WASHINGTON -- The National Credit Union Foundation was preparing to hold its first auto lending summit July 22 at the Credit Union House on Capitol Hill.
The Steer Clear Auto Lending Summit was open to 40 credit union executives and provided a first look at research conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, NCUF and the Aspen Institute on credit union auto lending practices to nonprime borrowers. Attendees were able to get a preview of the research report titled "Credit Unions Help Car Buyers Steer Clear of Predatory Loans."
"Credit unions need to know how to better serve this market," said Steve Delfin, executive director at NCUF. "The reason that this is so important is that 85% of Americans need a car in order to get to work."
Delfin said that the NCUF applied for a grant to conduct research on credit union members and potential members that have less than great credit to learn what is going on in the auto lending market to this group and what is still needed.
"People with low wealth and modest income tend to live farther from work and are buying cars with a means they can't afford or cars that have more maintenance than they can afford so they have to walk away from them," Delfin said.
When talking with Credit Union Times, Delfin told a personal story of car shopping with his son after he graduated from college. He said that they had walked into a predatory car dealership that wanted them to put more money down and finance the car for more than it was worth. When Delfin said that his son was going to finance the car on his own the dealership asked them to leave.
"It was a real eye opener," Delfin said. "It thought if I could walk into a place like that then imagine how easy it is for immigrants and people with fewer options to be taken advantage of."
NCUF shared the research with attendees, as well as how to break down barriers to serve the nonprime market and how to explain to regulators spending capital on a risky market.
"It all points to that this is a viable business strategy if credit unions use capital and nonprofit status to help low-income members become viable," Delfin said.
One of the goals of the summit was for attendees to take away the models shown in the research, launch pilot programs and bring them to the credit union market, Delfin said.
These models provide two opportunities, according to Delfin. One is to provide better options for working low-income families to put them in better cars and get them better loans and the other is to develop a loyal member as a growth and service strategy for the credit union.
Right now research from the Aspen Institute shows that credit unions serve only 5% of the auto market for low- and moderate-income borrowers.
"I do a presentation where I use Wal-Mart as an example," Delfin said. "They've planted a flag in the ground to serving this marketplace. They're the world's biggest company and they're saying this is the future. If you look at their Web site it looks like a credit union Web site. These are going to be the credit union members of the future."
Delfin described the summit as more of a focus group where the goal was to get reactions to the report. The next step will be to release the report, and Deflin said he hopes to get more grants to continue research and to take the models shown and develop them into pilot programs.
"We want to continue to raise awareness that this is a viable market for credit union growth."