President’s Message

Guest Commentary: Indicators Point to Strengthening Economy

Glen Olpin

By Glen Olpin, Senior Vice President/Chief Economist

We at America First expect a strengthening economy in 2016, similar to what we experienced last year. No matter the economic climate we face, however favorable or unfavorable, your credit union remains committed to providing service excellence and we’re dedicated to establishing lasting relationships of trust with the membership.

In a recent survey, nearly 78% of America First members reported expectations that local economic growth will remain at existing marks or improve over the next 12 months, although 33% state they expect to see increases to their households’ cost of living.

The most current year-over-year average for economic expansion, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), shows a 2.1% upward trajectory. We expect 2016 GDP growth to stay between 2% and 3%. Interest rates were held low throughout 2015. In December, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee raised the Fed funds target rate by 0.25%, signaling a slow cycle of moderate hikes. Our research suggests that 56% of our members think rates will remain somewhat stagnant for the next 12 months, while 33% expect further increases.

Labor measurements have nearly fallen to levels that constitute a full employment designation, as measured by economists. But the workforce participation rate is still being driven downward by discouraged employees, retiring baby boomers, and mothers not returning to their careers. This key metric, combined with a lack of substantial wage raises, indicates that the job market may not be as strong as the unemployment numbers themselves might imply.

Utah unemployment is well below the national average. The state has led the country in job growth since early 2015 and unemployment is expected to move even lower for 2016. Additionally, moderate wage increases are forecast to occur during the year. Jobless figures are declining in Nevada, but, as of November of 2015, the unemployment rate was still higher than the national average. However, the state’s economy is building momentum and is expected to be one of the strongest in the country this year, with unemployment falling to 6% by the end of 2016. Our research confirms that 97% of members surveyed expect their employment positions to improve or at least remain the same in 2016.

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A Successful 2015 and a Bright Future Ahead

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

Reflecting on the challenges, opportunities, and successes of 2015, I am truly grateful to be part of such an outstanding organization. Our volunteers and staff are dedicated to delivering service that is second to none, with the objective of improving the financial well-being of each member, family, and business choosing America First. I am pleased to report that your credit union remains safe, strong, and well-positioned for a bright and vibrant future.

We reached many milestones during 2015. America First surpassed $7 billion in assets and we are the financial home to more than 740,000 members. With over 6,200 credit unions across the country, we stand as the 12th largest in assets and the 7th largest in membership. While these are significant indicators, given the relatively small population in our market, I believe our growth and achievement reflect the fact that America First offers consistent, convenient, and lasting value.

More complete financial and performance reporting for 2015 will be detailed at the Annual Meeting in April. However, a few highlights for the year include:

• We opened new branches in Kaysville, Lehi, and Herriman, Utah; and in Henderson, Nevada

• Superior service scores & measurements were attained

• Consumer Reports rated America First among the best financial institutions in the U.S.

• We received the highest ranking possible from our regulator, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and a clean external audit report

• Our insurance, investment, and planning products were enhanced

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Seasonal Reflection Demonstrates Opportunity to Help Others

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

I love the holidays. I take pleasure in the sights and sounds, the lights and aromas, the hustle and bustle, my friends and family. It may sound strange, but I actually enjoy winter and the challenge of a major snowstorm.

My reflections during this time of year bring about cherished feelings of peace, joy, and the comfort of a warm fireplace. Recently, I thought about my Grandma Lund. She was a very bright yet humble individual, who from the world’s perspective possessed little. To my knowledge, she never drove a car or traveled far from home.

My grandmother was a young lady when she and her family emigrated from Denmark to America. Over time, she learned English, but I will always remember her accent, something that fascinated me as a boy.

John's Grandmother

She married and became the mother of nine children, six boys and three girls. Her husband (the grandfather I never knew) unexpectedly passed away on Christmas Eve in 1941 at the young age of 47. Then widowed, she never re-married, worked hard, and raised a large family on her own. She was employed at a local laundry to help pay the bills. Of course, the older children pitched in, including my father.

Grandma Lund had more than her share of heartaches. She lost a young son when he drowned in the Ogden River during a high spring run-off. She spent days searching for him, until the body was finally located a considerable distance away. She lost another son during the D-Day invasion of World War II. Through all of her trials and disappointments, she remained hopeful, faithful, and devoted to her family. All of her surviving children grew to be outstanding individuals and raise beautiful families of their own.

