FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (4/23/08)--Credit union membership growth is barely staying ahead of population growth, an industry expert told the Texas Credit Union League’s Annual Meeting and Expo last week. Steve Rodgers, editorial director for the Credit Union National Association, addressed the issue of why 78 million consumers eligible for credit union membership aren’t joining (LoneStar Leaguer April 21). There are many reasons consumers aren’t joining credit unions, Rodgers said. Consumers don’t perceive credit unions to be convenient, they are not aware of their eligibility for membership, and they don’t want to hassle with switching financial institutions. Rodgers shared case studies of 15 U.S. credit unions that are growing at a significantly faster pace than other credit unions--not only in membership, but also in assets and loans. When considering growth strategies, credit unions should go for planned, controlled growth--defining why they want to grow--and don’t just grow for growth’s sake, Rodgers said. While each of the 15 credit unions approached growth uniquely--whether it be membership, loans or assets--there were many similarities in their strategies, he said. For example, in five case studies the credit unions sought to grow their assets. Each credit union maintained high community visibility; allocated resources to conduct member and nonmember research to test its assumptions; added new and profitable products; and invested heavily in training staff so the credit union could offer better member services. The five credit unions that focused on growing their loans had a higher risk tolerance, were effective in product bundling, and worked closely with members to understand their unique circumstances, Rodgers said.