Home Posts tagged UMassFive College Federal Credit Union
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HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced that its employees have raised more than $20,000 for two local nonprofits during the fall of 2022. Specifically, $15,700 was raised in support of the UMass Cancer Center via participation in the UMass Cancer Walk and Run, and $4,800 was raised for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts via participation in Will Bike 4 Food.

A longstanding and top supporter of the UMass Cancer Walk and Run event for more than 20 years, UMassFive employees joined together as Team UMassFive to raise funds for the cause, both personally and in branch locations. In 2022, fundraising efforts included raffle baskets, bake sales, candy sales, and art and jewelry sales. Donations were also sought from credit-union corporate partners, whose support helps bolster efforts each year. Including the funds raised so far this year, Team UMassFive has raised more than $173,000 in donations to the UMass Cancer Center over the lifetime of their participation.

For years now, UMassFive employees have also jumped on their bicycles in support of Will Bike 4 Food, a major fundraising event for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. In 2022, six team members worked together to raise $4,800 from supporters, which equates to 18,800 meals for neighbors in need. At the Will Bike 4 Food event, the team rode 300 total miles for this cause.

“We are so proud of our employees for supporting local causes that they care about,” said Cait Murray, Community Outreach manager at UMassFive. “Together, our team can make a more significant impact than if we all participate in events on our own. These organizations make such a big difference in our communities, and we are thrilled to support those efforts.”

Anyone who wishes to support Team UMassFive may donate before the end of 2022 by visiting support.umasscancerwalk.org/umassfive22 or foodbankwma.org/events/will-bike-4-food and search for Team UMassFive.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union recently introduced the newest addition to its senior management team: Kristina Hamel, who joins UMassFive as vice president of Human Resources.

Hamel comes to UMassFive from Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield, where she worked for the past 20-plus years, overseeing up to 250 employees and more than 150 volunteers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human resource management from Bay Path University and has earned her Senior Professional Human Resource certification.

At UMassFive, Hamel will oversee all employee hiring, training, recognition, and diversity program efforts.

“I feel so fortunate to work alongside such an amazing group of professionals who are truly dedicated to making a difference for our members and community,” she said. “UMassFive is a special place to work, and I look forward to serving as a trustworthy advocate for our staff and mission.”

Daily News

HADLEY — As a cooperative member-owned financial institution, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union believes in supporting its local communities with products and services that help increase financial wellness, and encourages each of its members to make informed financial decisions.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, UMassFive’s CFS financial advisors, Aimee Marden and Cooper Cerulo, invite all members of the community to attend their informational Retire Confidently 2.0 forum online at 6 p.m. This interactive forum offers attendees an opportunity to engage directly with the two financial advisors, as well as with guest panelist Kevin Flynn, vice president of Lincoln Financial Group. Participants will be able to have their questions answered live about saving for retirement in today’s financial environment, with perspectives offered by the entire panel.

Anyone interested can sign up via Zoom by clicking here.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union was featured in episode 326 of World’s Greatest!, a television series produced by How2Media. World’s Greatest! is a 30-minute show dedicated to highlighting the world’s greatest companies, products, places, and people. Each show is a fast-paced tour around the world featuring behind-the-scenes footage, informative interviews, and exciting visuals. The episode featuring UMassFive premiered on Bloomberg TV on Sept. 3 and will re-run on Sept. 10 at 3:30 p.m.

In recent years, credit unions have become more and more popular as people transition away from for-profit banks and toward more customer and member-oriented institutions. With a history dating back to 1967, a focus on sustainability, and a commitment to keeping the local economy strong, UMassFive has continued to grow and innovate. “We think their story will be meaningful as well as educational to our viewers,” said Kyle Freeman, executive producer of World’s Greatest!

As part of the show, How2Media sent a film crew to spend time at UMassFive’s headquarters in Hadley to discover the company’s story and to show viewers why the credit union was selected as the best in its category, and therefore featured on the show.

“We are immensely thankful to How2Media for providing us this opportunity to amplify the mission of the credit union,” said Craig Boivin, vice president of Marketing at UMassFive.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union recently introduced Emi Lee as the newest member of its expanding UMassFive Retirement Planning and Investments team available through CUSO Financial Services, LP.

Lee supports two of the credit union’s CFS financial advisors, Aimee Marden and Dana Graham. She schedules appointments, sends appointment reminders, and helps with advisor administrative duties and service work. As an advisor assistant, she is also now the primary contact for current and prospective clients looking to work with Marden and Graham.

After joining UMassFive as a part-time member service representative in November 2019, Lee quickly transitioned into a full-time position as a member service specialist at the Hadley branch in March 2020. In that role, she excelled at educating members financially and connecting them to the financial services most relevant to their needs. Her background includes a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Smith College, and she applies her knowledge from that field to help others improve their financial well-being.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union will host a career fair on Thursday, April 14 from 4 to 7 p.m. at its Hadley Branch, located at 200 Westgate Center Dr. The credit union, a nonprofit financial cooperative, invites interested applicants to learn more about working with a team of professional, upbeat, and dynamic employees who take pride in working for people’s best interests and going the extra mile to help them save time and money.

There is no pre-registration needed to attend the career fair, and walk-ins are encouraged. UMassFive asks that interested applicants bring a copy of their resume. Members of the UMassFive management team will be on site during the career fair to provide information on the credit union’s benefits package, as well as answer any questions candidates may have before applying.

