President’s Message

Reflections of the Season

By John B. Lund, President & CEO

As I write this message, I have very mixed and deep emotions. I always look forward to the holidays and the excitement, splendor, beauty, and feelings of good will they bring. At the same time, I realize there are individuals and families under tremendous stress, who are facing hardships, or who have broken hearts and cause to mourn. The holidays can bring significant peace and comfort during these times, yet in some cases, the season may seem to magnify the difficulties they are going through.

I’ve also been thinking about the recent observation of Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving. There is so much for which we are grateful as citizens of this wonderful country. We enjoy unparalleled opportunity in terms of education, employment, health, religious freedom, recreation, service, and general quality of life.

We’re truly indebted to the men, women and their families who sacrifice tremendously—in many cases with their own lives—to protect and promote peace. Other individuals such as teachers, friends, co-workers, leaders and family members also enrich our spirits. Upon reflection, I’m indeed thankful for my great parents. They have passed on, but the tremendous memories and life lessons they left continue to bless and inspire all who knew them.

I’m certainly appreciative of America First Credit Union. Our mission is to improve our members’ financial well-being and to enhance the communities we call home. Our volunteers and staff are passionate about this purpose. We stand ready to educate, inform and assist you during both joyous and challenging experiences.

I regularly speak with members who share examples of the excellent service they have received. Additionally, I’m genuinely humbled to hear stories of life-changing events where America First has helped provide solutions to complex and trying circumstances.

Please accept our sincere thanks for your membership and loyalty. We look forward to a lifelong relationship. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season, and a productive and joyful new year.

The Buddy System

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

I recently heard a neighbor refer to the buddy system in conversation, immediately bringing back memories of my youth and participating in Boy Scouts of America activities. Whenever our troop went on a campout, hike or other outdoor excursion, we always paired off and were assigned a buddy for the event’s duration. Additionally, each child received a designated number to remember and count off during roll calls. At the time, although I knew these were safety measures, I did not understand the true power of this seemingly simple procedure. Years later, as an adult Scout leader—a role in which I was responsible for providing protection, developing learning, and creating positive experiences—I became a true believer.

Since then, I learned that the buddy system extends well beyond the scope of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It is practiced extensively in all branches of the United States armed forces, at schools, within religious organizations, and by diverse businesses. New employees often benefit from mentors who are there to teach and guide others during the first few months of work.

The dictionary defines the buddy system as a cooperative arrangement whereby individuals are paired or teamed up and assume responsibility for one another’s instruction, productivity, welfare & security.

In the world of personal, family and business finances, we are all at different levels of education, experience and understanding. Having a buddy, partner, or mentor there to offer instruction, boost production, promote the common welfare, and facilitate financial health is extremely valuable. At America First Credit Union, we strive to be that resource and your partner in this endeavor.

We have an extensive array of outstanding products & services, as well as a wonderful team of trained professionals to deliver them, throughout all stages of your financial journey. We appreciate your membership, loyalty, and look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

The Power of Pulling Together

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

I recently read an interesting article about the power and majesty of draft horses, which also provided me with a valuable learning example.

While the Clydesdales may be the most familiar to many, given their presence in holiday advertising, there are actually several different breeds of draft horses.

Weighing up to a ton, these magnificent, muscular animals can pull and move tremendous loads. A single draft horse can haul up to 8,000 pounds. Such strength is difficult to imagine, but the lesson is more effective when I discovered what two horses working together can accomplish.

The obvious answer would seem to be 16,000 pounds or twice the weight one can drag behind him. But two of these horses can move up to 24,000 pounds—three times the weight one can tow. This alone illustrates the value of teamwork, but more impressive is the fact that when two draft horses are trained together and labor alongside each other, their pulling capacity increases to 32,000 pounds—four times the weight either could have moved alone!

Life is full of twists, turns and ongoing challenges, which often requires significant effort to reach our goals, especially when it comes to personal or business finances. At America First, our desire is to be an essential part of your financial team. We are confident that, as we regularly work and learn together, we can truly improve your well-being in ways extending far beyond what could be managed by one individual.

