The new normal business environment facing credit unions is taking shape. For the moment, senior management remains focused on business continuity, protecting staff, community support and maximizing member service delivery in a difficult environment. But the dialogue in the boardroom soon will shift away from COVID-19 operational response to adjusting to new strategic realities and financial challenges unimaginable just a few months ago.

A credit union’s core mission is to improve the financial well-being of its members, and that includes helping them through temporary quarantine and income interruption. To accomplish that mission, credit unions must be financially secure themselves. Charting the right look-forward strategy means growing new business on the margin and making adroit moves in operating efficiencies now. Waiting for a fully post-COVID economic environment to take shape is not a viable alternative.

The financial elephant in the room is credit risk. Regulators have issued all manner of statements supporting financial accommodation to borrowers. That is a temporary state of affairs framed by the reality that many families and small businesses simply do not have the resources to endure more than a few months of income and business interruption. Credit unions therefore must confront the thorny business of estimated loan loss provisions for at least 2020 and 2021.

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