In October, State Employees Credit Union of New Mexico took home the grand prize in the first annual Right on the Money Championship, hosted by CUInsight and CRMNEXT. As the leading digital source of news among credit unions in the U.S., CUInsight organized the friendly competition to acknowledge credit unions rising up to face the unprecedented challenges the novel coronavirus has introduced.
State ECU topped the list among 50 competing credit unions for its innovative Education Labs, which mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on working parents. The public health crisis brought on a wave of distance-learning and school closures. Parents with school-aged children faced tough choices between caring for their kids and maintaining their jobs.
Deborah Sparks, chief human resources officer for the credit union, acknowledged this balancing act in an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican. “We have these parents, oftentimes single parents, who don’t know what they’re going to do. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard spot. They need to educate their children, but they also need a job to feed their children,” she said.
In response, State ECU set up classrooms in each of its eight branches and invited staff members’ to bring their children to work. State ECU provided equipment and staffed each education lab with a tutor or monitor to oversee employees’ children. In August, 32 children were enrolled in the program. COVID-19 precautions, including mask wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand sanitation, are all in place. These labs allowed children to continue their educations while easing parents’ worries.
In their remarks on the winning program, the Right on the Money Championship judges acknowledged that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on women because childcare falls more heavily to women than men. Although the State ECU education labs were not specifically presented as a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative, the judges, which included CUInsight CEO Lauren Culp, believed the labs were just that. In its announcement, CUInsight observed that State ECU, “ensured that all their employees, especially women, were able to bring their whole selves into work because they could bring their kids with them.”
Ultimately, with their children well cared for, employees were able to devote themselves to serving the credit union’s 48,000 members well. The credit union plans to continue the program for as long as it’s needed — awards or not. “We have a motto here at the credit union, ‘I’ve got your back,’ and I think this exemplifies that motto,” Sparks said. “We have our employees’ backs. We’ve always felt that if you take good care of the employees, they will take good care of you and our members.”
The Right on the Money Championship also acknowledged InRoads Credit Union, which took home second place for its efforts to allow members to chat face-to-face with advisors at the drive-thru as well as via its app. CUInsight awarded third place to Infinity Federal Credit Union for its initiative to encourage random acts of kindness.