<p>By PAUL GENTILE CU Times Editor SANTA ROSA, Calif. – In just about any key ratio or statistical area you look at, Redwood CU is growing off the charts. CEO William Rayhill said he's no genius and neither is the board, they just keep it simple. While 2001 was a tough year for some credit unions, Redwood's assets grew by 21%; loans by 16%, number of members by 6%, and on and on. These are solid numbers for most CUs in any year, but they represented a bit of a down year for Redwood CU. Last year was a weird year for a number of reasons. Many CUs grew because of an influx of deposits, but loans were nowhere to be found; the economy was shaky and of course world events had economic impacts. When looking at three-year, five-year, ten-year and twenty-year growth rates at Redwood CU, the picture of a consistently growing CU really takes shape. Taking the longest measure – 20-year growth – assets are up 22.6%; savings up 24.2%; loans up 22.5%; equity up 22% and number of members up 13.2%. Redwood CU is now the 95th largest CU with $731 million in assets. Nineteen years ago when Rayhill came aboard as CEO, had just $17 million in assets. The credit union does have the advantage of an eight-county community charter in the Northern Bay area of San Francisco. It's a charter they've had since 1984 and have been working to increase penetration. "We were a little ahead of the game. We thought the rules were changing, and we wanted to jump in and get the community charter done." It has also grown via mergers. It has merged with nine CUs over the past 19 years. One key to success says Rayhill is for CUs to constantly evaluate their product lines to meet member needs. "We're always expanding our product line. If our members want it, we want to have it. If you're true to your mission and start to listen to your members, you have to do your best to deliver." Case in point. In 2001 financial planning was a hot monetary issue among consumers. With stocks plummeting and 401(k)s depleted, consumers started looking for help in managing their money. Redwood started a CUSO, RCU Services Group, to do just that. Rayhill said the financial planning aspect has been wildly successful, with hundreds of members taking advantage of the service. Staying to its mission of meeting member needs, the CUSO also offers the key products involved in financial planning: insurance and investments. Redwood also got in early on indirect lending, and it has helped make it the No. 1 auto lender in its market. Rayhill said Redwood is a household name in its market, but not without competition. There are venerable banks such as Exchange Bank that have equal or better name recognition. Things like strategic indirect lending relationships have helped it stay ahead of major competitors, said Rayhill. The credit union also makes a point to be involved in the community. From charitable events, to volunteer work, Rayhill believes that helps the CU become viewed as a trusted financial provider in the community. "We just hired a new senior vice president who came over from the California League. He's amazed that everyone he's come in contact with just loves the credit union, loves the brand. That's what we're trying to accomplish," he said. Rayhill said the CU is not afraid to make vendor moves to get the best prices for its members. For example, it recently left CUNA Mutual's broker/dealer to join CFS, Callahan's broker/dealer subsidiary. It made the move for pricing reasons. [email protected]</p>

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