For most credit unions, the annual meeting is as sure a sign of spring as flowers blossoming and leaves budding on trees.
But what will the message be this year? Even as the economy recovers, will credit unions have to break bad news? What message will they present to members? Is this year likely to bring improvement?
To find out, Credit Union Times talked to CEOs at a variety of credit unions that recently held their annual meetings or have one scheduled in the next few weeks. Some are still struggling. Others can report significant gains. Overall, most seem fairly upbeat about 2011.
We serve a rural area. We concentrate on pre-publicizing our annual meetings and financial news in local media. What we have focused on at any kind of meeting over the past few years is the safety and soundness of the credit union.
At our annual meeting we cover some specifics. This year we explained we participated in the replenishment of the [NCUSIF]. We also explained the extraordinary expenses that occurred due to corporate credit union losses. We actually put a figure out and said the cost to our credit union was $484,000. That negatively affects our income. On the other hand, we’ve emphasized all along that we are very strong. We are well equipped to handle bumps in the road.
We strive for 300 people at our annual meeting. This year there were 250. We want to make sure we provide good information that is truthful and also positive to the best of our ability.
We know credit unions are going to be facing certain expenses probably for five or ten years. We hope we have positive income this year. It’s tough to say right now because the country is still in financial turmoil. It took 10 years of some decisions by numerous big companies, Wall Street or whatever to get us to where we were two or three years ago. So personally I think it will take five or 10 years to really get back up to normal.
Rockdale Federal Credit Union
We will have a very positive story to tell. We were able to extend our charter and had double-digit growth in our savings. It was better than last year. Though members were uncertain about the economy and their jobs, many were able to take advantage of low rates to refinance their mortgages though us. Recently, there has been some improvement locally in unemployment and housing. Overall, our membership probably feels a little more positive this year.
Our guest speaker will be Andrew Busch, the author, columnist and television anchor who covers global financial markets. With members trying to anticipate their financial future, his comments should definitely be of interest, and I imagine our members will have questions about the economy in general, not just the credit union.
I’m optimistic about 2011. We’ll be adding another branch and additional services. We’ll be reaching out to members through even more venues, including social media.
Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union
Actually, our annual meeting is a fun time for members to get together and forget about the economy. We don’t concentrate on our troubles. I’m cautiously optimistic about 2011. We are finding many people turning to us for services.
Jersey Shore Federal Credit Union
I have the nicest problem in the world. Deposits are flowing in. We’re a little over $500 million. We grew $10 million in deposits last month, and I expect another $10 million this month. I’d love to tell you my rates are so high they’re attracting this money. Our rates are good, but they’re not what you would call great. I really think people in our community–Ventura–are changing their behavior. The growth we’re seeing is in base shares and checking. I think a 5% or 6% savings rate is good for American households.
The problem is we have few loan applications. There’s always a seasonality, but this is beyond that. People are tightening their belts. More people are paying cash for cars or making significant down payments. Our approval ratio is down a bit.
I’m optimistic about the current year–more optimistic than I’ve been in five years.
Ventura County Credit Union
Members are asking when deposit rates will improve. It’s a great time to be a borrower but not a great time to be a saver. We advise our members to adopt a laddering strategy.
I’m cautiously optimistic. Locally we tend to lag the national market.
Oxford Federal Credit Union
This will be the easiest of our last three annual meetings. We’re weathering the storm and hopeful about the upcoming year. We see some signs of improvement. Our members are acutely aware of the economic situation here in Michigan, and I think they’re focusing primarily on their own day-to-day economic outlook rather than the credit union. The Fed coming out with the interchange price rules could have a major impact. We’ve tried to educate members, and at the same time insulate them.
Gerber Federal Credit Union
We’ll have a couple messages for our members at the annual meeting. First, we’ve held our own and deposits have grown, actually outpacing loans. So we can’t return as much income as we’d like. We also want them to know we’re here for them. We’re offering help such as budgeting assistance and credit counseling.
Our annual meeting will be a breakfast featuring a financial fair with tables staffed with resources that can help our members. We’ll also have small and mid-size nonprofit organizations looking for volunteers and donations. There is a $5 fee for the breakfast, but a member can give a ticket to a nonprofit and the organization will get $5 and the member will receive the $5 back.
Wisconsin’s governor and legislature have passed a law that will require educators to contribute more to their benefits. Members are wondering how they can get by now, much less with what amounts to a 10% or 15% pay cut. They’re asking if we’ve made political contributions to the governor or legislators who are doing this. The credit union hasn’t and our officers haven’t.
We’re somewhat optimistic the economy may be getting better. Next year will be our 75th anniversary and we’re planning some events to enhance the member experience. Maybe a low-cost or free day at the Milwaukee Zoo or a Brewers game.
Educators Credit Union
We had a very successful year in terms of ROA in 2010 and will report that to members. It’s our 75th anniversary and we’re expecting nearly 3,000 people. We realize we may have to scale back in future years and try to decreases expenses. But this year, we are planning a big meeting with great entertainment, gifts and refreshments. We have many longtime members, some of whom are big depositors, who are accustomed to the meeting and very much appreciate this once-a-year opportunity.
We haven’t received any questions from members about how much we spend on the meeting, primarily because we’ve been very consistent over the years in our financial performance and in the way we conduct our annual meetings.
This coming year will be challenging and we are trying to increase our loan volume and decrease expenses.
Langley Federal Credit Union