BIRMINGHAM, Ala. and TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (4/22/10)--Consumers in Alabama and Florida were very clear in 2009--they were looking for a local financial institution with their best interest in mind. Southeastern credit unions earned consumers’ trust by adding 74,000 new members last year--the highest total in four years, according to the League of Southeastern Credit Unions. The league represents 313 credit unions in Alabama and Florida with a combined total of $54 billion in assets and more than 6.3 million members. Credit union members also saw the benefits of a local institution that would help them save money. Southeastern credit unions saw record growth in savings with members saving more in 2009 than in the past five years. Alabama credit union members’ savings was up 12%--two times the national credit union average. Florida members’ savings was 5% higher--a 100% improvement from 2008. The gauge of strength for a financial institution is its net worth ratio. A financial institution with a 7% ratio is considered well-capitalized. Collectively, Florida credit unions are at 9.5%, while Alabama credit unions are collectively at 11.2%. As the economy begins to pick up, lending remains scarce. In Alabama, credit unions are doing their part by lending to their members in the areas of new- and used-auto loans, as well as first mortgages. Alabama credit unions saw a 5% growth in lending, which is five times the national credit union average. “If you look inside the Alabama numbers, the credit unions are making high-quality loans with low delinquencies and charge offs,” said league President/CEO Patrick La Pine. “In Florida, the local economy continues to struggle, but credit unions remain on solid ground. They are working with their members to help them save, as well as continuing to meet their lending needs.” Florida credit unions maintain a 66% loans-to-assets ratio. This is higher than the national credit union average and shows credit unions aren’t pulling their money back during a tough economic stretch. In 2009, Southeastern credit unions earned their members trust, had their best interest in mind and helped them achieve a higher level of savings, the league said.