WESTBROOK, Maine (1/9/12)--As credit unions leaders nationwide discuss what changes the new year will bring, Maine credit unions offered a forecast filled with opportunities and challenges.
Maine Credit Union League President John Murphy said he anticipates more consumers will turn to credit unions for financial services as the wave of positive publicity surrounding Bank Transfer Day continues to resonate (News & Views January).
"However, with the current rate environment, regulatory changes and continued economic uncertainty facing many consumers, the year ahead is certain to present its share of challenges, too. How we meet those challenges and others that may arise remains to be seen," Murphy said.
Building on the momentum of 2011 in 2012 will take some work, said Donna Steckino, president/CEO of Community CU, Lewiston.
"Our opportunity is also a challenge because there are still too many consumers who are not informed about the benefits of credit unions," Steckino told the league.
With the economy still recovering, credit unions have an opportunity to fulfill their mission and help consumers of low and moderate income with loan and deposit products, said Norman Dubreil, president/CEO of Maine State CU, Augusta. "This may mean taking on a little more risk, but we can do it cautiously; it has and will continue to help us build member loyalty," Dubreil told the league.
Ken Hensler, president/CEO of The County FCU, Caribou, said the current strength of the credit union brand provides an opportunity for membership growth. "The credit union brand is strong and getting even stronger so we are in a position to leverage that into building and strengthening relationships," Hensler told the league.
Helping members find their way out of the financial crisis can benefit credit unions in the long term, said Diana Winkley, president/CEO of Capital Area FCU, Augusta. Another opportunity for credit unions is member business lending (MBL), she added.
The Credit Union National Association has estimated that increasing the current 12.25% of assets MBL cap to 27.5% of a credit union's total assets would have a number of beneficial effects on the ailing economy, including infusing $13 billion in new credit for small businesses and adding 140,000 new jobs within the first year of enactment--all at no cost to the American taxpayer.