As we reflect upon 2020 and our credit union’s navigation of the challenges that COVID and the pandemic had on our operations and, more importantly, our members, words like gratitude, strength and cooperation immediately come to mind. Yes, 2020 was a year few, if any, of us have experienced before in our lifetimes, but our credit union, our members and our communities showed tremendous resolve and we navigated it together with a common purpose that reminds us of who we are and what we do.
While helping and assisting people and communities is what Town & Country has done since we were founded 68 years ago, sometimes it takes difficult times and adversity to highlight the value of cooperation and a commitment to making a difference.
Despite sometimes trying and ever-changing circumstances, we persevered and accomplished a great deal in 2020 because we were ready and willing to pivot, evolve and make decisions based on our members’ needs. In fact, by remaining true to our vision of delivering financial services that are singularly focused on our top priority - serving our member owners, Town & Country was one of only a handful of credit unions in Maine to be named ‘One of the Best Credit Unions in Maine’ by Forbes in 2020.
So, before we officially put 2020 in the archives, here are just a few of the things we’re grateful for from the past year.
Once the pandemic became a full-blown national and state emergency in early March of 2020, our growth became secondary in our priorities. While the only bottom line we are concerned with is the well-being of our members, we do have a responsibility to ensure we maintain a strong and stable financial position to serve our members’ needs. Thanks to our wonderful member loyalty and trust, Town & Country finished 2020 well-positioned and poised for the year ahead. Assets and member shares led our growth in 2020, while lending and membership held steady in an environment that saw many credit unions and financial institutions experience negative numbers. Year-over-year asset growth saw an impressive double digit increase of nearly 12%, with member share growth among the highest in the state at close to 21% and return on assets placed in the top five among peers at a healthy .79%. Town & Country also held its spot as Maine’s second largest credit union with just under 40,000 members.
Finding Creative Ways to Help and Say, “Yes”
Not only do we appreciate our members’ support during the past year, but we have heard from many members appreciative of the assistance we were able to provide in their time of need. Within days of the state of emergency declaration, Town & Country was the first credit union in Maine to offer a Crisis Assistance Relief Loan with a special rate and terms, which members have and continue to be able to utilize. In addition, we deferred over 2,000 loans in 2020, refunded and waived hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, and provided unique, one-on-one personalized attention and service to find solutions to individual member needs. We reinforced countless times over the past year that assisting our members in good times and in more difficult ones is when we truly shine. While at times the easiest answer may have been to say “No” to a member request or problem, we worked hard to find ways to say “Yes”!
“Because of our significant investment and experience with technology, we were able to seamlessly transition members to alternative delivery channels for banking services.”
- David Libby, President and CEO
For many years, we have been a leader in integrating and utilizing technology to compliment our personal service. Because of our significant investment and experience with technology, we were able to seamlessly transition members to alternative delivery channels for banking services. Use of our mobile app and online banking services soared over the past year, including many new users who tried this technology for the first time and gave it rave reviews. As a founding member of the Shared Branching Network in Maine, our members were able to access services and perform most transactions at nearly 180 branch locations in the state and close to 6,000 nationwide, minimizing the impact of temporary branch closures and hours of operation changes as a result of the pandemic. Recognizing the need to offer in-branch appointments and other options, we introduced the ‘For Town and Country and As YOU Wish’ scheduling platform in early September. This system offers members an opportunity to schedule in-branch, phone, curbside and, in December, video appointments. This has allowed us to serve our members in a healthy, convenient, and safe manner. Finally, in August, we introduced a healthier way to pay by becoming the first credit union in Maine to offer a contactless debit card, which allows members to show, pay and be on their way.
We have long held the belief that being part of a community is much more than having a sign on the road. Because of that belief, we have a tradition of supporting, being engaged and involved, and giving back to our community that is nearly unmatched. The reason we believe so strongly in helping our community is simple – it’s the right thing to do.
In 2020, we brought our community support to a new level with the launch of ‘Local Helping Local’, a near-immediate response to helping local businesses, non-profits and other organizations significantly impacted by the pandemic. Through ‘Local Helping Local’, we supported close to 500 local restaurants, small businesses, and non-profits by purchasing and giving away tens of thousands of dollars in gift cards through our Facebook and Instagram pages. Additionally, we were among the first organizations to purchase meals for frontline healthcare workers and provide hand sanitizer to healthcare personnel, as well as provide funds for more than 10,000 meals for older adults and children. ‘Local Helping Local’ also partnered with countless non-profits including the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland to provide essential funding for pet care during the pandemic.
“We reinforced countless times over the past year that assisting our members in good times and in more difficult ones is when we truly shine.”
- Jane Torres, Board Chair
Our employees are what makes Town & Country who we are. From our frontline branch staff who never missed a beat and demonstrated their commitment to serving our members no matter what, our Member Call Center staff who took extra care to answer member calls and emails and work diligently to find solutions and answers, to our lenders who worked tirelessly to consolidate and defer loans to provide relief to members, to our remaining staff who adapted to working in different locations to support the needs of the credit union and our members. Our entire staff deserves our sincere appreciation for going above and beyond throughout the past year. In your own ways, each of you have truly been amazing!
Though we are certainly ready to move forward from 2020 and its many challenges and heartaches it brought to so many, we are also filled with gratitude for our frontline and essential workers, the renewed sense of helping one another, and the promise of better and healthier days ahead with vaccines and other treatments.
Farewell to 2020, and here’s to a 2021 that is defined by a new theme, ‘For Town and Country and Hope’. To our member owners, our dedicated staff, and our volunteer board of directors, thank you.
Jane Torres, Board Chair
David Libby, President and CEO