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A Truly Special Month for our Household

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

For a number of reasons, November is always a cherished time for me and my family. Not only was my dear wife born during the month, the occurrence happened to take place on Thanksgiving Day. I have heard the story many times: my mother-in-law was sitting down to her holiday dinner when her first daughter decided it was time to come into the world and join the celebration. My future in-laws missed their meal that year, but received something far more precious and lasting. Their daughter and my wife is truly a jewel, not to mention the best grandma in the world.

Besides my wife’s birthday, November holds a special place on the calendar with two distinctive holidays: Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving.

Veterans’ Day is November 11, honoring those who have served in the U.S. armed forces, protecting & preserving our freedom and our way of life. It was originally called Armistice Day to mark the anniversary of World War I ending; the major hostilities of this horrific conflict were formally halted on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. The observance was changed to Veterans’ Day in 1954. Today, there are approximately 23.2 million U.S. veterans.

Thanksgiving provides us with the opportunity to offer appreciation for the blessings of the harvest and the preceding year. It has historical roots in religious, cultural, and secular traditions. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn feast that is acknowledged as one of the first Thanksgivings. It wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving holiday to be held each November.

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The Power of Respect

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

During each fall season, we begin our budget and strategic planning process for the coming year. As part of this important project, we send a questionnaire to our entire management team.

This document provides us with insight from the collective eyes and ears of this talented and dedicated group of professionals striving to meet your needs. A number of questions are asked regarding our products, services, strategies, mission, and other key areas of focus.

Our questionnaire is administered through an anonymous system to help ensure every participant is able to respond in a completely open manner. This year, at my request, an additional question was posed to our managers: “What do you respect most about America First Credit Union?”

I specifically used the word respect rather than another term. I feel respect is something deeper, something earned over time, something more meaningful. The feedback we received was extraordinary, and I was impressed to share some of their feelings with you:

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Free Services Add Value to and help Simplify your Busy Life

By John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

John Lund, President, America First Credit UnionHave you left your credit or debit card at a restaurant by accident and been panicked as you call or rush back, hoping it’s still there and has not been fraudulently used? Or you’ve waded through the inconvenience of having your card reissued because your information has been compromised at a local or national merchant?

Most of us can relate these situations and the experience can be very frustrating. To help put your mind at ease about using your America First Visa® Debit and Credit Cards, we are proud to offer unique — and free — tools.

Card Guard™ is a Mobile Banking innovation that puts you in complete control of how, when, and where your cards are used. Download the application on your smartphone and you’ll be able to turn your cards on or off in real time. Additionally, you can allow card use only in certain geographic locations, at merchants and service providers you determine, and you can set threshold dollar amounts for transactions.

Beyond controlling how your cards are used, you can also receive immediate alerts regarding transactions and attempted transactions. Card Guard’s monitoring feature allows you to verify that all of your account activity is legitimate.

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Guest Commentary: The Secret to Financial Performance

By Rex Rollo, Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer

Rex RolloA typical company’s mid-year financial performance report would include numerous fiscal measurements, such as net income, asset growth, cash flows, and net worth. In addition, comparisons between actual performance, budgeted goals, and projections would likely be drawn.

Rest assured, America First Credit Union has either met or exceeded our targets in all of these indicators during the first half of 2015. Assets will exceed $7 billion before the year ends, our income is on budget, and our net worth ratio is at its highest level in seven years. These favorable numbers demonstrate yet another 12 months of strong financial performance and have resulted in America First being ranked among the strongest of its peers.

Key to these excellent results and the real secret to our success is the relationship we build with each of our members. Because of our dedication to this core ideal, not only has the credit union seen consistent membership growth year after year, there has also been an expansion in the number of products and services being utilized.

This compounded membership growth only occurs when the credit union is able to offer a complete range of quality products and services. It is then enhanced by delivering them through a wide selection of convenient, world-class channels. Our goal is not only to provide our members with the finest financial services, but to make them available whenever, wherever, and however members choose to transact their business.

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Love for a Man Never Met — the Legacy of Little Jimmy Fisher

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

I recently heard a heartwarming true story about the experience of Eugene Gibbs on Iwo Jima Island during World War II. It was carefully and passionately told by Eugene’s dear wife, Wanda, and his granddaughter, Kristin, both members of America First Credit Union. I am grateful their family was willing to share something this special.

Eugene Jens Gibbs was a good man and one of the Greatest Generation. He was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. Eugene had a buddy named James C. Fisher, Jr., fondly known as Little Jimmy Fisher. Jimmy and Eugene met during basic training, discovering they were of different backgrounds and from opposite ends of the country. Over time, they formed a close friendship. Eugene and Jimmy served and fought together through several terrifying and bloody battles in Rio-Namur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima is located between the Mariana Islands and Japan’s mainland. It was an important defensive position for the Imperial Army and consequently of great strategic value to the Allied troops. Japan had long worked to fortify the island with concrete bunkers, a complex system of tunnels, and heavily armed positions, both offensively and defensively.

