Having more control over operating expenses and fee income may aid credit unions experiencing declines in return on assets and return on equity that are seeking long-term sustainability.
Spread compression, increased competition, high operating expenses and special assessments have all contributed to the drops industry wide, said John Lass, senior vice president of strategy and business development at CUNA Mutual Group, who gave the keynote address at the company's Discovery Online Conference this afternoon. Lass said any of these factors could cause ROE or ROA to move in either direction. Credit unions should come up with a list of which ones they have the most control over.
"Will the gross spread continue to compress after the crisis or will it widen. It's hard to say," Lass said. "As the spread has begun to improve a bit, ROA has plunged driven by loan losses especially in the Sand states and through the impact of NCUA assessments at the corporate level and more recently, with natural person credit unions. The credit union system cannot operate successfully if ROA continues to compress."
Lass said Navy Federal Credit Union, State Employees' Credit Union in North Carolina and Star One Credit Union as examples of cooperatives that have strong sustainability models in large part because they have consistently kept their operating expenses low.