WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Unfortunately the hot color for employees in 2001 seems to be pink- as in pink slips from employers. But when times get rough for members, credit unions seem to shine. According to Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas, Inc., U.S. companies cut 124,852 jobs in June and with just half the year over, already a total of 777,362 jobs have been eliminated. When Coca-Cola Enterprises recently announced 2,000 jobs in North America, including 130 in Georgia, would be eliminated as part of a major cost-cutting effort, the Coca-Cola Family Federal Credit Union was on the job. "Because we have such a great relationship with our sponsor we are able to take a proactive approach," said Anna Copello. "We let members know how the credit union can help them get through this rough time." The $70 million credit union emphasizes service and convenience to make members' experience as comfortable as possible. Members receive special mailings with information about the e-branch and shared-branch ATM locations available to them. According to Copello, the more automated accessibility provided, the easier it is for members to stay. This is why despite Coca-Cola's substantial cut of 5,200 positions globally last year, CU membership continued to grow by 7%. "It is so important to educate not only the recently terminated member but also the staff, " said Copello. " So the staff should be aware of the situation and sensitive to the members' needs, and as they call the CU should treat them as though they are new members to help them during that transition period. As for the member, let's face it sometimes they are angry and just don't want to think about staying, but we remind them once a member always a member, and we strongly encourage them to at least keep the minimum balance so when they do need us we are there." Increased care for members also helped Flint Michigan-based SECURITY Federal Credit Union survive when the Buick City plant closed its doors two years ago. From expanding Communications Center hours and joining Alliance One to offer more surcharge-free ATMS, to being the first in the area to offer free 24-hour online banking, the $209 million credit union made the combination of high tech and high touch its top priority. "We know our members' needs and preferences vary so we offer services to meet them all," said SFCU CEO Terrell Pierce. According to SFCU Marketing Director Nancy Goodwin, since the credit union knew about the closure ahead of time, the focus shifted to increasing remote services and educating the staff to cross-selling to members. "When something like this happens credit unions should immediately begin analyzing their membership, determine what it is that will keep members, and train the staff to be proactive and sensitive," said Goodwin. "It is the one-to-one communication that really makes a difference." Rescuing members is not just limited to layoffs, but in almost any situation credit unions are coming up with some unique solutions to members' problems. For example, members in California feeling the squeeze from high utility bills are once again finding relief from San Diego-based Cabrillo Credit Union. The $79 million credit union is offering members the opportunity to defer or skip their auto loan payment for the month of September. When California state and legislative employees' payrolls were affected by state budget delays, Sacramento- based The Golden 1 CU jumped in to offer them zero interest loans and no interest payroll advances. Over 1,000 employees applied for the assistance until the budget was recently passed. "The credit union has the resources to provide financial assistance to state employees and we will do so whenever necessary," said Golden 1 CU President/ CEO Stan Hollen. [email protected]

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