More credit unions are easing their lending standards and loading up on long-term loans and bonds. But the Wall Street Journal says this profit-boosting strategy puts credit unions at risk of substantial losses if interest rates rise.
There have been reports that credit unions have overextended themselves on loans, but Rebecca Hulett, Senior Vice President and CFO for 121 Financial Credit Union says there have been some misreports.
"While all financial institutions were impacted by the financial crisis which began in 2008 in some way, Credit Unions in general weathered the storm well," Hulett says. "As a whole, the industry’s net worth fell to about 9.60% during the worst of the crisis and as of March 2012 is back up over 10%. Net worth or capital is a key measure of the financial soundness of any financial institution."
Banks have regulators that examine their financial condition, and Hulett says credit unions do as well.
"Depending on the charter of a credit union (state or federal) a credit union may be examined by state or federal regulators," Hulett says. "State chartered credit unions may be examined by both state regulators and federal regulators due to deposit insurance provided by NCUSIF."
NCUSIF stands for National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.
Hulett says, "This is the entity that provides deposit insurance to credit unions like the FDIC does for banks. The amount of coverage provided is the same as the FDIC so your account with a credit union is protected just like your account at a bank."
Hulett says there are several ways to find out the financial well-being of a credit union
"Credit Union financial information is available to the public by going to NCUA.GOV," Hulett says. "Go to the Credit Union Data and applications tab then choose research a credit union. You can request financial performance reports which will show you financial numbers and key ratios. You can request financial performance reports for multiple credit unions. You can also request call report information. Call reports are the quarterly reports that credit unions are required to complete and file with the National Credit Union Administration."
In many ways Hulett says credit unions are just like banks.
"You can get savings accounts, checking accounts, certificates and loans," Hulett says. "They also offer services like debit cards, PC banking, bill payment and credit cards. Most credit Unions have websites that will provide you a good idea of what products and services are available."
For Credit Union Financial Information – NCUA.GOV
For additional information, go to: www.121fcu.org