Industry groups from Mississippi to Washington State were quick to trumpet membership gains and loan growth.
In announcing first quarter stats, the Washington Credit Union League said statewide membership increased by 40,000 compared to 20,000 for the same period a year ago. In addition, there was a jump in mortgage lending. The league said this was "another signal and further proof that the financial meltdown triggered by too-big-to fail banks and greedy Wall Street traders was not the root cause of the public's affinity for credit unions."
Meanwhile, the Mississippi Credit Union Association attributed its first-quarter 4.5% membership spurt-adding 24,000-to its "iBelong" awareness ad campaign as well as an interstate merger.
Some of those increases were coming at the expense of banks and the fallout generated by the steady drumbeat of community bank failures. "There's little doubt the banking crisis and all what's gone on down here with Wachovia and bank closures have made consumers shop around, bringing credit unions new members and new loans," said Cheryl Oggs, vice president of the trade group.
During the first quarter of 2009, "Mississippi credit unions experienced a membership growth rate five-times greater than the rate for all of 2008," said Oggs.
MCUA also pointed to the favorable CU image resulting from its "iBelong" TV and radio campaign, started last January and licensed from the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association. That ad effort has produced a 4-to-1 favorable impression of CUs, over unfavorable impressions among respondents, according to the league.
James McCormack, president/CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, said after 18 months, the iBelong campaign has increased awareness of CUs 27% among their target market, women aged 25-49. Forty-three percent of this market said they are eligible to join a credit union.
The Washington league said CUs in the state "made more than $10.5 billion in first- and second-mortgage loans to Washingtonians during the first quarter of this year compared to $3.3 billion in 1999, a 10-year increase of more than $7.25 billion."
"The largest one-year jump in mortgage lending occurred in 2007 when the state's credit unions increased their first-quarter lending by more than $1 billion to $8.93 billion, up from $7.86 billion in 2006," said the league, which also lauded gains on business lending.
"Perhaps more importantly, as reports circulated about banks reducing business lending following the recent financial meltdown, credit unions increased their first quarter MBLs by more than $29 million in 2009 compared to 2008, despite statutory limitations on this area of their business," concluded the Washington league.