President’s Message

Guest Commentary: Protecting & Enhancing Your Financial Health

By Rex Rollo, Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer

I recently had the pleasure of appearing on a KSL Newsradio program to provide commentary regarding our financial environment and how it affects us. We discussed an article in a major publication that indicated the average American had increased his or her checking account balance by $2,000 over the last few years.

The host asked if I thought this was an indication of consumers across the country improving their financial health, and if the same were true for America First members. Although I could only speak in general terms about conditions nationally, I did verify that our membership has been taking steps to enhance their finances. Not only are checking account balances rising, we have also seen double-digit growth in a variety of our savings vehicles.

The America First mission statement relates that we are committed to providing superior services to the members/owners and that our chief concern is their financial well-being. Therefore, we work to ensure the financial health of our members because it guarantees the well-being of the credit union.

Through the first six months of 2017, there have been clear indications of our health and strength, including members and loans both demonstrating gains in the double digits. Our ever-increasing membership—now totaling more than 891,000—generates the necessary resources to provide services and deliver them in the manner members choose. Whether it’s through our expanding branch network, call centers, or free online & mobile banking, your credit union is always there to assist, how and when it’s most convenient for you. Additionally, our dedication to innovation and technology allows us to complete millions of transactions without compromising the security of your information.

I am happy to report that the financial health of America First is strong and continues to improve. Our assets have reached $8.9 billion—over a billion more than we held at the same time last year. Reserves are at their highest levels in years. More and more members are enjoying 24/7 access to their accounts and information via our mobile app. But the most important measurement I am proud to provide is the advancement in the financial health of our members. After all, you are the true capital of America First Credit Union.

United We Stand

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

I’m extremely fortunate to live in a small, rural mountain town where the air is clean, the scenery is beautiful, and the people are friendly, hard-working & service-oriented. Lovely patriotic scenes are painted on the sides of two local barns, illustrating pride of country and patriotism.

The community is also known for our annual Independence Day celebration held in and around the park. A flag-raising ceremony marks the sunrise, followed by 5K and 10K races, a delicious freshly cooked breakfast, and a parade around the town square. There are games for the kids, local works of art, crafts, a patriotic program, music, and lots of food is available throughout the day. Our Fourth of July culminates with a fantastic display of fireworks.

This year, my wife was asked to help with the planning and coordination of the parade. It is a real down-home event, featuring children on bicycles, family-decorated floats, marching school bands & cheer squads, vintage tractors and cars, American Legionnaires, horses, fire engines, police vehicles, candy tossed to the kids, and a local citizen being honored as grand marshal.

The parade theme for 2017 is United We Stand—three simple but powerful words. United means acting in harmony as a single unit. We is descriptive of a collective group. To me, Stand denotes life, accomplishment, being steadfast, integrity, and purpose. Individuals are different in many ways, but working together, we become much more powerful and better off as families, neighbors, communities, and as a nation.

I am so grateful for those who continue to stand united in preserving our freedoms, opportunity, peace, and security. To honor this great nation and our servicemen and servicewomen each summer is most certainly appropriate.

America First Credit Union was founded in 1939 by a group of 59 pioneering individuals who also stood united to improve the economic well-being of one another. Since those humble beginnings, generations of individuals, families, and businesses have benefited from superior financial services, better rates on loans & deposits, premier technology, many free or low-cost services, tremendous convenience, and a sense of belonging.

On behalf of the dedicated volunteers and staff of America First, I thank you for your membership, loyalty, and allowing us to serve your complete financial needs. We look forward to a lifelong relationship.

Cherish Great People, Great Times and Great Memories

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

It’s hard to believe 2017 is nearly halfway over. The year has brought some wonderful occurrences and I have much for which I am grateful. I also experienced significant sadness and heartache. Both my brother and my youngest sister passed away unexpectedly within a month of each other.

During Memorial Day weekend, I visited their graves and those of other loved ones. While doing so, I paused with appreciation to think of the good times, lessons learned, and recollections that will last forever.

Our extended family has vacationed on a houseboat at Lake Powell for many years. These are precious memories, cherished by all. I owe my brother gratitude for getting us there in the first place and keeping the tradition going for so many years.

My sister was tremendously charitable and knew how to care for those hurting or suffering. Decades ago, I had major surgery that kept me in a body cast for six months. She instinctively knew what I needed, just how to care for me, and for her I will always be grateful.

