Banking changes during Covid-19

Dillon says Conexus had pandemic plan ready

April 3, 2020, 10:51 am
Kara Kinna

Conexus CEO Eric Dillon

With banking being an essential service, financial institutions like Conexus Credit Union have deal with the Covid-19 situation by restricting their hours and offering services via phone and online.

Conexus CEO Eric Dillon says it has meant some changes for staff and customers, but he says Conexus had a pandemic plan at the ready, and it was simply a matter of reviewing it, and, when the time came, to put that plan into action.

“We certainly appreciate that people rely on us to help them with their money, and we know that we are an essential service, so for years and years we have been building what we call Business Continuity Plans that deal with a number of things—pandemic just being one of them,” he said in an interview last week. “So we were able to quickly pull out our plan, and we review it frequently, and put it into action.

“I think the good news is that banking over time has changed considerably, and I think today people more and more—even without COVID-19 or a pandemic—were banking remotely using their phones or calling us, and I think that’s good because now when we’re all being asked—and I think rightfully so—to help minimize the spread of the virus, we are still able to provide all the services that our members rely on us for, just doing it remotely or differently.”

Dillon says all of the key services that Conexus offers are tested on a regular basis to ensure they are available during emergency situations such as a pandemic.

“For all of the things that we do—whether that is to support members or to engage with other institutions, like if you are making a payment or trying to send some money to your grandmother and they have an account at other institutions—all of those things get tested from time to time, and we have a list of what we call critical business functions,” he says. “So we make sure that those things are always available 24/7 if something like a pandemic were to happen.

“We’ve quickly moved teams to work from home, but all of the transactions and all the things that people are relying on Conexus to do are being done. At our contact centre, you could call in today and have to wait around 16 seconds for somebody to pick up the phone and serve you. Other than taking the five or 10 minutes to drive to the branch and put yourself at risk and maybe put our staff at risk, we would much rather that you picked up the phone from the comfort of your living room and we’re happy to help you from there.”

Dillon says step one for customers who need service and aren’t sure how to access it during the pandemic is to call a 1-800 number that has been set up.

“What we are encouraging people to do is call us first,” says Dillon. “People are being asked to be physically distant, and so if you don’t have to come to a branch please don’t come to a branch—it puts you at risk. It puts our staff at risk. We would much rather that you picked up the phone and called. Virtually everything you can do at the branch can be done over the phone and that just keeps you and I safe so we can continue to provide service.

“There is a 1-800 number that is on our website (1-800-667-7477) and that is the one we would love everyone to call because they are the ones that are best equipped to help our members right now.”

Dillon says while branches are still open, they are on reduced hours and customers are encouraged not to come in or to book appointments for service.

“If you did have to come in—let’s say your card expired or you lost it and need a new card—we would like you to call to make an appointment. If it’s not for something like that we’ve got people in the lobby encouraging you not to come in. But if it is for something we need to do in person, make an appointment to come in and expect that it might be more of a longer wait because we want to make sure that we only have a few people in the branch at any given time or only one at the ATM so we can wipe down things in between members. Call the 1-800 number, make an appointment and then we would be happy to help you.”

Dillon says businesses making deposits are encouraged to use the night deposit box.

“All of our businesses, we are encouraging them to get a night deposit key,” he says. “We’ve got extras cut and then they can just come and drop it off after hours, then our staff will pick it up in the morning and deposit it first thing while they’re in the branch.”

So far Dillon says the system seems to be running smoothly.

“Most of these services we deliver today to our members and it is just a matter of more of it being done online,” he says. “We certainly have all of the technology tools available. We have great staff across the province and, from looking at our call or member centre wait times, we are doing a very good job of keeping up with people’s work requests, and that includes all of our requests to defer mortgage payments or move loan payments because their own income has been disrupted. We’re getting lots, and lot of those from our members and are helping out with personal finances every way we can.”

Dillon notes that while seniors aren’t always comfortable with online banking or doing things remotely, they are the group most at risk for the virus and he encourages them to pick up the phone for any services.

“I think the phone is the easiest way. They can call in and virtually do all of the transactions they would do in a branch over the phone—keeping in mind that those are exactly the people that the government says are most at risk for the virus, so those are exactly the people we don’t want coming to the branch because we want them to stay home to stay safe. And if they call us we have wonderful people and they can do all of the things they can do in a branch over the phone.”

Dillon says most customers are responding well to the changes.

“By and large most people appreciate that these are very unusual times, and when you’ve got premiers and chief medical officers saying you should not go out, I think most of our members appreciate that we built out all these other ways to serve our members and that they are still going to have all the same access to their money that they might need, and that we are here to help with food and mortgage payments, and certainly appreciate all of the physical distancing that we are trying to incorporate. Because they just want to make sure they can continue to access services, and the easiest way for us to do that is make sure that our staff are healthy and our members are healthy and we can continue to help people out over the phone.”

Dillon says that Conexus is posting regularly on its social media what the wait times are at its contact centre.

“So if you are at home and watching Netflix and relaxing like we are supposed to be, just watch our social media channels and when the wait times are good, give us a ring and we will be happy to help you.”