Matts’ Note - Credit Union Growth

The credit union is growing! Why?

When I started at Rogue Credit Union in 2004, we had 39,000 members and $305 million in assets. Today, we have 179,000 members and $2.9 billion in assets. That is remarkable growth! We are often asked why the credit union has experienced such growth. The answer we give often surprises people. It isn’t because growth is a major goal of ours. In fact, a look back through our strategic plans over the years will show that we have never pursued growth for growth’s sake. Our goals have consistently been around providing exceptional service and quality products in the pursuit of earning our member’s loyalty. The result has been members who do more business with us and refer their friends and family to do the same. A staggering 90% of our new members are referred to us by someone they trust. That’s quite remarkable…and it’s the reason for our growth.

While we don’t necessarily pursue it, growth does have significant advantages for our members and community. We have been able to expand our product offerings over the years to include things like robust internet banking, commercial and mortgage lending, and a unique loyalty program. We have also been able to help more members in new markets like the Klamath Basin and Umpqua Valley. Healthy growth has also put us in a position to welcome in other credit unions like Chetco Federal Credit Union on the Oregon Coast in 2013 and Malheur Federal Credit Union in the Treasure Valley this year. These credit unions needed our help to remain sustainable for their members, and we were able to be there for them. Our communities have also certainly benefited from Rogue having more resources through expanded community sponsorships, scholarships, and hundreds of local jobs.  

Growth and business diversity also provide long-term sustainability and viability. This element is one that really resonates with me personally. My experience with credit unions started as a child when my father took me to open my first account at a small religious-based credit union where we lived. He served on the Board of Directors there and often talked about the amazing things they were doing to help their members. Sadly, many years later, when the nation was rocked by the Great Recession, that little credit union failed because it could not sustain itself through those difficult times. That still makes me sad when I think about it.

So, growth definitely has its advantages. But it also has its downsides. We occasionally hear from members who just want the old hometown credit union of the 1970s back. However, they often change their perspective when they are reminded of what it was truly like back then. The credit union of that day didn’t have any online banking, only offered a few types of loans, and often took days to do simple transactions. In fact, they didn’t even have checking accounts and debit cards. In reality, very few people would choose to go back to that.

Growth also brings operational challenges. For example, during the recent pandemic, the credit union grew 62% in just 18 months as our members trusted us with more and more of their business. Unfortunately, this all happened at a time when it was incredibly difficult to hire good new team members. The result was longer service times and a few more mistakes, definitely not what our members have rightfully come to expect from us. Nevertheless, we’re doing all we can to ramp up to the new challenge.

In the end, that is our challenge, to continue to grow enough to provide the exceptional service and modern products our members expect while still feeling like the hometown credit union many have grown to love. It’s a lofty goal! But we’re giving it our best. 

I truly enjoy the messages I receive from our members in response to these posts and suggestions for future topics. So, please reach out to me at rogue@roguecu.org to share your thoughts and ideas.