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April 17, 2017 On the record

John Murphy reflects on 25 years as president/CEO of Maine Credit Union League

Photo / Tim Greenway John Murphy will retire as president of the Maine Credit Union League after seeing membership at credit unions grow by 70,000 in the last five years alone.

This June, John Murphy will retire as president and CEO of the Maine Credit Union League and its Synergent service subsidiary, a post he has held since July 1, 1992. The Portland native, who turns 62 this May, spoke with Mainebiz before passing the baton to Todd Mason, who will join the Westbrook-based organization on April 24.

Nearly a century after Maine's first credit union was created, the sector is still growing, and Murphy is especially excited about interest from millennials.

The league's latest tally shows a 6.5% rise in assets at Maine's 58 credit unions in 2016, to $7.3 billion. Over the same period, membership increased by 2.8%, to 685,926, and loans jumped 9.6%, to $5.2 billion.

MB: What's driving the membership growth?

JM: We're thrilled to see a gain of 70,000 members just in the last five years. If you think of a state like Maine that has not had any real population growth if any at all, to see this trend is certainly something that we're really happy with. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives, not only local but owned by the people that use their services, so it makes sense that you see strong credit union support in the state.

MB: Where specifically are new members coming from?

JM: We're pleased to see it coming from all age demographics. We're especially pleased with the millennial population on how they have responded to the opportunity to belong to a credit union. If we look at the ideals of that age group, and the reasons for credit unions today, they are a very good match. Millennials are responding in very good numbers, not only taking advantage of the technology credit unions have to offer whether mobile or home banking, but they also like to go into branches for specific purposes.

MB: The lending momentum is also going strong. Why is that?

JM: Maine's credit unions had a gain of $458 million in loans in 2016. You have to remember that dollars go back into local communities across the state, whether through the purchase of vehicles, homes, retail products, and small business loans. A lot of banks have turned their backs on small businesses. We hear story after story where a member comes in to a credit union and said the bank was not interested in their $150,000 business loan. Credit unions have helped to fill that void left by a number of traditional lenders.

MB: And how do credit unions stay relevant today?

JM: Credit unions have an obligation to the members to provide the services that members expect and deserve. Credit unions have done a good job in that regard. They've come together to form the largest branch network in the state with over 175 branches, created the largest ATM surcharge-free network, and they're using the latest technology whether it be mobile or home banking. Credit unions aren't our great-grandparents' credit unions anymore. Part of that is the role that technology now plays in the delivery of financial services.

MB: What industry innovations are you most excited about?

JM: I am certainly enthusiastic about the work that the Maine Harvest Credit Project has done to date, hopefully that will get over the finish line soon. We are also very excited about credit unions expanding their branch networks. The branch of the future is going to look much different, you won't walk in and see a 20-station teller counter. But branches will still deploy all the products and services that members expect through various delivery channels.

MB: Finally, will we see more credit union mergers?

JM: Mergers have always been part of the business, and that will continue to be the case. It is ultimately the boards' responsibility to decide whether a merger makes sense for an institution, and for their members.

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