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America First Offers Leading-edge Card Security You Control

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

I recently spoke with an America First member who was concerned about the rise in credit and debit card fraud. He enjoyed the convenience, simplicity, and advantages of paying by card, but was worried about his information being compromised at a merchant. Our member observed that some companies may be lacking the controls to properly protect his data, and he noted the surge in dishonest people who are all too anxious to rob him of his resources.

America First Credit Union and Visa® work diligently to protect you against fraudulent transactions, although the prospect of reissuing your cards and resolving disputes can be time-consuming and frustrating.

Imagine, then, the possibility of putting yourself in control of how, when, and where your debit and credit cards can be used. Think of how beneficial managing your cards in real time would be, giving you the ability to conduct transactions based on your location, the type of purchase you’re making, at which merchants you’re visiting, and at a dollar limit you’re setting. You’d also like to receive alerts notifying you when and where your card is being swiped, and be able to modify and change these controls as you see fit and while you’re on the go.

There is no need to use your imagination, because we now have this ground-breaking service available. Your credit union is proud to offer Card Guard, security you control™. This is another innovative first from America First, giving you anytime & anywhere card management.

It’s an exceptional safeguard and a flexible tool provided at no cost to our members. We appreciate and value your loyalty toward our products and services, and we are always looking for ways to add value and enhance your experience.

Download the Card Guard™ application inside free Mobile Banking for your iPhone or Android smartphone. You’re also welcome to search for Card Guard in the iTunes and Google Play stores. And be sure to visit americafirst.com for additional details.

We hope you enjoy Card Guard and continue to utilize all we offer for your financial well-being. Thank you for being a member and for the trust you place in America First. We look forward to a lifelong relationship.

America First Honors our Unique and Lasting Legacy

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

Each spring, America First members gather to elect a volunteer Board of Directors to guide our credit union, renew our unique & lasting bond, and honor our legacy as a not-for-profit cooperative.

Held April 14, 2015 in Ogden, Utah, the 76th Annual Meeting continued the democratic tradition of voting for fellow members to provide us with direction and oversight. We were also fortunate to have civic leaders, representatives from credit union trade associations, and other dignitaries in attendance.

Board Vice Chair Barney B. Chapman, Chairman of the Board Elections Committee, oversaw the balloting, during which America First Board members Lyle B. Adams, Joy Jex and John D. Spease were elected to serve three-year terms. They, along with Linda Carver, Mr. Chapman, Edwin G. Cline, Kenlon W. Reeve, Michael R. Roden, and James G. Wendler are exceptional individuals on our Board who are dedicated to your financial well-being.

The Board subsequently chose their leadership following the meeting, with Mr. Wendler taking the role of Chair, Mrs. Carver serving as Vice Chair, and Mr. Reeve being Secretary.

Volunteers on our Board work exceptionally hard and without compensation to direct our organization in a provident and productive manner. That we benefit from the abilities of these volunteers is one of many admirable characteristics of our structure, and we are truly fortunate to have such a remarkable team working on your behalf.

We further owe a great deal of gratitude to our volunteers on the Loan Review and Supervisory Committees. The Loan Review Committee meets to conduct appeals processes for those seeking to resolve their credit situations and find solutions to financial challenges. The Supervisory Committee offers fiscal & regulatory review to ensure the credit union has judicious and sound programs, policies, and procedures.

In her remarks at the meeting, outgoing Board Chair Carver expressed appreciation to the membership for their choice in financial institutions, and congratulated the staff, management, and volunteers for their diligence in serving your needs in a remarkable fashion, year after year.

Mrs. Carver also reflected on the credit union’s strong performance across key categories in 2014 and assured all that America First, is safe, sound, secure, and stands as one of the finest institutions in the country. She further commented on our commitment to prudent growth.

I am blessed to serve with these volunteers and our remarkable team of more than 2,300 employees, who provide you and your families with the products and tools necessary to achieve financial well-being. We realize it’s essential for you to conduct business with the credit union in the manner you find most convenient, and we are a national leader in giving you anytime, anywhere access. Delivering outstanding service through all channels is of primary importance to us.

We additionally remain steadfast in promoting financial literacy, supporting schools and the communities in which we have a presence, and we will continue to pursue opportunities that facilitate the greater good through worthwhile causes, the America First Charitable Foundation, and other partnerships.

I am proud of what America First Credit Union stands for and the service we provide. I am especially thankful for your commitment to America First. We look forward to a lifetime relationship.