Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. – Martin Luther
2016’s HBCU-based credit unions are stuck in neutral. Eleven HBCU-based credit unions assets are unchanged from 2015 and still stand at $87 million. Membership saw a decline from just over 17 000 in 2015 to 16 546 in 2016. For comparison, Navy Federal Credit Union, America’s largest credit union has $73.3 billion in assets and 5.9 million members.
- Southern Teachers & Parents (LA) – $28.3 million ($28 million)
- Florida A&M University (FL) – $20.1 million ($19.6 million)
- Howard University Employees (DC) – $10.8 million ($11.3 million)
- Virginia State University (VA) – $8.6 million ($9.6 million)
- Prairie View (TX) – $4.8 million ($4.8 million)
- Savastate Teachers (GA) – $3.7 million ($3.6 million)
- Councill (AL) – $3.4 million ($3.4 million)
- Xavier University (LA) – $2.6 million ($2.4 million)
- Arkansas A&M College (AR) – $2.4 million ($2.3 million)
- Tennessee State University (TN) – $1.6 million ($1.4 million)
- Shaw University (NC) – $0.6 million ($0.5 million)
HBCU-based credit unions while having almost $90 million in assets are too top heavy as a collective. The top four HBCU-based credit unions have almost 80 percent of the group’s combined assets. Unfortunately, the fourth member of the group, Virginia State University Federal Credit Union, is dragging down the collective. Over the past two years VSU FCU has seen its assets decline almost 20 percent. VSU FCU is in the process of a transition in leadership after the long-term CEO Peggy Custis stepped down after a multi-decade run. In her place, Katrina Peerman, is serving as interim CEO while the board looks to make a long-term decision. That long-term decision, whether it remains Ms. Peerman or an outside choice could have a rippling effect that impacts the group as a whole. Can HBCU-based credit unions come into the 21st century? It remains to be seen whether they possess the leadership or aggressive vision required to facilitate
HBCU Money’s 2015 review and analysis of HBCU-based credit unions remain unchanged:
Unfortunately, there also seems to be no urgency by these credit unions to do the things necessary to increase their membership and assets. Students entering into HBCUs today may be more financially illiterate than a generation ago, but they have more complex financial needs thanks in large part to student loans playing such a large role into today’s higher education finance. Not to mention the reduced role that social security will play in their long-term retirement planning. An issue that should be prompting more HBCU-based credit unions to find ways to help students reduce student loan debt and start retirement planning while in college. A hard task to give this group given the limited financial products and services they offer leave HBCU-based credit unions minute opportunity to serve the needs of students, faculty, campus organizations, or even the HBCUs themselves. These limited products and services are largely an issue of lacking scale. Instead of a credit union with at least $87 million in assets, the median is $3.6 million amongst eleven with declining assets and membership. Instead of students, faculty, and institutions who travel more today than ever to conferences, tournaments, etc. being able to access their money at one of the eleven branches or through mobile app banking along the way, they are limited to just one insular branch with technology that at best reminds you of AOL dial-up. Holding onto students is even more difficult with most returning to their hometowns or nearest major city upon graduation and only returning to the campus at most once a year for homecoming. Incentive to keep banking beyond graduation? None.
Lauryn Hill has a wonderful song called the Ex-Factor that I think often describes African America institutional strategic behavior and with HBCU-based credit unions it seems no different. “It could all be so simple, but you’d rather make it hard. Loving you is like a battle and we both end up with scars.” I still believe with the right vision, an HBCU credit union could rival the Navy Federal Credit Union and give African America a place of financial safety instead of the scars we constantly end up with from predatory financial services that come into communities because we are left with such meager choices from our own financial institutions. It really all could be so simple, but more than likely we will continue to make it hard.