President’s Message

What Are Your Most Cherished Childhood Holiday Memories?

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

Every January, the entire America First management team gets together to kick off a new year, discuss our strategic plan and budget priorities, and generate enthusiasm for achieving future goals. I was addressing the group a couple of years ago at this event and, as an experiment, I asked for three volunteers to come forward. My request was quite simple, but came it as a bit of a surprise.

I asked each to share his or her fondest or most cherished childhood memory from Christmas or the holidays. None mentioned a bicycle, doll, or any other toy or gift. Without fail and with visible emotion, they all spoke of experiences with family, friends and neighbors they held dear. We heard of enjoyable times spent together; of games, laughter, delicious meals, and renewing connections with distant family members; and we learned how providing a surprise act of service brought joy. In short, they highlighted the value and enduring nature of meaningful relationships.

This simple exercise vividly illustrated what we truly value—positive relationships developed and strengthened over time. Although the nature of our affiliation is not as deeply personal, it is our desire at America First to develop a valued connection and relationship with each member we serve. Building such trust requires time, commitment, care, and providing relevant products & benefits that save you money and simplify your financial life. That is our pledge to all of you.

It is our hope that during this season and throughout the year, we will make the effort to remain optimistic, look for the good in others, do some good ourselves, and perhaps create a cherished memory for someone.

We look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family. Please accept our best wishes for a merry Christmas and happy holiday season. Don’t forget to pick up your free 2018 calendar at any America First branch.

Remember the Meaning ‘Mail Call’ Has for our Veterans this Holiday Season

By John B. Lund, President & CEO

In November, we celebrate two national holidays, Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving. As citizens of this country, there is much for which we are rightly grateful, not the least being our veterans, who served and sacrificed to preserve our freedoms, lessen tyranny & oppression all over the world, and provide hope to millions.

We at America First Credit Union recently had the opportunity & privilege to support and take part in an effort that benefits World War II veterans. The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to recognize veterans for their immeasurable contributions. The network’s mission statement, in part, reads: To transport America’s Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends. To quote from their web site, Top priority is given to the senior veterans–World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Of all the conflicts in recent memory, it was the Second World War that truly threatened our very existence as a nation—and as a culturally diverse, free society. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 veterans of WWII die each day, meaning the time to share our gratitude with these brave men and women is running out.

This year, 26 veterans participated in the Honor Flight. I had the privilege of writing a letter on behalf of America First and from me personally that expressed appreciation for their service. This correspondence was included in a “mail call” the veterans enjoyed on their way home from Washington. Tears came to my eyes when I received and read the following note from one such hero:

Dear Friend/John,
I have just returned from one of the most memorable experiences in my life, an Honor Flight…This trip to Washington, D.C. included seeing the WWII Memorial, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Lincoln Memorial. Also, it was a very moving experience to visit Arlington National Cemetery. Although there were many enjoyable things that happened during this trip, one surprise stands out: MAIL CALL! Yes, mail call, just like we had during the war, with welcomed letters from home. One letter I received with great enjoyment was from you. I can’t tell you how much this meant to me, that you would take the time to send this note of appreciation for my service. Thank you so much! With Warm Regards,
Sgt. Charles “Fritz” Dolehi, U.S. Army Air Corps

Throughout the year, but perhaps most importantly during the holiday season, I hope we can all take the opportunity to give our veterans a cherished mail-call experience and thank them for their service. I and our entire team thank you for your membership in America First. We look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

Breaches & Identity Theft Are All Too Common—But We’re Here to Help You

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

Unfortunately, the news of data compromises occurring at merchants, large companies and most recently at Equifax, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies, is increasingly prevalent. Considering the Equifax incident involved nearly half the U.S. population—143 million residents—the chances of any given individual being affected are reasonably high. You can find out if this breach has impacted you at equifax.com. If your information is involved, there are steps you can and should take to protect your identity:

  • If you have an account with Equifax, change the password immediately. Be sure the new one is unique and not applicable to another site.
  • When you change a password, enable two-factor authentication when this feature is offered. Doing so will prevent those with malicious intent from requesting to reset your password, which would give them access to your account.
  • Monitor your credit reports. They are available from each of the three bureaus at no cost once a year. We also provide complimentary FICO® Scores, updated quarterly, through free online banking. Watch these indicators for negative movement.
  • Regularly review all your statements & transactions. Report potentially fraudulent charges immediately.
  • Be on the lookout for phishing emails that prompt you to click links or open attachments that are purportedly related to the Equifax situation. It’s also prudent to keep this in mind with any message you receive.
  • Identity thieves are additionally contacting consumers while posing as representatives of the credit bureaus. They will ask victims to provide personal information later used to defraud them. If you receive one of these phone calls, hang up immediately. If you need to speak with reporting agencies, contact them directly. This scam is sophisticated, with some caller IDs showing as originating from a bureau.

Your membership provides additional advantages that help safeguard your resources. Learn more about the following at americafirst.com:

  • Identity theft recovery services—If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft, contact an America First representative, who can establish a case to help minimize the concern and impact. It’s free if you carry our Visa® credit cards & it covers all forms of ID theft.
  • Card Guard® mobile security—This free, state-of-the-art app gives you complete real-time control of when, where, and how your America First Visa cards are used.

Data breaches are serious problems for consumers and businesses. Financial institutions have complied with strict security measures since the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passed. However, retailers and other entities handling sensitive personal financial information are not subject to these same standards. We should all urge our representatives and senators to support comprehensive data security legislation.

Thank you for your trust in America First and for the opportunity to assist in your complete financial needs. We look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

Believe

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

It’s September. The kids are back in classes, days are getting a bit shorter, and the harvest is on. We’re entering a wonderful time of year and I hope you’re enjoying it.

Each year, our management team establishes an internal theme we use as a principle focus and rallying cry for leadership and training meetings. Throughout 2017, our spotlight has been on Believe. This is a powerful concept, because we are guided and shaped by our beliefs, forming the foundation for the way we think, what we do, and how we live. There is undeniable power behind believing in something or someone.

We plant crops and gardens because we believe in and need the harvest. We go to school because we believe education will improve the future. Believing is the catalyst for action…or inaction. Therefore, what we believe can have a profound impact on our own lives and the lives of those who surround us.

One of the things I love about America First Credit Union is that we are a group who chooses to believe in each other and the core purpose of helping people. In January, I challenged the staff to renew and recommit to understanding and believing in our mission— improving the financial well-being of the membership. If we believe in ourselves & one another, follow through and work toward shared goals, our members will continue believing in us.

Thank you for your membership, loyalty, and the value you believe America First can deliver. We will work hard to retain this trust and look forward to a lifelong relationship.

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.