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Washington's Not-for-Profit Credit Unions a Solid and Safe Consumer Option

Sept. 29, 2008

David Bennett
Washington Credit Union League
Office: 206.340.4828
Mobile: 425.221.1237

New memberships triple in lead up to national economic reckoning
Cooperative principles still hold true after 75 years

FEDERAL WAY, WASH - The conservative nature of the Washington's 129 not-for-profit credit unions has caught the eye of the state's consumers, according to numbers released by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the regulatory agency in charge of the Federally backed National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. (NCUSIF).

According to the NCUA quarterly 5300 filing, a report that credit unions are required to submit outlining their financial strength, including asset under management, number of members and return on assets, 62,782 Washingtonians opened new member accounts at a Washington credit union between December 2007 and June 2008, compared to 23,531 new member accounts between June and December 2007.

Consumer trust is the driving force behind the unprecedented migration, according to the Washington Credit Union League.

"Representing some of the oldest financial institutions in Washington, most of the state's credit unions were chartered during the Great Depression to weather turbulent economic times," says Washington Credit Union League President/CEO John Annaloro. "Consumers are rediscovering the credit union difference and are comforted knowing that there is a solid and safe banking alternative that exists only to serve their needs, not to profit from them."

More than one-third of the 6.5 million Washingtonians already bank at a credit union. And all credit unions in Washington - both state and Federal chartered - are insured through the NCUSIF, which is better capitalized at 1.22 percent ($7.5 billion) than the FDIC, whose fund reserve ratio fell to $45.2 billion in September, according to the FDIC. Additionally, the NCUSIF is credit union funded. No tax payer dollar has ever been spent to bail out a credit union and no credit union member has ever lost money insured by the NCUSIF.

"Financial viability is what credit unions are all about," said CUNA Mutual Group Chief Economist David Colby at the September 17th session of the Washington Credit Union League's Annual Convention in Vancouver. "Credit union could not only weather the downturn, but could play an important role in keeping Washington strong.

Careful lending practice, a focus on savings, attention to members and long-term planning should define Washington's credit unions now and for years to come," he said.

Credit Union Difference
Consumer credit unions are built on a people helping people philosophy because each one is owned and governed by the people who use its services, making them true economic democracies. Each of Washington's 2.5 million credit union members has equal ownership and one vote, regardless of how much money a member has in deposits. Generally, credit unions return any earnings that are generated back to its members in the form of lower rates and fees on services and higher returns on deposits.

And the cooperative principles of self help, self responsibility, democracy and equality are as strong at today's credit unions as they have ever been.

Financial Institution Facts
At the beginning of 2008, Washington's credit unions held just under 16.5 percent ($20 billion) of all deposits, while banks held 83.6 percent ($105 billion) of all deposits. And, credit union business lending accounted for just 2.43 percent of all business lending in the state.

Nationally, banks control more than 92 percent ($8.5 trillion) of all financial institution assets, with credit unions accounting for just 8 percent ($757 billion). Before the recent failures, five of the 8,607 U.S. banks, which many believed were too large to fail, controlled almost 40 percent of that $8.5 trillion of total bank assets.

More importantly in the eyes of some is the fact that Washington's credit unions paid zero dollars to their volunteer boards of directors - ever. However, not surprisingly, Washington bank directors received an estimated $195.7 million in stockholder dividends and another $17.7 million in directors' fees in 2007.

Information culled from the 5300s can be found here: HYPERLINK "" credit union data can be found here: HYPERLINK "" ?NUCSIF August Financial Highlights: HYPERLINK "" media release: HYPERLINK "" Washington Credit Union 2008 Status Report?Attached: FAQ on Credit Union Share Insurance Coverage

The Washington Credit Union League (WCUL) is the state trade association for the 129 financial cooperatives that serve nearly three million Washingtonians. Since 1934 the League has played an important role in ensuring the health and vitality of the state's credit unions and is part of a nationwide support network that includes the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), CUNA Mutual Group, the US Central Network and the World Council of Credit Unions.