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Credit unions stay current amid consolidations, regulations

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Credit unions stay current amid consolidations, regulations

Credit unions in West Virginia are growing, even though they're not expanding.

Rich Shaffer, senior vice president of the West Virginia Credit Union League, explained that individual branches may be consolidating, but the number of members is growing.

Shaffer said annual data for credit unions in the state is compiled each June, and he didn't see any major swings or changes, but there has been what he described as a mild increase in deposits and a moderate increase in loans. 

Shaffer joined the league in 1988, and even looking back just to 1992, in that 20 year span, the number of credit unions peaked at about 160, but it's now been reduced to 98.

"What we've seen is just a slow consolidation of the credit union situation that's happened nationally," he said. "We've seen a gradual growth in not only assets and deposits, but even members."

In 1992, West Virginia credit unions had more than $1,097 million in assets and $997 million in savings. In June 2012, credit unions in the state amassed $3,129 million in assets and $2,079 million in savings.

Shaffer said the Credit Union National Association estimates that credit unions in the Mountain State provided $15,845,273 in direct financial benefits to the state's 387,833 members from June 2011-June 2012. Those numbers equate to $41 per member or $78 per household, according to the CUNA.

Shaffer said he also has seen credit unions maintain a conservative management philosophy throughout an economy that has ebbed and flowed, but credit unions have weathered any periods of recession.

"The typical earnings have been low, and all earnings have been low in terms of investments, but we continue to make loans to people who still need transportation for autos," he said. "They've been there for them, to try to make it easy on them."

Shaffer said in the past 20 years, a major change has been the consumer.

"Folks are smart shoppers," he said. "They're finding that best rate at credit unions."

And, Shaffer said, convenience cannot be overstated.

"Credit unions have had to transition to more convenience, in terms of how people access not only their savings, but ATMs and shared branches," he said. 

Shaffer said West Virginia has been unique only in its tenacity in economic turnarounds. He said he travels the state frequently, and he's seen several towns, such as Weirton, that have seen their main industries knocked out from under them, but the credit unions continue to do well.

"They're helping people with their own transitions, and they're very, very strong up there in terms of their net worth," Shaffer said. 

"The regulator requires credit unions to have a minimum of 9 percent, and some of those folks are well into the double digits."

Shaffer said regulations continue to be a challenge for credit unions, because they are not exempt from the regulations imposed on bigger banks, such as the Dodd-Frank legislation.

He said the Credit Union League provides a lot of updates and interpretations to rulings to help the branches stay in compliance.