CUNA Clarifies October Member Growth Estimates

New figures reported by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) clarify its initial estimate of credit union membership growth in the 33 days preceding Bank Transfer Day.

The original estimate of 650,000 new members in that time period has been revised downward to 441,000, which is equal to approximately 75 percent of total growth in 2010. However, CUNA maintains that credit unions saw stronger-than-normal growth between Sept. 29—when Bank of America announced its $5 monthly debit card fee—and Bank Transfer Day on Nov. 5.

The earlier CUNA estimate showed Northwest credit unions as having expanded their ranks by 34,000 members, with Oregon adding approximately 11,000 new members and Washington adding approximately 23,000 new members. CUNA’s revised national estimate did not include state-by-state revisions.

By way of explanation, CUNA has said that the language used when surveying credit unions may have been ambiguous, leaving room to interpret the question asking for data on “new members” as meaning “new accounts.” This view is corroborated by third-quarter call report data summaries released recently by the NCUA.

In a statement, CUNA noted, “It is important to remember that our initial survey leading up to Bank Transfer Day was neither scientific nor a representative sample (and was not characterized as either in reports from CUNA). The survey was designed to provide a quick and rapid response from credit unions, in order to provide an estimate of their experience with member and account growth. In addition to the above-noted issue with question ambiguity (the survey referred to “growth in membership and accounts”), we note that those credit unions with the strongest improvement in member growth appear to have been more likely to respond to the survey.”

CUNA has released a fact sheet, which breaks down the revised numbers and offers talking points and clarification for credit unions responding to media inquiries.

Despite these revisions, Bank Transfer Day continues to have a significant impact on membership for credit unions in the Northwest. In addition to the marked increase in new memberships, O Bee Credit Union in Tumwater, Wash., reports that many existing members who had only a single specific relationship with the credit union have since moved more accounts and are taking fuller advantage of the credit union’s offerings.

“Regardless of the impetus for credit union growth—either through new memberships, new checking accounts from existing members or a combination of both—it is clear that consumers made a significant movement to credit unions in the weeks leading up to “Bank Transfer Day,” CUNA President and CEO Bill Cheney said. “Anecdotally, credit unions across the country have reported to us and to their local communities that they experienced record member growth during this period—and many report that growth is continuing at a similarly high level.”

According to CUNA, its Bank Transfer Day estimate of 40,000 new credit union members remains accurate. Final numbers for credit union growth will be reflected in the release of year-end call report data by the NCUA sometime in February.


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Posted in CUNA, Events.