President’s Message

A Welcome to Spring and New Opportunities

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

After winter, it is always a welcome relief to have spring arrive. It is a pleasure to witness the tulips and daffodils breaking through the ground, the trees beginning to blossom, and the song birds returning to occupy the trees. The season is a time of renewal and rebirth, and it’s appropriate that April is National Financial Literacy Month.

If your financial literacy and that of your family is well in hand, congratulations! If your skills in this area are marginal or somewhat lacking, maybe spring marks an opportunity to dust off the cobwebs, renew, and recommit to establishing and maintaining healthy financial habits.

Financial literacy involves gaining a set of skills, knowledge, and tools that allow an individual to make informed and effective decisions regarding their fiscal resources. It has been said that the best investment you can make is in yourself. Obviously, acquiring an education and aptitude in your field of choice can increase your earning ability, which is a key component of financial stability. The wise use of resources is equally important. More money doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness, comfort, piece of mind, or stability.

Jean Chatzky wrote a great little book: Money Rules. It is an easy read and full of relevant financial literacy and money-management tips. One of my favorites is “the best way to be comfortable is to be slightly uncomfortable.” This sentence speaks to the importance of spending less than you make and sacrificing current pleasures a bit to be better prepared for the future.

I am proud that our organization has a mission “to provide personal financial services of superior quality to the members/owners, our chief concern being their financial well-being.” America First works hard each day to achieve this goal, and no matter what phase of life you are in, the credit union stands ready to assist. We are proud of the financial tools, calculators, budgeting tips and information found on our Web site and within our Online and Mobile Banking systems. If you prefer face-to-face interaction, our people are the best in the business.

America First is active in the community and our schools, promoting financial literacy and sponsoring financial education events and activities. We hold financial seminars throughout the year and we invest in and distribute publications for youth, such as Be Money Smart. We established and continue to support the 100% For Kids Credit Union Education Foundation. We offer free financial counseling to members who may need it. We also provide a full array of financial planning, trust, and insurance services.

No matter the state of your financial health, it’s never too late to seek improvement. With spring comes sunshine and energy, and a good time to recommit to doing better. Thanks to each of you for your membership in and support of America First Credit Union. We continue looking forward to a lifelong relationship.

A Year of Celebration and Renewal

John Lund, President, America First Credit Union

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

To our valued members,

America First celebrated our 75th anniversary in 2014, honoring the pioneers who established what has become one of the strongest, most relevant, and highly trusted credit unions in the nation. To truly honor those who went before us, we seek not only to recognize their achievements, but continually strive to sustain and build on their legacy.

When the year began, an internal theme was established to complement our budget and strategic plan: Embracing Our Legacy. Now is Our Time. In this case, the word now stood as an acronym for no opportunity wasted. Our use of embrace implies the ability to receive gladly, to adopt, and to appreciate, a perfect choice considering our wonderful heritage. Now is our time signaled the importance of this institution’s entire team being actively engaged in making a difference in our members’ lives and meeting your evolving financial needs.

I am privileged to report that, in 2014, America First experienced an outstanding year in terms of serving the membership, achieving beneficial goals, and performing at exceptional levels.

Member satisfaction: Our loyalty, retention, and product utilization numbers are among America’s best. Our net promoter score — an industry benchmark for evaluating service quality — stood at 83.0% at the close of 2014, an extremely high figure and one few companies have attained.

Outstanding service through all delivery channels is of primary importance to America First, whether a member interacts with us at a branch, over the phone, online, with mobile devices, or by purchasing vehicles through local dealerships. We employ significant resources in training, monitoring, and feedback mechanisms to sustain and improve our service levels.

Financial stability & performance: America First is fiscally sound and rated among the best credit unions in the United States. We closed the year with $659 million in capital, up 15.85%. Our net worth ratio was 11.51%, rising from 10.05% in 2013. Our federal regulator, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), considers a net worth ratio of 7% to be well capitalized. We additionally received an unqualified opinion from our external audit firm regarding our financial statements.

