Credit Unions and Liquidity Management

Managing liquidity will be an ongoing priority during the interest rate transformation now being led by the Federal Reserve.

Today  I want to show how credit unions have prepared.

Relying on a Cooperative System

Credit unions managing  74% of assets ($1.57 trillion) use the FHLB system.   To borrow from the banks, credit unions must invest in a bank’s capital with borrowings a multiple of their contribution.

As cooperatives, the banks are owned by their members, pay a dividend on the capital and offer multiple borrowing, hedging and funding options.

These 1,271 credit unions report a total of advised lines of  credit of  $288.1  billion at June 30, 2022.

The credit union funded CLF at June 30 reports total membership 349 regular members plus 10 corporate agents which have funded the CLF capital requirements for their members with less than $250 million in assets.

The total CLF capital contributions represent approximately 26.2% of all credit union shares as of June 30.

In addition the CLF has total borrowing authority of $29.7 billion but has no advised lines of credit with credit unions.  This lending capacity, if fully utilized would equal just 10.3% of the total advised lines credit unions report from the FHLB system.

Two Observations

Credit  unions rely on the cooperatively designed, privately managed FHLB with boards elected by the owners, as their primary source of external liquidity.

The CLF, specifically designed for credit unions, has not evolved to respond to credit union needs.   The CLF managed by NCUA has no credit union representation or programs to encourage credit union involvement.

There have been no loans from the CLF to credit unions since 2010.   At that time the two most significant loans were initiated by NCUA as part of their corporate conservatorships of US Central and WesCorp.  These two borrowings were for $ 5 billion dollars each, guaranteed by the NCUSIF.

In the upcoming period of enhanced liquidity management, credit unions are turning to the organizations they own and can rely on.



Cooperative Democracy: an Oxymoron?

Mark Twain Was Right: If Voting Mattered, They Wouldn’t Let Us Do It. There’s only one way to make your voice heard and it isn’t by protesting.


James Clear: “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. If you want better results, focus on your systems.”


When the coop’s democratic owner advantage is not used, it goes away. Co-ops become indistinguishable from banks. Members are just another name for customers. And leadership progressively presumes its judgments and choices are the primary basis for all decisions–even those ending the charter’s independent existence.

When democratic practices are habitually circumvented, they are difficult to restore. Without regular succession processes, the ability to find new leaders, or even generate interest in leadership is squelched. And at any moment, the sirens of self-interest can appear, canceling the credit union’s future for all members.

Democracy matters until it doesn’t. The good news is that this is a fundamental flaw that every credit union has in its own power to fix. (CUSO Magazine)


From Mike Mercer:

The extent to which cooperation is the norm depends on the extent to which the behavior is nurtured by the institutions of a society.’  In a time when power is concentrated in the hands of individuals with lots of capital or those with the keys to redistribution of wealth, it is hard to imagine that decentralized cooperation will organically be embraced from within the citadels of existing power. Rather, the cluttered path to a more civil economy will have to be cleared by those who lead democratically structured organizations that have already been formed to foster cooperative behavior.

 Karl Hoyle and His Powerful Cooperative Talent

Last week Karl Hoyle (1943-2021), a  credit union advocate, was interred in Arlington Cemetery.

There are 450,000 other graves, an honor earned, not bought.

The ceremony starts with a brief service in the Old Post Chapel.  The Honor Guard brings in the urn. The Chaplain reads the 23rd Psalm; the attendees say the Lord’s Prayer.  The organ plays America the Beautiful and On the Wings of Eagles.

Following the service the congregation goes with the honor guard to the gravesite.  The American flag is meticulously folded in a triangle.

There is the seven gun salute, the bugle playing taps and the sacred moment when the flag is presented to Kathy Hoyle, Karl’s wife, by an officer on bended knee.

Afterwards, roses are placed on the grave next to the urn where the only identifier on the wooden box is Karl’s military medals.

The Air Medal and Purple Heart

I learned during the reception that Karl had been awarded the Air Medal.  This  Medal recognizes military and civilian personnel for single acts of heroism while participating in aerial flight in actual combat.  It is the equivalent of the bronze star.

Karl was deployed to Vietnam as part of the 9th Infantry Division.   At the support base, a call came for helicopters to  medivac the wounded from a platoon still in the midst of battle.    He volunteered, got on the chopper and went straight into the firefight to evacuate his fellow soldiers.

As his military colleague stated: “Karl was the guy you wanted on your team.”

His life subsequently expanded to be much more than that moment of choice marked by courage and duty.

Joining the Cooperative Team

Jim Barr and Karl were the top lobbyists in CUNA’s Washington Office when Ed Callahan, Bucky Sebastian and I arrived at NCUA at the end of 1981.  Both had worked together in the late 70’s at the newly organized NAFCU.

Karl would sometimes remark that his profession’s reputation was not always the highest.  His favorite line was, “If you run into my mother, tell her I am just the piano player in a whorehouse.”

However when mentoring many others on the Hill, he counseled that :  “To be a professional with integrity, know that everything you say will be remembered.”

Three Personal Contacts

Of the many occasions Karl and I spoke, three stand out.

  1. Karl learned that I had moved to Bethesda, MD in 1982 to be near NIH because my wife was being treated for breast cancer. We hoped to get accepted in one of their special cancer studies, but had no idea how to begin. Karl offered to call and see what might be possible.  Shortly he informed us that because Mary Ann had already been on several chemo therapies, she was not eligible for their new protocols.  The studies were limited to patients with no previous treatments.
  2. In 1984 NCUA and the entire credit union system endeavored to find a Congressional bill in which to insert wording to redesign the NCUSIF in the Federal Credit Union Act. Democrat Bill Bradley was a key player on the Senate Banking Committee.  Karl was aware that Bill and I had played basketball together.

