The impacts of COVID-19 on credit unions have been undeniable. Some financial institutions have adjusted by improving digital experiences and remote file access for employees. Others continue to hold onto paper-based processes and in-person interactions to keep their businesses afloat. In this blog, let’s review three lessons that we’ve learned since the start of the pandemic.
1. Digital data collection is a starting point, but credit unions should create long-term plans for remote file access and storage.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been fielding a lot of questions about eSign, our purpose-built eSignature platform for regulated industries. This makes sense. To keep the virtual doors of their credit unions open, executives must digitize approvals and document sharing.
But we have noticed a gap for many credit unions: they don’t have a defined system for storing those approved documents. Even though they can collect data, documents, and approvals digitally, they aren’t necessarily thinking about how to manage those collected items moving forward.
For some of those institutions, we’re implementing Laserfiche as a secure document repository. And it’s not as complicated as it sounds. We help create basic folder structures, define the rules for collected information, and set up simple workflows (e.g., sending a document to AR after it’s approved). Then when employees use eSign, everything is saved securely, moved forward if possible, and even automatically scheduled for future purging and compliance.
That doesn’t mean that everyone needs eSign and/or Laserfiche. The best-fit technology depends on the credit union’s specific circumstance and future goals. But it is important to recognize that simple efforts now can add up to efficiency later.
In planning ahead, you should be exploring how your institution can move away from paper and toward digital.
2. As organizations get used to remote work, virtual audits seem inevitable.
We recently spoke with a credit union executive that was put into a perilous circumstance. She, and her C-suite colleagues, had assumed the pandemic had paused auditing activity. (Social distancing would inhibit in-person activities, after all, and they’d only ever participated in in-person audits.)
Then the credit union received word that they were going to be audited virtually—when none of their records were digitized.
This forced the credit union to commit staff members to go into branch locations to scan physical documents in preparation for the audit. Amid the drastic disruptions from the pandemic, they had to prioritize and rush a process that can often take weeks or months to complete.
COVID-19 has made the need for digital infrastructure clear for many credit unions—even those who have historically put off those types of investments. And with the sustained impacts of the pandemic, organizations have begun to redefine the way they work.
Put another way, over time, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and internal auditors might continue to shift their definition of “accessible documentation” to include remote file access.
If you think about them as massive undertakings, you’ll likely put off things like digitization of documents, building a secure document repository, and optimizing internal processes. But every one of these undertakings starts with small, simple steps. Added up, those steps will take you toward those greater levels of efficiency and scale.
3. Ignoring the impacts of COVID-19 isn’t an option anymore.
Some experts are predicting that the second round of COVID-19 in the fall could be worse than what we’ve seen so far. The prediction is centered on the scenario that the virus is likely to dissipate in the warm weather, only to return at the same time as the flu.
That’s not a guarantee. But if you’re a planner, it does signal a need to make the most out of the time between now and the fall. As you work out your business continuity plan through the end of 2020 and into 2021, make sure you take strides toward preparing for another potential shutdown.
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