Whether you’re consolidating and reducing debt, saving for the future, establishing good credit, working on a financial or estate plan, purchasing or remodeling a home, financing a vehicle, funding a business venture, or using our award-winning technology, we are here to help.

Thanks for your membership and loyalty. We look forward to a lifelong relationship of pulling together with you and your family.

Harnessing Technology to Deliver Excellence in Service

By Rich Syme, Executive Vice President, Digital & Contact Center Delivery-Product Management

Of my childhood memories, those that stand out most vividly are the family trips to Grandma’s house in Lyman, Wyoming. It was there we’d spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and just about every other occasion worth celebrating. Congregating in her kitchen, we were surrounded by stories, laughter and the delicious aroma of what was cooking. Another detail I clearly recall was the black rotary phone hanging on the wall—the kind you would literally dial.

It was an endless source of entertainment for my cousins and me. In those days, small communities had shared or ‘party’ lines, meaning you could pick up the phone for all the latest news and gossip, like Myrtle from down the street talking to Aunt Irene about her latest needlepoint project, or whether Edith in Fort Bridger really had the county’s best strawberry rhubarb pie (or if the fair judges were a bit biased).

Yes, what we do with phones has changed quite significantly since then. They’ve gone from being a simple way to speak with someone else at a distance, to multipurpose tools integrated into nearly every aspect of our lives. My children and grandchildren do not have wall-mounted telephones with long, curly cords; instead, they carry incredibly powerful devices that put the vast collection of human knowledge and achievement at their fingertips. Smartphones changed the world and in a manner few could have imagined several years ago. We now use them to talk, text, Google, navigate, shop, record our memories, catch rides, and accomplish so much more.

Of course, I’m particularly interested in how these devices can help us better manage our money. I’m proud America First was an early adopter of mobile banking technology. Since 2002, members have checked balances, reviewed transaction histories, and made transfers with their phones. As mobile technology evolved, we introduced a state-of-the-art app that helps you deposit checks, pay bills, apply for loans, and find deals & discounts from local merchants.

America First mobile banking has advanced tracking features, as well as the ability to add accounts at other institutions for a more complete picture of your finances. And because creating a budget and sticking to it can be tedious, the app generates personalized plans based on previous purchases. The system automatically assigns transactions to spending categories and it’s continually learning, providing the most accurate assessments.

To further enhance your experience, we developed Card Guard mobile security, giving you control of how, where, and when your Visa® credit & debit card cards are used. You can additionally set up account activity alerts and limit them to certain geographical areas.

It is our ongoing commitment to deliver the products and services you need to achieve financial health, and these benefits are a good snapshot of how we’re doing. Our talented mobile services department’s primary goal is to surprise, delight and empower the membership. If you haven’t already, download mobile banking and Card Guard to see if we’re meeting that lofty expectation.

Given the rapid pace of technological advancement, I wonder what my relatives and other folks in the Lyman of my youth would think about the smartphones we now have in our pockets. It would be fun to hear what topics Grandma, Myrtle and Aunt Irene might be gossiping about, but it’s likely they’d be chatting about neighborhood events via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, reddit, or another new platform. Because, even after all these years, we haven’t changed so much what we say, we just changed what we use to say it.

Ensuring Member Success Creates A Vital Credit Union

By Rex Rollo, Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer

In a beautiful poem titled “A Nation’s Strength,” Ralph Waldo Emerson reveals the true measure of any country’s success. His verse, consisting of only six stanzas, has a deep and clear message. Emerson suggests it is the people of a society—not its might, riches or natural resources—that make it strong. Here at America First, we realize our health & stability are derived from the same source: the families & businesses we serve. This knowledge forms the basis of our motto, Members come first.

Further, the credit union’s mission statement declares our commitment to “provide personal financial services of a superior quality to the members/owners; our chief concern is their financial well-being.” The America First membership has been the key to our sustained prosperity for nearly eight decades. Like Emerson, we know the credit union was and will only be healthy and vital to the extent that it elevates the financial lives of those who join.