He brought me up to the Hill and sent a messenger into a banking hearing saying Chip Filson wanted to talk to the Senator.  Bill came out, motioned me into an elevator with him.  Lobbying Congress was not something I did for a living.  I don’t remember what was said, although I suspect Karl gave me the points to make.

Later that year Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, with bipartisan support, creating the NCUSIF’s new cooperative financial structure based on credit union’s 1% deposit perpetual underwriting.

  1. In May 1985, Ed, Bucky and I left NCUA to set up Callahan & Associates with a first office in the Triangle Towers building in Bethesda. Initial capital, $1,000. The location allowed me to be close to home, since I was a single parent with two teenage girls.

Shortly after, Karl called and asked if we needed any furniture.  CUNA was moving offices and had several old desks and chairs which we could have if we moved them ourselves.   We did.

He also asked if we needed any staff.  All three of us had worked in state or federal government for the past decade and were used to having support.  We said yes.   He said his wife Kathy, a superb office manager, was looking for a new opportunity.   She became Callahan’s first hire.

Karl’s Essential Cooperative Skill-Connecting

Karl’s special talent was facilitating the power that results from connecting people for common purpose.  Connections are what tie us together in community or when confronting personal circumstances.

Bucky said Karl’s success  was the result of his building relationships with  the staff in Congressional offices.

A former hill staffer at the reception knew Karl.  Her husband had been killed in the Air Florida crash in the winter of 1982 when the Potomac had frozen over.  She said Karl’s way of helping was: “Don’t call. Just show up.”

Tawana James, Karl’s deputy when he was Executive Director at NCUA, said “he cared about people.”

Credit unions’ competitive advantage is at its strongest when leaders collaborate.  Karl’s talent for connection came naturally, it was not an artifice.

Staying Connected

Two examples of his talent are in the pictures below.  One was a note to Bucky when Karl was in Madison at CUNA’s headquarters.  The second, a photo with the coach of the credit union team at the time, on which Karl was such a vital player.

Kathy like Karl has filled many roles  within the credit union system.  This year she will retire after working  more than a decade at InFirst Federal Credit Union.

Kathy and Karl: A relationship  bound by common purpose and service.

Outside The Box Thinking…

( a Jim Blaine classic post)

In the beginning ( no I was not there!); credit unions were created as cooperatives, which were to be owned and controlled by the members and managed in their best interests.

One member / one vote; a democratically elected Board; a common goal, a common purpose – the common good !

“We’re all in this together…”

But today, some Boards and CEOs have become “more creative” in how they view their relationship with and their responsibilities to those member-owners.

Kind of an “outside the box” sorta view….
See the problem? 
The members have become “outsiders”…. 
and therein lies our greatest challenge for the future!
A complete
box set!

Don’t box yourself in, 
don’t box your members out!

The NCUSIF Look Back: Its Vulnerabilities after 40 Years

The radical, cooperative redesign of the NCUSIF was approved by the NCUA board in October 1984.

In this board meeting video excerpt, Chairman Callahan thanked all who had worked to put this new “safety net” in place.  He called it a “great victory that is truly unique and sets the credit union system apart from all other financial institutions.”

Board member PA Mack stated his support of the new plan:  “I think this is an outstanding product as a partnership among government and credit unions. “

Chairman Callahan closed with these words about what it would take for this redesign to succeed:  “The real challenge now goes to the people at NCUA. The system can work beautifully for credit unions in the future. . . the real secret now is the operations.” 

This look back suggests the wisdom of Ed’s insight.  For the unique structure is only as effective as the people responsible for its implementation.

Immediate Success Brings Temptations

In NCUA’s  1985 NCUSIF’s Annual Report, the board  led by Chairman Roger Jepsen reported that in the first year the restructuring had “returned over $275 million in tangible benefits” to credit unions.  (Page 5)

The major initial concern was whether the agency’s multiple supervision efforts to resolve problem situations could reduce the losses charged to the fund.    The 1985 Report reported five-year trends that documented losses for all liquidations at only 1.5 basis points of all credit union insured savings.  Net losses in closed credit unions were $3.1 million, the lowest in the previous five years. The fund’s $29 million dividend at yearend was a payout ratio of 46% of  net income.  The Fund still maintained its 1.3% equity ratio.

But the fund’s fourfold increase in size, revenue, earnings and financial success also resulted in changing the long-standing practice of how the agency’s operating costs were allocated to the NCUSIF. From 1981 through 1985,  this allocation had ranged from a low of 30.5% to 34%.  This ratio aligned with the percentage of state charted credit unions insured by the NCUSIF.

At yearend 1986, state charters were just 33.3% of all NCUSIF insured institutions.   However the NCUA board increased the indirect expense to 50%.   As stated in that year’s Annual Report “The cost of these services which totaled $16,821,936 and $8,069,244 for the years ended September 30, 1986 and 1985, respectively, are reflected as a reduction of the corresponding (operating) expenses in the accompanying financial statements.”

The NCUA’s operating expenses charged to FCU’s “declined” from $21.5 million in 1985 to $17 million in 1986. This 100% increase in the NCUSIF’s expenses reduced the operating fee paid by federal charters. There was no change in the proportion of state chartered credit unions covered by the NCUSIF. This was an easier political option than raising the fee charged FCU’s.

