A slight contraction in membership in January could prompt some credit unions to seek more relationship pricing strategies to fill some potential losses.
With just over 92.9 million members in the industry, a dip in membership earlier this year brought the annual increase down to 819,000, which was below the average for the past four years, according to the March issue of CUNA Mutual Group’s Credit Union Trends Report. Still, January’s results were in line with more recent growth trends and will cause a re-evaluation of CUNA Mutual’s forecast models, the report noted.
“Looking ahead, we believe most financial institutions will establish relationship pricing as a strategy to make up for lost debit interchange revenue, yet continue to provide free checking,” according to Dave Colby, chief economist at CUNA Mutual. “This depth of relationship competition will likely translate into slower membership growth going forward.”
A quick look back at 2010’s data showed that 79% of all membership gains during the year were attributable to credit unions with assets above $1 billion. Colby said this group represents just 2% of all credit unions but their share of members increased from 35% in 2009 to 37% at year-end 2010. While total membership counts increased in 2010, he said it is important to note that 3,974 credit unions, which is 53% of all cooperatives, lost members last year.