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Identifying and Assisting Accountholders in Times of Natural Disaster

October 21, 2021
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By Jan Trifts and Helen Acke-McComiskey

Wildfires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes – 2020 set a record of 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters across the United States, costing $98.9 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The first six months of 2021 have brought eight additional billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events. This year’s hurricane season has already seen storms batter the Gulf Coast and New England, and 2021 is on track to be another top five worst year for California fires.

When these natural disasters occur, affected people need help from their financial institutions. But how do you identify impacted accountholders, and what are the best ways to help as they deal with their devastating losses? To get answers, we reached out to three Raddon clients who have significant experience dealing with these situations, and they shared their best practices.

Establish a Formal Disaster Management Process

The key to successfully managing a disaster is to have an established, formal process in place before a crisis happens. Response timing is critical when disaster occurs. If your organization doesn’t have a crisis communications team, create one now! This team monitors local emergency management agencies, gets input from employees and watches local media coverage for pending events. Depending on what part of the country your financial institution is in, a dedicated resource may be needed to manage this process.  Disasters always need to take priority, so flexibility in being able to pull resources from other projects and departments is critical.

Identify Impacted Accountholders

There are two approaches using a marketing customer information file (MCIF), such as Integrator Advance™ from Raddon, to identify accountholders who potentially have been impacted by a natural disaster.

  1. Use mapping software to identify the impacted areas within your accountholder base. Locations can be added by entering the address – or latitude and longitude if needed – within the mapping software. Once the map is created, you can access account details on the impacted accountholders. Reports and email/mailing lists can be created for internal and external communications
  1. Append third-party data to your accountholder base. The Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) codes are used to identify the state and county codes for the impacted areas. The U.S. Census Bureau provides updated online FIPS code charts showing the state, county and city information. You can use these FIPS codes when organizations such as FEMA or CAL Fire issue a countywide disaster declaration. The FIPS codes help you easily identify the impacted counties. Once the counties are identified, you can query the database to access the account details for the impacted accountholders. Reports and email/mailing lists can then be created for internal and external communications

Report on Impacted Accountholders

Standard reports and custom reporting within your MCIF tool provide necessary details for internal and external communication. 

  • Create a custom report including names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, key products used, loan totals and deposit totals of the impacted accountholders. Provide this list to management and your IT/IS Department
  • Run a household profile report to see a snapshot of the entire relationship today and trending, which will allow you to track relationship changes over time
  • A product summary report shows the details of products held by the impacted accountholders including the number of accounts and total balances by product
  • Distribution reports allow you to look at the consumer segments, generational segments and profit segments
  • Monitor your transaction data on checking accounts, credit cards and debit cards to gain insight into the needs of the accountholder. What changes are taking place? Have credit card balances increased? If so, would a home improvement consumer loan be a better option for the accountholder? Are transactions taking place at a home improvement store?

Place Account Flags/Indicators on Your Core System

Once the impacted accountholders have been identified, flag their accounts on the core system.

  • Provide the list to your IT/IS Department so flags can be placed on all accounts to state that they are impacted by the current disaster
  • Update these codes nightly as the impacted areas grow (fires continue to spread, hurricanes move to the next state)
  • Staff can use these codes to be aware of potential issues accountholders may be facing due to the disaster and offer appropriate resources, such as waiving fees, deferring loan payments, offering skip-a-pays or personal loans, making them aware of FEMA natural disaster funds and more
  • Track these waivers and deferments over time to show the total financial impact to your financial institution. Report the financial impact totals on your website and on social media

Quickly Communicate With Impacted Accountholders

Reach out to affected accountholders to let them know you are aware of their situation and are ready to help. The preferred way to contact impacted accountholders is through email. Be sure to provide your institution’s best and most reliable contact number and email address.

If you don't have the accountholder’s email address, make phone calls to offer assistance and send follow-up mailers to reinforce that assistance is available, including any special loan offerings, skip-a-pay options, loan deferrals and FEMA assistance. If you can push notifications to the accountholder’s mobile phone, do so.

Provide Updated Accountholder Feedback

The ability to provide feedback from the accountholders to your financial institution should be a key part of your disaster response process.

Have your contact center provide daily reports to management on the number of calls and types of requests being made by the impacted accountholders, and have someone assigned to monitor and reply to accountholder feedback on social media. Set up and use daily group chats to quickly provide updates and feedback to the internal team, and have the branches provide feedback they have received from the impacted accountholders.

In a world of continuing record-breaking natural disasters, a formalized process is key. Timing is critical when your accountholders are impacted. While insurance can help, the reality is when disaster strikes, your accountholders need your financial institution more than ever – from cash to loans to advice. Remember, the goal is to wow the accountholder by proactively reaching out to them and helping in their time of need. Being there to help when disaster strikes can go a long way to creating accountholders for life.

Special thanks to Credit Human Federal Credit Union in Texas, Members First Credit Union in Michigan and SAFE Credit Union in California for sharing their insights.