2014 Economic Outlook

Credit unions shed some light on the state of their respective regions and discuss the individual challenges and opportunities experienced throughout the year.



Region 1 Region 2 Region 3 Region 4 Region 5

Eight times a year, the Federal Reserve reports on the economic conditions of its 12 districts using feedback from business owners, economists, market experts, and more. Three years ago, Callahan & Associates launched its own version of the Fed's Beige Book and surveyed credit unions executives to get a sense for what was happening on the ground in communities all across the United States.

For Callahan's 2014 Economic Outlook, dozens of credit unions representing a range of assets, charters, and business models provided feedback on their local market conditions and expectations for 2014. We've culled through the responses and are presenting a selection of excerpts on the following pages according to NCUA's five newly realigned regions, which took effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Answers ran the gamut from enthusiastically optimistic to cautiously reserved. As you peruse this feature and read all the responses of the 2014 Economic Outlook survey in their entirety on CreditUnions.com, you'll notice a few key themes emerge:

  • The economy is improving, especially in regard to home prices.
  • Consumer confidence is improving.
  • The auto portfolio is expected to once again drive loan growth.
  • Government interference — new regulations, Obamacare, etc. — is stifling growth.
  • The employment market is tightening and top talent can demand top dollar.
  • Increased competition for loans is putting the squeeze on yields.

Thank you to all who participated. This is a favorite feature among the Callahan staff, as it allows us to see the industry and the broader economy through the eyes of those we serve.


Region 1 Region 2 Region 3 Region 4 Region 5

Region 1

"The local economy is characterized by very low unemployment — low to the point of being unable to find qualified candidates for entry-level positions. This empowers employees to look outside the credit union for other employment options. Consequently, we're experiencing wage pressure. Lack of population growth for future employees is the greatest economic threat."
Terrance Field, senior vice president of finance, VSECU ($619M, Montpelier, VT)

"Things are much improved. Loan growth was double-digit. Profitability was mediocre. We expect the same or better performance in 2014 with the exception of net income. For us, net income will improve when rates begin to increase, which is forecasted in 2015."
Maurice Simard, president, Triangle Credit Union ($507M, Nashua, NH)

"Deposit growth has slowed compared to the past few years, which has reduced the excess liquidity in the balance sheet. Although home prices are stabilizing, it is at a level significantly below pre-recession levels, and depressed housing prices means the demand for home equity loans remains low. Car loan pricing continues to be competitive, causing thin net yields."
Eric Schornhorst vice president of finance, Michigan First Credit Union ($676M, Lathrup Village, MI)

"We have eight branches and are opening three new branches in 2014. Two of these will be in old bank branches that closed and one will be new construction. We're also continuing to invest in technology, as we see more people managing their money with minimal branch visits. In 2014, we expect to see asset growth of 10%, ROA of 1.2%, membership growth of 5%, and a net worth of approximately 13.5%."
Bill Lawton, CEO, Community Financial Credit Union ($543M, Plymouth, MI)

"We are in Upstate New York near the Pennsylvania Border. Industries are leaving the state and the economy is economically depressed. The ripple effect of the loss of manufacturing jobs is hitting small businesses. Restaurants are closing. Automobile repossessions are high. Foreclosures are high. Loan demand is low. We are not looking for a recovery in 2014."
Brian Snyder, CEO, Olean Area Federal Credit Union ($243M, Olean, NY)


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Region 2

"I believe the biggest issue regarding the economy is on the deposit side of the house — not the loan side."
William Kennedy, CFO, Department of the Interior Federal Credit Union ($147M, Washington, DC)

"We are not seeing much deposit growth even though our deposit rates are in the top five across all terms. The reason: Fed-driven performance of the stock market. The S&P increased 29.6% last year. It's difficult to sell a 2.45% five-year CD versus that kind of return. I suspect the equity market will continue to be strong even as the Fed continues the tapering of its securities purchases, and deposit growth for the credit union will again be subdued throughout much of 2014."
Evan Clark, CEO, Department of Commerce Federal Credit Union ($330M, Washington, DC)

"Local market conditions are slow. There are no manufacturing jobs and the few service jobs are low paying. Many cannot find work and simply tell us to come get their car. Real estate values have not bounced back, which has dried up home equity business. Auto dealers are trying to capture regular and subprime business. This makes getting car loans difficult. The constant barrage of new regulations is an extra burden on time and money at the credit union, and I see no let up from that trend. I do NOT see things getting any better over the next few years. The credit union is staying afloat, but, as in any business, we are innovating."
Larry Thrasher, CEO, Falls Catholic Credit Union ($39M, Cuyahoga Falls, OH)

"Conditions are strong in the Columbus, OH market, and we believe our economic outlook is good. Unemployment is at 7.2%, but the issue is attracting skilled workers. We see loan demand continuing in the 8-10% growth range, particularly in auto, and we think consumers will continue to pay down credit card debt."
Jerry Guy, CEO, KEMBA Financial Credit Union ($848M, Gahanna, OH)


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Region 3

"Economic conditions are slowly improving, but consumers remain cautious and have paid down debt versus making purchases and borrowing. Improved credit quality has allowed some stressed institutions to get out from under regulatory growth restrictions. We are in an ultra competitive market and are chasing minimal loan demand. This will keep margins tight despite an anticipated steepening loan curve."
Don Cates, CEO, 3Rivers Federal Credit Union ($764M, Fort Wayne, IN)

