Clark County Credit Union chief hails stronger economy

With the long-ailing Las Vegas economy finally in a sustained recovery, Clark County Credit Union has re-emerged as a profitable financial institution after shedding branches and nonperforming loans, as well as investing in technology.

The credit union is even investing in marketing.

“It actually feels good to be in a position to do that,” said Wayne Tew, president and CEO of Clark County Credit Union. “We’ve been hunkering down and trying to survive.”

Tew described the credit union’s past five years as “ugly.” He said delinquency is now down and loan growth is up for the first time in six years.

“I would say starting in 2008, we would have never anticipated how ugly it would get,” he said. “You think, OK, it will be a bad year, but it just got worse and worse. Then 2009, 2010 and 2011 were ugly, downright brutal.”

In those three years, Tew said, most credit unions in Southern Nevada developed survival plans or looked to merge with healthier credit unions. Among the mergers in Southern Nevada were SCE Federal Credit Union’s takeover of Las Vegas-based Sonepco Federal Credit Union and America First Credit Union’s purchase of Moapa Valley Credit Union.

“I think everyone was putting that into their scenario planning,” Tew said. “If it continues to get worse, where do we go from here and what do we do? Fortunately, there are survivors, and I’m happy we didn’t have to go down that route.”

Today, Clark County Credit Union has assets of $496 million, four branches and 33,000 members. The credit union reported net income of $2.3 million in the second quarter.

“We closed two branches,” Tew said. “One of them was shrinking anyway. The other was a branch we opened at the peak and it just never took off. It was part of the Mountain’s Edge development in the southwest part of town.”

Tew said it made sense to shutter the branch and wait to see what happens with the economy.

“Now we are re-evaluating the project,” he said. “Do we reopen it or do we sell it?”

A decision on reopening a branch in what has been rebranded The Gramercy is pending. But what’s making that decision even more complicated is the rapid adoption of mobile banking.

“That channel has grown more rapidly than ATM cards did, more rapidly than debit cards did and more rapidly than home banking did,” Tew said. “It has grown more rapidly in its adoption than any other channel I’ve seen.”

Tew said Clark County Credit Union offers almost everything when it comes to mobile banking. He said the company has backed away from ATMs that offer check recognition, technology he describes as an “interim channel.”

“We believe once we get our remote deposit capture in place, walking to the ATM to deposit your check will become a dying channel because everyone is going to a smartphone now. As I look at what’s happening with mobile and home banking, why would anyone want to go anywhere if it’s right in their hands 24 hours a day?”

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