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Fort Roots FCU Loan Manager on the Economy, Loan Growth & Service
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 6:50 AM

Fort Roots FCU may be small in size, but they are huge on service. In the following Q&A, Vicki Pettit loan manager/assistant manager with the North Little Rock, Ark. credit unions shares her thoughts on the economy, loan growth and service with Leaguer readers.

Question: How is your local economy? Are you seeing improvement?

Pettit: Government and health care make up a large portion of our local economy. While we were fortunate in that we didn’t have significant layoffs during the economic recession, we were still impacted by the recession. It’s been a long road to recovery, but we are starting to see steady growth in our local economy.

Question: Has the growth in your local economy resulted in increased loan demand?

Pettit: During the economic recession, our members responded much the same as most U.S. consumers, they tightened their belts and really focused on deleveraging themselves. As a result, we saw a significant decline in loan growth. We’re now seeing an increase consumer confidence, which has led to greater loan demand. From Sept. 30, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013 we saw a 14 percent increase in loans. Our loan portfolio today is the highest it’s been in two years, and is at about $2.3 million. For a $4 million credit union we are very comfortable with our loan to asset ratio.

Question: Which loan product are you seeing most growth in?

Pettit: Like many of our peers, we’ve not seen much growth in new vehicle loans; however, used auto loans are very popular. In fact, our used auto loans are up 55 percent.  The demand for signature loans isn’t where we’d like them to be, but we are starting to experience greater demand, particularly during this time of year when we run holiday loan specials. 

Question: Does the credit union engage in indirect lending? And if so, how successful has that been for the credit union?

Pettit: We’ve been engaged in indirect lending for a number of years, and we participate in indirect lending through a CUSO. We have seen positive results and these loans are performing well. We would; however, like to have greater activity, as we see indirect lending as an opportunity to grow our membership base.

Question: How does the CU leverage front line personnel to help drive loan growth?

Pettit: Economic growth offers great lending opportunities, so we really focus on ensuring our staff delivers quality service, and has the tools and information needed to educate our members about loan specials. We’re a small credit union – just three employees, so we are quite effective in communicating well with one another and working as an efficient team.

Question: If a member is denied a loan, how do you notify that member? Is there any education on how that member can qualify in the future?

Pettit: Being a small credit union has its advantages. We serve employees of the VA hospital, and we really value and appreciate the relationship with our members. Our membership is at about 1,200, and because these people work with another, they talk to each other. We want our members to have a positive experience. If a member doesn’t qualify for a loan, we don’t just send them a denial letter. I’ll sit down with that member and review their credit report with them so they better understand why we aren’t able to offer a loan at this time. I’ll also offer them suggestions on how they can improve their credit score so that they can qualify for a loan in the future.

Question: Any tip(s) you can offer other credit unions on how to grow loans?

Pettit: As a small SEG-based credit union, we have a natural bond with our members, and that really works to our advantage when they are shopping for that car loan. I guess my tip would be that no matter how large your credit union gets, try and maintain the bond, or relationship, with members.