Local credit unions see growth
July 22, 2013By Jenny Callison
In line with a national trend, area credit unions saw their membership numbers and assets rise this past year.
According to a June 19 report from SNL Financial, Raleigh-based State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) was near the top of the list nationally. SECU, which is the country’s second-largest credit union, had the third largest membership increase, adding slightly more than 67,000 new members during the year ending March 31 – a 3.8 percent growth rate.
SECU’s five branches in Wilmington alone now serve more than 38,000 members – an increase of 2,700 members in the past year, said credit union spokeswoman Elaine Wallace.
“State Employees’ Credit Union’s growth can be attributed to many factors. Those include accessibility, convenience, competitive rates, low or no-fee products, memberfriendly programs – such as the beneficial Mortgage Assistance Program – and great member service,” Mike Lord, SECU’s chief financial officer, said in an email.
Wilmington area membership for Durham-based Self-Help Credit Union increased by about 200 to 3,910. Local Government Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Wilmington, more than doubled its membership, growing from 2,900 in early 2012 to 6,311 in early 2013.
A new presence in this area’s credit union market is Piedmont Advantage Credit Union (PACU), which purchased the troubled Wilmingtonbased East Coast Credit Union on Nov. 30.
Judy Tharp, PACU’s CEO, said that her organization teamed up with Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington to do “extensive research” on the southeastern North Carolina market before committing to the East Coast acquisition. The purchase of East Coast added 1,821 members, $3.68 million in loans and $7.68 million in assets to the PACU portfolio.
PACU’s Wilmington membership grew to 5,200 by March, PACU spokeswoman Belinda Williams said. Statewide, the credit union saw more than a 14 percent loan growth and a 7.6 percent assets growth.
PACU membership is no longer restricted to current and former employees of U.S. Airways, Piedmont’s descendent. Anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, New Hanover or Pender counties is eligible to join.
Survey shows businesses more optimistic
Business owners are feeling significantly better about the economy and their businesses than they did a year ago, according to a survey that Atlantabased SunTrust Banks Inc. conducted in the second quarter of 2013.
Sixty-five percent of leaders at companies with annual revenue of
$10 million-$100 million indicated they feel better about their company’s financial well-being than they did last year, according to the survey released in late June.
This is in contrast to study findings in 2012 when only 38 percent said they felt their companies were in a better financial state than the previous year.
In a comparable survey of small businesses (those with revenue of $1 million-$10 million) 62 percent said their company’s financial well-being was better than last year.
Decision makers representing about 1,675 small- and mid-size businesses participated in SunTrust’s survey.
Current financial priorities cited by business leaders include increasing revenue and profitability, reducing expenses, expanding market share and increasing customer satisfaction.
To achieve those goals, 59 percent of surveyed companies are investing in new technology, 51 percent are focusing on managing cash flow more effectively, 49 percent are expanding into new domestic markets and 48 percent are working to hire or retain full-time employees.
David Stevens, SunTrust’s president of its Central Carolina region that includes the Wilmington market, said feedback on company priorities gleaned from the yearly surveys helps his bank take a holistic approach with its business clients.
“We help clients achieve financial well-being not just through borrowing but by creating more efficient cash flow,” Stevens said.
“We work to understand their cash conversion cycle of receivables and payables. If you can help somebody collect quicker and be more efficient in how they pay, you reduce the need and expense of borrowing.”
Evolving technology was a big factor in improving cash cycle efficiencies, Stevens said, citing online check deposit for businesses as one example of SunTrust’s use of technology to speed up clients’ accounts receivable processes.
Stevens said SunTrust spends considerable resources on training its branch employees so they can help business customers analyze, assess and plan for financial well-being.
“From Wilmington to Morganton, we’re really seeing a pretty robust demand across all of our [North Carolina] geographies,” Stevens said.
“The survey links to what we are feeling, hearing and seeing. We have spent a lot of time and energy in training our bankers to create product offerings that reflect what [businesses] want.
“Wilmington is coming back nicely from some of the housing bubble [problems] it experienced,” he added.
“We’re seeing our clients in Wilmington healthier and more confident. Our commercial bankers are having a lot of success this year.”
SECU adds alert service
State Employees’ Credit Union has launched an electronic alert service to help its members manage their accounts.
Alerts notify members of e-statements or account transactions, help members monitor their accounts for potential fraudulent transactions and offer account-specific alerts to help members avoid unnecessary nonsufficient fund fees, according to a news release.
Each member determines a threshold balance for a checking account. When the balance dips below that threshold, SECU sends a text message or alert through the credit union’s secure message center to notify the member.
“Alerts are very beneficial for our members, many of whose professional and personal lives are extremely busy and leave little time to monitor activity on their accounts,” Rick Rhoads, senior vice president of SECU’s E-Services department, said in the release.
SECU, which serves 1.8 million employees of North Carolina state government, maintains 248 branch offices and 1,100 ATMs statewide.