This can be clearly seen in America First’s operating results for the first half of 2018. We now have more than 960,000 members, all seeking exceptional, convenient, secure products. As the membership has grown, so too has our ability to offer world-class services. Even as assets exceeded $10 billion for the first time, by carefully balancing growth, we can continue delivering personal service of the highest quality, whether through our branch network, industry-leading mobile & online channels, or award-winning contact centers.

If we look at America First’s performance from a traditional financial perspective, we can clearly determine that the credit union is safe and sound, with reserves over 150% of minimum regulatory requirements. Those assets are then reinvested to make America First membership more beneficial. And so it goes, as members, now and in the future, take full advantage of what is offered to them, their position is enhanced and they enjoy greater value. In turn, their collective strength propels the organization forward, allowing us to provide the most advanced financial services available.

At your credit union, we take Emerson’s viewpoint to heart—the well-being of America First is inextricably tied to how well we serve you, which is why we are dedicated to the ideal that members come first.

Remembering

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

I was recently in a meeting during which our group leader discussed the importance and value of remembering where we came from, those who were a positive influence, and those helping to shape who we are. After some introductory comments, he turned the time over to us, allowing many to share their meaningful memories. It was an especially uplifting and motivational experience to hear heartfelt stories of parents, teachers, coaches, friends, even brief acquaintances and others observed from a distance.

This exercise stirred recollections of my own, some of which I hadn’t thought about for years. It also caused me to ponder the kind of memories I might be intentionally or unintentionally creating for family, friends, co-workers and those around me. I recommitted to being more sensitive with my words and actions, and to have an optimistic outlook.

For me, the process of remembering the positive people, events, and life circumstances leads to deeper gratitude. Several scientific studies have validated that being grateful leads to better health and wellness.

July is a month filled with picnics, barbeques, outdoor fun and a host of celebrations, including Independence Day. Amid these happy occasions, I hope we can also pause to remember the thousands of men and women who sacrificed so much to preserve our freedoms. We are very fortunate to live in a land of opportunity and goodness.

As members of America First, I want you to know that I remember and value the credit union’s mission, which compels us to have the passion and determination necessary to provide personal and business services of superior quality. Our chief concern is the financial well-being of each member. Striving to always keep this purpose in mind generates gratitude for your trust in America First, for your loyalty, and for promoting the credit union to your family and friends.

Thank you very much. We look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

America First and Altier Credit Unions Merge, Forming A Mutually Beneficial Partnership

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

I am pleased to officially announce the merger of Altier Credit Union of Tempe, Arizona and America First Credit Union. Following much thought and many discussions, it became clear that this partnership was an outstanding match in terms of culture, service ethic and strategy. Under the agreement, America First will be the continuing credit union.

Altier opened in 1947 as the Salt River Valley Water Users Association employee credit union. In 2006, it was re-named Altier and the field of membership expanded to include residents of Maricopa County, Arizona. The credit union enjoys a rich tradition of excellence; the merger’s mutual goal is keeping this legacy in place and building upon it, providing financial services that are second to none.

Altier has five branches in Arizona; three in the greater Phoenix area and one each in Page & St. Johns. These locations will benefit all members living in the state and will provide additional access to our world-class products and exceptional member service.

Other benefits of our cooperative partnership include anytime, anywhere access with free online and mobile banking, free online bill pay, mobile deposits, telephone banking and more. We also offer free checking, free nationwide ATM transactions, free educational seminars, free financial counseling, free credit scores, free document shredding events, as well as many financial calculators and budgeting tools. Additional information is available at americafirst.com or call 1-800-999-3961.

America First was founded in 1939 at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, when our membership numbered 59 and our assets stood at $25. We’re proud to have grown and flourished since then, becoming one of the nation’s strongest credit unions with stability, quality, and investment in technology among our top priorities.

Our continuing credit union is well-positioned for a bright, vibrant future and we’ll work diligently to earn your trust and support. Welcome to America First, where we look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

Volunteers Ensure Value is Delivered to the Members of America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President & CEO

On April 17, America First Credit Union held our 79th Annual Meeting. It is a privilege to be associated with a member-owned cooperative that has endured and thrived for nearly eight decades by assisting families and businesses in achieving financial well-being.

