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.

America First Credit Union Rings in 2015 with Several Promotions

Riverdale, Utah – America First Credit Union is charging into 2015 with the announcement of several internal promotions. 

Internal promotions include Randy Halley and Rich Syme to executive vice president. Tammy Gallegos, Paula Kenny, Thayne Shaffer and Kent Streuling have been named as senior vice presidents. Bob Bodily, Kris Distefano, Scott Ellis, Randy Hunter, Missy Key and Dave Stacey have been named as vice presidents.

“We have many outstanding employees that are prepared to take on additional responsibilities, and we’re excited about the opportunities created for our employees in these new roles,” said John Lund, President and CEO of America First. “These advancements will allow us to continue to service members with the upmost quality as we anticipate our growth in the coming year.”

In addition to the above promotions, the following organizational changes have been made:

New divisions within the credit union have been created, to include the Compliance and Credit divisions. The Compliance division will encompass the following departments: Compliance, Legal and Loan Portfolio Management. Sharee Dickey will serve as vice president. The Credit division will include Collections, Special Collections, Recovery, Counseling and Troubled Debt Restructuring. Susan Chadwick will serve as vice president.

The following organizational changes will take place in conjunction with Chad Tanner being named as vice president of the call centers: Annette Cave has been promoted to manager of the Lending Service Call Center. The newly-named Member Service Contact Center will be managed by Farrell Poll.

Security Update: A Resolution for Electronic Safety

With the arrival of a new year, it’s a good time to assess your cybersecurity and keep yourself safe. To follow are some tips for doing so:

  • Sift through all of your electronic files, organize them, and delete those that are outdated or unnecessary.
  • Back up your data to a secondary internal or external hard drive. You can also take advantage of cloud-based services.
  • Reinstall your operating system to get rid of clutter and malware. Your machine should then run faster.
  • Familiarize yourself with all of your devices so you can maximize their functionality and security.
  • If you haven’t already, invest in antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing programs, and firewalls — or upgrade these if you can.

And please take the time to check with us here to see how we’re working to provide you with protection throughout the year.

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.