Matz cites CU examples in reaching unbanked; says credit unions can do a lot within the law to better serve this group
SAN ANTONIO - At the Texas Credit Union League's Leadership Conference & Business Expo here last week, NCUA Board Member Deborah Matz urged credit unions to jump on the bandwagon in serving entire fields of membership. Citing efforts of specific Texas credit unions, Matz provided seven suggestions for reaching the unbanked: *Add underserved areas to a field of membership. Employees 1st FCU in Bedford made the largest low-income expansion in the country in July with 225,000 potential new members. Partnering with a charitable organization, GECU in El Paso created a CUSO to extend financial services to Latinos living in housing authority apartments. The CUSO made more than $8 million in non-traditional home mortgages and has had zero foreclosures. Larger El Paso CUs also have provided small Tepayac FCU with operational and financial assistance. *Recruit a broad base of volunteers. A diverse group, reflecting age, gender, education and ethnicity differences, will better understand the FOM. *Provide financial education. The sponsoring church for Covenant Savings FCU in Copperas Cove requires engaged couples to meet with a credit union counselor to discuss personal finances before marrying. University FCU in Austin is educating the next generation as well as attracting student members. More than 1,000 people attended their "How to Buy a Car" seminar. Austin Area Teachers FCU has a student intern-run high school branch and an elementary school program. San Antonio City FCU partnered with the city to improve the financial literacy of adults returning for high school educations. *Offer risk-based lending. Responsible risk-based lending assures access to financial service at a price based on an individual's own credit history. You can help individuals become better money managers, members and future borrowers by extending credit when their alternatives are payday lenders and title companies. A CU must have adequate procedures for identifying, monitoring and controlling risk and maintaining appropriate reserves. A solid program with appropriate guidelines and safeguards should not affect a CU's CAMEL rating. *Provide bilingual services. West Texas CU translates their contracts into Spanish. Internet banking and audio response also are available in English and Spanish. When its staff of seven Anglo males expressed concern over relating to its predominantly Hispanic membership, San Antonio City FCU initiated a cultural awareness program utilizing Hispanic speakers. Next year, the CU will evaluate women's financial needs, and the following year, youth. *Offer mortgage loans. If worried about interest rate risk, sell in the secondary market. CUs can maintain servicing so members continue to identify the loan with the CU. *Offer member business loans. Talk about loans for farm equipment, a franchise, or a loan to start a home business - loans banks won't make because they're too small. The average CU business loan is $88,000. MBLs are not right for all CUs. Careful underwriting is required. Need a comprehensive business lending plan and qualified loan officer. NCUA will assess risk and make sure CU has adequate reserves. NCUA is looking at expanding MBL rule. Changes the board will probably consider include: 1) removing NCUA rule requiring principals to personally guarantee MBLs; 2) lowering the percentage of equity interest (currently 35%) a borrower must have in a construction or development project; 3) allowing unsecured lending; 4) providing full or partial exemption from MBL rule for loans to other CUs or CUSOs. Matz said her suggestions are not one-size-fits-all, but reaching the unbanked makes good business sense. She highlighted American Airlines FCU's efforts in the early deployment of CU employees and a Visa check card program to support victim families following the 9/ll attacks.