National Press Likes ‘Move Your Money’ to Credit Unions
Lately, though national press interest in the idea of more consumers moving to credit unions has been spiking. At CUNA, we’ve received inquiries from national media as well as big regional papers. A Newsday feature (in NYC and Long Island) about consumers moving their money to credit unions is just the most recent example. At CUNA, we jump on the opportunities to promote credit unions through all channels.
There is no doubt that consumers have been moving their money to credit unions. Last year, savings grew by 10.3 percent, the biggest one-year increase in at least five years. But are consumers moving with their money? In other words, what’s the membership growth?
More people are, in fact, becoming credit union members: 2009 witnessed more than 1.2 million new members — a 1.4 percent growth rate (to 91.2 million members — now nearly 1 in 4 Americans are CU members). That growth is robust: It outpaces the U.S. population growth by 1.5 times, as well as the growth of the nation’s banking customer base, which largely mirrors the U.S. population growth rate.
But is the 2009 growth rate an anomaly? On its face — not really. In 2008, for example, membership grew by 1.6 percent (the fastest one-year growth over the last half decade), and 2006 growth was 1.4 percent also.
But, CUNA economists suspect there is something more to the numbers (as economists typically do). They point out that indirect lending by auto dealers had been the engine (so to speak) of CU member growth prior to the Great Recession starting in late 2007.
Over the last 18 months or so, car buying has waned with the growth of the economy, which means indirect-lending-member-growth has slowed as well.
Nevertheless, membership grew in 2009, as the numbers show! CUNA’s experts believe that consumers are, in fact, moving their money and their feet to credit unions, even though the numbers were not inflated so much last year by new members through indirect lending.
We don’t have 2010 numbers yet (for 1st quarter), but they should be ready soon. Will there be a corresponding spike in membership? If so, we’ve got another great story to tell to the national press. If not — well, we’ve still got a great story anyway. More to come, no doubt.