Reflecting on my family always prompts amazement at my maternal grandmother and the changes she witnessed during her lifetime. Born in 1898 and passing away in 2000, there are probably not too many folks who lived through three different centuries! She saw the first automobiles being developed, listened to the radio in its infancy, watched the first generation of TVs, endured multiple wars, and lived through the Great Depression. She was additionally there for the tremendous advances & progress our country made in science, medicine, space exploration, technology, and countless other areas. There were many trials in her life, but she always remained positive and optimistic.

When my grandmother was in her late nineties, I once asked her what attributes contributed to her longevity. Without hesitation, she said, “Don’t worry about things you can’t control; and if you need to shed a tear, do it quickly and move on.” What profound advice from such a wise woman. We all have family, friends, teachers and others who influenced us for the better. My advice is to thank them while you still can and continue honoring them by how we live.

At America First, our mission is to simplify our members’ busy lives, save them money, and be a positive contributor to our communities. We strive to be more than an institution that accepts deposits, processes transactions, and provides loans. We want to be your full-service partner, helping you realize your financial dreams. We can assist you in developing budgets, establishing systematic savings programs, and responsibly managing debt. When borrowing is necessary, we offer great rates and terms. Choose us for guidance to plan your retirement, gain insurance coverage, make transactions in the manner you prefer, get the best in Visa® rewards, benefit from free mobile banking, and accomplish additional goals.

Further enhancements and offerings will be announced over the coming months. Thank you for the trust you place in America First Credit Union. We will continue working hard to deserve a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

America First Members Gather to Elect Volunteer Leadership

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

Each spring, America First members gather to elect a volunteer Board of Directors to lead our credit union, renew our bond, and honor our legacy as a not-for-profit cooperative. The Board provides us with strategic guidance, ensuring our ongoing safety, soundness, and ability to deliver relevant financial value.

The process takes place at the annual meeting, which this year was held on April 18, 2017 in Ogden, Utah. Joining us were local officials, as well as credit union & industry representatives.

Kenlon W. Reeve, acting Chair of the Board Election Nominations Committee, oversaw the balloting, during which the membership chose James G. Wendler, Linda K. Carver, and Gil A. Miller to serve three-year terms. The Board subsequently maintained internal leadership roles, with Mr. Wendler as Chairman, Mrs. Carver as Vice Chair, and Mr. Reeve having the Secretary position.

Mr. Miller, a certified public & forensic accountant from Salt Lake City, is new to our Board and we welcome him. He has extensive expertise and experience. I look forward to working with him and his fellow volunteers as we embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

I would also like to personally extend my deepest gratitude to long-serving Board member Edwin G. Cline for his remarkable 42 years of dedicated service to America First. Ed is a gentleman in every sense of the word, and has made a significant contribution to the success of our credit union. His dear sweetheart Linda is also an outstanding individual and a friend to America First, as well as all who know her. Ed and Linda will be missed, but not forgotten.

Those on the Board give tremendously of their time and talents, without compensation, to benefit the credit union. They are truly dedicated to improving the financial health of every member and we are fortunate they are part of our team.

Our Loan Review and Supervisory Committees are also comprised of volunteers delivering much-needed services to the membership. The Loan Review Committee functions as an independent appeals avenue for members initially denied financing. The Supervisory Committee works with internal and external auditors to ensure fiscal and regulatory safety & soundness.

During his Chairman’s message, Mr. Wendler noted how many companies, including financial institutions, limit themselves by not seeking better ways to better meet the needs of those they serve. “We at America First are fueled by imagination, the desire to grow responsibly, and the knowledge that the ability to move beyond existing realms is not only preferable but necessary in a changing world,” he said.

Indeed, it’s a privilege to report that the strength, stability, innovative spirit, commitment to fiscal discipline, and lasting qualities of America First are in abundance. We are well positioned for a vibrant future and I am proud to be part this credit union. Together, we strive every day to help you, our valued members, save money, simplify your busy lives, and reach your unique financial objectives. It is our desire to develop and maintain a lifelong relationship with you and you families.

Sustaining the Principles at the Heart of our Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

Dear members,

It’s my privilege to thank you for your membership, loyalty, and confidence in America First. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to present an annual report of the credit union’s performance & initiatives. Our volunteer and employee team strives for excellence each and every day, remaining passionate about developing and delivering superior financial services. We experienced another outstanding year and are well-positioned for a bright and vibrant future.

As we look forward in an ever-changing industry, I often ask myself why I would choose America First as my primary financial institution. Many benefits come to mind, but there are four core issues that shape how and what we provide to members: relevance, differentiation, sustainability and heart.

