I hope the holidays find you healthy and safe. While 2020 has been the most unusual year that I can recall, it certainly taught me a lot about how resilient our employees and members are. This year, Coastal made, and adapted to, monumental changes in response to the pandemic, and so did you.
We never lost sight of our purpose or our core values, and our members never lost faith in our ability to be there for them. As a result, we can all be a bit more optimistic about what the new year will bring.
COVID Response Updates
Our branch lobbies remain closed to the public in order to keep members and employees safe. We’re anxious to get them reopened, but a long as local COVID statistics continue to trend in the wrong direction, we’re remaining cautious and delaying that decision.
Fortunately, members have welcomed our digital services as a way to get the services they need in the meantime. Phone appointments, drive up tellers, and mobile check deposits have all been very popular. In fact, we’re now handling more check deposits via mobile than we are at teller machines. We plan to add video appointments in the near future, as well. Consumer behavior was already shifting toward digital prior to COVID, and I suspect there will be lasting effects on that behavior long after the pandemic. For that reason, Coastal’s focus for the foreseeable future will be on enhancing our digital offering.
As our authority under the CARES Act to extend loan payments is expiring at the end of December, we recently turned off self-serve Skip-a-Pay. It’s encouraging to note that most of the 29,000 members who took advantage of the payment deferrals have already resumed making normal payments. However, our Member Assistance Program is available for members who still need help addressing their loan obligations. We have also extended our fee waivers on loan and mortgage late fees, as well as the certificate early withdrawal fee, until the end of January.
A Strong Finish to 2020
Being a cooperative and being member-focused means doing the right thing first. This year, we put a lot of financial resources into waiving fees, deferring loan payments, setting aside reserves for potential future loan losses, and adapting our business to continue to operate during COVID. I see those as not as expenses, but as important investments into our members’ and employees’ well-being.
While we aren’t going to have the financially successful year that we had budgeted for, six months ago, our goal was to merely break even on the year. Instead, we’re forecasting finishing the year with respectable financial results.
A Big Start to 2021
We’re already looking to start off 2021 in high gear, and are working on three big member-facing projects for early in the year. We want to continue to enhance our digital channels and add convenience to our payment methods. This includes:
- We will be adding a chat function inside of online banking early in the year. This will enable members to get faster answers to service needs and any general questions you may have.
- We have begun issuing new credit cards as contactless cards, and by spring, we will re-issue all existing credit cards as contactless, as well. We will also begin reissuing contactless debit cards throughout 2021, starting early in the year. Watch your email and mailbox for information, as we will communicate in phases prior to each batch of cards being sent out.
- Finally, also early in the year, we will be converting to a new online bill pay system. It includes a number of improvements to the bill pay experience. We will heavily communicate this project during the first quarter, so you know what to expect, when to expect it, and how you can make the most of the change when it happens.
The hard work that our team is putting into these projects and all of our future plans, has me optimistic about what the new year will bring. Until then, please have a safe, happy and healthy holidays.
President & CEO
Our featured coffee is Honduran Honey from Oak City Coffee Roasters in Garner.