Executive Suite: Robert G. Allen, Hauppauge
Depending on the yardstick used, Teachers Federal is Long Island's largest credit union or its second largest after archrival Bethpage Federal.
Teachers has 233,000 members, versus 228,000 for Bethpage. But Bethpage has greater assets -- $5.4 billion, compared with Teachers' $4.87 billion.
For both, the past few years have been pretty good ones; like many other credit unions, they've ridden a wave of anti-bank sentiment since the financial meltdown of 2007 and 2008 to win new members and depositor dollars.
Teachers president and CEO Robert G. Allen, 66, says he expects a generally good year, despite concerns about the cost of complying with new banking regulations and some concerns about the Island's economy. Teachers opened branches last year in Wading River, Patchogue and Merrick -- the last representing its first in Nassau County -- bringing its total to 26.
What are your growth plans for 2014?
We'll probably open two more [branches]. That's kind of a target number. We do pretty conservative growth. At this point, it would probably be one Nassau, one Suffolk.
Is adding branches as important as it once was, now that so many consumers are doing their banking online?
The branch importance is still there for a lot of new account transactions and lots of transactions where people want some counseling. And more and more growth for credit unions is in business accounts and, for that, a local presence is important.
What impact do you expect from the Fed's recent decision to reduce bond buying?
Where the pressure is going to come, initially, is on the savings side. Depositors, and the retirees especially, who have been taking a beating for a number of years, are going to be making higher returns immediately if rates start to move up. What that means is that, initially, our cost of funds will go up a little bit.
What are the biggest challenges facing credit unions in 2014?
One for us as well as other financial institutions is that the [federal] regulatory burden has continued to grow and grow and grow. The costs of these compliance issues are extremely high and, unfortunately . . . the costs in some cases are passed on to consumers.
As you look ahead, what worries you most about the Long Island economy?
The biggest driver of the economy in general is employment. One of the mixed signals we've seen locally is the employment numbers sometimes are misleading . . . [because of] people dropping out of the employment market.
Therefore it changes and distorts the numbers. The other thing is what counts as employment. We've seen for years some of the big corporations move off the Island and people were displaced and found jobs eventually, but they weren't making what they were making before.
So it's not just the employment number, it's what the employment consists of and what the income levels are. Because the cost of housing, the cost of living, has not gone down and typically doesn't. I'm concerned over employment because that dictates what people have available to spend.
Any other concerns?
I'm concerned about the real estate market and prices, and the backlog in the foreclosure market that is dictated by the judicial system, where it is taking 900 and some days to get a foreclosure process completed. Thankfully, we don't have the problem directly even though we do a large mortgage volume, but the prediction is that as those houses continue to hit the depressed marketplace it's going to defer the [improvement in] prices.
Name: Robert G. Allen, president and chief executive, Teachers Federal Credit Union, Hauppauge
What it does: New York State's largest credit union in membership, second largest in assets after Bethpage Federal
Employees: 500 full time, 125 part time
Assets: $4.87 billion
Net Income, 2012: $46.3 million