If credit unions are not capitalizing on recent record membership gains now, the industry could see an exodus in 2013.
Dave Colby, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group, shared that insight in the March Credit Union Trends Report. According to the data, initial estimates showed there were 94.8 million members in January, the latest month tracked. That figure is up 2.2 million since January 2010.
The failed attempt by Bank of America last year to levy a $5 monthly debit card usage fee helped credit unions boost their memberships by 1.2 million, the data showed. Positive momentum continued as credit unions added another 272,000 in January. That month’s gain was 172,000 above the average January results for the previous four years.
Still, Colby warned credit unions not to rest on their laurels.
“The only way to make these gains work for members and credit unions is to move rapidly to multiple, mutually beneficial product relationships,” Colby said. “If we don’t, next year’s credit union’s headlines will read ‘CUs Rush to Purge Unprofitable Members as Best Members Leave.’
At the end of 2011, 88% of membership gains were generated by credit unions with assets in excess of $1 billion, according to the report.
Colby said not all credit unions participated in last year’s growth. Roughly 54% or 3,900 credit unions reported membership declines in 2011. These credit unions hold 27% of industry assets, the data showed.