Hawaii: Credit Unions Saying a Slow Aloha to Tourism Recovery
By all accounts, Hawaii's tourism economy is experiencing a big wave of double-digit increases in visitor arrivals and spending over the past year. However, Hawaii credit unions reported a flat return on average assets during second quarter 2012, according to the NCUA’s Quarterly U.S. Map Review.
With 62 basis points worth of profit that lags behind the national average of 86 basis points, the Aloha State’s credit unions could use a couple of mai tais to get them through the year.
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“Our economy is highly dependent on tourism and in that regard things are looking up,” said Dennis Tanimoto, president of the Hawaii Credit Union League in Honolulu. “Unfortunately, our credit unions here in Hawaii are just not generating enough loan volume to bring us back to where we were four years ago.”
Also during the second quarter, Hawaii’s credit unions reported a12-month loan growth of -2.6%, compared to 3.2% nationally, and just 67% of the Aloha state’s credit unions reported a positive return on average assets, compared to a 74% national average.
The state’s tourism economy is on pace for a record year through July as the Hawaiian Tourism Authority reported 1,800 more visitors each day and an additional $17 per person in daily spending compared to 2011. This activity has resulted in total visitor arrivals increasing 9.8% to 4.7 million visitors and total expenditures jumping 20.8% to $8.4 billion, up $1.4 billion from last year.
Year-to-date visitor spending has generated an estimated $915 million in state tax revenues and will help to sustain more than 160,000 Hawaiian jobs in 2012. Tanimoto hopes this wave of tourist dollars will eventually spill over into the pockets of the more than 800,000 credit union members in Hawaii.
“Besides tourism we have a strong Navy and Pentagon membership base,” Tanimoto said. “There are other industries besides tourism in Hawaii so we are really starting to see the economy turning around for the better.”
According to the latest U.S. Census report, Hawaii had the nation's largest percentage drop in median income and biggest percentage spike in poverty rate during the last two years of the recession.
The cost of living in Hawaii is already among the highest in the United States. The basics of life — housing, food, utilities — are considerably higher than in the mainland, and research shows that 85% of credit union members in Hawaii are low-income, earning less than 80% of the state’s median family income.
Tourist numbers dropped dramatically during the recession, and the state's tourism industry suffered a second blow when the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami stifled the flow of big-spending Japanese vacationers to the islands. However, in 2012, visitors from all over the world are coming back to the sandy beaches, tropical weather and Aloha spirit.
Andrew Rosen, president/CEO of the $1.1 billion Hawaii State Federal Credit Union, said the Hawaiian economy tends to lag behind the mainland economy by about six to 12 months.
Despite the recession, the nearly 75-year-old credit union, located in Honolulu, has experienced a 50% jump in membership since 2001, Rosen said. It also is one of the few credit unions in the country to provide members with bonus dividends and interest rebates, returning more than $37 million in earnings since 1996.
HSFCU counts 74,339 members and a ROAA of 0.82%, lower than its peer average of 0.92%. However, delinquent loan numbers as of June are an impressive 0.27%, compared with a 1.12% peer average.
“We owe our strong ROAA to focusing on the basics, lending to our members and helping them save,” Rosen said. “The difference between Hawaii State Federal Credit Union and our peers is really due to the lag in our recovery and lower loan demand.”
Rosen said his employees work very closely with members to meet their credit needs and ensure they can manage their debt responsibly.
“Our negative loan growth is a reflection of two factors,” he said. “The first is the slow recovery of the economy, and the second is our active management of long-term interest rate risk. We have stopped putting long-term, fixed real estate loans on our books, although we broker mortgages and refinances for members. With record low interest rates we are adjusting our balance sheet to reduce long-term interest rate risk.”
The credit union’s field of membership includes all state, city and county employees in Hawaii and their families.
“As the economy improves we’re beginning to see greater demand for loans,” Rosen said. “We have some really revolutionary products in the planning stage to better meet members’ long-term needs in a rapidly changing financial landscape. Overall we have a great member base and we are striving for new ways to serve them in this rapidly changing economy.”
Hawaii has a long relationship with credit unions. In 1936, Archie C. Jackson, founder of Hawaii’s first credit union, Big Island Teachers' FCU, would hand deliver loan or withdrawal checks, making the long drive from his office in Hilo to Kau, Kohala and Kona.
Jackson's checks weren't big. In 1936, he reported that his credit union had 65 members, with $2,149.54 on deposit and 12 loans totaling $1,260. However, the country was in the middle of the Great Depression, when money was hard to come by and harder to keep.
The now $1.3 billion Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Honolulu, opened its doors on Nov. 6, 1936, as Oahu Teachers No. 3 Federal Credit Union. In 2000, the credit union changed its name to Hawaii USA.
Like the rest of the country, educators are having a tough time in Hawaii, but President/CEO Karl Yoneshige said his membership mix of government employees, students and their families are slowly turning the tide on the recession.
“As for the educators who are our members, they have seen a lot of changes occur in their benefits and it’s been pretty tough on them,” Yoneshige said. “Because of this a lot of them have gone delinquent on their loans and we’ve had a number of write-offs. Overall things are improving but it’s slow in coming.”
Charge offs peaked at 0.84% as of Dec. 31, 2011, but as of June 30 the number had fallen to 0.44%, well below the peer average of 0.74%. Like HSFCU, Hawaii USA’s 0.67% ROAA lags behind the 0.92% ROAA reported by their $1 billion asset peers. A low loan to share ratio – just 40% as of June 30 compared to the peer average of nearly 70% – will continue to make revenue a challenge.
“Our lending is slowly improving and with all the credit unions and banks in Hawaii there is a lot of competition, so we are looking at some positive numbers headed our way,” Yoneshige said. “The economy really isn’t that much different here in Hawaii than it is on the mainland except we might have more sunshine and it’s still free.”