Hope Credit Union CEO Bill Bynum said serving low-income communities has its challenges, but the additional planning and attention to projections and risk management are worth the effort.
And for credit unions searching for loan growth, demand in low-income areas is the highest Bynum said he’s seen in $147 million credit union’s 18-year history.
President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that low-income designated credit union lending would be included in the Administration’s latest drought relief package.
The initiative, which includes a fast-track approval process for 1,003 federal credit unions that qualify but haven’t applied for low-income status, could unlock between $250 million and half a billion dollars in new, near-term business lending, the NCUA said in a release.
Additionally, the NCUA said the measure has the potential to double the current number of LICUs and increase their member business lending by nearly 75%.
The Jackson, Miss.-based Hope, Credit Union Times' 2009 Trailblazer award winner for service to the underserved, has been an LICU since it was chartered in 1994. According to financial performance reports posted online by the NCUA, Hope’s numbers include a 5.31% delinquency rate and just 17 basis points of ROA as of June 30. Bynum said low-income communities often lack the safety net that members in wealthier communities enjoy, like the ability to borrow money from family members if loans fall past due. However, actual losses are low – charge offs typically run around 1% or less – thanks to good relationships with members.
Bynum said financials also reflect that the credit union has been in growth mode, merging with struggling credit unions that also serve distressed areas and absorbing their losses.
While credit unions nationwide bemoan a lack of new loans, Hope reported 6.41% year-to-date loan growth and a 97.5% loan-to-share ratio as of June 30. Thirty-five to 40% of the credit union’s loan portfolio is made up of business loans, with Hope generating between $30 million and $45 million in small business loans each year.
Borrowers “run the gamut” from rural hospitals and community health clinics to manufacturers and retailers, Bynum said.
Bynum said Hope is also a Small Business Administration lender and offers USDA guaranteed loans, because the programs help the credit union mitigate risk so it can leverage more deposits into loans.
To qualify as a LICU, a majority of members must live in low-income areas. Benefits include an exemption from the 12.25% MBL cap, Community Development Revolving Loan Fund grants and low-interest loan eligibility, non-member deposits, and supplemental capital.
The NCUA sent eligible credit unions a notification letter on Tuesday. A simple affirmative reply to the opt-in offer will allow them to avoid application paperwork and begin utilizing LICU benefits immediately.
Pam Owens, interim president/CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, said her organization is excited about the NCUA’s opt-in program and hopes many eligible credit unions participate.
“So many credit unions have been serving low and moderate income communities for years, but due to staff resources and time, they haven’t pursued low income designation,” she said. “Now they can be recognized for the work they do, and hopefully this will open up other resources that are available to low income credit unions.”