There is no doubt that economic ups and downs can create uncertainty regarding the safety of your money. At Westerra, we want to assure you that safety and soundness continue to be our way of doing business, as it has for the last 85 years. That is why we are not just surviving, but thriving. Here are some answers to questions you might have:
Q: Turbulent economic times create uncertainty about the future. How can we be sure our money is safe at Westerra?
A: There is no doubt that there have been tough economic times over the years for many people, but despite the historic downturn in the economy in 2008, Westerra Credit Union continued to provide security and value to its members. We are recognized as one of the top ten credit unions in the country for returning value to members, according to an independent study by Callahan & Associates published in Credit Union Journal, and awarded the highest rating for safety and soundness by industry analyst Bauer Financial, Inc.
In addition, Westerra Credit Union members have the assurance of knowing that their deposits are federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration, and that their Individual Retirement Accounts are federally insured up to an additional $250,000 per member.
Q: How is Westerra prepared to handle any future economic ups and downs?
A: Our core operating principle of financial stability keeps us well capitalized with a capital-to-asset ratio of over 12% – well above the minimum regulatory standard of 7%. In addition, Westerra’s not-for-profit, cooperative structure provides us added resilience, resulting in strong capital reserves of more than $160 million, providing a cushion, if needed, during recessionary periods.
The economic times of recent years have many similarities to the type of environment that brought about federal enabling legislation for credit unions in 1934, and are why Westerra’s services are as important as ever to members.
Q: How has Westerra done so well in such challenging times?
A: Westerra’s longstanding business model is focused on safety and soundness. That means Westerra operates in a way that ensures the safety of our members’ deposits. Westerra has not engaged in the sub-prime lending that led to the financial crisis that began in 2008. We follow strict lending practices and conservative underwriting standards for mortgages that keep our funds working locally for our members, and keep mortgage default rates extremely low.
Westerra continues to be awarded the top “5-Star” rating for safety and soundness by Bauer Financial, Inc., an industry expert reporting on the performance of U.S. banks and credit unions since 1983. This means Westerra is among the country’s top financial institutions based on factors including capital, profitability, regulatory compliance and asset quality.
Q: What makes Westerra different from other financial institutions?
A: The Westerra Way is to consistently offer top-notch service, low fees and competitive rates, as well as provide our members a safe place to save and borrow through a local financial institution they know and trust.
In an independent quarterly study, Callahan & Associates consistently ranks Westerra one of the top 10 credit unions in the nation for returning value to members. The study assesses the country’s 7,000 credit unions within their peer groups, and Westerra rises to the top for its lower rates on loans, dividends paid to members, service experience and more.
Q: What impact have the past mergers had on the financial stability of Westerra?
A: Today, Westerra Credit Union serves more than 120,000 members with a broad and diverse base that offers even greater stability. In 2006, Westerra Credit Union became the new name for the credit union formed by the merger of three of the state’s leading credit unions: Denver Public Schools Credit Union, Safeway Rocky Mountain Federal Credit Union, and Gateway Credit Union—serving the City of Aurora. In 2009, Jeffco Credit Union, serving employees, students, alumni, families and retirees in the Jefferson County School District, merged with Westerra, followed by the merger of the Sheet Metal Workers #9 Credit Union in 2013.
The diversity of membership and economies of scale gained from our merger activity have led to reduced operating costs and increased services. Building on the strengths of all five credit unions, Westerra is a robust, financially strong organization with assets exceeding $1.4 billion.
Q: What safeguards are in place to keep the credit union industry strong?
A: Credit unions across the country contribute proportionately to a federal insurance fund, called the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). It is the credit union version of the banking industry’s Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Like the FDIC guarantee for bank deposits, the NCUSIF insures credit union members’ savings up to $250,000, with additional coverage up to $250,000 for IRAs.
Taxpayer dollars have never been used to create or replenish the credit union insurance fund. We view our share in the deposit insurance fund as an investment in fiscal responsibility. When earnings bring the fund balance above a certain level, we receive a dividend. When times are harder, we pay into the fund as a reserve to cover potential losses.
History has shown that the NCUSIF has provided the financial guarantee backed by the U.S. government to maintain a healthy credit union industry and to insure members’ savings. The system works even in these tough times. Our solid earnings maintain our net worth in excess of $160 million—considerably well-capitalized even in the best of times—positioning us strongly for the future.
Q: Why is it better to do business with a local financial institution, such as Westerra?
A: Simply put, your community is our community. Westerra is member-owned, locally managed, with local lending and local decisions on loans. We keep money working for you in the community.
Westerra is committed to serving employees and families of our sponsor organizations—Denver Public Schools, Jeffco Public Schools, Safeway Corporation, the City of Aurora with its military community, and each of our local communities. We provide literacy education in classrooms, and online financial literacy tools to the broader community through our website.