Navigating a competitive lending market
Latonya Allen builds on an early start in the credit union system.
Latonya Allen first worked at a credit union as a senior in high school. Twenty-one years later, she’s director of consumer lending and marketing at $34 million asset Government Printing Office Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C.
CUNA News recently caught up with Allen, a credit union development educator and a member of the African-American Credit Union Coalition, to discuss her career path, the lending market, and what members are looking for.
CUNA News:How did you get started in credit unions?
Latonya Allen: I started in the industry in 2001, my senior year of high school. I had no idea what a credit union was.
I was a teen mom, and my teacher did not want me to lose my half-day schedule because one of the requirements was to have a job or internship. So, they located me a job at $48.9 million asset D.C. Teachers’ Federal Credit Union.
I started in the loan department. My job was to file, but with me being a very inquisitive person, asked lots of questions. My first time reviewing a credit report, I became really intrigued and was excited to learn more. That’s how my career started, and even while I was at Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., credit unions were still the only job I knew.
While I was at Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., credit unions were still the only job I knew.
Q: Tell us about Government Printing Office Federal and your members.
A: We’re in the heart of D.C., about two blocks from Union Station. I can walk out of the building and see the Capitol.
The credit union was founded in 1935. We started by serving Government Printing Office employees, which are primarily blue-collar workers, their family members, and a couple of SEG groups.
In the mid-2000s, we were approved to serve the underserved. We now serve anyone who lives, works, worships, or goes to school in most of D.C.
Q: What’s your main focus as director of consumer lending and marketing?
A: In the marketing area, I’m mainly focused on attracting and retaining Generation Z members, and how we can keep up with the times.
Gen Z looks at your organization’s values and what you can offer them. We're working to bring in products and services like Google Pay, Apple Pay, and digital tools and services to keep the younger generation intrigued and excited.
We’d done a great job of getting out in the community and then the pandemic hit. There are roadblocks to serving outside members when you’re in a government building. Currently we are slated to move our branch from the eighth floor of our building to the first floor. This will truly open our ability to assist all members without restrictions.
One of the biggest things we have in the works is to potentially open a branch downstairs to serve more members.
As far as lending, we’re looking to grow and look at other opportunities. We’re focusing more on our mortgage side right now. We have a lot in the works with business participation lending and consumer lending.
From our recent planning session and budgeting meeting, we are exceeding our 2022 lending goals. As of today, we are currently at 68% of this year’s lending goal. Things are moving along quite smoothly right now, especially since we are in an inflationary environment. I am proud of our progress.
Q: What do consumers want?
A: Consumers are looking for higher deposit rates, lower loan rates, convenient services, and digital tools.
With the Federal Reserve increasing rates, it's kind of scary. But you want to make sure you are servicing members.
We focus on lending, but we really need to look at members’ everyday spending habits, especially now with options like Buy Now Pay Later. Credit unions are focusing more on financial empowerment and education.
Q: Do you have any lending stories you want to share?
A: I have so many, but I feel that any day I can help a member that is depending on the credit union’s help is a great lending story.
Q: What's the best vacation you've been on?
A: Last year when my boyfriend and I took both of our families to Orlando. I thought we were just taking the kids—he has nine and I have two—and our big family would celebrate our birthdays.
However, that vacation turned into me becoming a fiancé. He proposed on his 35th birthday, so that is always going to be special and one of my favorite vacations.
In a few weeks we're going to celebrate our engagement anniversary and attending a wedding for a well-known football player who happens to be my cousin, Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers.
It’s also Father's Day weekend and my son just graduated from Jackson State University, so we're going to be celebrating a lot.
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: I love to travel, spend time with my family, go out, shop, and read. My fiancé and I are really family oriented.
I also love to work on self-care and my weight-loss goals. That has been a focus of mine over the last couple of years, just taking time for myself.