economic losses shown on a line graph Source: Shutterstock.

While COVID-19 wasn’t declared a pandemic until March 11, the financial impact on at least some credit unions was strong enough to send earnings plummeting for the three months ending March 31, according to a CU Times analysis of early Call Reports from 10 large credit unions.

The sample encompassed $142.8 billion in assets and 10 million members from Seattle to Long Island, N.Y. Together their net income fell 69.2% to $115.9 million in the quarter as income grew slowly, investment values dropped and non-employee expenses spiked.

However bad the first quarter turns out for the rest of the nation’s credit unions, conditions are expected to be at their worst in the second quarter. CUNA Mutual Group chief economist Steven Rick has predicted unemployment will peak at 25% by June, rivaling the worst levels of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The group’s total loan portfolios grew 8.5% to $105 billion for the quarter, while their allowances for loan and lease losses (ALLL) rose 30.2% to $1.1 billion. The net charge-off ratio for the three months ending March 31 was 0.67%, up 7 basis points.

Despite the poor results, the credit unions had $15.2 billion in net worth as of March 31, or 10.63% of assets — a net worth ratio 11 bps higher than a year earlier and well above the NCUA’s 7% threshold for being classified as “well capitalized.”

Total loan originations grew 42.7% to $16.8 billion. First mortgage originations more than doubled to $5.6 billion. Car and other non-real estate loan originations rose 15% to $10 billion.

Some of the quarter’s dynamics can be seen in the results of BECU of Seattle and Alliant Credit Union of Chicago.

BECU ($22.7 billion in assets, 1.3 million members) went from $94.8 million in net income in 2019’s first quarter to a $61 million loss this year. Its ROA was -1.09%, down 298 bps from a year earlier.

Gains in parts of BECU’s business were more than offset by a $54 million increase in loan loss provisions and a net $27.6 million hit to income, in part reflecting “mark to market” accounting rules on investments, which had plummeted in value in wake of the coronavirus’ spread and economic impact.

“In light of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic uncertainty, BECU is being proactive and conservative in reserving for potential loan defaults and losses,” CFO Melba Bartels said.

Bartels said BECU’s “financial strength and ability to protect against unforeseen or unusual losses” is witnessed by its net worth ratio of 10.87% as of March 31.

“While a great deal of uncertainty remains around what will unfold over the next few months and year, BECU remains in a strong position, and committed to serving our employees, members and communities during this time,” Bartels said.

Alliant ($12.4 billion in assets, 508,427 members) lost $2.7 million and its ROA fell 129 bps to -0.90% in the first quarter as investments soured and its loan loss provisions more than tripled to $53.8 million “in anticipation of higher charge offs due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact,” President/CEO David Mooney said.

Alliant’s noninterest income fell 39.3% to $6.3 million, largely due to a decline in interchange income and a decline in the value of loan servicing rights because of low interest rates. Meanwhile, Alliant is seeing further net interest margin compression and a stream of requests for loan payment deferrals and forbearance.

“There is tremendous uncertainty, as there is simply no model for the COVID-19 crisis,” Mooney said.

“So we’re looking at a cone of probability,” he said. “We’re expecting an elevated level of charge-offs – how much will depend on the path of the pandemic and the depth and duration of the associated economic impacts.”

Besides BECU and Alliant, the sample included five other credit unions that rank among the Top 10 in assets that had Call Reports available from the NCUA by Thursday morning. Three others were added with Call Reports posted and assets between $9.8 billion and $9.9 billion. The other eight in the sample were:

  1. PenFed Credit Union, Tysons, Va. ($25.1 billion in assets, 1.9 million members) with net income of $33.8 million, -35.8% and ROA of 0.55%, down 32 bps.
  2. SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Santa Ana, Calif. ($16 billion, 1.1 million members) with net income of $46.9 million, up 6% and ROA of 1.18%, up 4 bps.
  3. Golden 1 Credit Union, Sacramento, Calif. ($13.9 billion, 1.1 million members) with net income of $20.5 million, down 30.2% and ROA of 0.62%, down 32 bps.
  4. America First Federal Credit Union, Salt Lake City ($12.2 billion, 1.1 million members) with net income of $19.3 million, down 55.7% and ROA of 0.66%, down 97 bps.
  5. Suncoast Credit Union, Tampa, Fla. ($11 billion, 887,599 members) with net income of $25.6 million, down 20.4% and ROA of 0.98%, down 36 bps.
  6. Mountain America Federal Credit Union, Salt Lake City ($9.9 billion, 900,267 members) with net income of $26 million, down 14% and ROA of 1.11%, down 30 bps.
  7. Security Service Federal Credit Union, San Antonio ($9.9 billion, 799,633 members) with net income of $19.7 million, up 12.6% and ROA of 0.81%, up 8 bps.
  8. Bethpage Federal Credit Union, Bethpage, N.Y. ($9.8 billion, 421,084 members) with net income of $12.2 million, down 41.4% and ROA of 0.53%, down 45 bps.