Adding New Layers to Security Procedures during the Pandemic

Adding New Layers to Security Procedures during the Pandemic


Known for their empathetic natures and bend-over-backward service, the employees of financial cooperatives across the nation are no doubt performing minor miracles every day to solve problems for their members. While leaders certainly want to encourage that spirit of helpfulness, they also need to ensure security corners aren’t being cut in the name of smooth service.

As credit union team members juggle member support with everything from branch closures to remote workstations, supervisors and compliance pros must keep security procedures top-of-mind. Below are five supplementary security layers credit unions may consider adding to their procedures to help staff protect members and the cooperative during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

Accelerate Training Timeline: Many member transactions may need to happen in new or uncomfortable ways. Well-meaning employees who want to lessen the burden of change may feel tempted to skirt a few security steps here or there... especially in circumstances where they know the member well. A good way to remind employees of not only what those steps are, but why they exist, can help prevent this. It also provides good knowledge for the employee to stand on should the member express his or her upset. Credit unions may want to consider accelerating the timeline of regularly scheduled security training or even providing weekly security huddles via video conference.

Stick to the Script: Another simple way credit unions can help their employees keep members safe and informed is to develop a script to address any changes in policies, procedures or practices. Let’s say, for instance, a member calls with a complaint about not being able to make credit card payment at a branch. It’s something he dutifully does every month, in person at a location that’s now closed. Ensuring the member receives an explanation as to the reasoning behind the closure, as well as simple instructions on alternatives for payment, is one way the credit union can make change more palatable. A script, accessible to every member-facing employee, not only improves the staff experience, it also ensures all members receive the same information consistently, regardless of which employee they are talking with.  

One More Question: Most credit unions ask members for the answers to two or more security questions to authenticate their identities. With a broadly anticipated increase in identity theft and fraud during the pandemic, it may be wise to add a third or fourth out-of-wallet question to the mix, such as the member’s last transaction or the exact amount of their monthly mortgage payment.

Lock Down Laptops: With a great number of personnel working at home, accessing VPNs from potentially insecure environments and handling untold volumes of member information across a variety of connected systems and networks, it’s not difficult to imagine lapses in security. While IT handles the nitty gritty of infosec and cybersecurity, other teams can help employees practice good security and privacy behaviors, such as locking down a laptop when an employee leaves the room. Because it’s standard practice for credit union employees to lock their computers when leaving desks while working in the branch or office, this should be a fairly easy habit to transition to a remote working environment. Children, spouses, even home repair technicians, can easily pass by an open screen and see something a member expects the credit union to keep private. Credit unions that have the resources may also consider equipping remote employees with privacy filters for their monitors.

Before You Go: Arming members with “ripped from the headlines” fraud and scam warnings can give them the extra motivation they need to be super diligent. Before hanging up the phone, ending a virtual meeting or closing out a chat window, credit union employees may want to share a scam warning or provide a security tip relevant to fraud occurring in their local areas or within communities close by. Members will appreciate the heads up and may think even more highly of their cooperative’s efforts to go above and beyond to keep them financially well.

As “We’re all in this together” messaging continues to resonate with consumers, credit unions would be wise to keep communications in lockstep with any added security measures.  Long before concerns around COVID-19 entered our lives, stepped-up security had a tendency to irritate people – members and staff alike. Now, just as then, credit unions can head off a great deal of ill-will simply by taking a few extra seconds – or lines of copy – to explain that the extra steps are designed to protect individual members as much as the cooperative.