Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Charlotte Metro Credit Union CEO growing membership, focusing on technology

The public outcry against big banks has died down over the past year, but Charlotte Metro Credit Union CEO Bob Bruns says his institution is still cashing in.

"People are dissatisfied with the service big banks deliver," he said. "More and more people are seeking an alternative."

Yeah, they've never been afraid to poke a stick at the big banks up the street. You may recall an ad or two featuring pigs and money-sucking bankers. But it appears to be working.

Membership jumped 10 percent last year at the credit union, making it the fastest growing in the state by that measure, according to consulting firm Callahan & Associates.

Charlotte Metro also closed this week on its largest business loan to date, a $2.5 million loan to buy a mixed-use building in Cornelius.

The Observer caught up with Bruns in his office at the credit union's building off Central Avenue. He's celebrating his 30th year as CEO as the credit union hits its 50-year anniversary. Here's a little more of what he had to say.

How do you plan to grow from here?

"It takes a little bit of everything, " Bruns said. Physical locations are important, and keeping the credit union's name out in the market with advertising.

But new branches are likely not in the offing, he said. Charlotte Metro has opened several new ones over the past few years, enough for now, Bruns said.

"We're focused on technology right now."

How so?
Mobile technology is at the top of the list, he said. Remote deposit capture -- that technology that lets you deposit a check using your smartphone -- will come soon. Charlotte Metro is also looking at peer-to-peer transactions using PayPal.

One technology that's not getting investment, though, is ATMs. Charlotte Metro does not participate in the national co-op that lets many credit unions share use of their machines. Why not? It's expensive, Bruns said. And ATM usage is dropping, he said.

"That's one we may skip," he said.

How are regulations affecting you?

The fallout of the financial crisis is indeed hitting credit unions in the form of new regulations, Bruns said. Charlotte Metro now has a full-time compliance officer, and the creidt union spends a lot of time reviewing disclosures.

It's manageable for a mid-sized institution like Charlotte Metro, but Bruns said he's worried about the impact on smaller peers.

"I'm afraid it may hurry about their demise," he said. He said he expects to see consolidation in the Charlotte market in the future.

How about relations with Congress?

Bruns was one of a handful of North Carolina credit union executives lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week. Issue No. 1: Their tax exemption.

As tax reform gains momentum, some committees have reportedly started looking at whether credit unions' tax exemption should be eliminated.

Bruns said he stressed the differences between banks and credit unions. Banks are owned by shareholders  while credit unions are owned by their members.

"We're afraid if we were taxed, we'd go away," he said.

He also has been pushing for the ability to lend more to businesses. Federal law limits a credit union's business lending to 12.25 percent of its assets. Bills have regularly been filed to raise that to 27 percent.

Bruns said Charlotte Metro is at about half its current cap, but would ultimately like to see it eliminated.

"It's badly needed for the country," he said. "It will stimulate the economy significantly if they do that."


Anonymous said...

If you want to be like a bank and offer the same services you should pay taxes as banks do. You have grown far beyond what you were originally set up to do.

Anonymous said...

Really? Yeah, that seems like a great option, let's keep bailing the big banks out.

I have been with Credit Unions since I was a teenager, and specifically Charlotte Metro for about five.
It's nice to have the option of a financial institution working for the customers, not just shareholders.

James Reynolds said...

Thanks for the information. I've been debating opening a credit union checking account and have been researching online to find the difference between big banks and credit unions. I really like the idea of credit unions so far.