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Sliver-thin interest margins, reduced consumer demand for loans, the looming slash in interchange income and paltry returns on their own investments have combined to make credit unions search for noninterest income in serious earnest.

Strategies for doing that abound. For instance, the $500 million U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Va., began buying member business loans just more than six months ago and has since added more than $10 million at a return of more than 6%, said John Hayes, the 32,000-member credit union’s executive vice president and chief operations officer.

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