2010 Credit Union Excellence in Lending Awards 2010 Excellence in Lending Winners

In 2000, the Excellence in Lending Award was created through a joint effort between CUNA Mutual Group and the CUNA Lending Council to recognize credit unions that create exceptional lending results through stable, sustainable operations. The Credit Union Excellence in Lending Award provides an opportunity for credit unions to share best practices and ideas, build networks, and recognize and celebrate lending excellence.

2010 Excellence in Lending Award Winners

Front row, left to right: Jeff Lewis and Jim Craft, Oregon Community CU, Eugene, Ore., Consumer Lending, More than $250M in assets; Carol Brinchi and Denise Kaczmareck of Erie (Penn.) FCU, Consumer Lending, More than $250M in assets; Robert Morgan, NorthCountry FCU, South Burlington, VT, Low/Modest Means credit unions. Back row: Dan Kaiser, VP, CUNA Mutual Group; Aaron Bresko, VP, BECU, Lending Council chairman.

2010 Credit Union Excellence in Lending
Consumer Lending Winner
More than $250 million in assets

Erie Federal Credit Union ($320,820,031 in assets; 36,709 members)

  • 2008 strategic planning paved the way for exceptional performance during dreadful economic conditions in ’08 and ’09.
  • The game plan called for expense management, building business relationships and enhancing lending and member service programs.
  • Investment in people improved consumer and business lending programs, including lowering the rate of future loan losses.
  • Technology investments improved Erie’s indirect loan program and members’ ability to open accounts online.
  • Experienced record growth in 2009 in all areas, most notably lending.

Result: Bottom line provided income to offset NCUSIF assessment.

Erie Federal Credit Union put the wheels in motion at a strategic planning meeting in 2008 that helped it navigate through the troubled economy that year and in 2009.

At that meeting the Erie, PA credit union focused on becoming more efficient by managing operating expenses and enhancing its lending and member services programs. In 2009, Erie provided 3,400 car loans totaling $49 million and maintained its standing as the No. 1 vehicle lender in Erie County.

With traditional business financing channels struggling, small business came to Erie to finance sales of their products. Their newly formed Merchant Direct Loan program grew to 18 merchants, generating another avenue for new loan growth.

Bottom line: Erie FCU grew its loan portfolio 22.7 percent in 2009.

2010 Credit Union Excellence in Lending
Consumer Lending Winner
More than $250 million in assets

Oregon Community CU ($919,641,918 in assets; 96,863 members)

  • Challenge: Instill a sales and service culture so employees understand service is about aligning members’ needs with a product or service.
  • Solution: “360 Training” was a comprehensive training program that got employees “almost fanatical” in pursuit of service excellence.
  • Culture change spurred product development, including a fixed-portion Personal Line of Credit and a revamped indirect lending program.
  • “1-1-1” program assisted branch staff by either lowering a member’s rate 1%, lowering their payment by $100, or giving them 1% back on newly booked loans.

Oregon Community Credit Union knew it would need to transform from a “service industry” to a sales and service culture. In successfully making that transition, the Eugene, OR credit union became the fastest-growing credit union in Lane County, Oregon.

The catalyst was its “360” Training, a comprehensive program for staff top to bottom that removed the “fear of sales” in employees and gave them the tools necessary to succeed in any position. Employees also learned to align a member’s needs with a product or service.

That led to Oregon Community improving its HELOC programs and its directing lending program and relationships with area car dealers. The sales process was further enhanced by establishing a loan-phone branch that put every incoming call from a member looking for a loan in the hands of a loan expert. In the first half of 2010, OCCU’s loan branch production stood at 137 percent of its annualized goal.

OCCU made other significant changes that benefited employees and members, creating results that have exceeded their “wildest expectations.”

2010 Credit Union Excellence in Lending
Mortgage Lending Winner
Low/Modest Means Lending

NorthCountry FCU ($295,560,339 in assets; 23,236 members)

  • Implemented mortgage, credit card and emergency loan programs aimed at reaching more members of modest means.
  • Developed a unique payday lending alternative called the Employer Sponsored Income Advance Program.
  • Members’ emergency loan program is initiated through employer’s H.R. department.
  • 11 participating companies pay a small annual fee – typically less than $500 – to offer the emergency loan program to their employees.

NorthCountry Federal Credit Union’s desire to reach more members of modest means led to a unique emergency loan program that provides up to $1,500 in funds through the members’ employers.

Members apply for the emergency loans through their employer’s H.R. Department. Reasonable payments are made through payroll deduction and can be paid over six months.

11 Vermont companies participate in the program, which does not require credit underwriting. Loans are generally approved within an hour. The South Burlington, VT credit union’s projected losses on these loans are covered by a small annual fee paid by employers, normally less than $500.

Since July 2007, NorthCountry FCU has made 389 loans totaling $400,000 and has written off only $8,500 in losses. Thirty-five percent of borrowers continue the payroll deduction to savings after the loan is repaid.

The program has generated interest nationally through the local United Way chapter.