By Eric Tegethoff

Washington News Service

SEATTLE — Credit unions have seen explosive growth in the Northwest, expanding membership to half of the region’s population.

Since 2014, credit unions in Oregon and Washington have seen a 13 percent growth in membership, according to a new report from ECONorthwest. Over the same period, the population only grew by 2.7 percent. This culminated in a $7.7 billion impact on the economy in those states in 2016.

Troy Stang, president and chief executive of the Northwest Credit Union Association, said credit unions have taken hold because of their member-owned structure, which means they aren’t beholden to pay stockholders as are other financial institutions.

“Credit unions really skated through the economic downturns, coming out very, very well because their risk profile and their portfolios are not driven to return stockholder investments,” Stang said.

The growth has led to more jobs for people in the Northwest as well. Credit unions provided more than 11,000 jobs for Washingtonians last year.

The report also calculated the differences in pricing between credit unions and for-profit banks for charges such as account fees and interest rates on accounts and loans. It found Oregon credit union members saved $159 million on these kinds of charges.

Stang said another aspect of credit union growth has to do with a heightened concern among consumers about where their money is going.

“The consumer is more attuned and has this vivid idea in their mind of always considering, ‘Who are they doing business with?'” Stang said. “And I think especially in this Northwest region of the United States, the not-for-profit, member-owned, cooperative nature is what people really enjoy.”

Credit unions are found all over the state, and are in 32 of Washington’s 39 counties.


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