Strategic Link Partner, Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union Offers Insights on Credit Unions’ Deposit Strategies


After years of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and rate increases by the U.S. Treasury, Northwest credit unions have kept their balance sheets heavier on the loans side, but it may be time to reassess. Strategic Link partner, Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union, provides input on the current rising interest rate conditions and shares recommendations from Strategic Solutions advisor, Jonathan Jackson. 

The Federal Reserve began increasing interest rates in December 2015. The 25-basis point increase in the Fed Funds Rate in December 2018 marked the ninth such increase in three years. Jackson points out, short-term U.S. Treasury rates moved higher at the same pace in that same time frame. The three-month U.S. Treasury rate was 0.20 percent in December 2015 and increased 2.20 percent to 2.40 percent in December 2018. 

Credit unions, on the other hand, have not increased deposit rates materially. After staying flat for several years, the industry’s cost of funds began slowly increasing in 2017. The cost of funds ratio was 0.64 percent at the end of the third quarter of 2018, up seven basis points from year-end 2017. Jackson notes that’s a far cry from the 225 basis points the Fed has increased rates since 2015 or the 220 basis points that short-term U.S. Treasury rates have increased. But the increase in the cost of funds ratio is notable for 2018. 

Most credit unions have approached increasing deposit rates with a wait-and-see attitude, resulting in below-market rates for as long as possible. The wait may be over, according to Jackson, as a result of tightening liquidity. Loan growth has outpaced deposit growth since 2013, and the result is balance sheets with tighter liquidity profiles. The industry’s loan-to-share ratio topped 80 percent in the third quarter of 2017 for the first time since 2008. At the end of September 2018, the loan-to-share ratio was 84.9 percent. 

Deposit rates lagging, market rate increases have occurred in previous interest rate cycles. The impetus for deposit rates increasing in the past has been tighter liquidity, and tighter liquidity is likely to be the driving force behind higher deposit rates again.  
As credit unions continue to plan for 2019, it’s important they have strategic discussions to consider the possibility of a higher cost of funds and the impact a higher cost of funds would have on their margins. Consider whether running “what-if” scenarios would benefit your next Asset and Liability Management Committee, or ALCO, discussion. 

Credit unions should ask these critical questions: 

  • What if money market rates have to increase 25 percent or 50 percent next year? 
  • What if more members shift deposits from lower-cost, non-term shares to more expensive term deposits to lock in at an attractive rate? 
  • What is the dividend cost of running a CD promotion? What impact would existing members moving funds from non-term shares into CDs as a result of a promotion have on that cost? 
  • What if deposit rates increase, but asset yields fall, as a result of a flat or inverted yield curve? 

Several options are likely available if you find your credit union needs additional liquidity, which include higher deposit rates, CD promotions, selling investments, borrowing, issuing non-member deposits, selling loan participations, and slowing down lending. Catalyst Strategic Solutions’ Advisory Team can help you determine which options are the most advantageous for your credit union’s needs.  

For more information on Catalyst, contact Northwest Credit Union Association VP of Strategic Resources, Jason Smith. To learn more about Strategic Link’s partnership with Catalyst Corporate Federal Credit Union, visit its webpage. 

Posted in Industry Insight.