In the post-financial crash economy, good news has been in short supply, but one outlier has been the state’s credit union industry. Collectively, the state’s 22 credit unions have seen assets grow from $4 billion at the beginning of 2008 to more than $5 billion in 2011.
While a 25 percent bump in assets may not seem world-beating when compared to returns during the bubble period of securitized mortgage bonds and credit default swaps, it does reflect a subtle shift in consumer preference.
“It has to do with the collapse of the financial markets,” said Daniel Egan, president of the New Hampshire Credit Union League as well as similar associations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. “Many people have lost faith with large regional banks and have sought a safe harbor of security and safety that will be around in the future. They want their money with a local option that they believe is looking out for the best interests of consumers.”
New Hampshire is where the first credit union, St. Mary’s Bank, was established in 1908. Based on a Canadian model and set up to provide financial services for immigrant laborers, St. Mary’s still operates and is the oldest credit union in the country (the similarly named St. Mary’s Credit Union in Massachusetts is the oldest statewide credit union in the country). Credit unions developed first to serve the financial needs of specifics groups of people, such as factory workers, union members or teachers and public employees, but have since expanded membership requirements to cover geographic areas.