UMassFive is currently looking to fill the following roles: Member Service specialist (full-time in Amherst, Hadley, and Northampton); Member Service representative floater (full-time in various Western Mass. locations); Contact Center Member Service specialist (full-time in Hadley); Contact Center representative (part-time in Hadley); video teller (ITM) agent (full-time in Hadley); and staff accountant (full-time in Hadley with remote-work possibility).

Additional opportunities are available in the Commercial Services division and Financial & Investment Services teams.

Interested applicants can learn more and apply for position openings online at umassfive.coop/careers.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced three recent management-team promotions: Assistant Vice President of Finance/Controller Linda Schmidt, Interactive Teller Machine (ITM) Supervisor Robert Walters III, and Hadley Branch Manager Brittany Ward.

Schmidt’s career at UMassFive began in 2010 as a teller and a Call Center representative. Her role quickly progressed to a Contact Center supervisor, where she remained until 2014. That year, she moved into the Finance department, holding the title of staff accountant until 2016, and most recently serving as financial analyst. In her new position, she will oversee the Finance department, as well as perform all controller responsibilities for the credit union. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in accounting at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

“As the credit union continues to grow, the complexity of the accounting challenges handled by our Finance team has increased significantly over the last few years, and I am proud of how our staff has risen to the occasion,” Schmidt said. “I am looking forward to applying all that I have learned and the experience I have acquired throughout my 11-year tenure at UMassFive to shape and guide the department moving forward.”

Walters’s career at UMassFive began in 2018 as a member service specialist in the Hadley branch, and he was most recently promoted to backup supervisor in January 2020. In his new position, he will oversee the daily operation of the ITM department, ensuring adequate staffing levels for member volume, troubleshooting the video teller machines, and ensuring members have an excellent service experience.

“As ITM supervisor, I look forward to working with the ITM and branch drive-up teams and building upon ways we can serve our membership and community,” Walters said.

Ward began her career at UMassFive seven years ago and has held multiple positions during her tenure at the credit union. Starting as a member service specialist, she moved on to become a retail trainer, ITM supervisor, assistant manager in the Contact Center, and most recently the ITM manager. In her new role, she will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Hadley branch, including the training and development of the branch staff.

“In my new role as Hadley branch manager, I look forward to providing financial education, personalized attention, maintaining strong partnerships with organizations in our local community, and providing a workplace culture that encourages professional growth, empowerment, member advocacy, and teamwork,” Ward said.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced that its employees have raised more than $16,000 for the UMass Cancer Center through participation in the 23rd annual UMass Cancer Walk and Run at Polar Park in Worcester.

Supporters of this event for more than 20 years, UMassFive employees join together annually as Team UMassFive to raise funds for the cause, both personally and in branch locations. In 2021, fundraising efforts included the Hadley branch hosting its annual Crafting for a Cure Boutique, where employees donated artwork, jewelry, and other handcrafted items, which were sold in the branch lobby. Other branch efforts included raffle baskets, bake sales, candy sales, and jewelry sales.

UMassFive debit cardholders were welcomed to redeem their ‘Buzz Points’ as a charitable donation to the UMass Cancer Walk and Run. Donations were also sought from the credit union’s corporate partners, whose support helps bolster efforts each year. Including funds raised so far in 2021, Team UMassFive is proud to have raised more than $158,000 in donations to the UMass Cancer Center over the lifetime of their participation.

“Cancer is something that touches nearly every family in some way,” said Cait Murray, Community Outreach manager at UMassFive. “Our employees participate in the Cancer Walk each year because it’s near to their hearts, and they know the funds will support local cancer research and clinical trials at the UMass Cancer Center in Worcester. The generosity of our employees, members, and community is truly astounding and makes such a big impact in the fight for a cure.”

Anyone who wishes to support Team UMassFive may donate before the end of 2021 by visiting support.umasscancerwalk.org/teamumassfive.

Daily News

NORTHAMPTON — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union recently introduced the newest leader of its Northampton VA Medical Center branch, Matt Eddy.

Eddy began his career at UMassFive three years ago as a member service specialist at the credit union’s King Street, Northampton branch, where his standards for outstanding service quickly created a rapport among the Northampton membership and built the foundation for his promotion to manager of the Northampton VA Medical Center branch.

In his new position, he now oversees the day-to-day operations of the Northampton VA Medical Center branch, including leading a team that cultivates a positive banking experience with each member interaction. He is also in charge of maintaining branch compliance.

“As branch manager, I’m looking forward to being able to serve the VA membership’s daily financial needs,” Eddy said. “I am also excited to grow the VA membership so that we can make a positive impact on as many people’s financial lives as possible.”

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union is once again fundraising and participating in two charitable events this fall.

A group of six UMassFive employees took their bikes to the streets of the Pioneer Valley to participate in the 11th annual Will Bike for Food event on Sept. 26 to benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The team raised more than $3,600 to donate to the cause, with several employees electing to take on the 50-mile ride for their challenge.

Monetary donations to help the Food Bank fight hunger are still being accepted through Oct. 15. Anyone interested in donating directly to Team UMassFive may do so at pledgereg.com/3820/team/16007. UMassFive members who are enrolled in the free debit rewards program Buzz Points may also redeem their rewards as a charitable donation to the Food Bank.

