While it may be hard to convince some, loans per member are actually up, reversing declines in 2011, 2010 and 2009.
According to CUNA Mutual Group’s January Credit Union Trends Report, which tracked data through November 2012, loans per member of $6,343 were up just 1.9% year-over-year.
“This small victory is welcome. The low dollar amount highlights the real opportunity,” said Dave Colby, CUNA Mutual chief economist.
Still, the challenge for credit unions in 2013 will be to focus on getting more of new and existing members’ borrowing business.
“Succeeding at this challenge benefits member household financials and the financials of credit unions,” Colby said.
At the end of November, total credit union loan growth was 4.4%, according to the report. Once again, the 7.7% annual gain in vehicle loans led the way, accounting for 50% of the gain. First mortgages contributed almost 46% of all growth despite the sale of $2.4 billion in fixed-rate first mortgages during the month.
Stronger growth in credit cards is also expected as credit unions increase penetration with the 2.3 million new members gained during the past year. Business loan growth will also be a positive in 2013, the data showed.
Colby said looking ahead, there will be continued strength in vehicle lending “assuming we avoid a major economic/consumer confidence interruption from cliffs two, three and four.”
“When you are perched on a mountain of debt, avoiding one cliff is nice, but realize there are many more risky precipices to come,” Colby said. “But during the next two months, sequester spending cuts will need to be addressed, a continuing resolution must be passed and most importantly, the debt ceiling must be raised. These next three cliffs will impact employment growth, consumer sentiment, the nation’s credit rating and the overall direction of the economy.”
Colby said there has yet to be a consumer sentiment reading following the 2% reduction in wage earners take-home pay.
“If those in Washington repeat the August 2011 debt ceiling fight, sentiment plunges and this soft, consumer-led recovery stalls, credit unions’ first challenge in 2013 will be to help members replace the 2% take-home pay they lost by recapturing loans held elsewhere by providing better terms,” the CUNA economist said.