Emergency! I need a loan!

Like many of you, I’m a credit union lifer. I started my career as a teller and worked my way up and around the organizational chart for the next 20 years. I was a Member Service Rep, Loan Officer, Collector, Bookkeeper, Compliance Officer, Operations Manager, HR Director and VP Marketing. I understand how our system works. Having facilitated a strategic planning session last week I also have an appreciation for the nuances of balancing financial decisions with personnel, risk, reward, etc. Our job is not easy. Financial institutions are complicated organisms that need constant attention to keep running smoothly and efficiently.

Three months ago I began my training as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMS for Cochiti Lake Fire Department. After just 3 hours of classroom training on vehicle driving safety I found myself behind the wheel of an ambulance after having transported a patient to a hospital 35 miles away. Like credit unions, Volunteer fire departments don’t have a lot of time to train, so on-the-job is the main vehicle of learning. And like a teller, loan officer, member service rep, the “patient” is actively involved in the training. Of course there’s always a supervisor (licensed paramedic) on hand to help make decisions. But it is thrilling. And it got me to thinking about out communication chain and how similar it is to Emergency Medical Services.

It begins with the 9-1-1 dispatchers. These folks are tasked with deciphering and translating communication from people that are under stress, confused, trying to make sense of their situation. In a credit union this is our call center and the front line folks in the branch. I know from experience that many times the member does not articulate in the first few sentences what it is they really need or want. The problem is they don’t use our language or our acronyms but try and explain it as best they can. Here’s a perfect example:

Angry member on the phone: You guys charged me to get my own money!

Reality: They were charged a withdrawal fee at a foreign ATM.

It takes a calm, reassuring, detail oriented person to facilitate the conversation in a way that they get a clearer picture of the situation. There’s nothing more frustrating than “transferring” a problem only to have the next line of communication tasked with getting the story all over again.

The second line is the EMS team. Having the information they need to “find” the person and then be prepared to deliver the best possible care and determine if they need transport to the hospital is essential. Think of this as a relay and the baton has just been passed, there’s no slowing down, but we have to get to the next stage as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

There is nothing more personal or emotional in our day-to-day life than our money. And as credit unions we are the custodians of our members finances. I am still amazed how long it takes us to get loans out the door. Or to even get a simple approval. Loans are how we make money, it’s our purpose. I think part of the problem is the credit score. It only tells part of the story. It would be like taking a patient’s temperature and determining, no they are not sick at all because their temperature is normal. You need more information. They could have a normal temp but their blood pressure is off the charts and they could have a stroke. I completed my Adult/Ped First Aid/CPR/AED last month.

When we come upon a patient the first thing we should do is get some vitals such as pulse, blood pressure, oxygen levels. Then we can use the SAMPLE method to obtain the following information:

  • Signs/Symptoms
  • Allergies
  • Medications
  • Pertinent Medical History
  • Last Food/Drink
  • Events leading up to the incident

All of this information is recorded to pass along to the next stage, if necessary – the hospital.

Whatever happened to the three C’s of credit? Character, capacity, collateral? If someone has a low credit score, how did it get there? Listen to their story. Our interview should look something like this:

  • Pull the credit report (don’t look at the score at first if you can help yourself)
  • Find out the purpose of the loan, get their story
  • If they’ve been on the job a short amount of time, what did they do before? Same line of work?
  • What is their capacity to repay?
  • What kind of collateral is available?

Experienced loan officers, like experienced EMS personnel often rely on their gut and experience when assessing a situation. They’ve seen it all and can draw upon that knowledge. Again, the credit score should never replace that knowledge.

In my many years working in credit unions I have seen employees handle credit emergencies with grace, compassion and efficiency. I have been in an office with a member in crisis, crying and shaking, humbled and embarrassed. Our Fire Chief taught us that our job is to help people through their “worst day.” It’s not any different in a credit union.

Let’s go save some lives and help make a member’s life better!

Denise Wymore

Denise Wymore

Denise started her credit union career over 30 years ago as a Teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in Portland, Oregon. She moved up and around the org. chart ... Web: https://www.zest.ai Details