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WASHINGTON-Credit unions’ assets are expanding at a rate far exceeding their for-profit counterparts. According to creditunions.com from Callahan and Associates, credit union assets have grown faster than banks and thrifts over the past five years. The compound growth rate over the past five years for credit unions has been 10.17%; banks have come in at 7.23% and thrifts at 9.07%. Over the last 12 months ending June 30, credit unions have demonstrated a strong 12.3% asset growth rate. Banks and thrifts have lagged behind at 11.2% and 10.1% respectively, creditunions.com reported. However, as of June 30, credit unions controlled just $612 billion of all financial institutions’ $9 trillion in assets, or 6.4%. NAFCU Economist Jeff Taylor said that this last number is the data that is significant. It is easier to grow a larger percentage if you start from a small base, but for banks to grow at the rate they are expanding with their asset base is enormously greater growth in dollars, he explained. While banks’ assets may have grown 1% less than credit unions last year, the dollar difference is significant. Over 2002, Taylor said that banks grew $500 billion in assets, nearly 90% of credit unions total assets of $557 billion. “It’s OK if you’re big and growing, but don’t say that we’re taking your market,” Taylor said, pointing to the bankers complaints that credit unions have an unfair advantage. What is really hurting banks’ market share are mutual funds, he said. Aside from the small asset base, credit union assets grew at the pace they did because they are constantly entering new markets, like mortgage lending, home equity loans, life insurance, and others, which banks already have a hold in. New services tend to grow asset size, Taylor said. For example, 15% of credit unions began offering mutual funds last year. Nearly half of credit unions began offering life insurance in 2002, while 25% started business checking programs. Though he does not expect numbers to skyrocket this year, Taylor said that commercial and member business lending could account for an uptick with 125 credit unions beginning to offer the service last year. The difference between credit unions and banks is that most credit unions are simply trying to fulfill their members’ needs as opposed to large banks that make the mega loans for developers. Again, he said, credit unions are just fulfilling their members’ needs when they cannot obtain a small loan from a bank because of the risk or because the loan is too small, like for a taxicab medallion. [email protected]

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