Team UMassFive will also be participating in the 23rd annual UMass Cancer Walk and Run at Polar Park in Worcester on Sunday, Oct. 17. A longstanding and top supporter of this event for more than 20 years, the credit union’s branches are providing plenty of ways members and the community can get involved in fundraising efforts. The Hadley branch is hosting its annual Crafting for a Cure Boutique, where UMassFive employees have donated artwork, jewelry, and much more, all of which are for sale to the public in the branch lobby. Additionally, visitors and members can enter to win a breast-cancer-awareness-themed raffle basket crafted by a UMassFive employee.

Meanwhile, the Northampton branch is collecting cash donations and hosting a contest to guess the amount of Hershey’s Kisses in a jar, with the jar and its contents going to the winner. The Worcester branch is raffling off an assortment of gift baskets. The Mercy Medical Center branch in Springfield is selling candy bars, Tastefully Simple craft products, and Paparazzi jewelry, with profits going directly toward the cause.

Existing UMassFive debit cardholders are again welcomed to redeem their Buzz Points as a charitable donation to UMass Cancer Walk and Run, while any member of the public who wishes to support Team UMassFive can make a monetary contribution at support.umasscancerwalk.org/teamumassfive.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union introduced the two newest additions to its senior management team: Jeff Resnikoff, vice president of Lending, and Theresa Raleigh, vice president of Human Resources.

Resnikoff comes to UMassFive with more than 13 years of experience in the credit-union world following his long tenure at Hudson Valley Credit Union in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Over his 13-year career there, he rose from Contact Center representative to eventually become the assistant vice president of Consumer Lending. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from State University of New York at New Paltz. Resnikoff takes over a loan portfolio of $400 million and will oversee all functions of the Consumer Lending department at UMassFive.

“In my view, the lending team exists to serve members by offering competitive products that meet the needs of the UMassFive community while simultaneously ensuring the financial stability of the credit union,” he said.

Raleigh comes to UMassFive from SeaComm Federal Credit Union in upstate New York, where she served as vice president of Human Resources for the past 16 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. She will oversee all employee hiring, training, recognition, and diversity program efforts at UMassFive.

“I believe great employees are critical to the success of the credit union and its member-first mission, and I’m thrilled to be a part of furthering UMassFive’s culture with such an engaged group,” Raleigh said.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union recently introduced Sam Einzig as the newest member of UMassFive’s Retirement Planning and Investments team available through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. He supports the credit union’s team of CFS financial advisors by scheduling appointments, sending appointment reminders, and helping with advisor administrative duties and service work. As an advisor assistant, he is also now the primary contact for current and prospective clients looking to work with the credit union’s trio of financial advisors.

Einzig has worked at UMassFive as a member service specialist since September 2018, prior to taking on his latest role with the Retirement Planning and Investments team. He is licensed as a producer of life insurance and accident and health or sickness insurance in Massachusetts, and is currently pursuing his FINRA Series 7 and 66 securities licenses. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston, where course studies in music business and taxation in the music industry kindled his interest in the financial world, as well as helping people.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union collected 350 pounds of personal-care items during the month of May and donated them to the pantries of the Amherst Survival Center and Northampton Survival Center.

Donations were collected at the credit union’s Hadley and Northampton branch locations, and included incontinence products, toilet paper, diapers, menstrual products, soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, sunblock, and many other personal-care items.

“We’re so appreciative of our members and employees for donating personal-care items to our annual drive,” said Cait Murray, Community Outreach manager at UMassFive. “We know that personal-care items in the Survival Center pantries may help people avoid making difficult tradeoffs. Nobody should have to choose between food and toilet paper.”

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced the retirement of Michael Sullivan, longtime board director and original founding member of the credit union, at its 54th annual meeting in March. New director Julius Lewis was also elected to the open position at the virtual event.

Sullivan’s legacy extends well beyond UMassFive in the world of credit unions. While he served originally as a UMassFive board member beginning in 1982, and as the credit union board chair at UMassFive from 1986 to 1993, he concurrently held the titles of director, vice chair, and chair of Mass CUNA (1986-1998). During this time, he was instrumental in the merger of the two state credit-union leagues that eventually became the Cooperative Credit Union Assoc. (CCUA). As a thank you for his many contributions, UMassFive has dedicated the board room in its Hadley executive area as the Michael Sullivan Board Room in his honor.

Newly elected board member Julius Lewis has been a member of the credit union since 2010 and, throughout the years, has helped promote UMassFive’s products and services within the local community. He is a graduate of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, which played a major role in launching his professional career in the financial industry. He has worked as an independent financial consultant, specializing in insurance products since 2003.

In 2006, Lewis created and began hosting The Lewis & Morrow Financial Hour, a weekly financial radio talk show broadcasted throughout the region and online. In 2017, he started his company, JDL Financial, and has received several awards and achievements within his profession. UMassFive welcomes his new perspectives and ideas to the board.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union recently introduced the newest leaders of its Hadley and Northampton branches and contact center: Megan Lagoy, Eurika Boulay, and Katharine Lawton.

Lagoy has expanded her role as assistant vice president of Retail Services. She began her career at UMassFive nine years ago as a call center representative, eventually taking on other various contact center roles, and most recently held the title of AVP of the contact center and interactive teller machine (ITM) department. In her new position, she will oversee the Hadley branch in addition to the contact center and the ITM department.

