JACKSON, Mich.-There is such a thing as too many loan promotions.

"We did a lot of loan promotions last year, and one of the lessons we learned from too many promotions is that employees have a hard time keeping up with it and members sometimes want to wait for the next hot deal, so there's a balance to the number of promotions that makes sense," said Bryanna Tapley, CFO at CP FCU here and a member of the executive committee of CUNA's CFO Council.

That's a problem for the 45,000-member, $361-million credit union, since loan demand is flat and loan-to-share ratios have dropped from 95% or better to about 70% as of April.

The recession led the CU to transition toward a sales culture. "What we've done is hone in on what makes sense for the member," said Tapley. "We're looking at how we're approving loans and looking at our underwriting. One of the lessons we learned from the recession is that we had a tendency to tighten up and not write a bad loan. We've really honed in on our sales and service and what we can do, and looked at our approval ratings and fundings for our loans, both direct and indirect."

Standards Still High

Tapley explained that while CP FCU tightened its underwriting during the recession, it has not loosened its standards since. Rather, employees are now coached and mentored to look beyond just the credit score to understand the member's full financial picture.

Among the factors the credit union examines are the member's tenure at the CU, transaction histories, whether they have direct deposit and whether and if the member "is just out there applying for loans, or is it more objective?" explained Tapley. Employees also have dedicated resources within the CU that they can turn to for answers when they have questions in the underwriting process.

CP FCU has also created a system to document its decision making so that everyone understands the justification for actions. "We've really gone through a cycle of looking at employees and looking at IT, and what changes do we need to make from an organizational perspective."

The credit union has not laid off any employees, but Tapley said it has moved staff to different positions within the organization and does not always rehire after employees leave.

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