Our financial performance proved to be superior in 2014. Net income totaled over $144 million. Assets surged by more than $511 million, or 8.71%, with return-on-assets (ROA) at a strong 2.32%. The ROA number was enhanced by excess allowance for loan loss dollars flowing back into the income line item.

Our membership continued to grow at a steady pace and was at 681,430 to finish the year. Deposits were up more than $384 million, or 7.37%. Our year-to-date loan growth was 10.48%, netting $421.6 million. Our loan delinquency rate fell from 2.11% to .80%, and the allowance for loan and lease loss account remains more than adequate to absorb any portfolio deficiencies.

We funded in excess of 14,000 mortgage and home equity loans, totaling more than $834 million, reinforcing our status as a premiere real estate financing institution. We take pride in helping families purchase, refinance, and upgrade their home investments.

Strategic growth & initiatives: New locations opened in Ogden, Saratoga Springs, and Tooele, Utah; and in Las Vegas, Nevada. We enhanced and upgraded our information-technology networks, as well as our free Online Banking & Mobile Banking systems. America First was the second credit union in the country to provide the Apple Pay service, and we were the first in Utah to deploy merchant-funded offers to members via our Visa® credit and debit cards. Additionally, the ability to generate vehicle loans through mobile devices was a first for financial institutions in the state. Mobile check deposits grew substantially and this is another example of our focus on convenience. With our person-to-person payment capability, you can transfer funds to whomever you choose, even if they aren’t America First members. We expanded our business lending capability, improved the business Visa credit offerings, and enhanced our mobile transaction system for business account holders. Our social media presence is robust and a valuable means of communicating and receiving suggestions. Many members have taken advantage of our outstanding financial planning, insurance, and trust services. Our commitment is to provide you with the best available products and services and give you anytime, anywhere account management.

We remain dedicated to improving our schools and the communities we serve. Examples of these efforts include supporting food drives, conducting our Warm The Soles of Kids holiday campaign, contributing to the 100% For Kids Credit Union Education Foundation, making grants through the America First Charitable Foundation, supporting children’s hospitals, and assisting so many other worthy civic and community causes. Further, our team donated countless hours of their personal time to service outreach.

Challenges and opportunities: The economy and consumer confidence, while slowly growing and improving, remain somewhat fragile. There is an uneasiness regarding monetary policy, government gridlock, high federal deficits, and world instability. There are, however, positive indicators, including improving real estate values, growth in the housing market, and strong automobile sales. Regardless of any larger economic conditions, members can be assured that your credit union is strong, vibrant, and determined to always have relevance and excellence in serving you.

Appreciation: America First Credit Union would not have achieved the strength and superior reputation we enjoy without the dedication and hard work of volunteers and staff. Our Board of Directors is elected by the membership and represents your best interests in strategic and policy decisions. The Supervisory Committee works diligently with internal and external audit firms to ensure our financial reporting is accurate, and that our fiscal position remains sound and secure. The Loan Review Committee provides an important appeals process for these decisions. Gratitude is also extended to our wonderful team of employees. They are truly passionate about this organization and serving our membership, whether directly or indirectly.

Most importantly, we express our utmost appreciation and commitment to you, the members. We thank you for your support, and we look forward to a lifetime relationship in giving you and your family financial solutions to improve your well-being.

Guest Commentary: America First Remains Committed to Member Needs in Evolving Economy

Glen Olpin

By Glen W. Olpin, Senior Vice President – Chief Economist

As the economy continues on its path toward recovery, credit unions are proving their value to their members and to every community they serve. At America First, we are dedicated to offering the finest products and services that meet our members’ needs during each life stage, no matter the larger financial climate.

We put this philosophy into practice during 2014 as economic conditions, both nationally and locally, evolved. Consumers seemed hopeful and optimism climbed. Indicators suggest that consumer confidence is now reaching pre-recession levels. Inflation is low and is expected to remain subdued throughout 2015.