Certainly, one reason for this longevity is our unique structure and leadership. We are fortunate to have a volunteer Board of Directors, comprised of individuals who serve without compensation to ensure that we deliver relevant products and services in a convenient, professional manner; that we help simplify your busy lives; and that we provide ways for you to keep more of your hard-earned money.

At this year’s meeting, Lyle B. Adams, Cathy Person, and John D. Spease were nominated and approved to serve three-year terms on our Board, joining Barney B. Chapman, Linda K. Carver, Gil A. Miller, Kenlon W. Reeve, Michael R. Roden and James G Wendler.

It was also an appropriate opportunity to honor and pay tribute to retiring board members Joy Jex and Ed Cline, who served America First for 39 and 41 years, respectively. Our organization is certainly indebted to their expertise and commitment.

We additionally owe a great deal of gratitude to the volunteers on the Loan Review and Supervisory Committees. The Loan Review Committee allows members the opportunity to request appeals of lending decisions. The committee and members then work together to find beneficial solutions.

The Supervisory Committee offers operational and regulatory oversight, joining senior management and our internal audit department staff to keep the credit union on strong financial footing, with sound policies and procedures.

In his meeting remarks, Chairman Wendler ably summarized our mission at America First: “No matter the area of endeavor, our core values guide how we operate. For this credit union, how we do business is as important as the business we do. We believe in putting the financial well-being of the members first. Whatever the means of access, we are here to serve you.”

It was my pleasure to report that, by every measure, 2017 was an outstanding year for America First. Our member engagement and service scores are among the very best in the nation. Our federal regulator and outside audit firm provided positive feedback regarding our operation, strategy and financial strength. Money Magazine named America First the best financial institution in Utah. While we are considered a large and complex credit union, our people, systems and philosophy remain personal, approachable and accessible.

On behalf of our volunteers and staff, I express my sincere thanks for choosing America First. We are committed to seeking a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

Service Excellence Delivers Long-Term Benefits to America First Members

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

Dear valued members,

I feel fortunate and humbled to be a part of such an outstanding organization and I am pleased to report that 2017 was a period of significant accomplishment. Our credit union is strong, stable, and well-positioned for a bright future. We will work diligently to continue earning your trust and support.

Additionally, I am honored to report that Money Magazine recognized America First as Utah’s best financial institution; the following principles illustrate just four of the reasons why:

ValueWe endeavor to provide relevant products and services in a convenient and professional manner, simplify busy lives, and help members keep more of their hard-earned money.

To that end, we offer free checking, free 24/7 online & mobile banking, free nationwide ATM withdrawals, free educational seminars, free financial counseling, free credit scores, free document shredding events, free financial calculators and budgeting tools, as well as numerous benefits that recognize the value we provide.

Our Visa® cards allow worldwide transactions, deliver industry-leading cash back & rewards programs, and provide merchant-funded offers that generate additional cash. Using Visa from America First further brings free identity theft recovery services, account and fraud monitoring, real-time security, and free mobile device management, including the ability to turn cards on and off. Discounts for transactions made with our Visas are available at retailers, events, and recreational opportunities.

The credit union’s loan and deposit products consistently lead the competition in rate, flexibility and choice. We are the market’s number-one auto lender and rank among the best in RV and mortgage financing.

America First business members have a wealth of resources at their disposal, including SBA loans, lines of credit, Visa credit accounts, complete in-house merchant services, free checking, and many other significant advantages.

Encompassing a financial solution for every need, we also offer fully managed insurance, investments, health savings, retirement planning, wealth management, and trust services.

ServiceIt is our goal to establish meaningful lifelong relationships, serving our members how, where & when they choose.

In addition to a significant, multi-state network of 125 branches, America First creates an anytime, anywhere environment with award-winning online and mobile services, mobile deposits, telephone banking, live chat, and robust social and digital media platforms.

Loyalty, retention, and product utilization numbers remain among the best in the nation. Our Net Promoter score–a benchmark for evaluating service quality—is at a level attained by only the best of the best companies.

