Local CU Tops In U.S. Loan Growth

June 13, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — A national credit union research and consulting firm rated Grand Rapids-based Lake Michigan Credit Union as the No. 1 credit union in the nation for loan percent growth in 2002.

Callahan & Associates Inc. of Washington, D.C., also reported that LMCU was sixth in percent of asset growth with a gain of 29 percent last year, and 11th in Return to Member with a 2.05-percent ROA.

There are 9,500 credit unions in the nation.

"We're really thrilled about that [report]," said Jerri Schmidt, LMCU director of marketing and business development.

"Our members expect some of the best loan rates and the best loan services available today," she added. "What this says to us is, we are actually providing that to our consumer group."

Schmidt said Lake Michigan had a growth of 38 percent in loans last year; most were in new home mortgages and refinancing deals.

But the credit union also substantially increased its auto-loan portfolio last year, largely through the indirect lending program it created with about 160 area dealerships.

"Our members can go directly to the dealer where they find the vehicle that they want, whether it's new or used, and they can take care of their financing right at the dealer," said Schmidt.

Schmidt said the growth in assets reflected the strong investment rates that LMCU has offered members, especially on Certificates of Deposit, and the Return to Member ranking was proof the credit union has given them a solid return on both their debt and equity.

"We're very pleased to see all of that come in line. That means that we're doing our job."

Sandra Jelinski, LMCU president and CEO, called 2002 "another year of quality growth."

She noted that other Callahan findings placed Lake Michigan 44th in the loan-to-share ratio, 87th in loans outstanding, and 132nd in asset size nationally.

In Michigan, Jelinski pointed out that LMCU was tops last year in percent of asset and loan growth, and fourth in asset size. The state has 444 credit unions.

"Lake Michigan Credit Union's strategy is to provide our members above-market savings rates and the lowest possible loan rates. That strategy allowed Lake Michigan Credit Union to place No.11 out of 9,500 credit unions to Return to Member," wrote Jelinski in the 2002 annual report.

Credit unions have more than 83 million members today, up from 23 million in 1970.

In fact, according to Time magazine, the country's credit unions have $570 billion in assets this year, 29 percent more than two years ago, and have grown at about four times the rate of the commercial banking industry.

"Banks take the consumer for granted and for an awful lot of money. They are tacking on fees and have less interest in serving small businesses than they used to. We're filling the vacuum," said Dan Mica, president of the Credit Union National Association to Time.

But consolidating smaller credit unions into larger ones and certain regulatory changes have also contributed to the growth.

The banking industry argues that not having to pay taxes because of their nonprofit status allows credit unions to offer consumers sweeter interest rates for loans and savings than banks can.

For LMCU, the growth cycle didn't end at the end of 2002 when its membership rose by 12 percent.

In the first quarter of this year, the credit union opened three new branches — in Caledonia, Grand Rapids and Holland — and three more are on the drawing board for the last six months of the year.

One will be in Cascade, near Spaulding Avenue and Cascade Drive; another in Kentwood at 60th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue will replace the outgrown branch at 52nd and Kalamazoo.

The third will go up in Grand Haven, where LMCU brought the Grand Shore Credit Union into its fold at the start of this year.

"Currently we're using their existing facility, which is not really conducive to what our members need. So we're going to be building a new facility," said Schmidt.

"We're working on the property, we don't have it exactly. But we are looking at breaking ground on a similar branch site within the next two months."

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