LAS VEGAS — A panel of CEOs from leading credit unions in housing finance told credit union executives attending the American Credit Union Mortgage Association's annual meeting that credit unions have broken through on mortgage lending and face a strong future in the field.
They were Patsy Van Ouwerkerk of the 178,000-member, $2 billion Travis Credit Union in Vacaville, Calif.; Michael Valentine of the 156,000-member, $1.7 billion Baxter Credit Union in Vernon Hills, Ill.; Nader Moghaddam of the 50,000-member, $788 million Financial Partners Credit Union in Downey, Calif., and Terry West of the 413,000- member, $4.7 billion VyStar Credit Union.
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In a Monday discussion moderated by Moghaddam, the panelists said they were almost surprised by the strong reaction their members and communities showed toward their housing finance programs.
“If there is one thing we can say, it’s that mortgage lending is here to stay,” Valentine said. “Mortgages are a product where credit unions can really shine. When members come to us with mortgage problems that we can help them resolve, they become fans and they tell other people.”
West recounted how VyStar had found that members who take out housing finance loans with the credit union also doubled their participation in other credit union products and services. He also echoed Valentine's comments that working in housing finance had enormously increased the credit union's profile in the community and had helped draw many new members.
VyStar's reputation for service and caring for its members had reached a point, West said, where the CU's housing finance loans were actually priced a little bit higher than the market. “We haven't had to cut our prices to the bone to get the business,” he said.
Van Ouwerkerk recounted how her credit union had found a good deal of success offering refinanced loans under the latest version of the Home Affordable Refinance Program and had developed a “HARP look alike” program for the loans it held in portfolio.
“We figured that our members with loans we held were going to expect something similar,” she explained.
She was also one of the CEOs who offered counterpoint to West's observation about how burdensome federal regulations had become.
West has testified on the topic before the U.S. Senate and told the executives that, for the first, new proposed regulation from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had made him re-think whether or not VyStar should continue loan servicing.
“We are staying in it,” he said, “but I really had to think about it:”
But while Valentine acknowledged the burdens of regulations, he also noted they had cleared the market from many of his credit union's competitors.
Van Ouwerkerk agreed and said that her credit union had discovered it needed to actively work against focusing so much on complying with regulations that it missed housing finance opportunities.