This 50% increase in the expense allocation highlighted the most frequent concern expressed by credit unions about the new plan.  Here are some questions asked at a Q & A open meeting about the plan as reported in NCUA’s 1984 Annual Report:


What if the fund doesn’t operate on the interest earned?  If you don’t pay a dividend?  What happens if the agency is poorly run?  (pages 18, 19)

The concern was specific.  If the agency was given more money, wouldn’t it just be tempted to spend more?   Could the agency change the guardrails at its sole discretion?

This 50% increase in the Overhead Transfer Rate (OTR) was just the beginning of efforts to use the increased resources, not for insurance costs, but to underwrite the ever expanding agency budget.

“Building Out” The Agency

Soon after the 1986 OTR adjustment, the NCUSIF became the funding source for the NCUA’s building aspirations.  In 1988 the Operating Fund “entered into a $2,161,000 thirty-year unsecured note with the NCUSIF for the purchase of a building. . .In 1992, the Fund entered into a commitment to borrow up to $41,975,000 in a thirty-year secured term with the NCUSIF.  The monies were drawn as needed to fund the costs of constructing a building in 1993.”  (NCUA 2003 Annual Report pg 52.)

The variable rate on both notes was equal to the NCUSIF’s prior month yield on investments.  The interest was paid by the Operating Fund, 50% of whose expenses were then charged back to the NCUSIF.  The NCUSIF loaned the money and then paid half the interest on the loan!

It should be noted that during this construction and move to a new building in Alexandria , VA financed by the $42 million loan, the NCUSIF still paid a dividend  every year from 1995 through 2000, as the fund’s yearend equity ratio was above the 1.3% cap.

A Double Whammy in 2001

The Fund’s financial management which had produced six consecutive annual dividends was altered in two significant steps in 2001  by the NCUA Board.

The first was to increase the percentage of the fund’s OTR from 50% to 66.6%.   This resulted in a 37.3% growth NCUSIF’s operating expense while the operating fund reported a 31% decline in expenses in just the first year of this change.

The operating assessment for FCU’s fell by 20.4%.  The NCUA board was able to lower this fee on all FCU’s by shifting the expenses internally to the NCUSIF funded by all credit unions.

Each year since 2001, NCUA has calculated a different OTR’s based on “a study of staff time spent on insurance-related duties versus supervision-related duties.”   This ever fluctuating OTR peaked at 73.1% in 2016 under Chairman Matz.

During the past two decades of variable OTR, the percentage of state chartered credit unions in the NCUIF has remained more or less constant.    At June 30,2022 the 1,811 stare charters were only 37.3% of all FISCU’s.

The second administrative action was more consequential, because it modified how the normal operating level (NOL) was calculated and thus when the dividend is required. In a footnote 5 to the NCUSIF’s 2001 audited financials the following change was announced:

The NCUA board has determined that the normal operation level is 1.30 %  at  December 31, 2001 and 2000.   The calculated equity ratio at December 31 was 1.25%. The equity ratio at December 2000 was 1.33% which considered an estimated $31.9 million in deposit adjustments billed to insured credit unions in 2001 based upon total insured shares as of December 31, 2000.  Subsequently, such deposit adjustments were excluded and the calculated equity ratio at December 31,2000 was revised to 1.3%.

The Fund reversed its year earlier NOL determination. But even with this retroactive adjustment to the December 2000 equity ratio, the footnote continued:  Dividends of $99,490,000 which were associated with insured shares as of December 31, 2000 were declared and paid in 2001. 

Since the 1% deposit redesign in 1985, this annual adjustment has always been collected  in the following year.   And until this 2001 modification, the retained earnings/equity ratio was based on yearend insured savings.  A dividend was paid if retained earnings exceeded the .3% cap.

By not counting the 1% true up until the amount was billed results in an understatement of the actual NOL. It eliminated a dividend in years when the ratio would have exceeded the .3% cap under the prior practice, starting in 2001.

The Ultimate Guardrail Change

Since 1985, the NCUSIF normal operating level (NOL) had always been set at 1.3%.  In many years the cap was not reached, but the resulting ratio was considered adequate even if under the cap.  During and after the Great recession, the Board did not change the 1.3% cap even though they had been authorized to do so in the 1998 CUMAA.

Then in 2017 the board voted to merge the surplus from the TCCUSF into the NCUSIF.  But this surplus would have raised he NOL to greater than 1.5%.  To retain this amount above the traditional 1.3% cap, the board took two actions.  It raised the cap to 1.39%, the first time this change had ever happened.

The agency also immediately expensed and added to loss reserves $750 million from the TCCUSF surplus to pay for potential losses in natural person credit unions.   This action directly contradicted the congressional language establishing the TCCUSF that the fund “was not to be used for natural person credit union losses.”  But it did reduce the NOL to 1.39% even after setting aside a dividend for credit unions from a portion of the surplus.

This was the first time that the cap had been raised above the longstanding 1.3 level.  No verifiable details were provided about how this new level was determined except for summary data unsupported with actual calculations.

NCUSIF Success Raises Temptations

Credit unions’ concerns about supporting a perpetual 1% underwriting were well founded.  Their worry was “If we send more money to the NCUA, won’t they just be tempted to spend it because that is what government does.“

Subsequent NCUA boards have converted the “partnership” understandings referred to by Board member PA Mack into a perverse interpretation:  that to “protect the fund” the agency has to spend more and more on its operations to accomplish that objective.

From 2008 through 2021, the NCUSIF spent $2.2 billion on operating expenses and only $1.88 billion on actual cash losses.

NCUA has converted the fund into the agency’s cash cow. It has transferred much of its annual budget increases to the NCUSIF.   For example in 2012 the operating fund expense was $90.6  million; six years later in 2017 the expenses were still only  $90.3 million   All of the annual increases in the agency’s operating budget and more, in this six years, were paid by the insurance fund.

