Home Posts tagged UMassFive College Federal Credit Union
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.