Six credit unions recognized for lending excellence at the CUNA Lending Council Conference

CUNA Mutual Group, CUNA Lending Council Celebrate Industry’s Consumer, Mortgage, Business, and Low-to-Modest Means Lending Winners

MADISON, WI (November 13, 2017) — Six credit unions were recognized for their exemplary lending practices and results today by receiving an Excellence in Lending Award during the 23rd CUNA Lending Council Annual Conference. CUNA Mutual Group, with support and expertise from CUNA Lending Council, honored these credit unions that have implemented outstanding lending programs while demonstrating sound financial performance.

CUNA Mutual Group’s Andrea Stritzke, director of lending compliance, presented the following awards:

–  Citymark Federal Credit Union, Wilkes Barre, Penn., Consumer Lending for assets less than $250 million
–  Y-12 Federal Credit Union, Oak Ridge, Tenn., Consumer Lending for assets greater than $250 million
–  Pima Federal Credit Union, Tucson, Ariz., Mortgage Lending
–  VyStar Credit Union, Jacksonville, Fla., Business Lending
–  Fitzsimons Credit Union, Aurora, Colo., Low-to-Modest Means Lending for assets less than $250 million
–  CASE Credit Union, Lansing, Mich., Low-to-Modest Means Lending for assets greater than $250 million.

This annual award program provides an opportunity for credit unions to share best practices, network and celebrate lending excellence across the industry. The following provides more detail on this year’s winners:

Consumer Lending:
Lending award judges recognized Citymark Federal Credit Union for a remarkable turnaround resulting from a series of successful strategies to win members’ loan business. The credit union introduced risk-based relationship pricing to offer more competitive rates. Employees are trained as universal employees able to accept loan applications and underwrite and disburse loans. Employees earn sales incentives for bringing in new and refinanced loans and related products, and they look to improve the service they provide based on feedback from members and the board. Citymark employees aim to foster an informal, friendly environment where members feel welcome. In combination, these initiatives have helped the credit union forge stronger, more profitable ties with members—and, in the bargain, improve financial performance. With $33 million in new loan volume as of July, the loan-to-share ratio has more than tripled to 97 percent, and the return on assets moved from negative territory to 1.67 percent.

Among larger credit unions, Y-12 Federal Credit Union was honored for its multifaceted approach to growing consumer lending, including improving the borrower experience, saying yes to more loans and enhancing operational efficiency. After hiring a new director of lending, the credit union reorganized and centralized its lending staff and rewrote its loan policy and manual with a major shift to manage risk, not avoid it. Direct and indirect lending were consolidated into a single new platform, and e-signatures were introduced to further streamline the process. Y-12 also introduced new products, like the ULTRA personal loan with terms up to 6 years, which is unique in its market, and a simplified, more member-friendly HELOC loan. All of those improvements combined to increase loan volume by 30 percent in 2015 and 24 percent in 2016.

Mortgage Lending:
Pima Federal Credit Union was lauded for its successful effort to enhance its reputation as a mortgage lender. The credit union hired a new director of home loan originations, who expanded the team, introduced sales incentives, and moved mortgage lenders out to the branches. That higher profile, both with members and in the wider community, helped grow mortgage loan volume from under $15 million in 2013 to $42 million last year. The credit union also expanded its portfolio offerings and introduced paperless processing and a streamlined file flow to decrease loan turnaround time from 45 to 32 days. More members and professionals in the home-buying market recognize Pima as a can-do, efficient mortgage lender, which translates to more loans, more revenue production, and higher member satisfaction.

Business Lending:
Lending award judges applauded VyStar Credit Union for its risk-based lending approach and enterprise-wide commitment to serving business members. The credit union developed risk-based lending policies and procedures to serve businesses across stages from start-up through full maturity, and its product offerings reflect that range. For example, small and start-up businesses can apply for a Micro Business Platinum Visa. For larger established businesses, VyStar adjusted its secured credit model and pricing matrix for equipment and vehicle loans, which increased the approval ratio for these loans by more than 50 percent. Branch and call center staff are trained to help create awareness about business services in their interactions with members. This all-in strategy has helped the credit union grow its business membership and lending consistently over the last decade. In 2016, its business loan portfolio increased 11.7 percent, with more than $45 million in new loans booked.

Low-to-Modest Means Lending:
Both of the credit unions honored for lending to people of modest means demonstrate that making this commitment can be good for members and for business. Fitzsimons Credit Union aims for a balanced approach in lending by offsetting its low-dollar loan programs to lower-income members with growth in mortgage and auto loans. More than a quarter of the residents in its home base of Aurora, Colo., are Hispanic and Latino, so the credit union has developed specialized loan products for those members. It makes loans to members without legal status, who present their Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Its DREAMer loans for DACA-eligible members—which offer up to $700 at no interest for a $30 processing fee—were revised in 2015 to expand eligibility for all citizenship and naturalization-related purposes. In 2016, Fitzsimons was awarded the “Juntos Avanzamos” (“Together We Advance”) designation by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. It is one of only two financial cooperatives in Colorado to be recognized for outreach to the Hispanic community. Fitzsimons also leads its peers in offering Partners Instant Cash loans as an alternative to payday lending.

As one judge noted, CASE Credit Union’s “strategy to lift up the underbanked in a respectful manner is clear in its mission ‘To assist members to achieve financial success.’” As a Community Development Financial Institution, CASE serves a membership in which the majority are low to modest means. The credit union has worked with community groups to develop loan programs that meet its members’ special needs. Its Borrow and Save Loan Launch helps borrowers develop a savings habit by providing 50 percent of the loan amount up front and setting the rest aside in a savings account that is released when the loan is paid off. The Responsible Ride Auto Loan Program removes vehicle year and mileage guidelines so members can obtain financing for lower-cost vehicles. The Property Tax Foreclosure Home Equity Pilot Program offers financial counseling and loans for members who own homes outright but are in danger of foreclosure for failure to pay property taxes. For these and other programs, financial performance is closely monitored, but the board and executive team have agreed to accept higher delinquency rates to serve members of low to modest means.

The Excellent in Lending Awards accepts all affiliated credit unions in the United States, except for credit unions that received this award within the last three years. Applications are evaluated on the credit union’s strategy, programs and performance, and awarded based on the credit union’s ability to serve members while sustaining sound financial performance for the year 2016.

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About the CUNA Lending Council:

The CUNA Lending Council is a community of more than 1,300 credit union lending professionals dedicated to being the primary source of best lending practices and educational opportunities for the credit union industry. More information is available at:


Allison Fanney

Barclay Pollak

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