By Roy Urrico
Curbside service not only proved effective for many restaurants during the pandemic, but also for the $88-million Petersburg, Va.-based Peoples Advantage Federal Credit Union (PAFCU). The credit union found so much success with curbside banking as a new way to interact with and assist members, it has no plans to cease the service, even as pandemic restrictions ease.
Curbside banking started with the help of Farmington Hills, Mich.-based CUSO Member Driven Technologies (MDT) out of the need to provide socially distanced member interaction during the pandemic.
“As the pandemic lingered, we strongly sensed the need for creating a more personal, yet safe, manner to serve our members other than lobby appointments,” Patsy Smith, president and CEO of Peoples Advantage Credit Union, said. She added, after a short brainstorming session, the PAFCU team quickly launched curbside service in 2020. “It has allowed us to provide our members a responsible way to still interact with live humans and receive that personal service and support that sets our credit union apart. We might be small, but we’re innovative.”
“Like Chick-fil-A’s drive-thru, curbside is quick, efficient and extremely member friendly. We even bought plastic tents for employees to make sure that inclement weather did not interrupt our curbside service,” Smith noted. “Our members have shared positive feedback on this service model, so we have plan to continue this as an option even after the pandemic subsides.”
Help from MDT
While smaller in asset size than many of its competitors, PAFCU knows it needs to work closely with partners, such as MDT, to innovate quickly and implement up-to-date technology. Smith said the credit union also recognizes that in order to successfully scale, it cannot go back to how things “used to be.”
PAFCU implemented Symitar’s Episys core processing system hosted by MDT in October 2020 during the pandemic. The credit union also leverages many of MDT’s complementary solutions, such as the Banno Digital Platform. “As a smaller credit union, we work closely with MDT to help us evaluate and launch modern technology. This contributes to our ability to innovate quickly,” Smith said.
Matt Kosciolek, PAFCU’s client relationship manager at MDT described how MDT provides a private cloud alternative for core processing and IT needs. In addition to the Episys core platform, the CUSO also hosts dozens of seamlessly integrated solutions and supporting services to help run the entire institution, such as digital banking, payments, lending, cybersecurity and imaging.
Text Concierge, for example, is an important aspect of the PAFCU’s curbside banking program. “They use it heavily every day; it helps the credit union schedule appointments and communicate with members with flexibility and ease,” Kosciolek said. He added, MDT helped implement and integrate the Text Concierge solution through a partner, MEA Financial. “Using Text Concierge, PAFCU can seamlessly and securely text message with members, which is extremely convenient for both sides.”
Rounding out its comprehensive suite, MDT also offers business continuity, disaster recovery and regulatory solutions as well as consulting, data analytics, email hosting and hardware purchasing services. The credit union also leverages Symitar’s SymApp, which supports online account opening and consumer loan applications.
“MDT hosts (Symitar’s) Advanced Reporting for Credit Unions (ARCU) for PAFCU, which allows credit unions to better understand and leverage their data. We also help the credit union leverage the Banno Digital Platform, which helps them provide a modern, intuitive digital banking experience to members. All of these initiatives support PAFCU’s dedication to providing members with exceptional service at all times, even during a pandemic,” Kosciolek said.
Extending Other Benefits
Smith detailed several other benefits PAFCU received following implementation of curbside service. “First and foremost, we have improved the member experiences through this offering. Members have greatly enjoyed the convenience of being served without having to leave their cars, while feeling a bit more normal directly speaking with an associate.”
Plus, the curbside model allowed the credit union to maintain member service interactions in a safe and responsible manner. Smith pointed out, “People need access to their finances even during a pandemic (in some cases, even more so during this time). We have been proud to identify new and creative ways to be there for our members.”
PAFCU also recognized its responsibility as a low-income designated, Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). “We have numerous members who utilize our payday alternative loan. To streamline the process, we implemented the QCash product, which allows our members quicker access to cash and is much more efficient for the credit union,” Smith said. QCash Financial provides an easy-to-implement solution that allows a credit union to grant short-term, small dollar loans.
“This is another digital transformation borne from COVID and helps to continue our drive in a more digital direction. It’s all about convenience and access for our members and improved productivity for the credit union,” Smith noted.