Stung by writedowns in its real estate portfolio and the slowdown in home lending, the $419 million Air Academy Federal Credit Union of Colorado Springs confirmed Tuesday it laid off 19 employees last week and has closed several branches.
While stressing the CU remains in sound financial condition, management said it has decided future growth lies in the “online sector and in electronics” apart from retail branches.
On the layoffs, the 42,000-member Air Academy FCU said that based on a projected shrinking of the refinance market, it let go12 employees in its mortgage department, plus seven others including a vice president all involved in branch and real estate support jobs. However, no further layoffs are planned, the credit union said.
Following a closing of a Sand Creek branch in August and three others over the past two years, Air Academy FCU eventually expects to reduce its branch footprint from nine to seven facilities in El Paso and Douglas counties. Two years ago Air Academy had 13 branches.
“We are definitely seeing a greater acceptance of electronics—the smart phones, the remotes—and a migration from the branches so there is no need for all the back office support required in the past,” said Brad Barnes, chief financial officer. That would include staffing for ATM and general ledger balancing in the branches, he said.
Regarding real estate losses, Barnes said his CU already took a “one-time $830,000 in writedowns on some land foreclosures and we’ve already sold three pieces with gains” so 2011 will produce a profit, though the CU did report a $78,000 loss for the first nine months. Also figured into the third quarter loss was the NCUA assessment of $886,000, Barnes said.
Meanwhile, with mortgage rates climbing above 4%, the refi market has started to slow and that trend should continue into 2012, he forecast. “Annual mortgage production which once was in the $200-$300 million range is now projected at only $90-$100 million for next year,” said Barnes. With refi transactions making up about 70-80% of total Air Academy production, the slowdown in refis “has a large impact on our business,” he said.
Air Academy said also its member statistics show that only 20% use branches once a month for three consecutive months.
As part of future branch consolidation, Kira Schubert, marketing manager, said the CU eventually expects to sell property where its previous headquarters is located and possibly combine two of its Douglas County branches at Parker and Highlands Ranch.