Month: January 2024

America First Credit Union Annual Meeting – 2024

In accordance with America First bylaws, the Board of Directors Nominations Committee has identified three members who will stand for election by acclamation at the credit union’s Annual Meeting on April 16, 2024.

After thorough interviews and qualification screenings, the Board candidates are:

  • David McConkie
  • Cathy Person
  • John Spease

These volunteers selflessly give of their time, talent, expertise, and experience to enhance our financial well-being, and we congratulate them on their nominations.

Meeting details and streaming information will be posted on americafirst.com.

America First Credit Union Opens State-of-the-Art Branch in Utah County

New, western Utah County location is built around a tech-centric member experience

EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah (Jan. 22, 2024) – America First Credit Union (AFCU) today announced the opening of one of its most technologically advanced branches in Eagle Mountain.

The new, state-of-the-art facility, which incorporates technology inside and out, is the first America First branch built exclusively around video teller machine technology. This new technology provides on-demand support from remotely located America First experts and will allow members to efficiently conduct many additional types of financial transactions through the drive-through.

The Eagle Mountain branch will serve a community of approximately 54,000, including more than 11,000 AFCU members. The new location, 4195 N. Pony Express Parkway, will be a resource to those living in rapidly growing Eagle Mountain, surrounding communities such as Cedar Fort and Fairfield, and to those who travel through and work in western Utah County.

“America First has a strong commitment to the vibrant, growing communities in Utah County where we have served members for decades,” said Thayne Shaffer, CEO of America First Credit Union. “The technology and accompanying member experience underscores this commitment and will serve as a model for future branches.”

The Eagle Mountain branch, the 13th America First has opened in Utah County, will be managed by Angela Platt. She and her team will host the community at an opening celebration on Saturday, Jan. 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event will feature free refreshments from local food trucks. Additionally, members can enter to win a $5,000 Family Vacation Package with Get-Away-Today by stopping in between Jan. 22 and Feb. 3.

The opening celebration will be followed by an official ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Feb. 2.

America First will also have several new member offers available at the Eagle Mountain Branch through Feb. 10, including:

  • $150 to new AFCU members (savings, checking, debit, online statement)
  • $50 to new youth members (17 and younger)

Branch information can be found online at americafirst.com.

 

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ABOUT AMERICA FIRST CREDIT UNION

Proudly celebrating 84 years of servicing members and a long-standing history, America First Credit Union has become one of the largest, most stable, and most progressive credit unions in the country. As Utah’s largest credit union, it has remained a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative financial institution. Today, America First has 118 locations across the five western states of Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. America First is the eighth largest credit union in assets in the United States with over $19 billion, and the fifth largest credit union in membership in America with more than 1.3 million members.

The No. 1 credit union SBA lender is hanging out the help wanted sign

Six years ago, when America First Credit Union in Salt Lake City decided to move into Small Business Administration lending, CEO John Lund gave his team simple instructions. “He told us to be No. 1,” Blake Weathers, America First’s senior vice president of commercial lending recalled.

 

America First Credit Union in Salt Lake City is angling to grow its 7(a) lending business by hiring additional loan officers.

 

The $19.1 billion-asset America First responded. Its volume of loans closed under the 7(a) loan guarantee program — SBA’s largest program — jumped from $2.1 million in the agency’s 2017 fiscal year to $3.6 million in fiscal 2018. Fast forward to fiscal years 2022 and 2023, and America First has ranked as the nation’s No. 1 credit union 7(a) lender. In fiscal 2023, it closed 61 7(a) loans for $71.8 million.

While America First would like to continue on a growth path, its progress depends largely on the ability to expand its 7(a) lending team. “We’d like to create greater capacity, but you have to have SBA lenders to do the deals,” Weathers said. “It’s a people business. The number of people we have tells us about where we can get our loans to. We know we’re going to have to add some more loan officers to be able to grow.”

For America First and other credit unions, however, staffing has emerged as a challenge. With experienced SBA loan officers in demand generally, credit unions are doubly disadvantaged since “most of the talent resides in the banking industry,” Weathers said. Though more lenders are signing on with credit unions, according to Weathers, the industry as a whole commands just a fraction of the roughly $30 billion 7(a) market.

According to SBA statistics, credit union 7(a) lenders closed 263 7(a) loans between Oct. 1 and Dec. 21 for $115 million. Banks have generated the lion’s share of the program’s $5.8 billion in fiscal 2024 loan volume. SBA’s fiscal years begin Oct. 1. Under 7(a), the agency provides guarantees ranging from 50% to 85% on small-business loans made by banks, credit unions and other private sector lenders.

“The numbers don’t surprise me simply because SBA lending is a specialized form of lending,” said James Ballentine, founder and CEO of Ballentine Strategies, a Washington, D.C.-based government and strategic consulting firm. “There’s special training that’s required to work within [the 7(a)] program. It’s not an area credit unions have traditionally been involved in, despite the fact they were given the authority some time ago.”

 

America First President and CEO Thayne Shaffer

 

For America First, entry into 7(a) lending filled a major gap in its product set. It’s also appeared to play a major role in the company’s success in recent years. Prior to 2017, America First offered small-dollar business loans and was active in conventional commercial lending, Weathers said. Adding SBA participation allowed the credit union to take care of a company’s needs throughout all stages of growth. “We can carry them through their life cycle,” Weathers said.

America First’s balance sheet appears to demonstrate the validity of its 7(a) strategy. Commercial lending, which totaled about $329 million at the end of 2017, exceeded $1.2 billion at Sept. 30. Over the same period, net income jumped more than 300%, to $386.5 million at Sept. 30.

“The minute we started to feel comfortable with SBA lending … our members responded,” America First President and CEO Thayne Shaffer said. “We had a willing and ready audience.” States that comprise America First’s footprint, particularly Utah, Nevada and Arizona, are characterized by high levels of interest in small-business formation, Shaffer, who succeeded Lund in 2021, added. “It’s part of the culture, to be honest with you,” Shaffer said. “It’s not uncommon for people to sit down and have ideas and turn them into small businesses.”

“We have a lot of members that own small businesses,” Weathers said. “It’s probably 15% to 20% of our membership.”

John Reosti   Reporter

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