St. Helens Community CU President/CEO Brooke Van Vleet discusses the CU’s road to commercial lending success.

SAVANNAH, Ga. – When it comes to commercial lending success and a credit union’s size, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Just ask St. Helens Community Credit Union President/CEO Brooke Van Vleet, who described the ups and downs of the credit union’s 30-year commercial lending journey in a breakout session at the 2018 CUBG National Business Conference last week.

The $220 million SHCU, located in the quiet Columbia River-adjacent community of St. Helens, Ore., is grandfathered into the MBL cap due to its long history of commercial lending in the area, and maintains a lending portfolio of approximately one-third commercial, one-third consumer and one-third real estate. From 2013 to 2016, Van Vleet explained, SHCU resolved a few problematic loans, and started placing more emphasis on risk and the credit union’s needs when structuring new loans. The credit union faced some challenges along the way, including a notable loss during the resolution of one particular loan, but it began returning to profitability after 2016, bouncing back from an ROA of 0.52% and net worth of 7.52% in 2016 to an ROA of 1.04%and net worth of 8.79% in 2018 year-to-date.

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Natasha Chilingerian

Natasha Chilingerian has worked in the credit union space for over a decade. She joined CU Times as managing editor in 2015 and was promoted to executive editor in 2019. Before that, she served as a communications specialist for Xceed Financial Credit Union (now Kinecta Federal Credit Union) in Los Angeles from 2013-2015, and as a CU Times freelancer from 2011-2013. She has been a professional writer and editor for more than 17 years, specializing in news and lifestyle journalism as well as marketing copywriting for companies in the finance and technology space.

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