Banking facilitates some of life’s biggest decisions. While banking is also central to smaller, everyday transactions, members are more aware of their connection to their financial institution when there’s a larger decision to consider. These bigger decisions are invariably emotional and they need to be treated differently than everyday banking. The experience needs to be more humanized. One credit union that knows this and acts on it is Harborstone. 

Humanized support system
During the pandemic, which proved to be a very emotional time for many, Harborstone created a truly humanized support system for its members. Rather than waiting for members to ask for help, Harborstone reached out to members to offer them the help they needed, as their circumstances changed. In this way, they showed members their dedication through various outreach strategies such as wellness calls, and advice and guidance from a team of dedicated personnel, their COVID Financial Navigators. Through this new system, Harborstone demonstrated their commitment to members – showing their concern for their members’ emotional and financial wellbeing. So successful is this approach for members and Harborstone alike that it has transformed how the credit union supports their members when they are making the biggest decisions of their lives.  

Relational more than transactional approach
Harborstone has always been focused on developing trusted and deeper relationships with their members. Their approach is more than the average transaction – it’s relational. Back in March 2020, Harborstone augmented their approach by assembling a dedicated team of COVID Financial Navigators. They virtually helped members who needed extra guidance and support on complex matters, such as an emergency loan, waiving a skip-a-payment fee, or providing support to those who faced unemployment. Harborstone also introduced wellness calls to check in on members who might be feeling isolated and to ensure they were aware of the financial support available to them as a result of the pandemic, such as PPP loans for their business members.


Banking central to life’s big decisions 
Harborstone applies its virtual support system to every banking situation. It recognizes that they are not just providing debt and deposit functionality but are also central to their members’ biggest and most emotional decisions. One such decision is buying a home, which is one of the biggest financial commitments anyone will ever make. Harborstone is working to assemble a team of Mortgage Navigators who will help members gain a deeper understanding of the home buying experience. Given the number of parties involved in the homebuying, a Mortgage Navigator would serve as the liaison between parties, answering questions along the way to support members through the process and ensuring a seamless experience through digital and in-person channels. 

As part of its strategy to humanize digital banking, Harborstone meets members where they are at in their financial journey. Vice president of digital experience at Harborstone Credit Union, Ken Bloomfield said that they support members throughout their financial journey in this contactless world. 

Money management coaches
Harborstone’s money management coaches have conversations with members about their relationship with money. They identify a need, which this year was Covid-19 relief. “We can train financial navigators in any subject matter and that’s what we’re building right now – a small team that is hyper-focused on home ownership, not just mortgages and rates, but the different options people have. It’s an emotional experience and a home is one of the largest purchases people make in a lifetime,” added Ken. “Everyday banking is traditionally seen as transactional, and typically focuses on the tools a member needs to manage their day-to-day banking, like a checking account, a debit card, mobile and online banking tools, and in recent years the addition of contactless and virtual tools like tap-to-pay and digital wallets.” However, what differentiates Harborstone in their approach is knowing members cannot be fully served through transactional banking alone. By offering emotional support, they have a unique approach to creating a relationship with members in a virtual environment.

Financial empowerment and trusted relationships
In this new contactless world, Harborstone is creating thriving communities and helping members achieve their full potential through trusted relationships. “We achieve this through financial empowerment, which is the link between financial education and financial literacy all the way to financial well-being and prosperity. This gives members the tools, resources, products and services that match where they are on their financial journey,” continued Ken.

What will happen when we return to ‘normal’? Harborstone prides itself on being fanatical about relationships and it’s more humanized approach to digital banking will continue into the future. “We’re going to continue building relationships. We’re always trying to bring more awareness to members that they can self-serve from their mobile app or online banking, and we still have so many members who like to pop in or drive up to check their account balance. For a lot of people, it’s about retraining, so there’s comfort in knowing that your branch is right down the street, but we also want to make sure people understand that if they’re trying to save time or if they’re uncomfortable with person-to-person contact right now, using the mobile app is an option too,” said Stephanie Moore, marketing communications manager at Harborstone Credit Union.

Human-centric banking
Harborstone’s quick reaction to the pandemic shows how with the right conversations and approach, members can be empowered to help themselves in their banking decisions. Being there for them emotionally, giving them access to tools and going the extra mile – not just being focused on loans and credit cards and deposits – gives them financial freedom. Harborstone Credit Union’s unwavering commitment to its relationship with members and humanizing their banking experience is impressive. 

That human-centric approach makes all the difference to members as they face financial decisions while navigating a digital-first new normal.