Coverage From The MDDCCUA Small Credit Union Conference

The power of the cooperative model was on display this past month as credit unions came together to share past successes and strategies for the future.

Throughout the year, Callahan & Associates writes about the successes, best practices, and lessons learned from credit unions across the country. We realize the majority of the industry is composed of smaller credit unions and accordingly try to include a range of asset sizes in our coverage.

It’s exciting to see how the smaller institutions in our movement are evolving to overcome the same challenges faced by many. I got to witness this firsthand this month at the second annual Small Asset-Size Credit Union Conference hosted by the Maryland-DC Credit Union Association.

The session kicked off with Teri Robinson, the CEO of Ironworkers USA Federal Credit Union ($37.8M, Portland, OR). We have written about this credit union a few times on because it’s a great example of how to not let your asset base stand in the way of success.

Since Robinson became CEO in 2010, Ironworkers USA has grown from $8.0 million in assets to nearly $38.0 million. It’s net worth has risen from 4.8% to 9.0%. The credit union has recorded double-digit loan growth every year for the past six years 20%-30% in most years and has a loan-to-share ratio that exceeds 95%.

What’s the secret? The credit union asks for the business.

All 11 employees of the credit union are loan officers. There are no teller lines, just desks to talk with members. The credit union expanded to a national charter last year and now serves Union Ironworkers across the nation. It leverages social media to grow and attracts new members from California to Florida. In a single day during the conference, the credit union received new member applications from Ohio, Indiana, and New York.

After asking for, and receiving, the business, Robinson sends every new member a box of credit union swag and brochures to pass around at job sites. She also sends a handwritten thank-you note.

Read more about Ironworkers USA on

  • How Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Restored Its Net Worth And Built Member Value

  • Secondary Capital Helps An Oregon Credit Union Seize The Moment

  • 5 Small Loans That Make A Big Difference: Putting Iron In The Hands Of Ironworkers

The NCUA’s office of Credit Union Resources and Expansion also sent a speaker. The office is geared toward helping smaller credit unions, and the rep talked about NCUA programs that help credit unions navigate CDFI applications and grants, charter expansion and changes, low income designation, and loans for liquidity and large investments, like a new branch.

I didn’t just attend the conference, however, I also participated in a panel on collaboration. The panel included myself; Brian Vittek, CEO of Destinations Credit Union ($60.2M, Baltimore, MD); and one of the founders of the RKgoBig CUSO, which gives credit unions the opportunity to partner on a number of back-office functions and negotiate contracts as a group. Some fun Callahan history: The precursor to Destinations was MTA, which was managed for a time by John Roycroft. Roycroft worked for Callahan in the late 80s/early 90s and helped set up our credit union database, which was an early version of Peer, as well as Callahan Financial Services and TCU. Callahan has served the industry for nearly 40 years we know credit unions!

Want to learn more about rkGoBig? Start right here on

  • A Mid-Atlantic service organization has spent five years making scale work for smaller organizations. Now, it’s looking to help other institutions take advantage of cooperative banking. Read more here.

  • Six small credit unions project more than $200,000 in compliance costs savings over the next two years with their new CUSO and they say that’s just the beginning. Read more here.

The final panel covered fintech and featured the chief strategy officer from First Financial of Maryland ($1.0B, Lutherville, MD); the CEO of Sherpa Technologies, a fintech-focused CUSO owned by Corporate One; and the CEO of a Maryland-based startup incubator. First Financial is experimenting with machine-based learning for loan underwriting. Stay tuned to for more on where that goes.

Overall, it was an intimate gathering with approximately a dozen or so attendees who were very engaged in the discussions.

September 30, 2019

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