Keeping Tabs on Credit Union Dribs and Drabs
There’s too much going on these days to focus on one thing. Sure there are lots of options to write about but it can also be distracting. So here’s a spin around the credit union industry in 800 words or less to highlight a few big issues.
Credit unions improved their overall HealthScore, according to Glatt Consulting, LLC, to 2.466 from 2.263, the lowest point it hit in a decade. Glatt’s scale is from 5 to 0, with 5 being the healthiest, and takes into consideration earnings, capital, growth, member relationships, liquidity, asset quality and efficiency. While there were a lot of positives, membership growth and loan growth lag. Industry may be considered healthy today but without those two components, it could be in for serious woes ahead.
For example, for the first time in several years of the survey, credit unions fell behind banks in a recent online banking satisfaction survey. Online banking in particular is one place that credit unions cannot afford to fall behind.
Many have retrenched during the economic crisis for obvious reasons: lower earnings, NCUA premiums and assessments, and additional compliance burdens just to name a few. Hopefully credit unions can make up ground as the economy and the corporate situation stabilizes, but if they wait until too late it could be curtains for some.
And mobile banking is definitely something to consider if your credit union has the means and the right membership. Fortunately, credit unions are unlikely to have to pay a premium into the NCUSIF the agency announced last week. Depending upon the success of its voluntary corporate assessment prepayment plan (see our story, page 1), credit unions could be shelling out less there, too.
Still, the NCUA announced that credit union membership was up by approximately 300,000 members in the first quarter, which annualized equates to a 1.3% increase. According to U.S. Census data, the U.S. population grew just less than 10% over the last decade so credit unions aren’t too far behind (assuming members aren’t double counted). How many of those ‘members’ have a $50 savings account they’ve long since forgotten about or an indirect auto loan and nothing else?
Incidentally, the ever watchful Keith Leggett noted NCUA’s release of federally insured credit unions’ financial data on his Credit Union Watch blog. No real commentary, just some numbers. Check it out and put in your own two cents.
The NCUA previously announced that it would be seeking congressional authority to oversee credit union service organizations and now the Texas Credit Union Commission is scrutinizing their services. The federal regulator has said that its inability to look into CUSOs kept them from getting a good look inside the problems at Texans Credit Union. CUSOs are however regulated by other agencies such as state insurance regulators or other relevant bodies. More regulatory burden could simply stifle innovation and income for CUSO owners and users, as well as increase compliance burdens. Texas’ proposed regulation would also limit CUSOs to credit union authorities, which would remove a great deal of the intended benefit.
On top of that, consumer confusion over the term credit union remains. People who don’t know about credit unions often think they have to be associated through their work to join or it’s a ‘union,’ a dreaded word in some circles.
So stop confusing consumers by stopping using the term in your marketing. Check out Pentagon Federal Credit Union’s rebranding to PenFed on their website and Main Street Financial FCU’s logo with the itty-bitty FCU at the end. In particular, Main Street Financial says exactly what it is and does. It’s local and it’s a financial institution–no confusing members and potential members.