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Weekly Recap: CUs continue hiring while banks scale back

The weekly recap features news on regulatory actions, mergers and other issues facing the credit union space. Send tips, ideas and chatter to ken.mccarthy@spglobal.com.

In the spotlight

In the fourth quarter of 2017, there were nearly 293,000 full-time equivalent employees at credit unions, a 21.6% increase since the first quarter of 2012.

At commercial and savings banks, aggregate full-time employees, or FTEs, decreased by 1.4% during that same time frame, although total FTEs were much higher than at credit unions — 2.1 million as of the most recent quarter.

Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based Members 1st FCU ranked No. 20 among credit unions, with 945 FTEs at the end of the most recent quarter. President and CEO George Nahodil said the $3.78 billion-in-assets credit union plans to hire an additional 100 associates in 2018. He added that finding experienced IT staff and upper-level management are among the greatest hiring challenges.

In an interview, Nahodil said Members 1st believes in providing multiple delivery channels for its members, and its growth has occurred because it gives members those options. But doing that requires people. "We have numerous branches and we will continue to build branches to serve our members," he said. "Therefore, we will continue to hire additional staff as long as our financial performance remains strong."

Finding quality employees is always a focus and the IT and management challenges aside Nahodil believes that the credit union's central Pennsylvania markets help in that regard because of the quality of life found there. Housing is affordable, local activities are abundant and the region is close to major cities, he said. "When people come to central Pennsylvania, they quickly realize that it is a great place to work," he said.

In other news

* Marietta, Ga.-based LGE Community CU is purchasing Georgia Heritage Bank, the fourth bank to strike a deal with a credit union this year. LGE Community will expand its operations in Cobb County, Ga., by one branch, to be ranked fourth with a 7.15% share of approximately $14.48 billion in total market deposits. LGE Community will also expand its Paulding County, Ga., operations by one branch, to be ranked fifth with a 6.49% share of about $1.02 billion in total market deposits.

* The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate and signaled that it is still penciling in three rate hikes in 2018, even as Fed officials upgrade their projections for economic growth. The federal funds rate will now be at a target range of 1.5% to 1.75%, the Federal Open Market Committee said in a March 21 statement. The 25-basis-point increase, the first under Chairman Jerome Powell, was widely anticipated as the Fed continues gradually lifting the benchmark rate.

* In its annual report for 2017, the National Credit Union Administration listed its five "most significant actions" for last year. Along with closing the corporate credit union stabilization fund, the other four actions were: Implementing an agency-wide realignment that consolidated several agency functions and will see two regional offices closed in 2019; making investments in new technology allowing for remote supervision and examination; enhancing the transparency of the NCUA's decisions, operations and budget; and providing meaningful regulatory relief.

* Aided by a pair of mergers, Appleton, Wis.-based Fox Communities CU dethroned five-time champion Chubbuck, Idaho-based Idaho Central CU, to grab the No. 1 spot in S&P Global Market Intelligence's annual ranking of the 50 top-performing credit unions. Fox's 0.07% net charge-off ratio and 0.18% loan delinquency ratio were both lower than the top-50 median. The company's operating expense ratio, however, was slightly above the median at 68.03%.

* The Credit Union National Association and the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and Affiliates filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama in defense of a credit union hit with a lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. "Credit unions continue to see a string of meritless lawsuits taking advantage of ambiguities about what is required for website accessibility," said CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle. In the joint amicus brief, CUNA supported Infirmary FCU's motion to dismiss the case.