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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Banks’ Losses Prove to Be Credit Unions’ Gains

For the most part, area credit unions have sidestepped the worst of the financial upheavals that have taken down some of the largest banks, and even have been reporting gains in deposits and lending in recent months.

“We’ve experienced increases in deposits and in our membership and that has everything to do with issues of safety and soundness,” said Irene Oberbauer, chief executive of San Diego County Credit Union, the region’s largest with more than $4 billion in assets.

Gains have come from existing members seeking loans and new members, many of whom have joined the credit union in recent weeks from a few of those banks that either failed or were on the verge of failing, she says.

Loans grew 23 percent in the past 12 months to $3.8 billion, while deposits were up 9 percent during the year, says SDCCU Chief Operating Officer Tum Vongsawad.

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A good portion of the deposits likely derived from customers formerly banking with Washington Mutual, now owned by JPMorgan Chase, and Wachovia, in the process of being acquired by Wells Fargo.

It’s a similar story for practically all credit unions in the state, with deposits for the first six months of 2008 increasing more than $5 billion, and fixed-rate mortgages rising $3.1 billion, according to analyst Daniel Penrod with the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, or CCUL, an industry trade association.

Geri Dillingham, COO at North Island Credit Union, said while the region’s third largest credit union is “holding its own” on the lending side, it is not doing as many real estate-backed loans as it did previously.

“We’ve had growth in deposits and it’s safe to assume that some of that came from customers who are seeking safety for their money,” she said.

North Island’s deposits grew half a percent during the year to $1.96 billion, while its loans decreased 4 percent to $1.11 billion in the prior 12 months to Sept. 30.

Like their banking brethren, credit unions admit that they’ve had to deal with escalating numbers of problem loans.

“We’re still experiencing higher delinquencies than normal, but nothing like our banking friends who got into subprime lending,” said Joe Schroeder, chief executive at San Diego Metropolitan Credit Union, with $300 million in assets.

Lending activity has been down in the past year and a half, especially for home equity lines of credit, Schroeder says.

“More people are applying for loans but they don’t have (sufficient) equity in their homes,” he said.

The CCUL reported loan delinquencies, or those delinquent more than 60 days, doubled statewide to 1 percent of the credit unions’ total loans of $86.7 billion, or $867 million. That compared with loan delinquencies of 0.5 percent on June 30, 2007.

Several local credit union executives say the increased delinquencies and a flight of deposits to larger credit unions that are perceived as safer could result in more institutions being forced to merge or risk being seized by the government.

“I don’t see how some of them are going to make it,” Oberbauer said.


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