CUNA Mutual Recognizes Excellence in Lending Award Winners

Eleventh-Annual Awards Presented at CUNA Lending Council Conference.

November 3, 2010

Three credit unions were recognized for their lending prowess Monday by receiving CUNA Mutual Group’s Excellence in Lending Awards at the CUNA Lending Council’s 16th annual conference.

Dan Kaiser, CUNA Mutual vice president, presented the 11th-annual awards to:

• Oregon Community Credit Union, Eugene: Consumer lending (more than $250 million in assets).

Oregon Community knew it would need to transform from a “service industry” to a sales and service culture. The catalyst leading to its status as the fastest-growing credit union in Lane County, Ore., was its “360 Training.” The training, for staff at all levels, removed staff’s “fear of sales” and taught them how to align members’ needs with products or services.

The result was improved home equity line of credit and direct lending programs, and enhanced relationships with area car dealers.

Oregon Community also established a loan by phone branch that channeled all incoming calls from members seeking loans to a loan expert.

In the first half of 2010, Oregon Community’s loan branch achieved 137% of its annualized goal.

• Erie (Pa.) Federal Credit Union: Consumer lending (more than $250 million in assets).

A strategic planning meeting in 2008 paved the way for Erie Federal to navigate through the troubled economy that year and in 2009. The credit union laid out a plan for expense management, built business relationships with car dealers, and grew its lending and member services programs.

In 2009, Erie provided 3,400 car loans totaling $49 million, and maintained its standing as the No. 1 vehicle lender in Erie County.

Another avenue for loan growth was the credit union’s Merchant Direct Loan program, which served the area’s small businesses when traditional business financing struggled.

The expansion of that program to 18 merchants helped the credit union experience record growth in 2009, including 22.7% growth in its loan portfolio.

• NorthCountry Federal Credit Union, South Burlington, Vt.: Low/modest means.

A desire to reach more members of modest means in South Burlington, Vt., spawned NorthCountry Federal’s Employer Sponsored Income Advance Program. This unique emergency loan program provides up to $1,500 in funds through members’ employers. Members apply for the loan through their employer’s human resources department.

The 11 participating companies pay a small annual fee (less than $500) to offer the emergency loan program to their employees.

Since July 2007, NorthCountry Federal has made 389 loans totaling $400,000 and has written off only $8,500. Thirty-five percent of borrowers continue the payroll deduction to savings after the loan is repaid.

“An extremely difficult lending environment and the Excellence in Lending Awards’ demanding standards resulted in only three winners this year,” Kaiser said. “But these three credit unions are truly deserving of the award.”

CUNA Mutual, with support and expertise 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 award provides an opportunity for credit unions to share best practices and ideas, build networks and recognize and celebrate lending excellence.