WASHINGTON—Despite the loss of interchange income and mounting compliance requirements, overall credit unions feel more confident about their future than in recent years. CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney opened GAC last week by telling member credit unions that the cooperatives are on the rise thanks to recovering financials and unprecedented media attention.
“I can’t remember a time when credit unions have received so much media attention,” Cheney said, adding that the phones at CUNA have been ringing off the walls.
On Tuesday, National Journal, a publication widely read in Congress, reported on GAC, saying that because of grass-roots support and PAC donations, credit unions have gained clout on Capitol Hill.
“That’s huge,” CUNA’s master of ceremonies Paul Berry told the general session audience.
The CUNA leader briefly brought Bank Transfer Day founder Kristen Christian to the stage, calling her the industry’s “secret weapon” in gaining attention from the media and consumers.
Thanks to Christian’s social media movement and a renewed consumer interest in credit unions, the financial cooperatives are well positioned financially to gain market share, Cheney said.
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, referring to corporate assessments that are expected to drop from 25 basis points in 2011 to as little as 8 basis points this year. CUNA anticipates credit union net worth will rise to an average of 10.6% by year end, loans will grow by 6%, and the industry will reach $1 trillion in total assets. Corporate assessments are expected to drop to less than 11 basis points this year.
NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz echoed Cheney’s positive message in her address, saying that just two years ago, the credit union industry “teetered on the edge of collapse,” with hundreds of CAMEL 4 and 5 institutions.
“But today, what a change,” she said. “Now that the system is stabilized, we must work together to move forward.”
However, not all credit unions are experiencing a strong recovery yet.
Charles Alston Sr., director for the $950 million Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU, said his Aberdeen, Md.-based cooperative is having difficulty generating new loan volume. Alston said his members lack confidence in the economy and are cautious to take on new debt. He planned to speak to his elected officials about improving the economy. "We are slowing getting there,” he said, “but we still need more help.”