Even with experts predicting a slower economy and rising interest rates, Cary Shumway, vice president of consumer lending at $2.9 billion asset UNIFY Financial Credit Union in Torrance, Calif., says she expects there will be opportunities for loan growth in 2019.
Shumway discusses UNIFY Financial’s lending outlook for 2019 with Credit Union Magazine.
CU Magazine: What’s the lending outlook at your credit union in 2019?
Shumway: UNIFY experienced significant membership growth over the past year. As our market expansion continues to grow, we see greater opportunities in both consumer and real estate lending.
To tap into the lending potential of these new members, along with our current members, we’re developing a number of member engagement tools and processes to increase product awareness and add relationships.
For example, we’re putting a new multi-faceted, multi-channel member onboarding process in place to immediately connect with new members and broaden their relationship with us. Consumer and real estate lending will be highlighted in this effort.
CU Magazine: What factors will affect your loan growth?
Shumway: The state of the economy, employment rates, and federal interest rates are certainly factors that will impact loan growth as we move into 2019. Most credit unions have benefited from our strong economy and the historically low interest rates we’ve seen for several years.
Some indicators are now pointing toward rates continuing to rise, and a potentially slower economy.
The question will be how we anticipate and respond to these economic factors while making the necessary adjustments to engage our members, keep our products attractive from a rate standpoint, and drive demand across all tiers and loan types.
CU Magazine: What lending bright spots do you see?
Shumway: We’re still in a positive environment, with strong consumer confidence. These factors naturally benefit loan performance, even as rates begin to rise.
Member engagement is also a positive aspect of UNIFY’s lending strategy. Our philosophy to focus on member education first, working to provide members with the best deal—not just today but for the life of a loan—has translated into strong brand loyalty and a foundation of trust.
Technology will be a key driver of positive loan performance in the year ahead so we’re working to enhance our digital lending platforms.
CU Magazine: What are some of your top lending challenges?
Shumway: We view technology innovation as our biggest opportunity for lending growth and development at UNIFY. We’re looking ahead to determine how we can use technology and software systems to provide the same level of face-to-face personal service via online lending channels.
Like most credit unions, our members want and expect quick, efficient, and full-service access to every financial product through digital channels. We are committed and focused on enhancing our online loan experience for members both in the near term and going forward.
CU Magazine: What advice would you offer other credit union lenders?
Shumway: Three things: