CUNA Lending Council Conference
EIL Winners 12

Six CUs Honored for Lending Excellence

A record 84 CUs considered for awards presented at CUNA Lending Council Conference.

November 8, 2012

EIL Winners 12

Six credit unions were recognized for their exemplary lending Monday by receiving CUNA Mutual Group’s Excellence in Lending Awards at the CUNA Lending Council’s 18th annual conference in Miami.

Dan Murray, vice president, lending, CUNA Mutual Group, presented the 13th annual awards to:

  • United Nations Federal Credit Union, Long Island City, N.Y.: consumer lending category (assets more than $250 million);
  • Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union, Berkeley, Calif.: consumer lending category (assets less than $250 million);
  • Sunmark Federal Credit Union, Albany, N.Y.: mortgage lending category (assets more than $250 million);
  • Northeast Community Credit Union, Elizabethton, Tenn., mortgage lending category (assets less than $250 million);
  • Gesa Credit Union, Richland, Wash.: business lending category;
  • U.S. New Mexico Federal Credit Union, Albuquerque, N.M.: low-to-modest means category;

“We had a record number of applications this year,” says Murray. “But it wasn’t just quantity, there were many quality, deserving applicants. In a challenging economy, it speaks to the resolve and creativity of our nominees.”

Eighty-four credit unions were considered for this year’s Excellence in Lending Awards, the most in the award program’s 13-year history. More about the top credit union honorees in the six categories:

CONSUMER – assets more than $250 million:

United Nations Federal Credit Union ($3.7 billion assets; 97,000 members) – A 2003 Excellence in Lending winner in the Mortgage category, United Nations Federal is no stranger to providing a high quality suite of financial products and services. The Long Island City, N.Y., credit union offers a unique line of products and services to satisfy the diverse needs of its members, who are located in more than 200 territories and countries around the world. United Nations Federal mitigates loan risk through its Country Scoring process, a sophisticated risk monitoring system that takes into account loan-to-share, GDP growth, and currency. The credit union also has an array of savings, loan, investment, and insurance products that address the special needs of its widely dispersed membership. In short, United Nations Federal lives and breathes its mission of “Serving People who Serve the World.”

CONSUMER – assets less than $250 million:

Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union ($102 million in assets; 13,000 members) – The Berkeley, Calif., credit union built its lending program from the ground up by establishing strong relationships with vehicle dealers through an indirect program. Among some creative lending initiatives was its “Stimulus Bailout,” an unsecured debt consolidation loan to help members shed their high interest credit card or payday loans. Given its membership base is largely UC-Berkeley staff and students, private student loans became a component of Cooperative Center FCU’s lending portfolio. Further diversifying its lending portfolio is the small business program, which is SBA certified and tied to a state program that guarantees up to 80% of the loan amount.

MORTGAGE – assets more than $250 million:

Sunmark Federal Credit Union ($364 million in assets; 46,000+ members) – Sunmark Federal of Latham, N.Y., took a holistic approach to mortgage lending through strategic hires, department restructuring, offering competitive rates and by expanding its products. Sunmark exhibited flexibility when it shifted from a refinance focus in 2009 and 2010 to purchase volume in 2011 and 2012. A decision to develop strong Realtor relationships helped Sunmark Federal grow its purchase business from 10% of its portfolio to 30% today. Sunmark Federal also has a diverse marketing strategy, including direct mail. Product offerings have also increased, including no closing costs and no-PMI mortgage options being introduced in August 2011. One campaign this year brought in 78 mortgage loans totaling $13.8 million.

MORTGAGE – assets less than $250 million:

Northeast Community Credit Union ($80 million in assets; 9,000+ members) – Northeast Community of Elizabethton, Tenn., may not be big, but it thinks big. It developed a mortgage strategy and successfully executed on it by offering residential real estate loans with greatly reduced closing costs, then blanketed its area with news of it. Northeast Community established a $500 flat-fee closing cost on first mortgages and made it workable by negotiating lower costs with local appraisers and an attorney. The net result was a unique mortgage product that included closing costs other local lenders couldn’t come close to matching. Staff then rolled up their sleeves and began identifying members who had recently obtained a loan elsewhere and encouraged them to refinance.


Gesa Credit Union ($1.2 billion in assets; 109,000 members) – Gesa has set its sights on becoming southeastern Washington’s business lender of choice and is on its way to achieving that goal. In a short period of time, Gesa has developed a sound, profitable, and sustainable member business lending portfolio. The program has exhibited strong loan grow, interest and fee income generation, excellent examinations, and audits of their portfolio. Gesa hired experienced business lenders to provide prudent underwriting and strong portfolio management. Then, it formed a business loan committee to ensure sound decision making on loans and collection efforts. Despite a struggling economy, Gesa has put up impressive loan growth numbers ranging between $35 million and $47 million from 2009 to 2011.


U.S. New Mexico FCU ($725 million+ in assets; 67,000+ members) – This Albuquerque credit union couldn’t be more proud or much better at serving MOMMs –Members of Modest Means. Throughout its 77-year history, U.S. New Mexico has prided itself on being responsive to serving this membership with products and services aimed at helping MOMMs attain financial security. The credit union keeps its finger on the pulse of its membership through a 30-employee volunteer committee that identifies these members' social and financial needs. The credit union responds with delivering a product suite designed to address the needs of that demographic, including programs such as Balance Financial Fitness, Eagle Advance, Credit Builder Credit Card, and CourtesyPay. Despite serving what some might consider to be an expensive membership, U.S. New Mexico FCU is financially stable and its delinquency and charge-offs tell a very positive story.

Judges for the 2012 Excellence in Lending awards included: Consumer Lending -- Patrick McElhenie, sales, CUNA Mutual Group; Jason Osterhage, senior vice president, lending, Alliant CU; Fawn Terwilliger, vice president, lending, Service CU; Mortgage Lending – Jennifer Cowles, vice president/CLO, American Eagle FCU; Jim Jumpe, marketing director, CMG Mortgage Insurance Co.; Bill Vogeney, senior vice president/CLO, Ent FCU; Business Lending – Dale Frankhouse, business services director, Sun FCU; Tom Keepers, director, product management, CUNA Mutual Group; Keith Reynolds, community president, CEFCU West, Citizens Equity First CU; Low-to-Modest Means – Aaron Bresko, senior vice president/CLO, GTE Financial; Vicki Lovett, senior vice president/CLO, Suncoast Schools FCU; Dan Murray, vice president, lending, CUNA Mutual Group.

CUNA Mutual Group, with support  from the CUNA Lending Council, established the Excellence in Lending Awards in 2000 to recognize credit unions that have implemented outstanding lending programs while demonstrating sound financial performance. The annual awards provide an opportunity for credit unions to share best practices and ideas, build networks, and recognize and celebrate lending excellence.