ENDICOTT, N.Y.-Thanks to extremely strong performances in mortgage and commercial lending, Visions FCU here posted a net income of $37 million and 1.5% ROA for 2009, despite a $3-million charge for the corporate assessment.

Widespread economic uncertainty prompted the $2.3-billion institution to tighten its operations and become very aggressive in its lending practices. CEO Frank Berrish explained that it ran a number of promotions throughout the year, including 3.9% one-day loan sales, to get money out the door.

"We had a record year on mortgages - we just did a tremendous amount of mortgages, many coming from the banks," he said, pointing out that Visions FCU did about 180% of its original goal on mortgages for the year. It also posted extremely strong commercial lending numbers as it posted 120% of its 2009 budgeted goal, and overall VFCU saw 6% loan growth, "which is real good in this economy."

Consumer lending remains an area of difficulty, however, as a weak job market has made Americans hesitant to take on additional debt. To counter that trend, Visions plans on even more aggressive rates and continue with its special promotions.

"We're going to have a one week "sweetheart sale" the week of Valentine's Day, with rates as low as 1.9% to get money out the door." said Berrish. "Last year when we did it, the rates were a little higher, but we brought in 500 new accounts. But instead of doing for just one day, this time we're doing it for a week."

Two-year loans will get the 1.9% rate while a five-year loan will be as low as 3.9%. Those headline rates, however, will only go to A and A+ borrowers to ensure the CU is not taking on too much risk. Borrowers with less-than-stellar credit will receive risk-based lending rates, but will get one percentage point off the typical rate during the sale.

Chief among the reasons for its aggressiveness on the lending side is the huge influx of deposits that Visions FCU experienced last year. Berrish noted that deposits were up 12% last year, even though the CU "didn't do anything to get it-if anything we've lowered our costs of funds which was one of the factors in our great numbers."

He called the trend as a genuine "flight to safety," pointing out that "every time there was an article out there [negative towards banks], there was new money and new accounts coming in."

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