Looking to build on momentum from 2013, Navy Federal Credit Union is poised to grow both its auto and business lending programs even more this year.
Last May was a record month for the $55 billion credit union in Vienna, Va., when it booked $753 million in consumer loan originations – the best month in the cooperative’s 80-year history. At the time, $2.3 billion of its record $3.1 billion in consumer loan originations came from auto loans.
For all of 2013, Navy Federal had $8 billon in auto loans with 60% of coming from used car financing and 40% from new, said Joe Pendergast, assistant vice president of consumer lending at the credit union. Last year, auto loans were also up 18% over 2012’s lending activity.
A very low rate environment coupled with fast decisions after loan submittals has also helped to grow Navy Federal’s auto loan portfolio, Pendergast noted. With 11 to 12 years being the average age of vehicles on the road, many members are trading in their older vehicles, he added. Members are gravitating to trucks, SUVs and hybrid vehicles – a trend Pendergast expects to continue in 2014. While the credit union offered a leasing program some time ago, the decision was made to shut it down because in the end, it wasn’t in the best interest of the members and wasn’t “member friendly,” he explained.
Navy Federal also earned a national ranking among some of the country’s biggest banks in 2013. According to the Charlottesville, Va.-based data firm SNL Financial, it, along with a handful of other credit unions, made the top 25 auto lender list ranked right next to competitors such as Ally Financial Inc. in Detroit, Wells Fargo & Co. in San Francisco and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York.
This year, Navy Federal will continue to strive to make the member experience better when it comes to car financing, Pendergast said. Those efforts include offering the latest technologies to enhance online and mobile banking and getting the loan decision time down from 10 to 11 minutes to no more than eight minutes.
“We just don’t want our competitors coming in and taking deals away from us,” Pendergast said.
Just as auto lending was on a roll in 2013, Navy Federal also experienced growth in its business lending program, said Jim Salmon, vice president of business services.
“Part of (the success) is the maturity of the program. We’re entering our 10th year in providing business services to members,” Salmon said. “My staff is getting more tenured and the relationships with business members are growing.”
Navy Federal has more than $250 million in business and commercial loans, Salmon said. Its commercial participation loan program launched in July 2012 continues to make strides by partnering with other credit unions.
Last year, business deposits were up 25% and loan originations increased by more than 50%. Salmon said the credit union will also continue to build relationships with micro businesses – those entities that typically have one to three employees.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s very gratifying. A lot of these smaller businesses just want something very familiar,” Salmon said.
Even as banks step up their presence in the small business banking space after years of scaling back, Navy Federal said it will continue to serve its business members.
“Banks are engaged. They are selecting certain aspects in the market and going after them aggressively,” Salmon said. “But sometimes, it’s hard to break into those relationships. Members will come to us and say ‘I heard from this guy, I’ve never seen him before. Can you do anything here?’ And, then we take a look and say, ‘This is what we have to offer.’