Business

Keeping savings safe Credit unions different from banks, CEO says

The national financial crunch has left some people wondering how safe their money really is.

However, Sno Falls Credit Union CEO Linda Larion told the Valley Record that the financial situation shouldn’t be a scary one for credit union members.

Recently, the federal government upped the insured limit for credit union account holders by $150,000 through 2009, and a Vancouver, Wash., economist has suggested that the financial situation is a golden opportunity for credit unions.

“Credit unions are designed a whole lot differently than banks,” Larion said. “We haven’t had the credit unions closing down, like the banks. We’re pretty well insulated.

“A lot of people are coming here from banks, that are scared, every day,” she said. “The average Joe doesn’t understand the difference between credit unions and banks.

“We are not in the same bucket as those banks,” Larion added. “We’re healthier today than we were a year ago.”

Owned by members, credit unions can’t be sold, and Larion said their insurance is stronger than the FDIC, which insures banks. Credit unions also have a much more stable portfolio.

Sno Falls does not offer first mortgages, which are among the riskier mortgages. The union has a $42 million portfolio of loans, but has seen surprisingly few write-offs this year.

The union doesn’t have the same kind of executive pay that burdens the big banks. The board is made up of volunteers, and their base is local.

“This is corporate headquarters,” said Larion, gesturing around her at the downtown Snoqualmie branch. “We make loans to everybody in this Valley. We give people loans that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Larion encourages her staff to educate members to ensure their money is all insured.

“We’re prohibited from investing out in the market,” Larion said. Sno Falls’ 6 percent liquidity is kept in Southwest Corporate Credit Union, while the rest of its resources are loaned out to membership in the greater Valley.

“As you bring deposits in, you want to keep the loans going out,” Larion said. “It all stays here. It takes a lot of car loans and a lot of boat loans and a lot of personal lines of credit. It’s a lot of work, but that’s our portfolio.

“We’ve been successful at meeting the needs of the community with consumer lending,” she added. “We’ve got a good reputation in the Valley for offering a great rate.”

Sno Falls Credit Union started up some 50 years ago to help Valley residents get loans at a fairer rate.

With the national financial situation changing, “it’s kind of going back to the reasons of how credit unions started,” Larion said.

Sno Falls Credit Union has branches in Snoqualmie, North Bend, Fall City, Duvall and at Mount Si High School.

Learn more about their services at www.snofalls.com.

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