“I am looking forward to continuing to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality member service throughout the credit union,” Lagoy said. “This includes advocating for members’ needs through active listening, advising, and counseling, and evaluating the best options to improve their financial lives.”

Boulay has been promoted to Northampton branch manager. She began her career at UMassFive five years ago as a member service specialist in the Northampton branch, eventually moving on to becoming the branch backup supervisor, and most recently the Northampton VA Medical Center branch manager. In her new role, she leads the Northampton branch team in creating positive member experiences, maintaining branch compliance, and working with the Community Outreach manager to develop UMassFive’s presence in Northampton.

“In my new role as branch manager, I look forward to welcoming new members to UMassFive and continuing to serve the Northampton branch membership,” Boulay said.

Lawton has been promoted to contact center manager. She began her career at UMassFive in 2016 as a contact center representative and quickly progressed to lead contact center representative in 2017. In her new role, she will oversee new online membership fulfillment, onboarding, loan applications, phone-system administration, and providing resolutions to ensure positive member experiences.

“In my new position,” Lawton said, “I’m excited to lead our talented contact center team in delivering the highest-quality member service while putting the interests of our members first to make a positive difference in their financial lives.”

Daily News

HADLEY — During the month of May, the Hadley and Northampton branches of UMassFive College Federal Credit Union are holding a personal-care items drive to benefit the pantries of the Amherst Survival Center and the Northampton Survival Center. Items collected will be provided, for free, to neighbors in need.

“While food is at the core of our food pantry, being able to provide toiletries and personal-care items — menstrual products, a bar of soap, incontinence products for seniors — well, it doesn’t get more basic than that,” said Lev Ben-Ezra, executive director of the Amherst Survival Center. “Many families tell us that, when money is tight, they find themselves facing budgetary choices between affording these basic necessities and the basic need for food. UmassFive’s efforts to collect these items helps make sure our neighbors don’t have to make these impossible choices.”

UMassFive welcomes the community to drop off donations of unopened shampoo and conditioner, shaving supplies, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, baby diapers, menstrual products, bed and bladder pads, and adult incontinence briefs (sizes M, L, and XL being the most needed) through May 31. Items can be full-, travel-, or complimentary hospitality-sized, and may be dropped off at 200 Westgate Center Dr. in Hadley or 225 King St. in Northampton.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced that Lauren Duffy, executive vice president and chief operating officer, was recently appointed board chair of the Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO) Member Advantage Mortgage LLC (MAM), a company owned and operated by credit unions across the country to provide major-lender options for home financing.

Understanding that home ownership can be a critical component to building wealth for any individual or family, UMassFive has built and sustained a purposeful partnership with MAM after investing in CUSO in 2009 to bring better home loan and refinancing options to its members. In fact, UMassFive is the single largest-volume loan producer of all MAM credit-union investors, making up more than half their volume year over year.

“The credit union is thrilled to have Lauren assume this role and further our relationship with MAM,” UMassFive President and CEO Rich Kump said. “Over her nearly 16-year career here at UMassFive, Lauren’s wealth of knowledge in so many areas of the credit union has granted her a valuable and unique perspective that she continues to use to serve our members. Having her expertise now overseeing MAM allows us greater input on the strategic direction for an organization already serving so many of our members, and it helps ensure accountability to our members’ needs and long-term success.”

The MAM board’s official charge is to set the strategic direction and execute its fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the credit union members’ investment in the company, including oversight of compliance policies and financial audits. As board chair, Duffy will help set the agenda for the board’s focus and work closely on strategy and business development with MAM CEO Jeff Leep.

“Member service is our top priority,” Leep said. “Today’s homebuyers demand easy and convenient access to information at all times, but also want the confidence of a trusted advisor to help them make the best decision. Our relationship with UMassFive has been instrumental in guiding our innovation roadmap and creating an overall lending platform capable of helping credit unions be the go-to source for their members’ home financing needs.”

Duffy was one of BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty honorees in 2019.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced four recent promotions.

Alex Fullerton has been promoted to assistant vice president of Loan Operations. In this new role, he is responsible for providing leadership, oversight, and direction for all consumer-lending activities. Fullerton has been with the credit union for nine years and has held numerous roles, beginning as a teller, and most recently a supervisor of the Debt Solutions department.

Kristina Smith has been promoted to assistant vice president of Retail Administration. Transitioning from overseeing retail branches, she now supports frontline teams to help plan and implement organizational growth projects; manage retail policies, procedures, and training; as well as assist with retail programs to ensure operational efficiencies are maintained. Beginning as a part-time teller after graduating from UMass Amherst, her assorted roles at the credit union over the past 12 years have prepared her for this new position. Smith’s UMassFive career includes working as the assistant to the former president/CEO manager of the Mercy Medical Center branch and senior branch manager in Hadley.

Christina Reynolds has been promoted to Card Services manager. She began her career at UMassFive 10 years ago as a part-time online banking specialist in the Contact Center, eventually taking on other various branch assignments, including most recently the Northampton branch manager position. In her new role, she oversees the Card Services department, ensuring debit- and credit-card quality control and audit processes are in place while also maintaining policies to maximize efficiency and service to members.

