Sometimes the Loan Growth Just Isn't There
Mike Welch's August 3rd column really hurt. Criticizing credit unions for having a high percentage of their assets in investments, without looking any further, just isn't fair. Our Strategic Plan and Incentive Plan weigh making loans as our highest priority. But, making loans isn't that easy. Even with extremely competitive loan rates, competition with banks, mortgage brokers, car dealers and other credit unions has never been tougher. We have also noted that member credit scores are dropping and the members with acceptable credit don't want to carry any more debt. We continually work to reinvent traditional loan products to meet the needs of our members. Asset/liability policies require us to sell our long-term fixed rate mortgages, so we developed new 5, 7 and 10 year balloon products. We have an auto loan recapture program that will take 2% off any auto loan refinanced with us. Our Visa credit card gives cash back to our members and provides funding for community outreach programs. To market our loan products we have used direct mailers, posters, Web sites, cross-selling, newsletters (both credit union and SEG), on-site visitations to SEGs and e-news in an effort to heighten awareness and usage of our programs by the membership. We will never give up! Currently, our loan ratio is 54%, which would put us in your unacceptable category. How did we get there? Over a three-year period starting in 2001, shares grew by 84% while loans only grew by 13%. We went from a loan ratio of 85% to 52%. So please consider these facts before criticizing. I know a lot of credit unions are in the same situation as us. Robert M. Windsor President First Financial Federal Credit Union of Maryland Lutherville, Md.