BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (5/29/14)--A May 28 Business Alabama article discussed the recent growth of state credit unions--as evidenced by their record total of 1.9 million members after the addition of 40,000 newcomers in 2013.
Alabama credit unions have added 150,000 members and grown assets to $18.3 from $13 billion, according to the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU).
With assets that are roughly 10% of those of the state's two largest banks, credit unions have grown through focused grassroots marketing efforts and creating income through innovation and increased technology, said Steve Swofford, president/CEO of $620 million-asset Alabama CU, Tuscaloosa, and LSCU board chair-elect.
Technology has leveled the playing field, according to Merrill Mann, president/CEO of $2.4 billion-asset APCO Employees CU, Birmingham. For example, the credit union introduced online mortgage lending within the past five years, he said. Members can complete and application within 20 minutes from the comfort of their homes. That convenience has helped the credit union increase its lending portfolio considerably.
America's First FCU in Birmingham added mobile banking and mobile check deposit within the past few years, and both offerings have been popular with members, according to Bill Connor, president/CEO of the $1.2 billion-asset credit union.
Swofford said the structure of member-owned credit unions and their focus on members rather than profits are crucial to success. "Our customers are owners of the credit union, and that's a big, big deal," he told Business Alabama. "And at most credit unions, I think great customer service is still a huge deal. I think personal service is a differentiating factor between us and banks."
Credit unions have also lent money to small businesses at a time when many banks wouldn't extend credit, according to Patrick La Pine, LSCU president/CEO.
"Credit unions are doing more commercial lending because there is a niche there to be filled," La Pine told Business Alabama. "Our loans are truly for small businesses, under $250,000 and often under $50,000. There's really a niche in there for us, because the banks don't want to make a loan under $1 million. There's a lot of room for us to help those small business owners."
The Credit Union National Association and credit unions are urging Congress to increase credit unions' MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. CUNA and credit unions say that increasing the cap would open up more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $13 billion in business loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers.