Assets at the largest credit unions grew by just 8.8% last year a mutual funds siphoned deposits from the industry.

The growth rate of the 100 largest credit unions, which had $72.3 billion in total assets at yearend 1993, paled in comparaison to the 14.5% clip the prior year, according to American Banker's annual survey, which was compiled by Callahan & Associates, a Washington-based consulting and research firm.

Nevertheless, seven credit unions among the group experienced asset growth tha more than tripled the average for the industry, and more than doubled the growth of the top 100.

The "sensational seven's growth was spurred by heavy demand for mortgages, acquisitions, and through deposit and loan products that were priced below the ocmpetition's.

Honors Go to Oklahoma

Oklahoma's Tinker Credit Union took home the honors as the fastest grower among the senstational seven. Its assets swelled to $821. million for the year, up 30.49%.

Tinker offered a special mortgage loan with no closing costs in August 1992 that reeled in 4,000 loans totaling $250 million a spokesman for the credit union said.

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The credit union borrowed $130 million from the Federal Home Loan Bank to help fund the loans.

Assets at Golden 1 Credit Union grew 20.64% to $1.4 billion Golden 1 merged with three credit unions last year, adding $60 million in assets.

The credit union added four branches to its 41-office network, and installed 40 on-line terminlas at car dealerships, allowing customers to make point-of-purchase financing.

"We have a lot of things in place to make lending hum," said president Stan Hollen.

Loan volume at Space Coast Credit Union, Melbourne, Fla., surged by 41.7% to $217.8 million after it debuted an aggressive cross-selling program. The credit union also merged with a $20 million-asset credit union.

Others in the top seven:

* Alaska USA Fedreal Credit Unin, Anchorage, grew 22.85% to $1.4 billion.

* Citizens Equity Federal Credit Union, Perioa, Ill., grew 21.35% to $1.1 billion.

* Texas Dow Employees Credit Union, Lake Jackson, grew 24.7% to $413.9 million.

* AEDC Federal Credit Union, Tullahoma, Tenn., grew 23.7% to $412.6 million.

Charles Idle, a credit union consultant in Fort Worth, Texas, said he isn't concerned about rapid asset growth as long as proper controls are in place. "I've never been too concerned if a credit union is growing on the consumer loan side where there isn't much interest rate risk," he said. "Where I pay more attention is if more growth is going on in 15-year or 30-year fixed mortgages."

William F. Hampel Jr., chief economist for the Credit Union National Association, said the slowdown in the industry's asset growth was caused by deposits being siphoned into mutual funds. He said asset growth should pick up this year.

"We're going to see start seeing modest upticks" in credit union savings rates, he said. "I can't see money gushing back from mutual funds, but the out-flow from credit unions is likely to slow."

Net Income Slows

The survey also showed that the net income growth dropped sharply from 1993 to 1992. The top 100 credit unions earned $1 billion for the year, up 10% from the prior year. In 1992, they earned $922.4 million, up 46.15% from the prior year.

Charleston Naval Shipyard Federal Credit Union in South Carolina had the biggest gain, earning $5.7 million, a whopping 319.27%, compared with last year's loss of $2.6 million.

Other big gainers included: Texans Credit Union, Richardson, Texas, $3.8 million, up 116.47%; Schools Federal Credit Union, Sacramento, Calif., $4.8 million, up 68.07%; and Pentagon Federal Credit Union, Alexandria, Va., $31.5 million, up 67.28%.

For about a third of the top 100, net income was down. McDonnell Douglas West Federal Credit Union, Torrance, Calif, was the biggest loser, with net income falling 58.9% to $1.5 million.

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