Weathering the Storm
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Weathering the Storm

June 17th, 2019 | 4 min. read

The challenges posed by the government shutdown revealed some encouraging financial behaviors by First Command clients.

As it became clear late in 2018 that the impasse over the border wall was likely to result in a government shutdown, the First Command Bank team began busily making arrangements to help clients likely to be affected. The centerpiece of our financial relief package was the offer of $6.1 million in interest-free direct deposit payroll advances to more than 2,500 federal employees and Coast Guard members. We also provided Coast Guard Mutual Assistance with a $5 million unsecured, interest-free loan to provide financial relief to Coastguardsmen and their families experiencing financial stress as a result of the shutdown.

Once the shutdown was behind us, we began to assess the effectiveness of our efforts. The results were both gratifying and surprising. We were pleased and honored to learn that our outreach efforts had been recognized with a national award from LIMRA, a not-for-profit association serving the financial services industry. More importantly, though, as a company focused on serving the military community, it was gratifying to receive a number of heartwarming responses from our clients. Coast Guard Commander Martha Mannion of Charleston, South Carolina wrote, “Thank you so much again for doing this. This is really amazing and my family appreciates this kind of trust and support during these uncertain times.”

Retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Jim Andersen of Bowie, Maryland wrote, “Your genuine commitment to customer service is truly unprecedented. Instead of having to worry about our financial position during this shutdown, we are able to continue to manage our obligations responsibly. Your offer indicates this is how First Command rewards customer loyalty, but also demonstrates how loyal First Command is to its customers.”

And retired Army Major Cynthia Crum of Leavenworth, Kansas wrote, “I need to tell you that, as of the first offer of this assistance, you all touched my heart and earned my business until the day I die. Thank you for renewing my faith in the human race.” Cynthia’s kind words reminded us how privileged we are to work with and serve clients like her.

One of the most surprising results of the initiative is that a very small percentage – less than eight percent – of our federal employee and Coast Guard clients who were financially affected by the shutdown deemed it necessary to accept our offer. More than one flatly stated that they did not need the loan at this time because of their sound saving and investment practices.

Hearing from clients that were financially prepared for the shutdown was just as gratifying as being able to fulfill the requests of those who determined that they could benefit from temporary financial assistance. Both serve as reminders of the importance of the work we do and inspire us to continue finding creative ways to meet the financial needs of service members and their families.

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