COLUMBUS, Ohio -- BMI FCU here is celebrating the success of a mortgage program it started in the 1970's, said president/CEO Sharon Custer. And it's also proud that, like other credit unions, it didn't go astray into foolish lending and end up holding losses for which it could only blame itself.
"We didn't do crazy no-doc mortgages that have led to this subprime debacle," Custer said. "And historically, credit unions don't do that sort of thing, period. When we launched our program we made good, solid loans to our members." Doing the smart thing for both the CU and its members has resulted in BMI tripling its mortgage program to $136 million from $46 million in five years. BMI has assets of $288 million and just over 28,000 members.
"Any problems we've had with delinquencies go back to the greater economy, but in this area of central Ohio, our original field of membership base was a research facility that spun off into a greater tech-service related industry. That has helped us greatly and we are still a multi-[Select Employee Group] credit union with a large white collar membership."
Geography may have given a kindness, she allowed, as "Here in Columbus we're a little isolated from Youngstown and Cleveland," Custer said. Those areas have been hard hit from industry and manufacturing-based plant closings. "Our economy here is a bit more stable, and we haven't had the wild swings in real estate values that you see on the coasts."
Custer gave much of the credit to her mortgage department and business development specialists. "I'm very proud of our mortgage loan officers. They are focused on the long-term needs of our members. And we apply that same perspective to how we run the credit union. And our business development people stay in front of our SEG employees' companies."
Running a successful mortgage program these days is all about "keeping ones wits" about yourself, she said, and being mindful not to parrot what others are doing just because they are doing something different. "You really have to look at a whole package of services. Not every credit union will have the same product mix, nor should they."
BMI FCU's annualized growth rate has been 10%, Custer said. That includes a few mergers, though these haven't been large enough to account for the growth rate. "The largest credit union that merged with us was $11 million," she noted, so the growth is deemed the best kind: organic. She's also optimistic every time she hears that a bank has been consolidated. "I'm happy to hear that because I know people will be honked-off about all the changes they'll have to go through. Here, Chase Bank is the 800-pound gorilla, but we also have a lot of regional banks. We'll just keep doing what we do, there really is no secret formula, no magic bullet."