Federal credit unions became “free riders” as the operating fee paid an increasingly smaller share of the agency’s expenses.

The NCUA Board’s Responsibility: A Legacy Being Squandered

While staff proposes, the board disposes of their recommendations.  NCUA and its budget are literally exempt from any outside approval.  The agency is independent.  This absence of oversight raises responsibility of political appointees.

The annual OTR transfer have lost any connection to insured risk.  Instead they remind one of a person declaring their waistline to be 32″; but then, when you gain weight, redefining 32″ as whatever your waistline happens to be.  Insurance activity is whatever we want it to be.

The shortcomings have been bipartisan.   Republicans and democratic appointees have repeatedly affirmed transparency and actions to protect the fund.  But in practice the agency has declined to release the accounting options provided by its own outside CPA firm Cotton, the details in setting its annual NOL limit above 1.3, or the investment options and risk analysis used in managing the fund’s portfolio.

Every NCUA board member inherits a unique cooperative legacy in the NCUSIF that requires both knowledge and diligence if the fund is to be sustained.  This responsibility takes work and continual vigilance.

When the critical guardrails of the fund are modified one by one, the initial signposts of success are forgotten, and critical facts routinely omitted, then the prospect of a sound NCUSIF future is undermined.

The most important success factor in the Fund’s special public-private partnership is the ability to ask hard questions.  When this is not possible for board members to do and to followup, then it is up to credit unions or Congress.

A Lookback: The NCUSIF Four Decades after Redesign (1985-2022)

Knowing the past is essential to understanding the present and charting the future. This is true for individuals, institutions and society.

History provides us with a sense of identity. People, social movements  and institutions require a sense of their collective past that contributes to  what we are today.

This knowledge should include facts about our prior behavior, thinking and judgement.  Such information is critical in shaping our present and future.

The NCUSIF’s Transition Story


The NCUSIF legislation was passed by Congress in October 1970 authorizing  a premium based financial model imitating the FDIC’s and FSLIC’s  approach begun four decades earlier. This multi-decade head start was how those funds achieved their 1% required statutory minimum fund balance. This reserve growth occurred  during the post-war years of steady economic growth with only modest cycles of recession.

Then the economic disruption with double digit inflation and unemployment of the late 70’s and 80’s led to the complete deregulation of the financial system established during the depression.

Ten years after insuring its first credit unions, the NCUSIF’s financial position at fiscal yearend September 30, 1981, was:

Total Fund Assets:   $227 million

Total Fund Equity:    $175 million

Insured CU assets:    $57 Billion

Total Insured CU’s:    17,000

Fund equity/Insured shares:   .30%

CUNA president Jim William told NCUA Chairman Ed Callahan before his GAC speech in 1982, the dominant concern of credit unions was survival.

Because the fund equity ratio was so far short of its 1% legally mandated goal,  NCUA  implemented the only available option  to increase the ratio.   Double premiums were assessed in 1983 and 1984 totaling 16 basis points of insured savings for every insured credit union.

However, the ratio continued to decline primarily due to increased losses from the country’s macro-economic challenges. These trends and the prospect of double premiums caused  credit unions to ask if there were a better way.

The history of the analysis of the fund’s first dozen years leading up to these changes is in this seven minute video from the NCUA Video Network.

In April 1984, NCUA delivered a congressionally mandated report on the history  and current state of the NCUSIF.  It included the development of private, cooperative share insurance options and league stabilization funds.  It presented four recommendations to restructure the NCUSIF from a premium revenue model, to a cooperative, self-help, self-funding one.

Today’s NCUSIF after 40 Years

The four decades of NCUSIF performance since 1985 have proven the wisdom of the redesign and generated enormous financial savings for credit unions versus annual premiums.

Today the NCUSIF is $21.2 billion in total equity giving a fund insured share ratio of approximately 1.29%.   This size represents a 12.7% CAGR since 1981 when the fund’s equity was  just $175 million.

The critical success factor  of the 1% cooperative funding model is that it tracks the growth of total risk with earning assets, whatever the external economic environment.

This was and is not the fate of the premium based funds. The FSLIC failed and was merged into the FDIC in 1994.  The FDIC has assessed an annual premium(s) on total assets every year since the 1980’s.

The FDIC’s ratio of fund equity to insured shares at March 31, 2022 was 1.23%, down from its peak of 1.41% in December 2019.   On a number of occasions, the FDIC fund has reported negative equity during financial crisis.

NCUSIF Twice the Coverage Size of FDIC

It should also be noted that FDIC insured savings are only $10 trillion (41%) of the $24.1 trillion total assets in  FDIC insured institutions at the end of the March 2022.  The FDIC  is only .51% of all banking assets.

For credit unions insured shares are 78% of total assets.  Today, the NCUSIF’s total assets are  1% of all credit union assets, a ratio two times the size  of the FDIC’s.

Five Decades of Reliable, Sound Coverage

Throughout the redesigned NCUSIF’s history, a premium has been assessed to augment the fund four times: 1991 and 1992; and 2009 and 2010.   In both situations the premiums were levied based on reserve losses expensed but then subsequently reversed in later years.

In 1985, the fund’s first full year of the redesign, NCUA reported “for the first time ever, the NCUSIF paid a dividend.”   The NCUSIF Annual Report further stated that “credit unions were returned $275 million in tangible benefits.” (page 5).  This from a fund that just four years earlier reported $175 million in total equity.

The fund continued to pay dividends including six consecutive years from 1995 through 2000, and again in 2008 when the equity ratio was above 1.3%.

