The Vanishing Credit Union Gets Bigger

By Robert McGarvey 

For Credit Union 2.0  

The April CUNA Mutual Trends Report drops a paradoxical bomb that leaves us confused: are credit unions getting bigger? Or are they vanishing? 

First the good news: more of us belong to credit unions, reported CUNA Mutual.  “Credit union membership growth was on a tear during the first two months of 2018, adding 850,000 new memberships versus the 650,000 reported in the first two months of 2017.” 

CUNA Mutual went on: “Credit unions should expect membership growth to exceed 3.5% in 2018. This will push the total number of credit union memberships to 117.6 million by year end, which is equal to 33% of the total U.S. population.” 

Roll back to 1960 and, per NCUA data, just 6 million of us belonged to federal credit unions.  A similar number belonged to state chartered institutions. That’s 12 million total, out of a US population of 180 million.  That’s about 6.7% of us, far below today’s one in three. 

Plainly, a lot more of us belong to credit unions now, probably because of expanding FOMs and also because many credit unions offer tempting deals – for used car loans, for instance, and in some markets home mortgages – that bring in members at least for those specific products. 

More credit unions also are working smarter and better at communicating that their membership is pretty much open to all. There remain some of us who believe they can’t join a credit union because they don’t belong to a union – but those numbers are shrinking. 

Member growth is good.  But do the CUNA Mutual data mean the credit union movement should pop open champagne and toast the good times? 

Maybe not. 

At least not just yet.  There’s more to digest in the CUNA Mutual data dump. 

Toward the end of the report, CUNA Mutual serves up these disturbing numbers: “As of February 2018, CUNA estimates 5,757 credit unions are in operation, down 240 from February 2017. The pace of consolidation in the credit union system is accelerating due to the following factors: retiring baby boomer CEOs, rising regulatory/compliance burdens, low net interest margins, rising concerns over scale and operating efficiency, rising competitive pressures, and members’ demand for ever more products, services and access channels. NCUA’s Insurance Report of Activity showed 9 mergers – 7 mergers were due to ‘expanded services,’ 1 for ‘poor[Text Wrapping Break]financial conditions,’ and one for ‘lack of growth’ – were approved in February with a merging credit union average asset size of $13 million. This is a fewer than the number of mergers reported in February 2016 with a merging credit union average asset size of $10 million. We are forecasting the number of credit unions will decline 250 in 2018.” 

Do the math. If the current rate of consolidation continues, by 2028 there will be a bit over 3000 credit unions. 

In 1960 there were about 10,000 federally chartered credit unions, per NCUA.   

As for the membership growth, CUNA Mutual sees it continuing, sort of.  “The membership gain was partly driven by the 502,000 new jobs created during January and February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and by the tremendous growth in credit union indirect auto lending. During the last few years credit union membership growth has been highly correlated with job creation with the seasonally adjusted annualized growth rate exceeding 4% over the last year. With job growth expected to slow slightly in 2018 to 2.2 million, we forecast credit unions to pick-up an additional 4.0 million members.”  (Emphasis added.) 

Many credit union executives, at least privately, of course grumble about indirect car loans because the “members” they bring in often limit their memberships to the car loan and they aren’t especially profitable. 

Add this up and what’s the meaning? Credit unions need to do a much better job of expanding their relationships with members.  It is great to have an expanding number of members, it is not so great not to be creating more solvent credit unions. 

The truly good news is that if one in three Americans belong to a credit union that is plenty of bulk to use to seek to grow the institutions organically.  For instance: get that indirect car loan borrower using a sharedraft account and a credit card and the credit union is onto something wonderful. 

The alternative is to join the thundering herd of dying credit unions, many of which are like wildebeest in the Tanzanian Great Migration, there essentially to be picked off by predators. 

Parse the CUNA Mutual data and just maybe the message is a double edged sword: grow membership, especially the right membership, and success may lie ahead. Or shrink into extinction. 

That is the stark choice in front of today’s credit union executives. 

Credit Union Data Analytics: How do you know your member is about to leave you? :(

If you work for a credit union and are looking for ideas on how to stem attrition or member loss, then this post is for you.  This blog is part eight in Credit Union 2.0’s “Almost 99 Small Data Credit Union hacks” series and is based on the book Credit Union 2.0 – A Guide for Helping Credit Unions Compete in the Digital Age which covers in depth both big and small data for credit unions. There are six types of data that your Credit Union should be aware of:

  1. Digital Analytics – Desire
  2. Profitability – Fit
  3. Wallet Share – Depth
  4. Transaction – Triggers
  5. Design Data – Predictive
  6. Execution – IFTT (if this than that)

Sometimes members give us very subtle clues that they are moving on. Here are a few key actions to be watching for:

What the member does? What it means?
Reduce bill pay items by more than 25% Moving over to somewhere else
Credit Card activity stops one month New Credit Card
Member stops logging into online banking No longer the PFI
Member doesn’t order new checks Moving soon and not planning on taking you along
Member doesn’t get a new car loan from you and pays off the old Found a better deal
Payroll declines or disappears entirely Switching accounts
Checking account activity declines in volume Switching accounts
Have more to add? Email info@cu-2.com and help us improve this post!

 

If you pay attention to the warning signs, you may be able to save the membership and get the member engaged again. Credit Unions spend over $200 for each new member, however most problems are way less expensive to solve for a current member and require a lot less labor.

Want to learn more about how your fellow Credit Union leaders are using data? We invite you to join our Credit Union 2.0 Strategist Group where over one thousand industry leaders comment on new news and trends while sharing and learning from one another.

This is the eigth post in a nine part series. If you can’t wait for next week and want the full “Almost 99 Credit Union Small Data Hacks Guide” click here!

In case you missed it:

Click here for part one of the data analytics series.

Click here for part two of the data analytics series.

Click here for part three of the data analytics series.

Click here for part four of the data analytics series.

Click here for part five of the data analytics series.

Click here for part six of the data analytics series. 

Click here for part seven of the data analytics series.