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Utah credit unions join Nevada fray

Nevada’s credit union industry has long been dominated by one major in-state player: One Nevada Credit Union. The Las Vegas-based financial institution might have only 16 branches statewide, but with total assets of $749.9 million, it is larger than many other local institutions.

Nevertheless, Utah-based credit unions have ventured into Nevada over the last 15 years, looking to expand their membership, branch networks and total assets. Even during a recession, they’ve looked to increase their commercial lending business here.

Mountain America Credit Union and America First Credit Union have both expanded into Nevada through acquisitions and with new branches.

“We’ve had members in Nevada for many years,” America First Credit Union CEO John Lund said.

Lund said a merger with Virgin Valley Credit Union in 2000 gave his credit union a physical presence in Mesquite. America First then acquired Community One Federal Credit Union in August 2009, following Community One’s closure by the National Credit Union Administration.

When it closed, Community One was serving 21,098 members.

America First, based in Riverdale, Utah, has $6.5 billion in assets, 685,012 members and branches in Las Vegas, Henderson, Mesquite, Overton and Moapa.

“We have not gone out seeking mergers,” Lund said. “The NCUA on occasion has asked us if we were interested in certain institutions, rather them letting them fail. Most of our growth in Nevada has been through these two deals.”

Lund described the two Nevada acquisitions “as an opportunity” for the credit union. The deals helped America First become the nation’s 12th largest credit union by assets and the seventh largest by membership.

Mountain America Credit Union is another Utah financial institution that has succeeded in Nevada. The West Jordan-based credit union, which reported assets of $4.4 billion and 522,661 members at the end of the first quarter, operates branches in Las Vegas, Mesquite, Reno and Sparks.

Mountain America did not return phone messages and emails seeking comment.

Although both credit unions have branches in Nevada, Lund said there were benefits to offering new technology.

Both America First and Mountain America are participating in Apple Pay. Mountain America just introduced a biometric login feature that lets mobile app users log in by swiping their finger or photographing their eye using their phone’s camera.

The duel biometric feature marks the first time a financial institution has combined fingerprint and eye-imaging technology to make biometrics available to mobile app users.

“Biometrics not only ensure our mobile products are more secure, but also easier for members to use,” Mountain America product strategy manager Shelby Peterson said in a statement.

Lund said demand for lending has returned, but not to prerecession levels.

“Nevada was hit hard by the recession and the demand hasn’t been as robust as in other states,” Lund said. “It is improving. We are optimistic.”

Lund said America First will introduce new credit and debit cards and will look to add branches to the 10 it operates statewide.

Banks cut branches

The were fewer bank branches in Nevada and nationwide in the first quarter, as major financial institutions continued contracting. Supporting customers through brick-and-mortar locations continues to be a dying business.

SNL Financial, a Charlottesville, Va.-based financial data company, found only one bank branch opened in Nevada in the first quarter, while five closed.

That still left Nevada with 510 bank branches.

Nationally, SNL Financial found 221 bank branches opened in the first quarter, while 553 closed. As of March 31, there were 94,109 branches nationwide.

The leading net closer nationally was PNC Bank. The Pittsburgh-based bank closed 38 branches nationwide, but does not operate in Nevada. JP Morgan Chase &Co. and Bank of America Corp., each of which has a major presence in the state, closed 31 and 13 branches, respectively.

JP Morgan Chase operates more than 40 branches in Nevada; Bank of America operates almost 50 branches.

News &notes

▶ Meadows Bank’s first-quarter profit topped $1.6 million, as the community bank benefited from earnings and asset growth. Meadows Bank CEO Arvind Menon expects the bank’s earnings to continue to grow at a healthy pace as businesses and consumers benefit from an improving economy.

▶ One Nevada Credit Union posted first-quarter earnings of $2.2 million. The state’s largest locally owned credit union in also reported $355.8 million in net loans outstanding, and total assets of $749.9 million, while it paid $147,546 in dividends and set aside $372,785 in loan loss provision.

▶ The Valley Economic Development Center, which operates a loan fund in Las Vegas, has secured a $2 million grant from Sam’s Club that it plans to leverage into a $20 million national microlending fund. The nonprofit will begin the program at its offices in California before expanding to Nevada. The strategy is to loan money to other issuers of microloans, which typically amount to several thousand dollars.

▶ Heartland Financial USA Inc., which operates two loan production offices in Nevada, has picked up another community bank. Heartland Financial bought First Scottsdale Bank in a $17.7 million all-cash deal.

“At present, I am not aware of any expansion opportunities for Heartland in Nevada,” Heartland Financial spokesman John Berg said by email.

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