Credit unions seeing rise in accounts, deposits
December 2, 2011
Gauging by the numbers, the promotion was hardly needed.
In Colorado, 890 new members joined credit unions on Bank Transfer Day, accounting for $1.8 million in new deposits, according to the Mountain West Credit Union Association.
But for real drama, we have only to look at the numbers for October. In that month alone, credit unions statewide saw a total of 14,500 new accounts created for a total of $101 million in deposits. Prior to October, the MWCUA noted an average monthly gain of 770 new members in the state.
The most substantial increases in October activity were seen at both Public Service Credit Union and Credit Union of Colorado.
For all of its 15 branches, CU of Colorado saw an uptick of 27 percent in the number of checking accounts created this October compared to the same month last year, something Doug Schneider, spokesman for the company, called "very rare."
"I haven't seen this kind of activity in 20 years," he said.
In addition to moving over checking accounts, Schneider said, new customers are bringing over their savings accounts and bringing in family members, providing credit unions with an even bigger shot in the arm.
Like banks, credit unions haven't seen much loan demand in recent times. Schneider and CU of Colorado Greeley branch manager Meredith Logan point to a change in consumer spending and savings habits as a result of the economy.
Much of the loan activity at credit unions is created by consumers who are refinancing current loans rather than taking out new ones, according to Scott Earl, CEO of Mountain West Credit Union Association, formerly Credit Union Association of Colorado.
Public Service Credit Union also saw an increase in accounts created in October. In Larimer and Weld Counties, account creation jumped 52 percent, from 1,129 new accounts created in October 2010 to 1,720 new accounts created in October this year.
For the company as a whole, account creation increased 50 percent from 4,201 in October 2010 to 6,285 in the same period this year.
Warren Federal Credit Union, which operates primarily in Wyoming, will break ground on its second branch in the Northern Colorado market in spring 2012, further indicating growth for credit unions.
Warren currently has seven branches, with one located in Wellington, and just passed $400 million in assets and has 40,000 members, according to Michael Nagl, who serves as the credit union's chief lending officer.
While Colorado is home to several large national banks, Bank of America, which drew the most ire from consumers, doesn't have a single branch in the state. This may account for the more gradual move to credit unions in Colorado, according to the MWCUA's Earl.
Earl pointed to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"Consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated with large financial institutions," he said. Earl noted that he would consider a "large institution" one with $50 billion or more in assets.
While they may charge fewer fees at smaller amounts than large financial institutions, credit unions are not entirely fee-free.
Fees vary by institution, of course, but members can still be charged for things like bounced checks, ATM usage and, in some cases, checking accounts.
Molly Armbrister covers Banking for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached 970-232-3139 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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