Tara Sanderson has been promoted to loan servicing manager. She began her career at UMassFive in December of 2017 as a loan servicing specialist. She was promoted to senior loan servicing specialist in mid-2019, shortly followed by a promotion to loan servicing supervisor. In her new position as loan servicing manager, Sanderson oversees both the loan-processing and loan-servicing aspects of lending to ensure compliance and maximize efficiency and service internally as well as for UMassFive members.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced it has directed $4,000 in donations to local survival centers in Amherst and Northampton.

The donations were made possible thanks to UMassFive winning a Credit Union Give Back Sweepstakes held by its credit-card servicer, PSCU. This sweepstakes selected 25 credit unions from across the country to receive $4,000 to donate to local charitable organizations of their choice.

“As a nonprofit financial cooperative, we find it important to align ourselves with partners like PSCU who care about the communities we live and work in,” said Craig Boivin, vice president of Marketing at UMassFive. “It’s special to be able to use those relationships to give back to organizations who do so much good locally.”

UMassFive chose to direct donations of $2,000 each to the Amherst Survival Center and the Northampton Survival Center in support of the extra cost burden that 2020 placed on the organizations. Both organizations had to pivot operations quickly to meet the most pressing needs of their communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and have seen more need than ever before.

To support the survival centers directly, visit amherstsurvival.org or northamptonsurvival.org.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced that its members, staff, and community partners have donated hundreds of winter coats and clothing to Amherst Survival Center. Donations were gathered through a collection drive held at UMassFive’s Hadley and Northampton branches throughout the month of December.

“This is a drive that we hold annually, and we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of donations during the pandemic,” said Cait Murray, Community Outreach manager at UMassFive. “We were pleasantly surprised to receive a record number of donations this year. The generosity of our members, staff, and community partners is truly remarkable.”

Five vehicle loads of donations were dropped off at the Amherst Survival Center, where they were sorted and distributed to the community.

“Unfortunately, the Amherst Survival Center had to temporarily close our community store due to COVID as we focus on our food and nutrition programs, but we have remained committed to distributing core essentials” said Lev Ben-Ezra, executive director of the Amherst Survival Center. “We are so grateful to be partnering with several area organizations, including Craig’s Doors and Family Outreach of Amherst, to make sure every single coat, blanket, and winter accessory we collect makes it someone who needs it. The UMassFive coat drive is an essential part of that.”

To support the Amherst Survival Center directly, visit amherstsurvival.org.

Banking and Financial Services Special Coverage

Lending a Hand

By Mark Morris

Sometimes being thrown into a challenging situation leads to … well, a good idea or two. Or at least a new way of thinking.

Back in March, when COVID-19 first hit, banks and credit unions in Massachusetts were designated essential businesses by Gov. Charlie Baker. That meant making sure everyone had access to their accounts while, at the same time, limiting in-person banking to appointments only, complete with masks, social distancing, and frequent sanitizing protocols.

“It forced us to think outside the box and to figure out the best ways to serve our members during a time of reduced access,” said Kara Herman, vice president, Retail Administration with Freedom Credit Union, adding that her team set out to first communicate all the options members had available to them to get business done without going inside a branch.

BusinessWest spoke with several local bank and credit-union professionals about the challenge of making adjustments to their businesses in the middle of a pandemic. For Kevin O’Connor, executive vice president and chief banking officer for Westfield Bank, reducing foot traffic in the lobbies back in the spring was a chance to review how to make customer interactions with the bank easier in ways that were not face-to-face.

“We published all our branch phone numbers on our website so people can easily reach their local branch,” O’Connor said. “In this way, we could blend the digital experience with the personal touch of a local branch staff member who is there to assist.”

During the summer months, mandates were relaxed, and banks and credit unions were allowed to reopen their lobbies to walk-in traffic. But this month, as COVID-19 infection rates spiked, lobby restrictions were reinstated at many institutions.

“Because we went through lobby closures back in the spring, we were able to refine the process of helping customers find different ways to accomplish what they need to do,” O’Connor said.

Mike Ostrowski

Mike Ostrowski says the pandemic has been a “disruptive innovation” that helped many customers appreciate the benefits of banking online.

For example, Westfield Bank makes video tutorials available online for those who are new to electronic banking. “We do this to encourage people to be comfortable in whatever way they interact with us.”

Michael Ostrowski, president and CEO of Arrha Credit Union, noted that, when lobby traffic was first curtailed and members would call to complete a basic transaction, his staff would take the the time to educate the caller on how to accomplish what they wanted to do electronically.

“In some ways, the pandemic was a disruptive innovation because it helped us to migrate so many people to the electronic world,” Ostrowski, said adding that online and mobile activity with Arrha has increased 30% in the last nine months.

Educating members is also the approach Craig Boivin, vice president of UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, has taken. While the aim is to reduce traffic in the branch, there’s still one in-person appointment that he encourages.

“A member of our contact center staff will set up an in-branch appointment with folks who aren’t as tech-savvy and take them through a hands-on tutorial on how to use what’s available,” he explained. “We do this so the member can avoid going to the branch in the future for simple transactions.”

Customers who regularly use online banking and mobile apps barely noticed the limited lobby access, but there are others who rely on being able to walk into a branch and do business face-to-face.

“Some of our customers need to come in every day, such as small-business people who need coin and currency to run their shops,” said Kate Megraw, chief operating officer and chief information officer for New Valley Bank and Trust. This past summer, while adhering to all safety and cleaning protocols, New Valley’s lobbies stayed busy.