These results were achieved because of a collaborative partnership between NCUA and credit unions.  The changes were based on an analysis of prior events.  Options were evaluated and based on open dialogue at every stage.  Ultimately this consensus for change was critical in obtaining congressional support for this unique cooperative solution.

The redesign included commitments by credit unions to guarantee the fund’s solvency no matter the circumstances. But it also mandated guardrails on agency options and required transparency in reporting and managing the fund’s assets.

The NCUSIF four decades of performance has also provided a valuable record for reviewing credit union loss experience in multiple economic circumstances and events.   It provides an audited account of actual losses during the many years when there are none and credit unions received a dividend.

But it also documents the actual cash losses in the four or five short recessions or economic upheavals such as the aftermath from the 9/11 attacks, the Great Recession and the most recent COVID economic shutdown.

The NCUSIF’s record is sound.  It is proven. The facts are known.   So what could possibly go wrong?

Tomorrow I will review the temptations awakened by the NCUSIF’s successful track record.





Queen Elizabeth’s Wisdom on How Credit Unions Succeed

The world is now in the middle of a ten-day state funeral planned long ago with the name London Bridge.  The British government’s royal pageantry is in full bloom honoring Queen Elizabeth’s life and reign.

In her Christmas Day broadcast years ago, there is wisdom that describes I believe,  the motivation for the cooperative model.  Credit unions were not the example for her commonwealth listening audience; rather she singles out the human capital that every coop needs to succeed.

These are a two excerpts from this annual holiday address (with English spellings).

I often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special. They are an inspiration to those who know them, and their lives frequently embody a truth expressed by Mother Teresa, from this year, Saint Teresa of Calcutta. She once said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

The following observation is key for the cooperative mission.

But even with the inspiration of others, it’s understandable that we sometimes think the world’s problems are so big that we can do little to help. On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.

Change Starts Small

 These words echo the idea of subsidiarity —the belief that individuals, families, local communities, non-profits and churches (faiths) can change society for the better and that large organizations tend to make big problems even bigger.

Her words suggest that when change is needed, it can start locally, at the grassroots level, by individuals passionate about improving  their communities.

Sounds like a credit union idea to me.


Credit Union Investments at June 2022 and the “Wisdom of the Crowd”

Wisdom of the crowd is a theory that assumes large crowds are collectively smarter than individual experts. It believes that the collective knowledge and opinions of a group are better at decision-making, problem-solving, and innovating than an individual or single organization.

The collective judgment of a diverse group  compensates for the bias of a small group.

On September 2, Credit Union Times published an analysis by Callahan’s Jay Johnson of credit union investment trends at June 2022.  How did the industry respond to 2022’s rise in market rates?

Investments 30.5% of Total Assets

Total investments held by credit unions, including cash balances, fell 9.5%, or $68.6 billion.  But the June total $655.5 billion was still 30.5% of the balance sheet.

As reported in the article, credit union investments boomed in the past two years, growing from $389.3 billion in December 2019 to a high of $724.0 billion in March 2022, mostly by  Covid relief payments held as cash. Even after this quarter’s decline, total investments are well above where they stood at the start of the pandemic.

 Credit Unions Favor the Front of the Curve

Johnson’s analysis reported the  trends in market rates at quarter end as follows:

“The yield curve flattened after the Fed raised rates 75 bps in both June and July. Short-term Treasuries, which are most sensitive to Fed action, priced in expectations for additional rate hikes. The two-year yield increased 40 basis points in June after some dramatic intra-month swings. It settled at 2.95% at month end after reaching as high as 3.45%.

“The market struggled to price in both recession risk and more Fed rate increases at the same time, as the two forces counteract each other. The 2-year/10-year spread finished the month at 6 basis points, threatening inversion.

“Portfolio allocators took advantage of the increase in shorter-term yields and reinvested funds into securities of more near-term maturity. The one-to-three-year maturity category took in $4.2 billion from credit union investors since March, good for a 3.6% increase and enough to become the largest non-cash category.

“Investments in securities are spread relatively evenly across each of the maturity categories within the one-to-10-year range, understandable given recent changes to the yield curve. Cash comprises 28.3% of total investments.”

Portfolio Yield up 21 Basis Points

“The average yield on investments increased 21 basis points quarter-over-quarter, up to 1.12% through June. While this marked the fifth straight quarterly increase, it was the most significant change in yield since the first quarter of 2019.

“Of course, with rising yields come unrealized losses on available-for-sale securities, and these, perhaps temporary, losses now total $28.3 billion throughout the industry.”

A Crowd Sourced Benchmark for WAM and Investment’s NEV Risk

As shown below 42.6% of credit union investments are cash or under one year maturity.  Obviously it is difficult to reposition longer maturities as rates rise, without incurring a loss.   This short-term liquidity build up allows credit unions to “ride the yield curve up” as rates are taken to a new normal by the Fed in its inflation fight.

The overall weighted average investment maturity for all credit unions is 2.83 years.  Every institution’s balance sheet, cash flow and business priorities are different.

The 2.83 years is the risk profile of the total credit union portfolio.  It is based on 4,900 independent decisions about managing risk as measured by WAM at the end of June.

Individual credit union investments may have a longer or shorter WAM.  But this is the “collective wisdom” at this point in the upward rate cycle as the Fed tries to rein in the highest inflation in four decades.

Total Balance Sheet Analysis

Investments are one component of overall balance sheet risk management.  In addition to NEV calculations, credit unions use net interest income (NII) simulations to project possible outcomes for net income in changing rate scenarios.

