 60,000 troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

That commitment is demonstrated daily by development and delivery of exceptional products and services, such as rewards savings programs, special low-cost loans, short-term financial assistance, financial education, and sponsorship of base activities and local base commands.

“Our main focus has always been supporting our troops and their families,” says Roland “Arty” Arteaga, president/CEO of the Defense Credit Union Council (DCUC), Washington, D.C., which serves about 235 credit unions with 14 million members. DCUC is a chartered member of the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign. “In today’s environment, that means supporting a highly mobile and expeditionary force that deploys frequently to over 100 countries around the world,” he says.

Serving today’s military, according to Arteaga, requires:

  • Dealing with frequent deployments that can create major shifts in base population, prompting many military credit unions to diversify membership by adding nonmilitary select employee groups (SEGs) or acquiring community charters.
  • Supporting a transient population that moves from one duty station to the next on average every two to three years, taxing the financial stability of military families. 
  • Using technology, such as shared branching and online banking, to maintain contact with members and support their financial needs when they’re deployed overseas, relocating to new assignments, or departing active duty.
  • Adapting to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) legislation that has closed or realigned more than 450 bases since 1989, causing a reassessment of credit unions’ futures.
  • Providing financial education to help young military members live within their means and stretch their pay, including developing alternatives to payday lenders.

Next: Deployment Challenges

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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