Local credit unions note milestone

PARKERSBURG -Credit unions have reached and surpassed 100 million memberships nationwide, equating to one in every three Americans, the Credit Union National Association announced.

The count is based on data collected from credit unions and compiled by the association in its June “Monthly Credit Union Estimates.” The association estimates credit union memberships expanded by 2.9 percent from June 2013 to June 2014 and the 100 million mark was eclipsed in June.

This represents a continuation and acceleration of trends previously reported, that in 2013 memberships expanded by 2.5 percent and in 2012 memberships grew 2.1 percent, the association said. The association expects the membership growth to continue in the second half of 2014 and exceed the full-year growth of the previous year.

“This is a significant milestone for credit unions and one we all can celebrate,” said Ken Watts, president of the West Virginia Credit Union League based in Parkersburg. “For more than 80 years credit unions have been providing outstanding benefits and superior service through a truly unique, cooperative structure. It is gratifying to realize more and more Americans are gaining access to credit unions throughout West Virginia as well as the United States.”

The first credit union established in West Virginia in 1925 by postal workers in Charleston and Huntington. Since that time, that number has grown to 95 credit unions serving over 382,000 people from all walks of life and economic levels throughout the state.

“Clearly, there is growing recognition for credit unions among consumers,” said asspcoation President and CEO Bill Hampel. “They increasingly understand that a credit union places their interests above all else, particularly in returning financial benefits to consumer members in the forms of lower rates on loans, higher returns on savings, and lower and fewer fees.” He added that, in 2013, those financial benefits totaled more than $6 billion.

Hampel said that, as cooperatives, credit unions are owned by their members and exist to provide financial services to those members. Banks, he noted, which are owned by shareholders, exist to return profits to those shareholders.

“It’s the structure of credit unions as not-for-profit, democratically led and cooperatively owned financial institutions that allows credit unions to maintain this focus on returning financial benefits to members,” Hampel said. “In fact, by doing so, credit unions have earned the satisfaction and trust of their existing members and are attracting even more.”