NII is a comprehensive look at the repricing of assets and cost of funds.   The June data showed that the industry’s net interest margin  improved in the latest quarter.

Rising market rates will lead to increased cost of funds. The ALM challenge is to manage this adjustment in tandem with the repricing of both investments and loan assets.  So far, so good.

While market “narratives” about future rate hikes can vary daily, the overwhelming consensus  about future  Fed moves is “higher for longer.”

Investments are just one aspect of interest rate risk management. For this component, how would your portfolio’s risk profile and  recent decisions compare with the industry’s collective wisdom?




Notes from the Field

The notes below are from  three CEO’s monthly staff updates to all employees.  All report excellent financial results with above plan loan growth and strong earnings. The  comments illustrate these credit union leader’s efforts to reinforce their distinctive cultures.

Taking Care of Employees: Stimulus Checks and Health Care at WPCU

Thank you to all the people who expressed their gratitude with an email, a handwritten note or a thank you in the hallway. The management team was thrilled to do this for all our Partner-employees and the myCU experts. Though I want to make sure I remind you that every dollar we paid out in the stimulus check (and every other dollar WPCU spends) comes from the members – and that is why it’s so essential to take better care of members than anyone else does.

CREDIT UNION RECOGNITION: I am excited to share that WPCU has once again been named one of the healthiest employers in Ohio by Healthiest Employers®. Since 2009, Healthiest Employers has been the leading recognition program for employer wellness. Healthiest Employers has over 10,000 employers from all 50 states, including 72% of the Fortune 100.


A Credit Union Member Story from WEOKIE

Ms. Member came into the credit union to speak with a mortgage loan officer about how she could consolidate her debt to make ends meet each month. Ms. Member stated that she is 79 years old and still has 23 years left on her mortgage. Due to the economy, she is unable to make ends meet each month. She got very emotional and told me there are times when she eats very little to make sure all bills are paid. I told her I would take good care of her and look at all her options.

She told me she wanted to consolidate all debts, if possible, into one monthly payment. We added up all debt payments totaling $1879. She only receives $3000 total a month between social Security and retirement. After reviewing all the products Ms. Member settled on the low-cost 15yr fixed. I was able to shave eight years off her mortgage and put $970 back into her pocket each month. Not to mention we closed her loan the last day of the month therefore, she was able to skip September. So that’s an additional $909 (the new mortgage) in her pocket. I told her to go enjoy a steak dinner with her grandson, who she talked about every time we met.

Partnering with local nonprofits.

The WEOKIE Foundation is proud to be partnering with two new local nonprofit organizations. One organization called NorthCare works with the community to recover from mental illness, substance use, and trauma. They have 400 awesome employees in multiple facilities and have asked our team to assist their employees with their finances by providing education, tools, and 1:1 counseling. We kicked off the program the last week of August with a presentation to their staff and have many other future events planned.

Another group that we are working with is ReMerge, a local nonprofit offering a second chance to women battling trauma, poverty, and incarceration. We’ll be working to assist these women as they rebuild their lives in regards to their finances.

We have many exciting things planned for both nonprofit groups and look forward to helping our community with some practical tools to improve their financial lives. Both of these nonprofits are doing amazing work in our community. The Foundation is honored to be assisting with more than just monetary donations.

Connecting with a 90Year Old Former NCUA Mentor.

Kim and I were able to travel to Palm Springs last week to celebrate the 90th Birthday of a long-time mentor and friend Hap Blaisdell. Hap was an early mentor to me and is recognized as the “father” of the Student Credit Union movement while serving as Executive Assistant to then NCUA Vice Chair Elizabeth Burkhart. Hap eventually became my “first hire” as the Executive Director of the Campus Credit Union Council (CCUC) when I served as its chair. Hap has been “uncle Hap” to thousands of young credit union leaders over the years. The occasion also facilitated a new friendship for Kim and I with Georgetown Student Credit Union Alumni Peter and his wife Agnes.

See Harry Blaisdell’s role 1986 in this blog on student-run credit unions in a New York Times story.


Employee Appreciation Event

It was a little hot Sunday but there were clear skies as about half the Day Air team and their families came out to Day Air Ballpark for the Associate Appreciation event.  The Credit Union is once again having a “best year ever” so there’s a lot to recognize and appreciate.  A good time was had by all, especially by the little ones.  Thank you to everyone on the team for living the mission and making a difference in the lives of our members each and every day.

Member Feedback on the Net Promoter scores of 1 through 10.

  1. Ten is for everything I have ever needed help with was taken care of. Things were taken care of quickly and done right. Also day air saved my family; my car didn’t work anymore. I was in a bad time in life and needed a new car like an emergency. I went in to get a loan with not very good credit. Day air helped and gave me a loan and changed my life forever. I will forever be greatful.
  2. Many times you have helped me during a financial crisis

A Member note.

“When i came in to open my personal and business accounts I had a problem with my tax# and Palisha Boyd was great she was patient with me and she navigated me through the process to get my tax# straight. I was so grateful that’s what I would tell anyone who I refer to dayair. Something else I love about dayair is that you have a relationship with re-entry people trying to get their lives back after incarceration.”

Keeping in touch with state legislators.

I met with State Rep Andrea White last week. She left very impressed with all that Day Air is doing in the areas of home ownership affordability, financial literacy, and supporting the local economy.  She was receptive to and will likely support several bills endorsed by credit unions, including county recorder modernization and residential PACE loans.  She was interested in the history behind the public funds issue (credit unions are prohibited from accepting public funds in Ohio) and requested information that led other states to move in favor, which will be provided to her.

Supply Chain Issues.