Nationally, job growth in 2014 was fairly strong, as monthly payroll increases averaged nearly 251,000 jobs gained, indicating considerable progress. Utah, with an unemployment rate at 3.6%, boasts one of the strongest labor markets in the country. Nevada’s unemployment is above the national average at 7.6%, but is greatly improved from the Great Recession high of 14%.

Short-term market rates remained at record lows throughout the year and they are not expected to increase substantially during most of 2015. The declining-rate trend is likely to reverse course somewhat this year as the economy grows.

Across the U.S., housing data brings mixed results. Utah home prices increased by more than 10% on average last year. Nevada’s home prices have also seen double-digit increases over the past two years. Nevada real estate industry sales grew over 200% during the past 12 months and are expected to continue to gain ground lost during the housing crisis.

Personal income growth in this country has been low. Growth in personal income and jobs are considered key factors in a sustained economic recovery. However, consumer credit growth overall demonstrates that many have overcome their fear of borrowing. Auto sales have been growing for the past five years. In late 2014, the auto industry reported over 17 million units sold in one month, which was the highest figure since July of 2006. Projections are that automobile sales for 2015 will continue at close to these same high levels.

The national savings rate improved modestly in 2014 and that trend is expected to continue this year. We have launched a new program for members who are searching for greater deposit returns, those who require investment & insurance products, those needing assistance with planning for and living in retirement, and those who recognize the need to develop a roadmap for their financial futures. America First Financial Solutions harnesses state-of-the-art technology with a personal touch to make financial planning for your family and business a rewarding and beneficial experience.

We at America First are grateful for your membership and are committed to providing you with the highest-quality products and the best in service. Your credit union is strong, financially stable, and well-positioned to meet your complete needs. Thank you for making us your first choice in financial services.

Stop, Look, and Listen

 

John Lund, President, America First Credit UnionBy John B. Lund, President and Chief Executive Officer

Many of life’s most valuable lessons are learned in our youth. One example was taught to me at an early age by my mother. When we approached a street on foot, she would hold my hand tightly and say, “We must always stop, look, and listen before attempting to cross.”

In her wisdom, she knew that children often run impulsively and streets inherently present many dangers. She also understood she would not always be there to safely guide me. My mom was well aware that I would have many journeys and destinations that required me to cross countless streets on my own, and I would need to make stopping, looking, and listening part of a consistent daily routine.

Stopping allowed me to pause, become knowledgeable of my surroundings, think, plan, and stay alert. Looking in all directions, I could see any approaching vehicles, bicycles, or other possible dangers and distractions. Listening enhanced my ability to make good decisions. I could hear approaching vehicles that may have been obscured by vegetation, parked cars, or other obstructions. Sirens or other sounds would make me extra cautious.

This simple concept that I took to heart is very powerful and has applications well beyond crossing a street and arriving at a destination safely. Indeed, it can be applied to many decisions we make and other aspects of life’s journey. As we begin a new year, the process of stopping, looking, and listening can be helpful, productive, satisfying, and even transformative.

Stop or pause to ponder your situation. Plan a better course for yourself, or think about how to assist someone else. Have gratitude for the good that surrounds us. Stop a bad habit or negative behavior.

Look and be observant. Appreciate the beauties of nature and our surroundings. Look for the good in others and within our great country. Take advantage of opportunities to learn something new or improve a talent you possess. Look for simple ways to serve others or help someone less fortunate.

Listen for and create opportunities for improvement. Assess possible danger signals in one’s health or relationships with others, and make corrections as needed. Listen for and recognize the positive aspects of life and focus more on them.

At America First Credit Union, we are renewing our commitment to meet your complete needs by focusing on these simple steps. We will stop or pause to think, review, plan, create, and recommit ourselves to the highest standards of service, product excellence, and integrity. We will continually look for ways to improve, innovate, and establish ourselves as your only financial institution. We will continue to listen, engage, and gather your feedback to remain relevant to your financial well-being.

Your friends at America First are grateful for your membership, loyalty, and for allowing us to meet your complete financial needs. We appreciate your trust and look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family. We wish you a joyous, meaningful, and productive year in 2015.