In addition to the obvious advantages of outsourcing certain credit union functions – cost savings, freeing up staff, enhancing member service – you can add one more. That is recovering more quickly after a disaster, as several credit unions found out during a couple of last year’s high-profile storms.

When you have a natural disaster such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas or Hurricane Irma in Florida, there is a vast list of concerns for a credit union’s executive team.

First you worry about the safety and security of your own personnel. Then the condition of your branches. Are they flooded? Do they have power? Can you get people there to open them?

Then you look to how you can best serve your members, via branches, online banking, mobile banking, or your ATMs, since in the wake of a disaster quick access to cash can be critical for those affected.

David Frazier, President and CEO of Community Resource Credit Union in Baytown, Texas – where several feet of rain fell during Hurricane Harvey – can attest to the stress involved in the aftermath of that storm.

“With a natural disaster the size of Hurricane Harvey, the impact is widespread both personally and professionally,” Frazier said as he reflected on last August’s deluge.

“After knowing our people were safe, my focus moved to assessing the damage at our branches and getting them back in operation as quickly as possible. Our staff worked closely with Dolphin Debit to identify impacted ATMs, and I knew they would take care of the ATMs so we could focus on our people and our branches.”

A Houston-based credit union had one of its ATMs located in a county building that was immediately condemned because of flood damage, and they were given 24 hours to get their ATM – filled with thousands of dollars in cash – out of the building, or it would be carted off as trash.

With all they had going on at that point, the credit union would never have had the chance to rescue that ATM. But because they outsourced their entire ATM fleet, the responsibility for that ATM was Dolphin Debit’s. We managed to remove it from the facility that same day and salvage the contaminated cash inside it. The ATM was a complete loss, but that wasn’t the credit union’s worry; Dolphin Debit will purchase and install a new ATM when the facility is back in operation.

Among the many functions that credit unions might choose to outsource, the ATM is unique in that it is a physical asset subject to damage in any kind of disaster, from hurricanes to earthquakes to tornados, wildfires, and mudslides. Dealing with the contaminated cash, for instance, represents a huge expense, but one that the credit union did not have to deal with since the ATMs were Dolphin Debit’s responsibility.
The same is true for repairing or replacing damaged ATMs after a natural disaster.

Considering the widespread damage of Hurricane Harvey, it was nothing short of amazing that only half a dozen ATMs were damaged, out of the hundreds of ATMs that Dolphin Debit manages for clients in the region. But when credit unions strive to restore service and help their members recover after a major disaster, even one ATM that isn’t available when a member needs it is too many.

By Gary Walston

Dolphin Debit