Relevance —To be relevant, something must have meaning or value given its position, situation, and circumstances. Last fall, my wife and I were fortunate to spend some relaxing time in Hawaii. While playing golf, a couple named Bruce & Jen approached, motioned to the logo on my shirt, and proudly said they were members of America First. Bruce explained that he joined many years ago while stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah. Although they had lived all over the world, they always maintained their membership, saying the credit union continued to serve them well, helping them achieve their financial goals in each stage of life and regardless of their location.

Differentiation—The marketplace is cluttered with endless offers, gimmicks and, at times, predatory propositions. We, however, work diligently to develop trust and lasting relationships, helping members keep more of their money, simplify their busy lives, and reach their unique objectives.

We are proud of our convenient and meaningful products & services, such as free checking, free bill pay, free Visa® debit cards, and free 24/7 account management through our award-winning online and mobile applications. Free credit scores accompany our checking accounts. We foster robust dialogue and communication with secure email, social media, contact center, and live chat channels. Members can also take advantage of our top-tier savings vehicles, including money market, IRA, health savings & certificate accounts, investments, insurance, and trust services. America First is an industry leader in home loans, auto and RV financing, and merchant card services, as well as business services that include loans, checking and Visa. Members can also take advantage of free financial counseling, educational seminars, and document shredding events throughout the year.

Our Visa cards are truly outstanding. In addition to no annual fees, the lowest possible rates, free personalization and many other features, our cash-back option pays members 1.5% on all purchases. Participants earn extra rebates & discounts with our merchant-funded ABC Deals program, bringing members thousands of real dollars every year. Further, recognizing the prevalence of fraud and personal data compromises in today’s digital world, we now provide free identity theft recovery plans to members and their immediate families with Visa credit accounts. Recovery service is also available for purchase at significant discounts of up to more than 75% for those without our credit cards. This is an amazing differentiating benefit, as other institutions charge $25 to $50 per month for similar or even inferior services.

America First is fortunate to operate one of the region’s largest branch networks, with 121 locations and more planned for 2017. This presence sets us apart, but perhaps the most important distinction we have as a credit union is our continual focus on service levels. Our loyalty, retention, product utilization, and net promoter scores are among the country’s best, yet we always endeavor to improve.

Sustainability—Maintaining integrity is crucial to any sustaining organization, especially in the financial services sector. The economy has its cycles, life has its ups and downs, but you can rest assured that integrity in all facets is constant at America First.

We take pride in being fiscally sound and independently rated among the best credit unions in the nation. We closed the year with $844 million in capital, up 10.41%. Our net worth ratio was 11.32%, far above the 7% mark that is considered well capitalized by the National Credit Union Administration. We received an unqualified opinion from an external auditing firm regarding our 2015 financial statements, and expect another unqualified rating when the 2016 official review is complete.

Assets increased by 14.41% and were above $8 billion. Our return-on-assets ended the year at a strong 1.17%. Membership continued growing at a healthy pace, finishing at nearly 819,000. Deposits increased more than $926 million, up 14.75%. Our year-to-date loan growth was 16.37%, netting $835 million. Our loan delinquency rate was a low .79% and the allowance for loan & lease loss was more than adequate to absorb any portfolio deficiencies.

New offices opened in Summerlin, Nevada; Santa Clara, Washington Fields, Jeremy Ranch, Traverse Mountain, and West Point, Utah; Boise, Idaho; Tempe, Arizona; and our new Innovation Center debuted in Salt Lake City.

Heart—The people-helping-people philosophy of America First is strong, deeply rooted, and has remained a guiding principle since our founding in 1939. We feel that being a conscientious corporate citizen is paramount to our relevance. We will continue working with our schools, communities, and organizations that foster the greater good to make a meaningful difference. Examples of these efforts include supporting food drives, conducting our Warm the Soles of Kids campaign, contributing to the 100% For Kids Credit Union Education Foundation, making grants through our charitable foundation, supporting children’s hospitals, providing scholarships, and assisting many other worthy causes. Further, our team donates thousands of personal hours to service outreach.

My deepest thanks are extended to our volunteers and staff; their commitment to the membership, whether serving you directly or indirectly, is unrivaled. Most importantly, I express my utmost appreciation to you, our valued members. It is our desire to develop and maintain a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

 

Guest Commentary: Expect to See a Strengthening Economy

By Glen Olpin, Senior Vice President/Chief Economist

Each new year gives us the opportunity to reflect on the financial trends & conditions that have affected the membership over the past 12 months, as well as forecast how these economic factors will impact our operations going forward.