The HVAC system in the suite level of Day Air Ballpark is operating at 50% capacity and replacement units aren’t available for 30 weeks due to supply chain issues.


A Rare New Species Sighted This Labor Day

Rare bird sightings are often front-page local news.  Such was the lead story on July 5, 2022  in Rockland, MI: Rare Eurasian bird spotted in Michigan, first sighting in US:

A Michigan birdwatcher made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery this weekend when he spotted a bird known as a common redshank in a marsh near Detroit, a few thousand miles from the bird’s usual home.

Equally rare among the financial species is discovering a new credit union charter.  The local news headline says it all:   Somebody Actually Started a New Credit Union. Here’s How They Did it.

This was the second sighting of a new credit union charter this year.  NCUA’s press announcement described the event as an example of credit union’s purpose: Supporting underserved communities and providing capital for community development is at the core of the credit union mission. 

Few in the credit union movement are actively trying to spot new charters.   CU*Answers and its CUSO challenge is one multi-year institutional effort.  Two individuals have been public in their pursuit of this rare activity:  Denise Wymore and NCUA Vice Chair Kyle Hauptman.

Because this event is so unusual, the joy, passion and hope embodied in a new credit union today are often overlooked.

Many persons’ deep desire to create something new to serve one’s community is a defining characteristic of American enterprise.

Entrepreneurs are central for a market economy, especially for new credit union charters that begin with limited financial capital.

On this Labor Day eve, I am reprinting this August 30 story as I believe it describes the dynamic human spirit new charters bring to the movement.  Enjoy this description of Community First Fund FCU’s creation by OSCAR PERRY ABELLO:

A Credit Union in the Neighborhood:  It Just Makes Sense

Leo Rodriguez knew all he needed was $10,000 in startup capital to open his own hair salon, something he’d dreamt about doing since he was four years old and saw a poster of legendary hair stylist Vidal Sassoon. Twenty-nine years and countless clients later, he is more excited than ever to invest back into the only institution that believed enough in him to make that loan.

The year was 1993. Rodriguez had already spent the previous several years studying cosmetology and hair styling in New York City and London. He returned to his home city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he landed a job working at a new downtown hair salon founded by local legend Paula Severino Standish. After a wildly successful year, gaining his own influential clientele, he knew it was finally time for him to go out on his own.

He just needed that $10,000. But none of the banks he went to around town were interested in loaning him the money.

“I wasn’t looking to, like, renovate a building, I just needed a couple chairs, just to get started,” Rodriguez says. “There were a lot of banks that just didn’t want to give you any money. It was very hard to start a business. Also being a minority, that was difficult.”

A Personal Connection

But as fate would have it, one day Rodriguez was catching up with his childhood friend, Daniel Betancourt, who had recently left his job in commercial banking to join a new loan fund created by another local legend, a Black civic leader named James Hyson. Now called Community First Fund, it invests in Black, Hispanic, immigrant and other entrepreneurs whom traditional financial institutions weren’t interested in serving.

Not only did Community First Fund give Rodriguez his first $10,000 loan, it also taught him the ins and outs of running a business, creating a business plan, proper accounting, and profit and loss statements. He soon repaid that $10,000 and borrowed another $35,000, then $50,000. Every time he needed to expand or renovate or move his salon to a different location, he went back to Community First Fund. During his prime — he’s 63 now and expects to semi-retire in a few years — Rodriguez had 10 stylists working in his downtown Lancaster hair salon.

“I probably borrowed over three or four hundred thousand dollars from them in total over 30 years,” Rodriguez says. “They’ve never turned me down. They were always, always there for me.”

Loyalty and a Credit Union

Earlier this year, Community First Fund opened a traditional financial institution, a credit union. Why? Because after serving entrepreneurs like Rodriguez for 30 years, the fund found that the families and communities around those entrepreneurs either weren’t getting access to banking and affordable credit elsewhere or would prefer access to banking and affordable credit from a name and face they’ve come to trust.

Rodriguez was one of the first members of the new Community First Fund Credit Union. He’s moving all his personal and business accounts over.

“I’m into loyalty, man. I’m into taking care of people. it’s what I do,” Rodriguez says. “When Dan was telling me they were gonna open up this credit union, I’m like, ‘Oh, Jesus, thank God.’”

New Credit Unions Much Rarer

Starting up a new credit union is much rarer than it used to be. Prior to 1970, it was typical for federal regulators to charter 600-700 new credit unions every year. But since then, for multiple reasons, the number of new credit unions chartered every year began a long, slow decline. The new Community First Fund Credit Union was one of only four chartered in 2021. That’s as many new credit unions chartered over the previous five years combined. With so few new credit unions starting up, and scores closing or merging with others every year, the total number of active credit unions has declined from a high of 12,977 in 1970 to just 4,872 today.

The new Community First Fund Credit Union is also an even rarer example of something else. It’s modeled partly after Hope Credit Union, based in Jackson, Mississippi — which itself is really a replication of a model for banking that was birthed either on the South Side of Chicago or Manhattan’s Lower East Side, depending on who you ask. The model explicitly combines deposits from inside the community with deposits brought in from outside the community that might otherwise be deposited in bigger banks like those on Wall Street.

CDFI Plus a Credit Union

“The very fact that a new credit union is chartering is something noteworthy,” says Clifford Rosenthal, who helped establish Lower East side People’s Federal Credit Union in 1986. “And it’s especially significant in the CDFI world that this loan fund has used its resources to establish a credit union, which in the optimal scenario will operate side by side with the loan fund and hopefully achieve some real synergies.”

