Affinity Plus COVID-19 Response Saves Members Nearly $4 Million So Far

  • Press Release
July 29, 2020
ST. PAUL, MINN. (July 29, 2020) – Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union (Affinity Plus) made the decision early to close its lobbies (since March 16), and make new financial resources available for members facing financial difficulties due to COVID-19. 

As of July 21, Minnesota’s second largest credit union has directly helped more than 29,000 of its members with $3.7 million in COVID-19 relief. This includes:

  • 45,524 fees waived (late fees, overdraft, credit card, skip-a-pay, etc.) 
  • 2,100 deferred loan payments
  • 823 Recovery Loans at 0 percent interest
  • 5 low-interest Business Recovery Loans
  • 479 PPP Loans (through the SBA), saving nearly 1,200 jobs

“Shutdowns, unemployment and illness have caused significant financial stress for many members,” said Dave Larson, Affinity Plus CEO. “In the first shutdown wave, at least 25 percent of our members experienced a significant and immediate decline in income. I’m proud of the unique ways our employees are working to protect their credit and finances.”

Making Emergency Funds Available

As the idea of a shutdown in Minnesota gained momentum, Affinity Plus leadership knew its members would be disproportionately impacted. To protect members' and employees' health, they made the bold decision to close their 28 locations and launch new financial resources to help those at highest risk:

  • Eliminating Fees: Immediately, Affinity Plus evaluated fees that disproportionately impact those most in need and eliminated many common fees for at least 30 days, including late fees, overdraft fees, skip-a-pay fees – with members credited automatically so they wouldn't have the burden to call or request them
  • Increasing limits for credit card holders by $500
  • Promoting skip-a-payment options for auto, consumer and real estate loans
  • Offering a new, limited-time 0 percent Recovery Loan
  • Small business relief: handling Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) requests, as well as low-interest Recovery Loans to bridge the gap. The business team is currently working with small business members to meet the emerging PPP forgiveness requirements

Affinity Plus was one of just a few dozen financial institutions in Minnesota to partner with the Governor's Office on special forbearances for borrowers impacted by COVID-19.

Digital Shift

COVID-19 is driving a sharp shift to digital self-service, empowering members to self-serve many banking transactions. This month, Affinity Plus surpassed 60 percent of members actively using mobile or online platforms. Mobile adoption is driving the shift, with mobile users now outpacing online users – and the gap is growing. In addition, members are logging in more times than ever before – an average of more than 28 times each month (up from 18-23 times a month).

To meet the growing demand, Affinity Plus augmented its mobile and digital banking platforms with a number of new functions, including new text message banking, AI chat option – with video banking coming in August.

“Members can truly choose their own banking experience – and engage with us however they feel most comfortable,” said Larson. App users agree, with Affinity Plus’s app rating on Apple and Android rising again in July – both now at 4.9, respectively.

New Ways to Bank

With the COVID-19 restrictions, Affinity Plus began changing its service model to meet evolving needs:

  • Shifting more than 500 employees over three weeks to work from home.
  • Enhancing self-service and remote service, including its top-rated mobile app and digital platform.
  • Retraining dozens of employees to support increased call center volume, counseling and Solutions needs, small business PPP requests and Real Estate (refinance) demands.
  • Continuing to serve onsite through drive thrus and innovative curbside service, with continuous process improvements to meet members’ every day banking needs.
  • Prioritizing safer “contactless cards” and mobile card controls: One of the first financial institutions in Minnesota to offer instant-issue contactless cards for all members this summer – more secure and reduced touches. 
Meaningful Communication

“Our mission is to be the best place our members have ever banked, and the best place our employees have ever worked – in a crisis that requires ongoing, transparent communications,” Larson said. To engage employees in these new circumstances, managers met at least weekly with their staffs (via Webex), with periodic all-employee calls hosted by Larson. Frequent intranet updates shared talking points and operational resources.

For members, emails with material updates became a trusted source of information as needed. A COVID-19 web page was promoted as the source of truth for members, with links to specific branch details. Social media had a special role, targeting specific communities and sharing stories of hope and ways to participate in helping their communities – in fact, Affinity Plus participated in the CU4U challenge on social media, in which credit unions showed their support for essential workers throughout the state by delivering lunch. “Thank you” videos from nonprofit partners, such as Second Harvest Heartland and Northwood’s Battered Women’s Shelter, helped share the impact of Community Engagement efforts. How-to videos are now launching to help increase digital banking knowledge, including use of contactless credit and debit cards. 

Engaging the Community

Affinity Plus offered credit union members and employees the opportunity to give back to communities across the state, and they responded in a big way. Through a matching donation with The Affinity Plus Foundation, Affinity Plus and its members donated 30,000 meals in March and April to Second Harvest for those facing food insecurity. Second Harvest is a Charity of Choice for Affinity Plus. In addition, Affinity Plus donated a portion of its brand advertising efforts to nonprofit organizations, including regional and small local nonprofits. Since then, Affinity Plus has committed more than $300,000 additionally to local causes dedicated to addressing basic needs, rebuilding and racial inequities following George Floyd’s death and the unrest that followed.
 
“Employees and members have had to be adaptable on every front, and they’ve responded like champions,” said Larson. “We’re fortunate to serve individuals and communities throughout Minnesota.”

To learn more about Affinity Plus, please visit our website: www.affinityplus.org or our COVID19 homepage: www.affinityplus.org/covid-19.

Based in St. Paul, Minn., Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, financial cooperative that puts people first above profits. Members of Affinity Plus receive maximum value through competitive rates, minimal fees, and unique, member-centric products and programs. Established in 1930, Affinity Plus has 28 branches located throughout Minnesota and is owned by more than 200,000 members. Affinity Plus has over $2 billion in assets. Additional information is available at www.affinityplus.org or by calling (800) 322-7228.