RALEIGH, N.C.-The No. 1 thing State Employees' CU here made a point of doing during the recession was asking members to come in and talk. That may not seem like much, but SECU believes it helped keep more than 8,000 SECU members in their homes.

"Basically we said if you're struggling with making your mortgage payments, come in and talk to us," said Mike Lord, SVP finance and accounting at SECU. "We'll do a financial assessment, and we will help in any way we can to make your finances and your current financial situation handle the obligations you have."

The key to all of that was SECU's Mortgage Assistance Program (MAP), which launched in February 2009. As soon as members hit the 30-day delinquency mark, SECU contacts them.

"We're reaching out to our members as soon as we have any indication that there might be a financial challenge," said Lord. Mortgages originated outside of SECU are also eligible for MAP, and the 1.7-million-member, $24-billion credit union has also worked with the state to include information in layoff packets about how SECU can help.

Making House Calls

As part of MAP, SECU reps meet with members at the branch or even in their homes, and financial assessments examine every expense the member has-including everything from cell phone bills to cable TV to dance lessons-to help come up with a realistic financial plan.

Rather than a cookie-cutter approach, SECU created individualized plans, including payment extensions, waiving late fees, accepting partial payments for a set period of time or-if the member qualifies-offering loan modifications. In the case of loan modifications, rates are reduced to current rates; there are no special rates associated with MAP.

As of the end of May, more than 8,000 members have gone through the program, with 5,200 considered successful, having made six consecutive loan payments or 11 out of the last 12 scheduled payments, and up to date on current mortgage payment activity. 2,100 members are currently in the program; fewer than 700 MAP participants have gone into foreclosure.

"Not all of our MAP plans work out, and sometimes we have to foreclose," said Lord. "But we're trying to provide the best opportunity for members to get back on their feet financially and to save their home."

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