As credit unions along the coast prepare for the threat posed by Hurricane Irene, the value of the Shared Branching Network as a key disaster recovery tool is once again being underscored. The Shared Branching Network allows members of participating credit unions the opportunity to make deposits, withdrawals, loan payments and account transfers at Shared Branching locations throughout the country. Members need only produce a photo ID and credit union account information to transact business at the nearly 4,400 locations nationwide.
While Shared Branching is most often viewed as a member convenience, it becomes a real lifeline in times of disaster. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana & Mississippi and forced thousands of people to evacuate far from their homes – some for many months.
In a 2005 Credit Union Times article, Louisiana Credit Union League CEO Anne Cochran credited Shared Branching with providing a service lifeline to displaced members. "The service center network has saved the Louisiana credit union movement from a PR nightmare," she noted at the time, "and given many of the New Orleans and surrounding affected parishes members with a method to get cash into their hands fast."
“Credit unions really began to see the value of Shared Branching after Katrina hit,” said Eric Gelly, the EVP/COO of the NC Credit Union League. Gelly notes that the Shared Branching footprint has expanded in NC to include all regions of the state and now encompasses nearly 60 locations statewide. The recent addition of a Smartphone App means that members can tap into the convenience of Shared Branching more easily than ever.
While the impacts of Irene are not expected to be nearly as extreme as Katrina, Gelly notes that many parts of NC have seen severe impacts from hurricanes and other natural disasters over the years. "Credit unions in NC have focused a lot of time and resources on disaster planning in the last several years - and for very good reason. Shared Branching can be a really helpful piece of the recovery puzzle when disasters strike."