Throughout my associations and travels, it is not uncommon for individuals to share stories of how America First has served, supported, and benefitted them when they learn of my position with the credit union. It is extremely satisfying knowing we are improving the lives of those around us.

StrengthAmerica First demonstrates fiscal strength, stability, soundness and is independently rated among the best credit unions in the country.

Last year, we received positive results from a National Credit Union Administration examination and from an external auditing firm. When completed, we expect a similar outcome for 2017.

During turbulent economic times, such as the deep recession of 2008 to 2010, a lack of capital strength was often the root cause leading to the weakening or failure of a financial institution. This is not the case with our credit union, as America First closed the year with $912.3 million in capital, up 8.07% from 2016. Our net worth ratio is 11.11%, well above the federal regulatory requirement.

Net income totaled $93.4 million. Assets grew by 12.07%, ending the year above $9.2 billion—America First is now the 10th largest credit union in the nation in terms of this measurement.  Return on assets was a healthy 1.06%. Our membership continued growing at a healthy pace, closing 2017 at over 905,000. Deposits increased $893.4 million (12.39%) and loans grew by more than $1 billion, or 17.16%. Delinquencies rose slightly to .93%; however, the allowance for loan loss is more than adequate to absorb any portfolio deficiencies.

Our top priority is protecting members’ personal data, financial information, resources, and accounts. America First’s highly regarded information technology systems and networks are continually upgraded, enhanced, monitored, and secured.

HeartWe remain committed to improving our communities & schools, making a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

Examples of these efforts include supporting food drives, contributing thousands of personal volunteer service hours, and making meaningful financial contributions to worthwhile charitable organizations. We support schools, communities, children’s hospitals, financial literacy, educational scholarships, and dozens of projects that promote the greater good.

My deepest gratitude is extended to our volunteers and staff, all of whom are passionate about serving you and who remain sincere in their dedication to seek continual improvement. Most importantly, I express my utmost appreciation to you, our members, and reiterate our commitment to developing and maintaining a lifelong relationship with you and your family.

 

Guest Commentary: All Indicators are Positive for Continued Economic Growth

By Glen Olpin, Senior Vice President—Chief Economist

February of 2018 marks the 104th straight month of national economic recovery. This period of economic improvement may be the longest, yet weakest on record, but there are no signs of a slowdown on the horizon.

Utah and neighboring Intermountain West states are experiencing stronger overall growth than the national average. Nationwide strength in economic growth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) was recently reported for 2017; we expect continued strength throughout this year.

Businesses have acted cautiously during the latest cycle of an improving economy; however, recent measures assessing the commercial sector show increased strength and confidence. We expect a favorable business services and lending climate to prevail in 2018.

Consumers have led the recovery and remain optimistic about the future. Utah and surrounding states are exhibiting strong employment growth and personal income is rising. Consumer spending has been solid and we expect to see continued strength in spending this year. There are some cautionary indicators, however, including consumer debt rising to pre-recession levels.

Inflation has been slowly trending upward since late 2015, but it does not constitute a threat to continuing economic growth; we are predicting inflation to remain in the 2% to 2.5% range during the coming year.

Short-term interest rates have slowly inched upward and are expected to rise by as much as an additional 1%. As these rates increase, long-term interest rates are expected to move moderately higher as well.

New and existing home sales have been healthy in the face of increasing prices. Housing and construction spending should stay robust. Real estate lending rates are also forecast to remain relatively low. These positive indicators are combining for an already favorable real estate environment to continue throughout 2018.

We have seen ongoing demand for automobiles and that trend is expected to continue. The need for America First vehicle financing is strong. We pledge to remain the leader in auto lending for our members.

Consistently low interest rates, a strengthening business environment, the wealth effect from increasing home values, continued fundamental vitality in the stock market, as well as the hope of reduced regulations and tax relief, are combining to increase consumer and business confidence in a growing economy well beyond 2018.

We expect this to be another successful year for America First Credit Union. We appreciate your membership and remain dedicated to serving your complete financial needs as we move forward together.