CDFI stands for “community development financial institution,” a U.S. Treasury designation for loan funds, credit unions, banks and venture capital funds that have a primary mission of serving low-to-moderate income, historically marginalized communities. Rosenthal helped craft the legislation passed in 1994 that created the CDFI designation as well as the CDFI Fund, an arm of the U.S. Treasury that provides grants, tax credits and other forms of support for CDFIs across the country. Community First Fund is a CDFI loan fund, and after it gets up and running, the new credit union can also seek its own separate CDFI certification.

Based on his own experience helping to start a credit union to serve a neighborhood other financial institutions were leaving behind at the time, Rosenthal expected that the new CDFI Fund would provide assistance to other groups starting either new credit unions or banks — regulated, depository institutions. But that isn’t how things turned out. Most of the CDFI Fund’s support has gone to loan funds like Community First Fund. And, with assistance from the CDFI Fund, some of those loan funds have grown very large, with assets in the billion dollar range.

“Some of the loan funds clearly have the capacity to launch a depository institution if they choose, but none of them have until now,” Rosenthal says.

Five Years Planning

Betancourt, now the CEO of Community First Fund and its credit union, says he started mulling over the idea maybe around five years ago. Clients of Community First Fund would occasionally ask if the loan fund could maybe help them or their families out with a home mortgage, or a used car loan, or alternatives to payday loans. Maybe they had tried getting those loans elsewhere and couldn’t, maybe they just wanted to deal with an institution they already knew and came to trust. At the time, Community First Fund had no way to help with those situations directly, it could only refer those requests to others.

Betancourt says he also started reading books like Lisa Servon’s “The Unbanking of America,” which gave him even more food for thought. Community First Fund also partnered with Lancaster’s Franklin & Marshall College to do a study of underbanked populations in Lancaster County.

More recent findings affirm what Betancourt was starting to grapple with. A study released last week from the Joint Economic Committee Democrats in Congress found Black and Hispanic Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to be unbanked or underbanked. Similarly, families at the bottom of the income distribution are more than six times as likely as families at the top of the distribution to be among the unbanked or underbanked. In 2021, 46% of Black Americans and 37% of Hispanic Americans reported that they had been denied credit or were approved for less credit than requested, compared to less than 25% of white Americans. Evidence shows that while new financial technologies show less bias than face-to-face lenders, they fail to eliminate discrimination.

Social Change with Transformational Deposits

The year 2020 ended up becoming the moment that provided the fuel for Betancourt’s credit union fire. Between the racial disparities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the racial reckoning sparked by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people killed at the hands of police, individuals and corporations were looking for something to do in response. One of the options that emerged was moving money into Black banks and credit unions.

Hope Credit Union received a $10 million deposit from Netflix and another $10 million deposit from PayPal, on the way to raising $100 million in deposits from corporations and philanthropy. CEO Bill Bynum started telling corporations his credit union actually didn’t need any more, but he could refer them to others like Betancourt who were looking to secure such big dollar corporate deposits — which Bynum started calling “transformational deposits.” They aren’t donations. These are part of the large pots of money that all corporations keep around on their balance sheets as part of managing their finances, but historically they’ve left those deposits in big banks or short-term Wall Street investments.

Finding Capital

But Betancourt needed more than just transformational deposits to charter a new credit union. Federal regulators require depository institutions to set aside a small portion of cash as a cushion against potential losses. For banks the minimum is $1 set aside for every $11 in assets, for credit unions it’s $1 set aside for every $16 in assets. New banks typically raise that initial small portion of cash from their shareholders. New credit unions can’t do that. So Community First Fund instead launched a capital campaign, in the traditional sense of a nonprofit or church group capital campaign in which donors are asked to make multi-year pledges.

For every corporation that called about making a transformational deposit, Betancourt also approached them about making a multi-year pledge as part of Community First Fund Credit Union’s capital campaign. And of course Community First Fund went around to its long list of previous donors to see who else might be interested in contributing to the capital campaign. A pledge of $500,000 could be spread out over five years, as $100,000 a year in retained earnings for the credit union to set aside as part of its regulatory requirements.

A Wealthy Donor

Community First Fund might have needed more time were it not for MacKenzie Scott’s surprise $10 million donation to the nonprofit, $2 million of which it plowed into the capital campaign for the new credit union. Thanks to the capital campaign pledges, stretched out over as many as five years, the new credit union projects it will have positive net income starting from year one. That’s unusual for any new depository institution, most of which anticipate negative net income during the first few years of getting up and running.

With its target customer base, letters of intent for transformational deposits and capital campaign pledge letters, not to mention its decades of experience making 5,592 small business loans and counting, Community First Fund submitted all of that as part of its charter application to the National Credit Union Administration in December 2020. The agency approved the application in just six months — lightning speed by normal chartering standards.

Since then, Community First Fund converted its headquarters into its first credit union branch, serving the Lancaster metropolitan area’s 550,000 residents. The credit union eventually plans to open six total branches and also leverage online and mobile banking to serve Community First Fund’s entire footprint, which now includes Philadelphia and crosses state lines into Delaware and parts of New Jersey.

The loan fund will continue to do what it has been doing, providing loans to underserved business owners, 71% of whom so far have been people of color. But now it has an affiliated credit union as a way to meet those requests for home mortgages, auto loans, emergency loans and other personal loan requests from its existing borrowers and their networks.

A Credit Union in the Neighborhood: “It Just Makes Sense”

“I’m so happy that they got the new credit union,” Rodriguez says. “It’s almost like the old way, you know, where you had a bank in the neighborhood and it knew everybody in the neighborhood and you knew the bank was there to help you. I believe every client that they ever had will open up an account there. It just makes sense.”