Kevin O’Connor

Kevin O’Connor

“We published all our branch phone numbers on our website so people can easily reach their local branch. In this way, we could blend the digital experience with the personal touch of a local branch staff member who is there to assist.”

“As a new bank, we are in a growth mode right now, so we were trying to make it easy for customers to come in and open accounts,” she noted. With renewed limits on lobby access, she now encourages appointments as well as the drive-up location at the 16 Acres branch.

Drive-up banking has gone from a routine convenience to a vital service as customers bring more complex transactions to the drive-up window than in the past. It’s one way both bank customers and employees had to adjust to a new environment back in the spring — and may have to adjust again.

 

Striking a Balance

As branches reopened over the summer, loan activity related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ramped up as as well, Megraw said, providing another opportunity.

“The PPP allowed us to touch a lot of local businesses in Massachusetts and parts of Connecticut,” she added, noting that, through the PPP, New Valley arranged more than 500 small-business loans totaling nearly $90 million.

With branches retreating to a less-accessible time, the challenge now is to strike the right balance between giving people the time they need and keeping the line of cars in the drive-thru moving. Along with placing experienced tellers at the window, O’Connor said, other branch staff speak with people as they approach the drive-up to make sure they have their materials at the ready to make their visit more efficient.

Kate MeGraw

Kate MeGraw

“The pandemic has shown us that high-touch customer service and the ability to speak to someone over the phone or safely take a meeting still makes a big difference when a customer is trying to get something done.”

UMassFive recently converted a drive-up ATM machine at its Hadley branch to a video teller. As a complement to the two existing drive-up tellers, the video teller provides a third option that reduces long lines and still maintains the personal touch.

“It gives our members an additional way to talk to a live person without having to come into the branch or get out of their car,” Boivin said. Installed in two other branch foyers, he added, video tellers have really caught on as usage has tripled just this fall.

Herman said Freedom recently launched video chat as part of its online offerings and said it’s the next best thing to an in-person meeting. “It gives people a chance to see us and talk to us. It’s face-to-face communication even though they are not physically in front of us.”

Because so many people are more comfortable doing things from their home, opening accounts online has substantially increased. While this tool was lightly employed before the pandemic, O’Connor saw an opportunity to enhance it for customers who use it.

“We are supplementing the online account-opening process by having a branch person follow up with the customer to make sure they received the experience they wanted,” he said.

On the lending side of the business, Herman noted that online applications and electronic signatures have further streamlined the process of people conducting bank business from home.

Boivin reported that volume at the UMassFive contact center is up 43% for the year and has nearly doubled in the last two months as coronavirus has spiked. A number of employees moved out of their traditional retail positions to handle the increased activity in the contact center.

“Our staff has been impressive with their flexibility and willingness to work in different departments to get the job done,” he added.

Ostrowski believes his staff were as vulnerable as essential retail workers who have been on the job throughout the pandemic. “Because we appreciate their hard work,” he said, “we recently rewarded our staff with a hazard-pay bonus for all their efforts during COVID-19.”

 

The People Part

As customers increasingly use online and mobile apps for banking, all the managers we spoke with agree that in-person branches still play a vital role. Ostrowski emphasized that technology doesn’t take the place of personal service, but just enhances it.

While acknowledging that digital services are an important and growing part of banking, Megraw also believes the “people part” is still essential.

Craig Boivin

Craig Boivin

“Our staff has been impressive with their flexibility and willingness to work in different departments to get the job done.”

“The pandemic has shown us that high-touch customer service and the ability to speak to someone over the phone or safely take a meeting still makes a big difference when a customer is trying to get something done.”

Boivin hopes the changes that forced people out of the branches will result in more convenience for them and an elevated role for the branches.

“In the long run, we see branches being centers where people can sit down with someone face-to-face for those in-depth conversations about their finances, such as buying a house for the first time,” he said. “We still see a need for those interactions to continue at the branch level.”

Ostrowski predicts banking will move toward a hybrid approach that combines the latest technology innovations with an old-fashioned, hometown banking experience.

“I like the term ‘the big hug,’ meaning, even if you do all your regular business electronically, there are times when you want to come in for a mortgage, or you’re having trouble with a tax bill, and we’re there to give you that big hug of caring service when you need it.”

Herman believes the events of the last nine months have caused banks to re-evaluate the roles and responsibilities that branch staff will have in the future.

“I think the traditional job descriptions we had back in February no longer exist, and they are evolving as we speak,” she said, adding that, while people will remain an important part of branch banking, the industry has to figure out how to serve the new needs their customers will have going forward.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union is running a winter coat and cold-weather clothing drive in its Hadley and Northampton branches throughout the month of December. These donations are part of an effort to ensure that all community members have access to cold-weather clothing this winter, and will be distributed in partnership with the Amherst Survival Center.

“The public-health and economic crises caused by COVID-19 have hit hard. Not only are many individuals and families struggling, but many of the resources our neighbors can turn to have had to shift their focus,” said Lev Ben-Ezra, executive director of the Amherst Survival Center. “Unfortunately, the Amherst Survival Center had to temporarily close our community store due to COVID as we focus on our food and nutrition programs, but we have remained committed to distributing core essentials — items like coats, sleeping bags, underwear, socks, and long johns.

