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By Shelley Regin, NEFMA Vice President

I don’t know about you, but do you feel like you survived the Hunger Games circa 2020? I for one am happy to say goodbye to 2020 and its never-ending uncertainties. As we kicked off 2021, we thought we would be putting all this chaos behind us and enjoying the much-needed clarity the New Year offered. We have a long way to go, but let’s continue to be hopeful that the New Year will bring peace, unity, and kindness.

Let’s take a look back at 2020 – March brought about the COVID-19 pandemic, and with that – so much ambiguity. I think we can all agree; it has been a roller coaster of a ride for the past several months. Bank marketer challenges certainly do not compare to that of our healthcare workers, food pantries, homeless shelters, or small businesses. However, we did have to pivot quickly to help companies in our regions navigate this very stressful financial time in our history. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, we tried to process what a pandemic meant to our organizations and us personally. After digesting the pandemic’s enormity and taking appropriate actions for our staff and customers, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was quickly put into place with ever changing processes for lending teams’ to follow. Marketing plans had to refocus efforts on a very intensive communication process to assure our communities we were there to help them. The New Year began with an additional round of PPP support. Marketing departments had to shift gears again just as we began to implement 2021 marketing plans for the New Year. Hence, my word of the year for 2020 was “pivot” and continues into 2021!

The past ten months also found us with increased communications as we tried to educate customers on the various digital channels or alternatives to conduct banking transactions. Most branches closed lobbies in March to keep our staff and customers safe. Unfortunately, customers were sometimes sentenced to long wait times at drive-up windows. At the same time, our teams needed to learn to cope with a never-ending line of customers. Calls flooded Customer Support Centers with those looking for information on how to use mobile apps or ask when they could expect to receive their stimulus checks. Our teams had to manage multiple means of communication messages and, in some cases, new delivery channels. Teams worked day and night to help their customers and banks became a much-needed resource for easing anxiety for businesses and home owners alike. Customers placed their trust in community banks for a reason, and we were there to support them every step of the way.

Back at the NEFMA camp, we had a pivotal year for growth. In February, board members met to participate in a brainstorming session. We spent an entire day dedicated to truly understanding what NEFMA means to our members. What was our unique value proposition? Board members created a new mission statement for the organization, led by Christine Tieri, Brand Strategist and notable former Board Member. The board ultimately landed on the following:

• Educate and inform individuals involved in financial services marketing on topics critical to their success.
• Offer a practical forum for meaningful exchange of information.
• Provide ample opportunity for the professional growth of the membership.
• Assist financial institutions in achieving positive bottom-line impact via sound marketing practices.

“We are leaders in the New England financial marketing community encouraging members to explore, share, expand, build, network, and grow.” We are delighted with the result and hope you will agree that this mission represents NEFMA’s personality.

NEFMA changed its management company to Audience Development Strategies led by Barbara Dimauro. Barb and her team have worked very hard to attract new members, added new board members which has added depth and breadth to our committees and several new sponsors have joined NEFMA. All of these additions allows NEFMA to support our growing membership initiatives with fresh new ideas. We also held an incredible virtual conference in October with member attendance at the level of in-person events. We are very proud of our efforts and are thrilled to have been able to serve up valuable content during the pandemic. Comments from attendees were very positive, and they were impressed at the level of execution and excitement that was delivered.

For other notables in 2020, check out our new website created by the ADS team. We also reintroduced the Membership Directory and launched Coffee Chats to keep us all connected throughout the year. In March, we are holding a virtual Awards Show to feature all the great work that was created throughout New England Banks and Credit Unions over the past year. Overall, NEFMA made significant changes for the better in 2020. As we navigate the next few years, we will continue to benefit from the incredible work we did in 2020. Let’s all celebrate this network of amazing people that are a part of NEFMA. Cheers to brighter days ahead and hope that we will all be together again soon enough!