Wednesday, July 17, 2024

State Employees’ Credit Union asks to meet with SEANC

The N.C. State Employees’ Credit Union’s board has asked to meet with officials of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which has criticized lending policy changes taking effect this week at the second-largest U.S. credit union.

SECU’s board “shares your desire to encourage the financial wellness of current, retired and future state employees,” Chair Chris Ayers said in a Feb. 24 letter to SEANC Chair Martha Fowler. She had asked the credit union to rescind its plans for “tier-based lending” starting March 1 after hearing from former SECU CEO Jim Blaine, who criticizes the changes as negatively affecting most members.

SEANC officials plan to meet with credit union leaders once a date can be found to accommodate association members, who live all over the state, spokesperson Jonathan Owens says.

SECU has historically charged its 2.6 million members the same interest rate on loans, irrespective of their financial status. New policy involves some members paying as much as five percentage points more for some loans. Other members will be eligible for lower interest rates.

Blaine and Mike Lord, the two CEOs at SECU between 1979 and 2021, oppose tiered lending because they say 60% of 1.18 million SECU borrowers would be classified by rating agencies as having lesser credit scores than “A” and “B” customers. They presumably would pay higher rates on loans under the new policy.

In his letter to SEANC, Ayers says 68% of current and retired state employees “would have qualified for better interest rates if tier-based lending were in place.” The credit union did not respond to a request for additional information on Ayers’ estimate. Ayers is the executive director of the N.C. Public Staff, which advocates for customers on rate cases at the N.C. Utilities Commission.

SECU, which has $50 billion in assets, is the only major U.S. lender that has not used tier lending as a core strategy. It says the new policy will make its loans more competitive with rivals.

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