MINNEAPOLIS (7/7/09)--Credit unions can’t allow themselves to be a secret that’s passed from generation to generation, according to Mark Cummins, CEO of the Minnesota Credit Union Network. Rather, they need to spread the word. “We want [credit union membership] to be an option for anybody who lives in Minnesota,” he told Finance and Commerce (July 3), a Minneapolis-based business publication. Cummins emphasized credit unions’ strengths while explaining their challenges in the struggling economy. Credit unions with a lot of real estate loans are seeing declining values and job losses--but their underwriting is more conservative, so their losses aren’t as great as other lenders, he said. “We weren’t into exotic [mortgages] because we have other deals with our members--car loans, second mortgages--so it’s in our best interest to make sure the first mortgage fits well,” he added. Credit unions in low-income areas are taking major hits as their members lose jobs, but most credit unions will survive the losses because their capital levels are strong. Minnesota’s capital average for credit unions was 10.5% at the end of 2008, above the 7% threshold set by regulators, Cummins told the newspaper. Real estate lending is strong, although credit unions’ bread-and-butter auto loans are stagnant. “It’s a matter of consumer confidence; if you don’t feel confident that you’ll have your job, you aren’t going to trade for a new car,” Cummins said. Despite stagnant auto lending and members’ job losses, deposits are growing. “People see us as a safe haven,” he added.