Credit unions hit highest volume of loan originations in five years


The region’s credit unions made $7 billion in auto, student and credit card loans in the first quarter. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)

First-quarter loan originations at regional credit unions hit the highest volume in five years, according to new data from Callahan & Associates, a District-based provider of analytical services for credit unions.

The 330 financial cooperatives headquartered in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia originated a total $11.2 billion in loans in the past quarter, a 20 percent increase from the same time a year earlier. First mortgage loans grew the most, up 43.5 percent to $3.7 billion. Consumer loans — auto, credit card and student loans — rose 10.8 percent to $7 billion.

Originations across the country jumped 25 percent, compared with the previous year, to $72 billion. Similar to local results, first mortgage loans nationwide recorded the highest growth, with a 47 percent spike to $26 billion. Credit unions granted 160,746 of these home loans with an average balance of $161,549.

Lydia Cole, director of industry analysis at Callahan, said refinancing activity spurred the surge in first mortgage loans.

According to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, bankers of all stripes posted significant activity from homeowners refinancing existing mortgages to lock in low interest rates during the first quarter.

“Everyone we talk to in the industry says this is going to be the last refi boom, but it keeps going,” Cole said. Consumer loans, she noted, still make up the bulk of the portfolio of loans both nationally and locally.

Cole said there were a handful of area credit unions that had healthy loan growth in the first quarter, including NIH Federal Credit Union in Rockville and Alexandria-based NAPUS Federal Credit Union.

Loan officers at NAPUS FCU granted $22.3 million in new loans in the first quarter, compared to $6.9 million a year earlier. The credit union caters to 34,830 people connected to the National Association of Postmasters of the United States. It held $61.7 million in first mortgage loans on its books in the first quarter, a 38.5 percent increase over the prior year. New car loans, however, fell 32 percent to $9 million.

In the case of NIH FCU, total loan originations penciled in at $46.7 million, up from $12.4 million the previous year. The credit union, which serves 44,112 members in the biomedical industry, posted a 14.6 percent increase in first mortgage loans, which totaled $120.6 million through the three months ending March.

Meanwhile, credit unions in the region added members at an annual rate of 3.8 percent, while the number of checking accounts grew 6.2 percent from the previous year. Cole suspects the momentum of Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5, when consumers were encouraged to move their money out of big banks to avoid fees, has continued.

Danielle Douglas covers the banking industry for The Washington Post.
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