Awards Recognize Excellence In CU Lending

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CUNA Mutual Group presented the 6th Annual Excellence in Lending Awards at CUNA Lending Council's conference. The awards recognize excellence in consumer lending and mortgage lending categorized by asset size.

This year's winners are:

* Heritage FCU, Rutland, Vt.-consumer category, less than $250 million in assets;

* BECU, Tukwila, Wash.-consumer category, more than $250 million in assets;

* MCAS Beaufort FCU, Beaufort, S.C.-mortgage category, less than $250 million in assets;

* Municipal Employees CU of Baltimore Inc., Baltimore, Md.-mortgage category, more than $250 million in assets.

The $116-million Heritage FCU established a risk-based lending system and a sales and service culture in 2004, setting a goal of 15% consumer loan growth for 2004.

The results were compelling: a 35.9% combined increase in auto and RV loans, HELOCs and credit cards.

The credit union cited the importance of sales training and a new incentive program to motivate employees to review credit reports with loan applicants.

Part of the process, Heritage said, was to coach loan applicants and save them money by getting them into CU products whenever possible.

The 34.3% boost in used-car loans-most lured away from competitors-and the nearly 55% growth in HELOC volume reflects the success of the program.

BECU, with $5.2 billion in assets, expanded its risk-based pricing program, streamlined its indirect auto lending program and introduced a special HELOC program that all helped the credit union reap some impressive results in its lending efforts.

New auto loan volume increased by nearly 103% as a result of the newly revamped decisioning process for the BECU's indirect lending, and the new HELOC allows members to convert into separate closed-end, fixed-rate loans.

At the same time, the CU reorganized its management team to facilitate better communication among its various departments.

MCAS Beaufort FCU was recognized for its efforts that lead the $51-million CU to grow its home equity volume by 31.3% in 2004, vastly outpacing the peer average of 13.9%.

The CU attributed part of its success to its efforts to reach out to the county it serves to let citizens know if it is not just for the military.

Outstanding balances on HELOCs grew 26.8%, compared to 13.3% for its peer group.

Municipal Employees CU of Baltimore, Inc., noted its efforts to work in tandem with primary sponsor City of Baltimore to offer the benefits of home ownership to the city population, 22% of which lived in poverty.

Though the $758-million CU budgted for 7% growth in mortgages for 2004, the credit union exceeded that goal by offering a simplified HELOC process for qualified first mortgage applicants, generating $16 million more than its goal.

That represents a 9.8% increase over 2003.

CUNA Mutual partnered with the CUNA Lending Council in 2000 to create an award program to recognize credit unions that have implemented outstanding lending programs while demonstrating sound financial performance.

The idea, the two organizations said, was to create an award that looks at the "bread and butter" of credit unions-lending- and provides an opportunity for credit unions to network and share best practices in this important field.

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