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Super Storm Sandy Offers Lessons to Credit Unions on Disaster Prep, Recovery

Jul 3, 2013 by Lewis Wood

CEOs of Three Credit Unions Affected by Sandy Share Stories With ACUC Audience

From CUNA Mutual Group Public Relations

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Phil Tschudy 608.665.7188
Rick Uhlmann 608.665.8940

NEW YORK – Three CEOs whose credit unions survived Super Storm Sandy last October told an America’s Credit Union Conference Discovery breakout audience Tuesday, that surviving and recovering from such a devastating event requires a well-rehearsed disaster preparation plan and consistent and direct communications with members and staff.

CUNA Mutual Group Property and Casualty Claims Manager Mike Retelle facilitated a panel discussion that included Robert Allen, president and CEO, Teachers Federal Credit Union, Hauppauge, N.Y.; Gene Brody, president and CEO, Bay Ridge Federal Credit Union, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Shawn Gilfedder, president and CEO, McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union, East Windsor, N.J. All three credit unions were greatly impacted by Sandy.

As one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record, Sandy left a swath of destruction 900 miles wide across 24 states, killed at least 80 people in the U.S. alone, and caused more than $65 billion in damage, according to published reports in and the Los Angeles Times. While all of the panelists’ credit unions remained operational during and after the storm, life for many in the affected area has not returned to normal eight months after it occurred.

“Sandy still has a lingering effect on our membership as insurance recoveries have, for the most part, not covered all their damages,” Brody said. “Many of our properties which serve as collateral for our loans are still in need of further renovation and reconstruction.”

The physical and emotional damage caused by Sandy is permanent, Brody added. “Many people had to leave their properties for long periods of time, and some have still not gone back to their homes.”

Teachers Federal Credit Union members were afforded temporary relief from their loan payments for up to six months to have the necessary cash flow to fix their properties. The credit union also offered new loans to help affected members renovate their properties and gave employees time off to tend to their properties as well as cash or loan assistance, if needed.

Despite having disaster preparation plans in place, Sandy and its aftermath identified areas for improvement within those plans. The three panelists offered the following recommendations to their colleagues:

  • Review and update the credit unions’ disasters preparedness policy and procedures on an ongoing basis
  • Practice leadership before a crisis, have a documented plan representing all facets of your organization and be prepared for the unknown
  • Maintain consistent and direct communication with staff and members
  • Realize perception will become reality if not managed during and after the crisis
  • Identify staff’s personal needs. They are impacted by these events personally just like members
  • Employees’ core values showcase themselves during times of crisis – make sure all employees have a clear vision of the organization’s mission and vision

Retelle said he has seen time and again in his 30-plus years at CUNA Mutual Group that during stressful times the bond between a credit union, its staff, and its members can often be strengthened. Being prepared to successfully react to a major crisis will showcase a credit union’s focus and core values.

“The actions taken by these credit unions spoke volumes to their staffs and members that even in the worst of times the credit union was willing to help on the personal side and still make sure the member’s financial needs were cared for. They showed that their staffs are more than just employees and their members more than just an account number; they are all part of the credit union’s family.”

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CUNA Mutual Group insurance, retirement and investment products provide financial security and protection to credit unions and their members worldwide. With more than 75 years of true market commitment, CUNA Mutual Group’s vision is unwavering: To be a trusted business partner who delivers service excellence through customer-focused products and market-driven insight. More information on the company is available on the company’s website at

CUNA Mutual Group is the marketing name for CUNA Mutual Holding Company, a mutual insurance holding company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Life, accident, health and annuity insurance products are issued by CMFG Life Insurance Company. Property and casualty insurance products are issued by CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc. Each insurer is solely responsible for the financial obligations under the policies and contracts it issues. Corporate headquarters are located in Madison, Wisconsin.


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