Arkansas Federal Passes $550 Million in Assets

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Feb. 11, 2008 12:00 am  

(To see a pdf of the largest credit unions, click here (a spreadsheet version is also available.) To see the assets of Arkansas Federal Credit Union since 1998, click here.)

Arkansas Federal Credit Union's assets passed the half billion-dollar mark during the first quarter of 2007 and ended the year at just under $560 million, a mark that places it among the 20 largest financial institutions chartered in Arkansas.

The National Credit Union Administration has not yet released Dec. 31 call reports for Arkansas' 68 federally chartered credit unions, so this year's list ranks them by Sept. 30 assets. However, AFCU President and CEO Larry Biernacki happily shared his year-end figure, which reflects annual growth of more than 17 percent. And it followed growth of more than 16 percent during 2006.

"We've been very, very fortunate. God's been really good to us," said Biernacki, who in 2005 declared his intention to triple AFCU's assets within 10 years.

"But more than the growth, what we're really happy about is our members are taking advantage of the cooperative. ... We really do believe we're improving each member's financial life, and they are bringing their family and friends."

Arkansas Federal has expanded to 11 branch offices, the newest having opened in Bryant in October.

Telcoe Federal Credit Union of Little Rock, a distant second, reported solid asset growth of nearly 5 percent during the first three quarters of 2007. At $187 million, it is the only other Arkansas credit union whose assets exceed $100 million; most are under $10 million.

As a whole, credits unions in the state increased their assets by some $92 million in the first nine months of 2007 to a total of $1.7 billion. Of that, almost $56 million can be attributed to growth at AFCU, and another $8 million to Telcoe. The quality of those assets may, however, be somewhat affected by the same factors that are hurting commercial banks, AFCU's Biernacki said.

"The national mortgage problems are going to have an effect on all financial institutions in Arkansas," he said.

Even though AFCU didn't engage in what Biernacki called "exotic" home loans, some credit union members may find their finances squeezed by adjustable rate mortgages from other lenders and be unable to make their monthly payments on AFCU loans, he said.

The roster of credit union charters in Arkansas shrank by two during 2007. Member Service Federal Credit Union of Little Rock was merged into United Arkansas FCU, also of Little Rock. The two had been almost identical in size, about $11 million in assets each, and the resulting $22 million institution moves to No. 18 on our list of the 40 largest credit unions in Arkansas.

Eaton Hydraulics-Searcy FCU was merged into the manufacturer's parent company's Eaton Family Federal Credit Union of Euclid, Ohio. The credit union office in Searcy is now a branch of the Ohio credit union.

Another out-of-state credit union, Chartway FCU of Virginia Beach, Va., has also set up shop in Arkansas - a two-person branch inside the Fidelity Information Services campus in west Little Rock specifically to serve FIS employees.

The Arkansas Credit Union League plans a statewide "awareness" advertising campaign beginning later this month. Most of the ads will be on television, President Reta Kahley said, but the campaign will also include a Web site, billboards in the summer and possibly some radio spots in the fall.



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