"We are a single-sponsor (healthcare), $50 million credit union. Loans are way up, especially used cars, and shares are doing fine. Membership has grown a steady 5+%. We expect 2014 to be more of the same."
Michael Raley, CEO, Baptist Health South Florida Federal Credit Union ($48M, Miami, FL)

"Tourism will continue to be the largest economic driver for the Florida Panhandle, so expansion beyond that economic niche will benefit this area. There is a need for lower paper grade loans, primarily autos. Credit unions that do this well will have opportunities to expand market share by luring business away from high-priced lenders and increasing the share-of-wallet among their current members."
Jeremy Hinton, CFO, Innovations Federal Credit Union ($155M, Panama City, FL)

"Fort Knox Federal had the best loan disbursal year in its history in 2013. The overall growth of the loan portfolio was balanced between auto (up 19%), home equity (up 10%) and credit card (up 15%). We are optimistic about lending in 2014 and we'll continue to look for ways to enhance efficiency. The credit union has an operating expense-to-average assets ratio approximately 150 basis points lower than most local banks and is one of the primary ways we are able to drive value back to members."
Ray Springsteen, CEO, Fort Knox Federal Credit Union ($1.1B, Radcliff, KY)


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Region 4

"We are a closed-chartered, $21 million credit union with a staff of six. Our biggest competitors are the other local credit unions that have been merging in all of the local small credit unions. We have seen merger mania and only have three closed-chartered, SEG-based credit unions left in our area … My vice president of lending does not think we can survive the CFPB compliance onslaught. I think he is wrong."
Anne Heggelund, CEO, Marathon County Employee Credit Union ($21.8M, Wausau, WI)

"We are in a rural area, the panhandle of Nebraska. Agriculture was not as good as in 2012, but it was okay. Earnings are almost as good as 2012 (over 1.5% on assets), but they will be lower in 2014."
Chuck Karpf, CEO, Nebraska Rural Community Federal Credit Union ($2M, Morrill, NE)

"Market conditions are pretty good in Houston. The job market is healthy, which helps loan demand. We are coming off a pretty good lending year in 2013 and expect more of the same for 2014. All in all, our entire management team feels pretty good about the outlook for 2014."
LeAnn Kaczynski, Smart Financial Credit Union ($561M, Houston, TX)

"Overall, business continues to be brisk. All real estate values are increasing, possibly too fast. We expect the economy in our area to continue to grow and outpace most areas in the nation. Labor is tight, everyone is hiring, and employment costs are increasing to remain competitive."
Paul Brucker, President, Railway Credit Union ($84M, Mandan, ND)

"We expect market conditions to be similar to 2013 with a potential for 5-6% increase in loans outstanding."
Peter Butterfield, CEO, Dakota Plains Federal Credit Union ($48M, Lemmon, SD)

"Unemployment in Iowa dropped to 4.4% in November 2013, and we have stable to slightly improving economic conditions. There is some concern with the future of the agricultural sector. Overall for 2014, we are expecting no change in short-term interest rates, continued solid loan growth, and a tapering in deposit growth."
Monte Berg, Senior Vice President of Finance, Veridian Credit Union ($2.4B, Waterloo, IA)


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Region 5

"Some local markets are clearly stronger than others. The employment picture and real estate values are improving more in the larger urban areas, especially Portland, than in the rest of the state. Consumer confidence is stronger, which should stimulate loan demand. Overall, the positive economic trends should be stronger than the economic headwinds in 2014."
Pat Force, CFO, Northwest Community Credit Union ($831M, Eugene, OR)

"The housing market is rebounding strongly in the Seattle market, a little less so in the Olympia market. Commercial lending is picking up and a number of local and regional credit unions are adding to their commercial lending infrastructure with the intent to grow this area in 2014. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find good talent, especially in specialized positions like IT, business intelligence, and compliance."
Randy Gunderson, CFO, WSECU ($1.9B, Olympia, WA)

"On the loan side, the improving economy should spur more consumer borrowing, but higher interest rates will depress real estate borrowings. We're forecasting a 20% rise in consumer loan production, and a 40% decline in real estate loan production."
Todd Sheffield, CEO, Community First Credit Union ($162M, Santa Rosa, CA)

"Alaska USA operates in a number of different areas. This geographic diversification is by design in order to smooth out the economic bumps of a particular area. Although our Alaska business is growing because of our large market share, growth comes slow in a mature market. Most of our growth, per strategy, continues to come from our members outside of Alaska."
Norm West, CFO, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union ($5.4B, Anchorage, AK)

"In Arizona, we've recovered part of the lost home values from the peak in 2006 but are still down 37%. This has impacted the housing industry and related businesses. We're still down approximately 50,000 jobs since the recession began; the unemployment rate in Arizona is a full percent higher than the national average. We're seeing slow progress, but we shouldn't be using "modest" and "slow" to describe growth at this point. I'm an optimist by nature, but recovery is going to be slow and painful."
Randy Baldwin, CFO, Arizona Federal Credit Union ($1.2B, Phoenix, AZ)

"The Hawaii economy will continue to grow. However, unlike prior years where tourism has been the main driver, construction will be driving the economic growth. There will be more consolidation as smaller credit unions cannot survive even amid an improving economy."
Bruce Rosen, CFO, Hawaii Central Federal Credit Union ($181M, Honolulu, HI)