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PHOENIX. – In a break from negative economic news in the business press, Desert Schools FCU has managed to win some favorable media attention for what the CU considers its exceptional loan growth over the last year, much of it coming from mortgages and home equity. In front page articles in the business section of the Tribune newspaper chain, the largest circulating paper in the Phoenix suburbs, Desert Schools was cited for “leading the nation” in growth of its loan portfolio for a year’s period ending last March 31. The statistics on Desert Schools’ performance were compiled by Callahan & Associates, picked up by the Desert Schools loan staff and featured in a press release The release said the state’s largest credit union, with $1.5 billion in assets, grew its loan portfolio by 31.76% during the period while nationally loan growth among CUs grew 11%. “We saw the Callahan numbers and our ranking and we decided to issue a press release,” explained Brad Loebbaka, senior director of marketing and business development. The numbers, he said, were spotted in a story about Callahan in a recent Credit Union Times survey article. The press release was written by the Jordan Group, Inc. an outside Phoenix PR agency, but Laura Jorda, who heads up the agency, said she had approached a Tribune business editor to run the article as an example of “a really great story while there are so many potential economic disaster stories running.” The editor, like many in the business press consumed with the negative fallout from Sept. 11, seemed willing “to run a success story,” said Jordan. The press release and Tribune article on Desert Schools quoted Susan C. Frank, the president, on Desert Schools stepped up marketing and advertising program as well as favorable rates. Desert Schools also traces its loan growth to hiring and placing “dedicated mortgage loan officers at six of its 17 branches,” said the release. The CU also said it has speeded up processing of home loans with greater “personalized service” at the branches. In addition, “we actively work with the homeowner to refinance and eliminate private mortgage insurance and to write a loan that allows for a move-up purchase while possibly maintaining consistent monthly payments.” The Phoenix CU said its monthly volume has been on the increase for the past two years. In 1999 it had its first $30 million month and throughout 2000 volume averaged $40 million. Last June, Desert Schools “saw its first ever $85 million month.” In the first three months of 2001, Desert Schools said mortgages increased on average 33% over the same period a year ago. Annually, the growth “is even more stunning,” said the release. In June 1999, real estate loans totaled $59 million while in June 2001 the total outstandings had reached $257 million. A note added: “loans sold to Fannie Mae are not included in this total.” Loebbaka acknowledged that loan growth did slow at the start of September and after Sept, 11 “shock waves” impacted the economic picture. But, hopefully, he was quoted, “rates are still attractive for lending” but not for savings. – [email protected]

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