5 ways credit unions are growing and staying strong

At NAFCU, our CEO, Dan Berger, has been saying that it’s a good time to be a credit union. Credit unions are facing challenges, but we see ample evidence that the industry is growing and strong.

There’s something in the nature of credit unions that makes them resilient! Here’s a look at five important ways in which credit unions are growing and positioning themselves for future success:

Growing membership

According to the latest call report data, membership in federally insured credit unions went up 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. That means the industry is up by more than 3 million members since 2013. From the first “Bank Transfer Day” in 2011 to the many and myriad ways credit unions are reaching out to educate communities every day, consumers are definitely getting the message.

Growing income

Credit unions are growing their net income, with total net income last year of $8.8 billion, up 8 percent from 2013. Credit unions saw their highest percentage loan growth since 2005, with loans up 10.4 percent from 2013 to a total of $950.8 billion at the end of last year.

PrimeWay Federal Credit Union of Houston, Texas, is part of this positive trend. Primeway President and CEO Annette Zimmerman won the Credit Union Times 2015 CEO of the Year award for her leadership in helping the credit union navigate a merger and grow her credit union’s loan portfolio from $225 million in December 2010 to $311.4 million in December 2014. Zimmerman praised her board, staff and members, and said, “If you put quality service first, better earnings will follow.”

Growing engagement

Credit unions’ engagement with their communities is growing. That’s obvious when you look at the numbers for membership and loans, but it’s also clear when you hear stories like the one I recently read about San Francisco Federal Credit Union in Credit Union Times. They created a three-tier Relationship Rewards program that offers an array of free services and levels of ATM reimbursement. This new program has attracted 1,000 members since November! Senior Vice President and COO Jude Gogan explained, “Our goal is to make our members’ financial lives easy.”

Growing influence

Credit unions can exert influence in a lot of different ways. One recent example is First Tech Federal Credit Union of Mountain View, Calif., which has partnered with MasterCard to create a biometric-based authentication program. The program will include a combination of facial and voice recognition as well as fingerprint matching. As First Tech takes this step toward even stronger data security, they will prompt others to follow. Further, it’s more evidence about how serious credit unions are about data security.

Growing consumer trust

Once again, in November 2014, the American Customer Satisfaction Index found that credit unions rank first in customer satisfaction – with an average score of 85, compared to the average bank score of 76. The Washington Post noted that retail bank scores dropped 2.6 percent last year but that “Americans are much happier, meanwhile, with their credit unions.”

Are your members happy? Are they engaged? Are you and your colleagues in the industry sharing in the successes cited above? We’ll be talking and hearing more about that in June, when NAFCU holds its 48th Annual Conference and Solutions Expo in Montreal. It will be a great opportunity to compare notes on why it’s a great time to be a credit union – and to talk about ways we can continue to grow more and become even better.

Lisa Cox

Lisa Cox

Cox oversees NAFCU’s major educational events and the delivery of bi-weekly webcasts. NAFCU’s largest event, its Annual Conference and Solutions Expo, attracts thousands of industry participants. Cox joined ... Web: www.nafcu.org Details