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CUNA Mutual honors 6 CUs for lending excellence
MIAMI (11/7/12)--Six credit unions were recognized for their exemplary lending Monday by receiving CUNA Mutual Group's Excellence in Lending Awards at the CUNA Lending Council's 18th annual conference in Miami.

Click to view larger image Winners of the 2012 Excellence in Lending Awards were announced by CUNA Mutual Group at CUNA's Lending Council Annual Conference in Miami on Monday, and were, front, from left: Kathy Campbell, president/CEO, Northeast Community CU, Mortgage, less than $250 million in assets; Marsha Majors, executive vice president, U.S. New Mexico FCU, Low to Modest Means; Shyaam Shabaka, board vice chair, Cooperative Center FCU, Consumer, less than $250 million in assets; Benjamin Rutledge, vice president-commercial services, Gesa CU, Business; Alissa Sykes, mortgage manager, Sunmark FCU, Mortgage, more than $250 million in assets; and Sarah Klinger, associate  vice president-lending, United Nations FCU, Consumer, more than $250 million in assets. Back row, from left: Dan Murray, CUNA Mutual Group, vice president; and Bill Vogeney, CUNA Lending Council chair, senior vice president, Ent FCU. (Photo provided by CUNA Mutual Group)
Dan Murray, vice president, lending, CUNA Mutual Group, presented the 13th annual awards to:

  • United Nations FCU, Long Island City, N.Y.: Consumer Lending, Assets More Than $250 million;
  • Cooperative Center FCU, Berkeley, Calif.: Consumer Lending, Assets Less Than $250 million;
  • Sunmark FCU, Albany, N.Y.: Mortgage Lending, Assets More Than $250 million;
  • Northeast Community CU, Elizabethton, Tenn., Mortgage Lending, Assets Less than $250 million;
  • Gesa CU, Richland, Wash.: Business Lending; and
  • U.S. New Mexico FCU, Albuquerque, N.M.: Low-to-Modest Means.
"We had a record number of applications this year," said Murray. "But it wasn't just quantity, there were many quality, deserving applicants. In a challenging economy, it speaks to the resolve and creativity of our nominees."

Eighty-four credit unions were considered for this year's Excellence in Lending Awards, the most in the award program's 13-year history.

The  reasons for  the six credit unions being honored for their efforts in the specific lending areas mentioned is detailed below. They include:

CONSUMER--Assets More than $250 Million:

United Nations FCU--($3.7 billion assets; 97,000 members)-- A 2003 Excellence in Lending winner in the Mortgage category, United Nations FCU (UNFCU) is no stranger to providing a suite of financial products and services. The Long Island City, N.Y., credit union offers a line of products and services to satisfy the diverse needs of its members, who are located in more than 200 territories and countries around the world. UNFCU mitigates loan risk through its Country Scoring process, a sophisticated risk monitoring system, that takes in to account loan-to-share, gross domestic product growth and currency. The credit union also has an array of savings, loan, investment and insurance products that address the special needs of its widely dispersed membership. In short, UNFCU lives and breathes its mission of "Serving People who Serve the World."

CONSUMER--Assets Less Than $250 Million:

Cooperative Center FCU (CCFCU)--($102 million in assets; 13,000 members)--The Berkeley, Calif., credit union built its lending program from the ground up by establishing relationships with vehicle dealers through an indirect program. Among some ending initiatives was its "Stimulus Bailout," an unsecured debt consolidation loan to help members shed their high interest credit card or payday loans. Given its membership base is largely UC-Berkeley staff and students, private student loans became a component of CCFCU's lending portfolio. Further diversifying its lending portfolio is the small business program, which is Small Business Administration certified and tied to a state program that guarantees up to 80% of the loan amount.

MORTGAGE--Assets More Than $250 Million:

Sunmark FCU ($364 million in assets; 46,000+ members)--Sunmark FCU of Latham, N.Y., took a holistic approach to mortgage lending through strategic hires, department restructuring, offering competitive rates and by expanding its products. The credit union exhibited flexibility when it shifted from a refinance focus in 2009 and 2010 to purchase volume in 2011 and 2012. A decision to develop strong realtor relationships helped Sunmark grow its purchase business from 10% of its portfolio to 30% today. The credit union also has a diverse marketing strategy, including direct mail. Product offerings have also increased, including no closing costs and no-PMI mortgage options being introduced in August 2011. One campaign this year brought in 78 mortgage loans totaling $13.8 million.

MORTGAGE--Assets Less Than $250 Million:

Northeast Community CU  ($80 million in assets; 9,000+ members)--Northeast Community CU (NECCU) of Elizabethton, Tenn., may not be big, but it thinks big. They developed a mortgage strategy and executed on it by offering residential real estate loans with greatly reduced closing costs, then blanketed their area with news of it. NECCU established a $500 flat-fee closing cost on first mortgages and made it workable by negotiated lower costs with local appraisers and an attorney. The net result was a mortgage product that included closing costs other local lenders couldn't come close to matching, CUNA Mutual said.  Staff then rolled up their sleeves and began identifying members who had recently obtained a loan elsewhere and encouraged them to refinance.

BUSINESS--Gesa CU ($1.2 billion in assets; 109,000 members)--Gesa CU (GCU) has set its sights on becoming southeastern Washington's business lender of choice and is on its way to achieving that goal, CUNA Mutual said.  In a short period of time, GCU has developed a sound, profitable and sustainable member business lending portfolio. The program has exhibited loan growth, interest and fee income generation, examinations and audits of their portfolio. Gesa hired experienced business lenders to provide underwriting and portfolio management. Then, it formed a business loan committee to ensure sound decision-making on loans and collection efforts. Despite a struggling economy, GCU has put up impressive loan growth numbers ranging between $35 million and $47 million from 2009 to 2011, CUNA Mutual said..

LOW-TO-MODEST MEANS--U.S. New Mexico FCU ($725 million+ in assets; 67,000+ members) --This Albuquerque, N.M., credit union couldn't be more proud or much better at serving MOMMs--Members of Modest Means. Throughout its 77-year history, U.S. New Mexico has prided itself on being responsive to serving this membership with products and services aimed at helping MOMMs attain financial security. The credit union keeps its finger on the pulse of their membership through a 30-employee volunteer committee that identifies MOMMs' social and financial needs. The credit union responds with delivering a product suite designed to address the needs of that demographic, including programs such as Balance Financial Fitness, Eagle Advance, Credit Builder Credit Card, and CourtesyPay. U.S. New Mexico FCU is financially stable and its delinquency and charge-offs tell a very positive story, CUNA Mutual said.
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