“We are so grateful to be partnering with a number of area organizations, including Craig’s Doors and Family Outreach of Amherst, to make sure every single coat, blanket, and winter accessory we collect makes it someone who needs it,” Ben-Ezra added. “Now is truly a time of ‘every bit counts,’ and we are grateful for all the ways the community is stepping up to support each other. The UMassFive coat drive is an essential part of that.”

UMassFive gratefully accepts clean, new or gently used coats, gloves, scarves, hats, sweaters, and blankets. Donations should be placed in a bag and dropped off during business hours to the Hadley branch at 200 Westgate Center Dr. or the Northampton branch at 225 King St.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced it has provided more than $13,500 in donations to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts during 2020. These donations have been facilitated through community giving campaigns in partnership with staff and members of the credit union.

Early this year, UMassFive supported the Food Bank by donating $1,000 to help offset the increase in demand presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The credit union also sponsored and participated in the Food Bank’s annual Will Bike 4 Food event. A team of 11 UMassFive employees raised money and rode bikes as part of the event, which took place virtually, resulting in donations of $3,422.

In the interest of supporting the community, UMassFive also encouraged participation from those who bank at the credit union. A campaign called “Share Your Story” allowed members to choose a local organization to receive a $25 donation from UMassFive on their behalf. A total of $5,000 in donations was split between five local organizations, of which $1,300 was donated to the Food Bank. Members were also encouraged to redeem their earned Buzz Points — a debit-card spending reward program — as charitable donations, which has contributed the equivalent of $2,830 in donations to the Food Bank this year.

UMassFive’s latest endeavor was a “Spend and Give” campaign, which involved a collaboration with its members and credit-card servicer PSCU. During the month of July, 1% of every purchase made on an eligible member’s UMassFive credit card was donated to the Food Bank. Based on member purchases, the credit union met its goal of raising $2,500 and unlocked a matching grant from PSCU, resulting in a $5,000 overall donation to the Food Bank. This donation brought UMassFive’s total contribution to the organization so far in 2020 to $13,552.

“UMassFive has been a dedicated supporter of the Food Bank over the years and has stepped up their support over this challenging year,” said Food Bank Corporate Relations Officer Jillian Morgan. “UMassFive’s contributions through their various campaigns have raised enough funds to provide over 50,000 meals to neighbors in need. We are grateful for their continued commitment to ending hunger.”

This November, UMassFive will be encouraging its members to support Monte’s (Masked) March put on by WRSI/the River. Members will be able to donate their Buzz Points to the Food Bank as part of this effort.

Daily News

HADLEY — With uncertainty surrounding whether colleges will reopen this fall for in-person classes, and new financial realities brought about by the ongoing pandemic, many families will be facing difficult decisions about higher education in the coming weeks. UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, in collaboration with Credit Union Student Choice (CUSC), is rising to meet this challenge by providing clear guidance and flexible funding solutions for college-bound students and their families.

“Planning and paying for college is stressful for families even in the best of times,” said Craig Boivin, vice president of Marketing at UMassFive. “With so many unanswered questions about the upcoming fall semester, we’re expanding our offerings to include a new online hub of timely articles and resources, as well as an even more flexible college-funding solution with our private education line of credit.”

UMassFive’s application process now allows borrowers to establish a line of credit without requiring them to specify a school or input a specific loan amount. This innovative approach is unique in the private student-loan marketplace and will give borrowers peace of mind, knowing they have secured funding regardless of their decision for this fall. Additionally, this setup means borrowers know what funds they have available now, and in the future, without the need to reapply each year. Once they have decided on attendance at a particular school and/or determined the exact loan amount needed, borrowers can easily return to their account to finalize their funding request.

“UMassFive has offered a private education line of credit through our partner, Credit Union Student Choice, for the past 11 years to help families responsibly fill funding gaps that remain after other sources have been exhausted,” Boivin said. “Our solution features competitive interest rates, in-school deferred payment, and a graduated repayment option. Now more than ever, we recognize that families are seeking both financial support and trusted experts to turn to for information. As their local credit union, we are here to fulfill those needs.”

In addition to the online information hub, UMassFive members can receive one-on-one advice about planning and paying for college from a college access and repayment counselor and access an online library of self-paced webinars.

To learn more about UMassFive’s private student lending solution, visit umassfive.studentchoice.org.

Daily News

HADLEY — UMassFive College Federal Credit Union announced the recent promotion of two employees.

Gina Maroni has been promoted to vice president of Finance and chief financial officer. She has taken on the responsibility of financial oversight, strategizing, and budgeting for the credit union, and previously served as UMassFive’s assistant vice president of Finance and controller for 18 months. Prior to joining UMassFive, she was the senior vice president of Finance and chief financial officer at Athol Credit Union.

Alexis Miarecki has been promoted to manager of Marketing. Transitioning from her former role as graphic designer, she is now responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the Marketing department, including oversight of the marketing team, creative direction, and developing and executing all marketing and promotional plans for UMassFive in collaboration with the vice president of Marketing.

Daily News

HADLEY — While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many employers are facing difficult choices in regard to staffing and reduction of operation. As furloughs and layoffs are announced, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union would like to remind those facing loss of income of services that may help, including:

• One-on-one phone consultations. UMassFive is committed to answering questions and helping members understand the options available to them throughout this ongoing time of economic uncertainty. Members, as well as those looking to work with the credit union, are encouraged to reach out for a one-on-one phone consultation with a staff member by calling (800) 852-5886.

