COLUMBUS, Ohio (5/13/11)--For the eighth consecutive quarter, Ohio credit unions collectively netted positive member growth, most recently posting a gain of 32,500 new members, according to the Ohio Credit Union League’s (OCUL) year-end Quarterly Performance Summary. The trend comes after a long period of flat membership growth leading up to the recession, suggesting consumers continue the recent tendency to move their money to community-based financial institutions, OCUL said. Similarly, assets and capital at Ohio credit unions also posted gains, while lending slightly slowed statewide, but remained higher than the credit union national average. “Demand for local, community-based, affordable financial services continues to rise,” noted Paul Mercer, OCUL president. “Membership growth, paired with an increase in deposits and assets, tells us that credit unions are becoming an answer for more Ohioans, their families, and small businesses, than ever. And the passion behind our movement to continue to meet the needs of credit union members is stronger than ever before.” Ohio membership increased 1.23% during the most recent 12-month statistical period (Dec. 2009 – Dec. 2010), outpacing the national credit union membership growth rate of .66%. Ohio is home to 387 credit unions totaling 2.68 million members. OCUL analysts point to two reasons for the continued growth of credit unions: consumers moving from large regional banks to community-based financial institutions, and the typically higher rate of return on savings at credit unions. Previous growth was part of a “flight-to-safety;” however, economic recovery has slowed many consumers from liquidating investments. Growth figures for assets and shares in December have slowed from what was reported in the previous quarter, but both remain positive. Assets at Ohio credit unions posted 3.84% growth from Dec. 2009 to Dec. 2010. Shares grew 4.68% during the same time period, with money market balances growing at the fastest rate, up 15.5% over the 12-month period. Ohio credit unions continue strong capital growth, gaining 4.41% during the year. Annual loan growth figures remain stagnant, but improved slightly from September’s figure of -0.36% to December’s of -0.24%. Despite renewed growth in the vehicle sales market, credit unions in Ohio saw their auto-loan balances decline 50 basis points over the last 12 months. However, first mortgage originations picked up in the second half of the year, with Ohio credit unions recording $5 billion in first mortgage originations. The average member relationship, or the outstanding combined loan and share balances per member, increased from $11,306 in December 2009 to $11,464 in December 2010. Although it represents only 3.1% of the Ohio credit union loan portfolio, member business lending is becoming an increasingly important part of a credit union’s suite of products. As of December 2010, 99 of Ohio’s 387 credit unions reported outstanding business loan balances, representing a total of $389.6 million in outstanding balances. In 2010, 15.5% of credit unions in the state reported originating a business loan, up from 15.5% reported 12 months ago. Overall, business loan balances grew 5.8% during the 12-month period. Ohio credit union economic indicators remain positive overall, with capital levels at 11.6% on average, which is higher than Ohio banks and thrifts, and credit unions and banks nationally. Asset quality in Ohio remains strong, as the delinquency rate of 1.33% remains below the national average.