We expect a strengthening national economy this year, improving somewhat from what we experienced in 2016. A recent survey indicates most America First members have a wait-and-see attitude toward economic growth. Only 27% of respondents see an improvement coming, compared with over 30% a year ago. However, since the resolution of the U.S. presidential election, we have seen the stock market accelerate, confidence soar, and small businesses demonstrate higher levels of optimism.

Benchmark interest rates edged up slightly during 2016, and we forecast two to three additional quarter-percent increases throughout the year as the American economy gains momentum.

Utah’s 3.1% unemployment rate is well below the national average of 4.7%. The state also ranks among national leaders in job growth. Nevada’s labor markets were greatly improved, with unemployment levels falling to 5.2%. A large percentage of our members believe their personal employment situations will get better this year.

Consumer spending has expanded, resulting in sustained overall economic growth, even without significant increases in personal income. National retail sales grew more than 4% in 2016.

Personal credit saw faster than 6% growth for the year, while at America First, loan demand has been significant and is expected to continue into the future. Due largely to units moved in December of 2016, new auto sales set an annual industry record. Demand is expected to ease slightly during 2017. As it does, we expect dealer incentives to continue playing a key role in sales growth.

Inflation stayed low, but increasing home values & sales have created strong market conditions. We expect continued housing and construction growth during 2017, even as interest rates rise moderately.

While public uncertainty has to a large extent faded, questions remain regarding fiscal spending, regulatory reform, tax code changes, trade relations, and other issues. Ongoing expectations for positive changes in Washington will likely buoy the economy as it expands.

Regardless of the larger economic environment, all of us at America First are committed to providing you with service excellence, delivering high-quality financial products & services, and establishing lasting relationships of trust.

We appreciate the confidence you’ve placed in your credit union and thank you for your membership.

An Exceptional Year of Performance; A Vibrant Future

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

I am pleased to report that 2016 was another outstanding year. Your credit union remains safe, strong, well respected, and positioned for a bright and vibrant future.

To be part of a truly outstanding organization and team–that has among its core principles the mission to improve the financial well-being of its members, as well as the communities in which we live and work–is extremely gratifying. We strive to create meaningful relationships by providing relevant and affordable financial solutions for individuals, families, and businesses.

Significant milestones we reached include surpassing $8 billion in assets, growing to over 800,000 members, and opening new locations in Arizona and Idaho. America First is the 11th largest credit union in the nation in terms of assets and 7th most substantial in membership. While size provides critical mass necessary for a complex and changing world, I believe our growth and success reflects the fact that we offer consistent value, convenience, and high levels of service.

Additional highlights of 2016 include:

  • We opened new locations in Santa Clara, Washington, Jeremy Ranch, and Traverse Mountain, Utah; Summerlin, Nevada; Boise, Idaho; and Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Our first-of-its-kind Innovation Center debuted in Salt Lake’s City Creek Center, showcasing and giving members the opportunity to test and evaluate new technologies and services.
  • Superior service scores & measurements continue to be very strong and are among the best in the nation.
  • We improved call center systems, resulting in dramatic wait time reduction.
  • We received outstanding ratings and reviews from our external auditors and our federal regulator.
  • Member-selected personal identification numbers were made available.
  • A new & free identity theft recovery service was offered to those who use America First Visa® credit cards. This is in addition to our Card Guard® mobile security app that provides real-time credit and debit card control.
  • EMV chip-enabled Visa cards were issued for an extra layer of protection.
  • Our Visa cash-back cards featured a higher rebate level and we enhanced the free ABC Deals™ program.
  • New and improved loan and deposit services for business account holders were delivered.
  • We were again recognized as the number-one auto lender in Utah & the top credit union auto lender in Nevada.
  • Our tradition of being your premier provider of electronic services continued.
  • We developed engaging social media initiatives and demonstrated solid results.
  • Many educational programs for students and teachers in our schools were undertaken.
  • Our dedication to making significant outreach efforts to the communities we serve was evident, including the donation of time, means, and goods to those in need or those who require a helping hand.

As we look forward, you can be certain that America First will remain committed in our resolve to bring you the very best in financial services. I hope 2017 is a year of peace, productivity, and positive outcomes for you and those you love. Thank you for supporting America First Credit Union. We look forward to a lifelong relationship.

The Value of Positive Relationships

1.John LundBy John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

During my youth, the holidays and Christmas were modest, yet memorable times. It is a meaningful life lesson for me in reflecting back that I remember very few specific gifts. However, the inspiring sights, the wonderful scents, the delicious foods, and the fun I had with friends and family are precious, vivid recollections that stay with me to this day.

