STCU Receives National Recognition for COVID-19 Response

In results announced earlier this month, judges for the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council presented nine awards to STCU, based in Liberty Lake, Washington. Yet, it is the one for crisis management that has the deepest meaning for the credit union’s 750 employees. For more than a year, STCU has focused on helping members, staff, and the community with their immediate needs, while also positioning them for recovery and success when the pandemic is a memory.

“This sustained effort touches every corner of the credit union, with every department showing extreme flexibility, compassion and creativity,” said Ezra Eckhardt, President and CEO. “I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”

A few of the many pieces of STCU’s pandemic response:

For staff, STCU augmented existing paid time off, in addition to adding COVID leave for any pandemic-related need (including getting vaccinated). Leaders stepped up to accommodate non-traditional schedules, and employees whose households took financial hits could apply confidentially for financial assistance. Periodic “pulse” surveys provided glimpses of employee morale and needs, so leadership could respond appropriately.

With more than 300 employees still working remotely, leaders are taking care to connect with each one of them frequently, both to sustain the STCU culture and to check in on employee wellbeing. Every STCU manager has access to mental-health awareness training.

For struggling members, the credit union offered to skip payments and restructure loans, and offered interest-free loans to victims of summer wildfires. STCU helped business members apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans through the Small Business Administration, and assisted other credit unions that lacked the resources to provide that service on their own.

While most branch locations have remained open, STCU scrambled to add new technology to help members accomplish more of their banking needs without leaving home.

At the same time, STCU ramped up its community support. Examples include: buying more than 1,400 gift cards from local businesses to provide as giveaways; sticking to STCU’s financial commitments even when sponsored events were cancelled; providing 100 smart phones with prepaid cell service for heads of households facing critical needs; and doubling STCU’s annual membership dues to 16 chambers of commerce. During the holiday season alone, STCU surprised 20 community organizations with more than $400,000 in unrestricted gifts.

Recognizing the economic impact of the pandemic on local media, STCU substantially increased its ad buy in 2020, and used much of that space for “Dear member” data stories honoring frontline workers at local businesses. In addition to its standard sponsorship of Inlander Restaurant Week, STCU rallied 13 other local credit unions and banks to co-sponsor the Inlander’s Great Dine Out in March, which boosted business with no cost to more than 160 participating restaurants.

“We may be competitors, but we work together for the good of the community,” said STCU Chief Marketing Officer Marty Dickinson.

Earlier this month, CUNA, which advocates for 6,000 U.S. credit unions and 120 million members, also announced its 2021 national Diamond Award winners for marketing. Out of 1,278 total entries, STCU received 10 Diamond Awards:

  • Two Best of Show awards for the “Dear member” data stories;
  • Three Category’s Best awards; and
  • Five other Diamond awards for crisis management, brand awareness, videos, staff events, and complete campaigns.

Posted in Member News.