Without question, 2020 was an unprecedented time and will be recorded in the history books as such. A global pandemic, earthquakes, hurricane-force winds, civil unrest, and major economic challenges were among the significant issues to impact our lives. However, I can report that, literally and figuratively, America First Credit Union weathered last year’s storms and challenges very well.
Accessing financial services is essential to the well-being of individuals, families, communities, and our country as a whole. America First was well-prepared when COVID-19 arrived, and we responded quickly and effectively to keep our staff and members safe, while continuing our operations and support. We acknowledge and appreciate your patience and understanding during these demanding, complicated circumstances.
While other institutions closed branches, or limited service to drive-through windows, we kept 73% of our locations open, ensuring the membership could conduct business at physical facilities, with ATMs, and via live telephone support. We additionally enhanced our award-winning mobile, online, and web services that are available 24/7. Back-office operations were also adjusted and adapted to this new environment, with many working from home or in remote capacities. It was truly a remarkable team effort, and I express my utmost gratitude to everyone involved.
Despite the many obstacles, our performance during the year was outstanding. America First ranks among the top 10 credit unions in the entire nation. While such rankings are indicative of our commitment to excellence, what remains most important to us is how we serve each member individually, providing relevant financial solutions to meet their changing needs throughout their lifetime. With that in mind, presented below are three guideposts that drive our focus, as well as some accomplishments within these areas.
It is our desire to establish a meaningful and lasting association with those we serve. Through research and experience, it is abundantly clear that members who are using more of our products are satisfied, loyal, and happy. These findings provide us with confidence in our ability to deliver solutions that can simplify each stage of your financial life. Examples include:
- Free financial seminars
- Free financial counseling services
- Financial literacy instruction at local schools
- Free credit scores and products to assist members who are rebuilding
- Interactive web-based and social media learning tools
Award-Winning 24/7 Digital and Online Services
- Comprehensive online banking and web portal
- Go-anywhere mobile banking, featuring remote deposits & bill pay
- Apple, Android & Samsung Pay
- No-fee ATM access
- Zelle® person-to-person transfers
Branch & Telephone Access
- 127 locations in multiple states
- Toll-free phone access
- 24/7 fully automated telephone banking
Your Financial Security
- Free identity theft recovery and monitoring services
- Free Card Guard® mobile app
- Free direct deposits
Multiple Savings & Transaction Options
- Youth and student accounts
- Share, money market, individual retirement, certificate, and health savings accounts
- Business and commercial deposit & transaction accounts
- Business merchant account services
- Diverse checking & debit card options
- #1 auto lender in our region
- #1 regional SBA lender
- RV loans
- Auto/RV research and valuation tools
- Convenient on-site dealer financing
- Mortgage, real estate, home equity, and construction loans
- Low-rate Visa® cards with cash back & rewards
- Lines of credit and overdraft protection
- Business, commercial, and Payroll Protection Program loans
- Personal and consolidation loans
Complete Financial Needs
- Trust & retirement planning services
- And more
Financial Strength & Integrity
America First is safe, sound, and independently rated among the best and strongest financial institutions in the U.S. We remain dedicated to ensuring the organization’s integrity and upholding the highest ethical standards.
Accordingly, our net worth equaled $1.410 billion at year’s end, up 10.29% from 2019 and closing at 9.78%. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), our federal regulator, considers 7.00% well-capitalized. Sophisticated capital planning techniques and models provide us with the ability to retain adequate capital positions going forward. America First additionally achieved positive/unqualified exam results from the NCUA and an independent external auditor.
Credit union assets increased 23.0% to $14.411 billion, with federal stimulus payments being a factor in this higher figure. Yearly net income exceeded $131.5 million, producing a healthy 1.00% return on assets. America First’s loan portfolio grew by 6.02% to $9.921 billion, while deposits were 25.06% higher to finish at $12.944 billion. The 2020 loan/deposit ratio ended at 76.69%, down from 90.48% a year ago. The high deposit growth and lessened loan demand resulting from the pandemic and economic retraction are the primary causes for a lower ratio. Our overall loan portfolio mix is diversified, has minimal interest rate risk, and reflects appropriate credit risk levels. Allowance for loan loss reserves are more than adequate to absorb any portfolio deficiencies.
Our key security priority is protecting members’ personal data, information, resources, and accounts. To this end, internal and external reviews take place regularly, as do enhancements, upgrades, and improvements to our information technology infrastructure, monitoring, and control systems. America First does not sell member information.
Strategic & Balanced Growth
Measured growth is essential to sustainability and risk diversification. America First’s field of membership is well-diversified geographically and socioeconomically, and we expect stable growth prospects in the future. For the year, membership rose by 7.03% to nearly 1.2 million. We are the region’s #1 credit union but, more significantly, we’ve developed deep and positive primary account relationships.
New branches opened in Murray and Vineyard, Utah, and in Las Vegas, Nevada. A business center in downtown Salt Lake City also premiered. After careful consideration, seven locations were closed. As 2020 ended, we had 127 branches in Utah, Nevada, Arizona & Idaho.
We are active in legislative and community affairs on local, state, and national levels. We believe it is imperative to be an outstanding corporate citizen and assist organizations working for the greater good. The America First Charitable Foundation therefore provides resources, service, and expertise to charitable organizations, non-profit entities, events, and many other worthwhile causes. Our employees and volunteers donate countless hours of personal time and effort to service outreach.
Genuine Gratitude and Farewell
My retirement is effective April 3, 2021. It is a great privilege and honor to have been part of this amazing organization for over 46 years, and to have served as President and CEO for the past eight and a half. I am blessed with the unwavering support of my wonderful wife and family, who have been vital to my career and who made it possible for me to undertake this incredible journey.
As I write my last report, I am humbled and have deep feelings of acknowledgment, beginning with the 59 pioneering individuals who formed our credit union in 1939, with clear vision and purity of purpose. I am the beneficiary of a true legacy built by former presidents Ray Hagen, Jim Dawson, Rick Craig, and the many wonderful individuals associated with each of them.
Special thanks to our dedicated & talented Board of Directors, Supervisory Committee, and other volunteers who willingly serve without compensation and with minimal recognition. This cooperative spirit truly sets us apart from other financial institutions.
It has been a pleasure to work alongside an incredible leadership group that is passionate about achieving exceptional outcomes and relevance in serving the membership. I am indebted to our staff team; they always strive for improvement and are focused on service quality in every task. Collectively, we appreciate the opportunity to serve and help individuals, families, and businesses improve their financial well-being. I am most thankful to you, the members, for supporting and promoting America First. Our pledge will always be to earn your trust, your business, and an ongoing relationship.
The Board of Directors named Thayne Shaffer as our next President and CEO. Having worked with Thayne for 33 years, I know he is a man of integrity, vision, and commitment. A Certified Public Accountant, Thayne has extensive finance, accounting, mortgage, information technology, and leadership experience. He believes in the philosophy of people helping people and holds dear the values for which America First stands. I wholeheartedly endorse and support Thayne and his entire team. The future is indeed bright and our credit union is in good hands.
John B. Lund, President and CEO