Spokane Journal of Business

Credit union memberships grow in Spokane County

High interest rates, new branches, auto loans contribute to increase

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-Erica Bullock
Manny Hochheimer, assistant vice president of Washington branches at Idaho Central Credit Union, says the organization has grown by 37% in Spokane County this year.

Most credit unions in the Spokane area are reporting growing membership totals year-over-year, and some financial leaders here say they expect to see the trend continue into 2024.

Membership has increased for 12 of the 18 credit unions that provided information for the Journal’s annual list of Spokane-area credit unions from 2021 to 2022. 

This year, credit union leaders at Numerica Credit Union, STCU, and Idaho Central Credit Union all say they expect year-end membership totals in Spokane County to exceed the previous year.

Chubbuck, Idaho-based Idaho Central Credit Union membership in Spokane County jumped 48%, to 6,531 members last year. This year, ICCU member totals are up to 8,945, a growth of 37% as of Sept. 30., says Manny Hochheimer, assistant vice president of Washington branches at ICCU.

At Spokane Valley-based Numerica Credit Union, membership rose by 12.5% from 2021 to 2022. The organization has continued to grow in 2023 says Travis Simpson, Numerica’s chief retail and digital officer.

Membership totals at STCU reached 170,172 in 2022, up about 4% from a year earlier. 

The Liberty Lake-based credit union has 174,659 members in Spokane County as of Nov. 2, up 2.6% from 2022, according to information provided by STCU.

Numerica, STCU, and ICCU leaders attribute member growth in 2023 to a combination of factors, including brand recognition, a high interest rate environment, new branch openings, and the types of products and services available.

Brian Read, chief retail officer at STCU, says high interest rates have shifted which products members are interested in this year. Those higher rates are appealing to savers at the same time demand for borrowing is declining.

“Different economic environments can change what’s important,” explains Read. “Now, you can get a nice return on a money market or a savings account, whereas three years ago (interest) was almost zero.”

He adds, “It doesn’t change demand for things, meaning there’s less demand. It just changes what might be in demand.”

Some borrowing demand remains, such as indirect auto lending, where borrowers become members when they receive credit union financing through an auto dealer.

STCU’s indirect auto lending program provides more opportunities to expand and deepen relationships with these members to add more products, he says.

The credit union has a team dedicated to following up with those who join through auto dealerships resulting in new product lines an estimated 15% to 20% of the time, says Read.

Hochheimer says indirect auto lending drives traffic to ICCU and provides a launching point to introduce new products and expand the financial relationship with new members who join through dealerships.

“It will multiply that relationship really fruitfully,” he says.

Members have an average of three products at ICCU, says Hochheimer.

ICCU membership growth also is attributed to the members themselves through word-of-mouth referrals, and requests for new branch openings, says Hochheimer.

As previously reported in the Journal, ICCU purchased the former Banner Bank building in 2021, located at 41 W. Riverside, in downtown Spokane, for $13.5 million.

Since then, ICCU has opened a branch in North Spokane, at 9506 N. Newport Highway, and plans to open a Spokane Valley branch on Nov. 14. Another two branches are currently under construction in Airway Heights and Liberty Lake that are set to open in 2024, and an additional branch is planned on the South Hill, Hochheimer says.

“We’re confident that this growth trend will continue for us because we’re giving the accessibility people have asked for,” he says. “We go where our membership wants us to go, and we absolutely grow where we open new locations.”

Simpson says, similarly to STCU and ICCU, Numerica has gained new members through high-yield savings products, indirect auto lending, and new branch openings this year.

In North Spokane, Numerica is building a 3,200-square-foot branch, at 6821 N. Maple, in the Five Mile neighborhood, south of Zip’s Drive-In on West Francis Avenue.

The new branch will increase visibility and provide easier access for members, as well as a better working environment for employees, Simpson says.

Additionally, new branch openings spur digital growth for Numerica, he says.

“When we relocate or build new locations, our digital growth around those locations also has a sharp improvement,” says Simpson.

All three credit union leaders say that brand awareness, company culture, and their employees are contributing factors to the year-over-year member growth they’ve experienced.

Read, of STCU, says, “There’s a huge affinity for us in the market, particularly in Spokane and North Idaho, so people choose us, people come to us. We’re what I like to say, a first-choice provider.”

Hochheimer concurs, and says, “We love to get our name out there, and we have been very generous and philanthropic, and that’s what’s driving a lot of the growth in membership, as well as the brand awareness.”

Numerica’s Simpson says, “It’s really how we show up in the community. Whether it’s one of our campaigns, whether it’s our philanthropic giving, or whether it’s the 18,000 hours employees spent last year supporting communities.”

Continued membership growth is expected in the new year for all the three of those credit unions, their executives say.

ICCU reached a companywide milestone of 600,000 total members in October, says Hochheimer, adding that new branches likely will carry member growth in 2024.

Simpson says the cooperative model of credit unions underpins its growth, and Numerica will continue to attract new members from other financial institutions that aren’t member-owned and operated.

“We think we’ll end the year quite strong in terms of total membership,” says Simpson. 

Erica Bullock
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Reporter Erica Bullock has worked at the Journal since 2019 and covers real estate and construction. She is a craft beer enthusiast, who loves to garden and go camping with friends.

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