• Emergency-relief payment deferral. UMassFive is offering loan-payment deferral for up to three months on all qualified consumer loans. Members can visit umassfive.coop/emergency-relief to learn which loans qualify, and to submit their payment-deferral requests through an easy-to-fill-out web form.

• GreenPath financial coaching. GreenPath is an additional, complimentary service UMassFive offers, which includes assistance in creating and managing debt-management plans. To find more information about these services, visit umassfive.coop/resources/greenpath-financial-coaching.

• Reduced rates for short-term personal loans. As a way to make things a little easier for qualified borrowers who decide to take on some short-term debt to address their current needs, UMassFive has temporarily lowered the rate of all new personal loans to 5.99% APR for amounts of $2,000 or less. New and existing members can apply for this loan online at www.umassfive.coop/personalloan. After signing up (for new users) or logging in, applicants should select ‘Fixed-term Loan,’ then ‘Loan Special,’ and continue filling out the form until fully submitted. The credit union strongly encourages seeking alternative options before taking on additional debt.

COVID-19 Daily News

HADLEY — On April 3, the Log Rolling catering van could be seen making several special deliveries at local food banks and hospitals in Central and Western Mass., as UMassFive College Federal Credit Union reached out to support community members and healthcare workers heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the latest entry in a long-standing collaborative relationship with the Amherst Survival Center, UMassFive sponsored 150 portions of chicken pot pie (made fresh and delivered by Log Cabin Rolling) to be served at the Amherst Survival Center daily community meal. During the pandemic, Amherst Survival has adapted to continue providing many of its services amid social-distancing requirements. The community meals are now provided in a ‘to-go’ model, serving participants outside in the parking lot.

In appreciation of healthcare workers, UMassFive also sponsored the delivery of 200 meals to emergency-room staff, split between Springfield’s Mercy Medical Center and Worcester’s UMass Memorial Medical Center. Understanding that healthcare workers aren’t able to sit and reheat a hot meal these days, Log Rolling Catering curated and delivered bagged meals with sandwiches, fruit, chips, and a dessert. These meals were delivered to the staff at lunchtime, with extra meals to support the next shift as well.

UMassFive, which has branch offices at both hospital locations, wanted to show support to the frontline healthcare workers they serve by providing a meal. “We were looking for a way to support healthcare workers and our most vulnerable community members in these trying times,” said Craig Boivin, vice president of Marketing at UMassFive. “Working with Log Cabin Rolling allowed us to do that while simultaneously supporting a great local business. It was a win-win.”

In addition, UMassFive has pledged $1,000 to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and donated another $1,000 to the local farming nonprofit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, which will use the funds as part of its Emergency Farm Fund, which provides zero-interest loans to local farms. 

UMassFive members who wish to lend their own helping hand to their communities can participate via the credit union’s Buzz Points program, through which UMassFive has facilitated charitable-donation options benefiting the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Amherst Survival Center.

COVID-19 Daily News

HADLEY — As a local nonprofit financial cooperative, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union (UMassFive) is known for playing an active role in supporting and educating members and local communities. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMassFive has launched a number of initiatives to continue supporting its membership and people in the local community.

For example, UMassFive has joined forces with Log Rolling Catering to donate 350 meals to individuals and families in need, as well as those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. The Amherst Survival Center will receive 150 prepared meals for distribution to those in need, and another 200 meals will go to the ER staff at both Mercy Medical Center in Springfield and UMass Medical Center in Worcester.

In addition, UMassFive has pledged $1,000 to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and donated another $1,000 to the local farming nonprofit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, which will use the funds as part of its campaign to raise $50,000 for emergency loans to local farms.

Credit-union members can also participate by making charitable donations in support of their local community through the UMassFive Buzz Points program, including options benefiting the Food Bank and the Amherst Survival Center

UMassFive is committed to answering questions and providing financial guidance to its members throughout this ongoing time of economic uncertainty. Members are encouraged to reach out for one-on-one phone consultations with credit union staff to better understand what options are available to them at this time.

For instance, UMassFive is offering loan-payment deferral for up to three months on all qualified consumer loans. Members can visit www.umassfive.coop/emergency-relief to learn which loans qualify and to submit their emergency-relief payment-deferral requests through an easy-to-fill-out web form.

As a way to make things a little easier for qualified borrowers who decide to take on some short-term debt to address their current needs, UMassFive has temporarily lowered the rate of all new personal loans to 5.99% APR for amounts of $2,000 or less. New and existing members can apply for this loan online at www.umassfive.coop/personalloan. After signing up (for new users) or logging in, applicants should select ‘fixed-term loan,’ then ‘loan special,’ and continue filling out the form until fully submitted. The credit union strongly encourages seeking alternative options before taking on additional debt.

“We want our members and communities to know we are here for you — especially in times of crisis,” said Craig Boivin, vice president of Marketing at UMassFive. “If you’re experiencing hardship and need someone to talk to about your financial situation, or even know someone who could use the help, UMassFive is a resource you can count on.”

For more information and resources, and to stay up to date with UMassFive’s operational hours and branch schedule, visit www.umassfive.coop/covid-19.

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