As the strategic planning season soldiers on, we once again find ourselves wondering if this incredible run of favorable credit union operating results can continue. You’re probably having similar thoughts.
CUNA economists remain optimistic about the future. And we’re especially optimistic about credit union lending.
We have two big reasons to be hopeful: The economy is in good shape overall, and consumers are supremely confident.
Midyear 2018 NCUA Call Report data reflects solid overall results with an acceleration in membership growth, solid loan growth, high asset quality, and strong earnings.
Credit union memberships increased by nearly 4.8 million in the year ending in June—a 4.3% advance. That helped keep loan growth near double-digit levels, with overall loan balances up 9.6% during the 12-month period.
Bottom-line results were solid, with return on assets rising from 77 basis points (bp) in 2017 to an annualized rate of 90 bp in the first half of the year.
The earnings bump was due in part to the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) equity distribution.
But it also arose from broad-based increases in loans: The interest yield on credit union assets grew from 3.53% in 2017 to an annualized rate of 3.68% in the first half of 2018.
Looking across loan portfolios, it’s not difficult to find reasons to believe credit union loan growth might waver into 2019: tariffs, higher-than-expected interest rates, difficulties in attracting deposits to fund loans—the list goes on.
But economic fundamentals are strong; consumers are engaged; and many seem ready, willing, and able to borrow. Loan growth will almost certainly decline over the next 18 months, but most credit unions should continue to enjoy healthy portfolio increases.
In short, economic fundamentals look solid through the end of 2019. And that’s good news for credit union members and for credit union lending operations.
MIKE SCHENK is CUNA’s deputy chief advocacy officer for policy analysis and chief economist.