When she was preparing for the season, my mother made fantastic meals that would be enjoyed not just at one sitting, but for days thereafter. My favorites included macaroni & shrimp salad, three-bean salad, ham, rolls, cheeses, and her fabulous potato salad. Her date nut loaf was a much-anticipated dessert.

My dad enjoyed decorating our home, both inside and out. Creating this festive atmosphere in the outdoors was a big project that took considerable time. And I’m sure his having to keep after me to help slowed down our progress. When complete, the site was absolutely beautiful, especially after a fresh storm, with the lights showing through the snow and reflecting off the icicles.

To enhance the holidays even further, he built an outdoor speaker system so that passersby could listen to Christmas music. He played vinyl records on our hi-fi stereo from greats such as Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, the Andrews Sisters, Johnny Mathis & Andy Williams. I treasure these wonderful classics to this day.

All of my parents’ efforts to make these occasions special were put forth in the spirit of love and selflessness. In the process, long-term relationships and precious memories were developed and strengthened.

It’s truly the positive connection with others that enriches our lives in a relevant and enduring manner. While the relationships we at America First have with you as members can’t be quite this intimate, we do strive to make our services personal, meaningful, and lasting.

On behalf of our entire team of volunteers and staff, we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Please remember to pick up your free 2017 calendar at any of our branches. We thank you for your membership and look forward to a lifelong relationship in serving you and your family.

Gratitude for the Service of Others

1.John LundBy John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

On a recent visit to one of the country’s larger cities, I arrived several hours prior to my first meeting. With the extra time, I decided to go for a walk/run in an effort to get my daily steps in.

As I headed down the street, I came upon a small park with a three-lane, quarter-mile track around the perimeter, which made it the ideal place to exercise without having to deal with traffic, etc.

During my first lap, I noticed an older gentleman pushing a young man in a wheelchair who was mentally & physically disabled. The two were softly conversing, with the boy smiling and clearly pleased to have the company. On another turn, I saw the man massaging the shoulders and neck of his younger companion. The next time around, the gentleman had moved to a location offering a different view. This heartfelt interaction between the two continued the entire hour I spent at the park.

By himself, this young man couldn’t experience the basic joys of life many of us take for granted. Yet this kind gentleman intuitively perceived how he could help the boy savor this valuable time outside on beautiful warm afternoon.

As I made my way around and around the track, time seemed to pass much more quickly as I forgot about my minor aches and pain by focusing on the beautiful act of service I saw. I felt a powerful sense of gratitude toward this gentleman. It was inspirational witnessing such thoughtful and tender service. This motivated me to think a little bit less about myself and to be more sensitive to the needs of others.

During November, we celebrate Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving. Hopefully, we can all pause to recognize and openly thank those who have served this country and those who are now defending our freedom all over the world. Gratitude is a simple yet powerful force for good and we can always be generous in displaying it.

I hope each of you has a wonderful season. We appreciate your membership in and loyalty to America First. We look forward to a lifetime relationship.

Find the Hero Within

1.John LundBy John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

What is a hero? Are they like characters we see in movies with supernatural skills, fancy gadgets, or special outfits?

As part of an internal initiative, we brought in a group of kids ranging in age from two to 10. We posed a series of questions to them regarding the concept of heroes and recorded their responses. The wisdom and honesty of children is inspiring. To follow are excerpts of our inquiries and their answers.

What is a hero to you? Someone who protects you. Someone who does good things and serves others, [who] helps people and is nice to them. Someone who is kind and generous. Fights bad guys and saves the day. A person [who] is there when you need them.

Why do we need heroes? [To] help people when they are down. To protects us. To help us live happily. To put fires out. Protect our city. To save the day. If you are sad, you need a shoulder to cry on.

How do you become a hero? Being nice to people and picking up trash. Protecting people. By cleaning up my brother’s room. By doing what’s right. By being friendly and nice. Helping my friends and keeping them safe. Telling the truth. Being a friend to those [who] need a friend. You don’t need super powers to be a hero, you just need to help people.

Who is a hero in your life? Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, military guys, firefighters, police, Jesus.

Why are they your heroes? They give me hugs. Helps me when having trials. Makes a bad day a better day. Taught me to swim. Protects [us] from bad stuff like smoking. They are kind, sweet and loving. Does the dishes. Helps me understand problems. Loves me. Stands up for what’s right. There for me all the time.

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