Tennessee CUs Escaping Recession's Wrath, Says Eastman CEO
Olan Jones of Eastman Credit Union, which this week undertook its first merger in seven years, is no bragger but he's willing to crow about one thing: CU performance.
"Whenever I talk to credit union managers from outside Tennessee they are really surprised that statewide average capital levels are at 11.5%, default rates are well below national averages and appreciation values are actually up," said Jones, president/CEO of the $2.2 billion, Kingsport-based CU, the largest in the state.
For sure, there are problem CUs in Tennessee, he acknowledged, but the state's financial institutions including CUs have managed to greatly miss any fallout from the recession's impact.
"Just like the solid South used to be Democratic, well so have the credit unions been rock solid," contended Jones, who also noted that home values never experienced the runup and subsequent collapse that hit sand states.
Asked for comment on the corporate crisis, the Eastman CEO said CUs have been fortunate that the state's corporate, Volunteer of Nashville, remains one of the healthiest with service satisfaction and value levels very high.
Jones said the corporate network will need an overhaul so that CUs can maintain a successful, CU-branded facility that can offer liquidity services at favored pricing, but right now Eastman is looking inward at an industry solution.
As for that merger, Eastman has agreed to consolidate next spring the $11 million Holston Valley CU, also of Kingsport, which lost its veteran CEO, Sam Tuell, following his death in September.
Jones said Eastman does get approached frequently by other CUs and NCUA regarding merger prospects and is open-minded about further expansion, but is currently "happy generating our own steady growth without any madcap program."