I hope everyone had a great Christmas, New Year and holiday! It sure was a busy time for everyone I know.
In welcoming 2012, I have some mixed emotions. I believe 2012 is going to be a very good year for ESCU and our members. On the other hand, as far as the general economy goes, I do not think we are going to see much change over 2011.
Let’s start with ESCU. The biggest news is our new branch! We are currently looking at mid-March for our opening and probably April for our grand opening. As you may know, this will be ESCU’s first standalone branch and I can tell you that everyone here is very excited to see it open. If you live in the Indian Lake/Hendersonville area, I invite you to take a moment to drive by and see our progress. I have been told that if the weather holds, the stone masons will be starting their work on the exterior the second week of January. Trey, the branch manager for Indian Lake, is barely able to contain himself, so when the office does open, please go by and say hello to him and the staff there.
We are also planning to offer some new products. We are currently working on adding a feature to Virtual Branch where you can download your statements to Quicken or QuickBooks on a monthly basis. After that, we are looking at business checking for all of you that have small businesses. This will be a great product that will help you keep your business and personal funds separate, but at the same institution! We also just finished up our state exam and came through with flying colors – what a great way to start 2012!
On the economy side of things, I cannot be as upbeat. Even though it is an election year, I do not see the economy making any significant gains in 2012. For that matter, I do not see 2013 being a whole lot better. Rates are going to continue to be low on both the lending and deposit side. The flip side here is that if you are intending to purchase a home, I predict you will never see (in my life time) rates as low as we are seeing today. 3.5% for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage! When I started over 20 years ago, I was seeing mortgages considerably above the 10% mark. The moral of this story: rates are at historic lows. Do not sit on the sidelines and hope they are going to drop more – now is the time.
I believe the U.S. economy is still going to be struggling with the world economy as Greece, Italy, and other European countries struggle with their debt and lagging economies. This is also impacting the Euro, which is another factor placing downward pressure on our economy. I am not even going to get into what the federal government is doing to our economy, even though it is an election year…
Fortunately, I do not see that economy will be getting any worse (at least I certainly hope not), but without my crystal ball, I cannot guarantee it will not. One last thought on our economy – you know we have issues when diesel fuel, made from what is left over after refining fuel oil into gasoline is more expensive than premium grade gasoline. It should be the other way around in a good economy.
With that, the good, the bad, and the ugly, I wish for each of you to have a great and prosperous 2012. Enjoy your families and loved ones and when life gives you lemons, make some lemonade!