Area credit unions continue to gain popularity as the economy recovers

Membership, deposits and loan originations at area credit unions — particularly the largest ones — rose last year as the broader economy continued its climb, according to data released last week by the National Credit Union Administration.

The figures mirror a national trend in which membership rose 2.2 percent in 2012, as 2 million new members signed up.

“We’re seeing that the larger credit unions have recovered from the recession much faster than some of the smaller and mid-size institutions,” said John Worth, chief economist for Alexandria-based NCUA.

Virginia, which is home to two of the country’s biggest credit unions — Navy Federal Credit Union (with $52.4 billion in assets) and Pentagon Federal Credit Union ($15.5 billion in assets) — experienced the some of the largest gains, with a 6.3 percent increase in members and 8.7 percent increase in assets.

“Virginia is dominated by two large institutions,” Worth said. “A lot of [the growth] you’re seeing is based on Navy Federal and Pentagon Federal.”

In all, Virginia’s 179 credit unions hold $90 billion in assets. Maryland, by way of comparison, has $20 billion in assets in 98 credit unions; while the District has $7.2 billion spread among 48 credit unions.

Credit unions in the region enjoyed a boost in members and deposits following Bank Transfer Day in November 2011. The trend has continued, in part because mobile banking and shared branches have helped credit unions shed their image as inconvenient and low-tech alternatives to large banks, said Fred Becker, president and chief executive of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

“That’s been the one remaining chink in our armor, perspective-wise,” Becker said, “But we’re overcoming it.”

Member and loan growth at Mid-Atlantic credit unions outpaced increases in other parts of the country, said David Carrier, chief economist at NAFCU.

Business loans grew 39 percent between 2012 and 2011, while overall loans jumped from a 1 percent increase in 2011 to a 5.2 percent increase last year.

“Bank Transfer Day gave us a big boost, but it has not died by any stretch of the imagination,” Becker said.

D.C.

7.6%

Asset growth

7.7%

Deposit growth

1.4%

Loan growth

0.9%

Increase in members

Maryland

5.2%

Asset growth

5.0%

Deposit growth

3.8%

Loan growth

0.1%

Increase in members

Virginia

8.7%

Asset growth

7.8%

Deposit growth

6.6%

Loan growth

6.3%

Increase in members

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section.
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