Tag Archives: economic downturn

credit unions transformation

The ACULA Has Transformed Over The Decades

In the 75 years since the formation of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates, the organization’s role has changed markedly as its membership soared. Actually, the first credit union law in Arizona was introduced, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in 1929. Thus, Arizona became the 29th state to enact a credit union bill.

Even before credit unions were officially recognized and regulated by the state, a mutual investment group known as Pyramid was launched in Tucson in 1925. Once the Arizona law was passed in 1929, Pyramid Credit Union received one of the first — some say the first — charter to formally operate as a credit union.

Five years later in November 1934, the Arizona Credit Union League, as it was then called, was formed. By 1948, there were 25 credit unions in the state with 3,000 members and almost half a million dollars in assets. Today, 56 Arizona credit unions represent about 1.6 million members, with assets in excess of $11 billion.

Initially, the league focused on organizing new credit unions throughout the state. In the early years, there were just a few state-chartered credit unions. Scott Earl, president and CEO of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates, tells how the league’s efforts fostered growth.

“Field reps would arrange meetings with employer groups,” Earl says. “They’d be driving down the road looking for parking lots outside of businesses. If a lot of cars were parked there, they’d put credit union charter applications on the hoods of the cars. I don’t know how many organizations were created as a result during those years, but I’m sure many were.”

Gary Plank, who retired as president and CEO of the league in 2007, recalls being an organizer when he entered the credit union profession in Iowa in 1966.

“We felt the best way was to talk to the management of the company to see if we could generate interest in a credit union for the good of their employees,” Plank says.

The largest Iowa credit union back then had assets of about $7 million. Today, the assets of that same credit union exceed $1 billion, Plank says.

Plank says two factors triggered the phenomenal growth of credit unions: the addition of share-draft checking so direct deposits, including Social Security benefits, could be accepted; and a decision by the federal government to insure savings accounts.

Indeed, as credit unions grew, officials saw the need to offer more products and services, such as debit and credit cards, individual retirement accounts and first and second mortgages.

“The league was the incubator for a lot of these products and services, helping individual credit unions along the way,” Earl says. “An outgrowth of that cooperation is shared branching.”

Under shared branching, credit unions join networks that enable their members to transact business from virtually anywhere in the country where a joint operating logo is displayed.

“Shared branching addresses one of the competitive disadvantages credit unions had, which was a lack of convenient locations,” Earl says.

In the 1990s, the league’s role shifted dramatically, becoming more of an advocate for credit union legislation at the state and federal levels. In other words — lobbying.

“We put a great deal of resources into that today,” Earl says.

Services the league provides include consulting, governmental affairs activities, regulatory compliance, legal, human resources, education, communications, publications and public relations. The league works in cooperation with Credit Union National Association (CUNA), U.S. Central Credit Union, the World Council of Credit Unions and the CUNA Mutual Group.

Having the support of the league and national and international credit union organizations is helping Arizona credit unions cope with the current recession. Though a few mergers have taken place, Earl says they are not the result of the economic downturn.

“Almost always when a merger occurs it’s to provide better service to the members,” he says.

Yet, the economy is having an impact on credit unions. Many of its members — average Arizonans — have defaulted on loans or gone into bankruptcy. The good news, Earl says, is that credit unions have been reworking those loans to help their members get through difficult times.

“The challenge for the league,” says Earl, “is to find new efficiencies for credit unions to collaborate so they can provide better products and services to their members. We have to keep looking for ways for credit unions to work together.”

Credit unions, which are not-for-profit operations, have good capital and strong reserves, Earl says.

“We built those reserves for a rainy day,” he adds. “And for a lot of consumers, it’s pouring rain. But we will be around. We’ll be just fine and will continue to be of greater service to citizens.”

chart increase, AZ NASDAQ listed companies

An Analyst’s Look At How Arizona’s Nasdaq-Listed Companies Are Faring This Recession

Arizona has 52 Nasdaq-listed companies and the performance of those with the most capitalization during this economic downturn has been fairly good.

In early June, Stephen Taddie, managing member of Stellar Capital Management in Phoenix, reviewed the top 10 Arizona Nasdaq companies using Thomson Analytics as his data source. Those companies comprise nearly all the capitalization for Arizona Nasdaq-listed firms. They are Apollo Group, First Solar, Microchip Technology, PetSmart, ON Semiconductor, P.F. Chang’s, Amkor Technology, Mobile Mini, JDA Software and TASER International.

There was positive news concerning stock performance and internal company performance for the group as a whole.

Looking at stock performance for the three-month period from April 5 through June 5, Taddie found that “90 percent of the Arizona companies outperformed their peer group as a national comparison and all by a significant margin.”

Taddie next looked at stock prices for the year to date through May 31. While the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was approximately even for that period, seven of the top 10 Arizona companies outperformed the index by a fairly wide margin, Taddie says. Those that did not tracked the index closely, he adds. The seven companies were First Solar, Microchip Technology, PetSmart, ON Semiconductor, P.F. Chang’s, Amkor Technology and JDA Software.

“Apollo Group, the largest of the top 10 as measured by market capitalization, fared better than the rest through the first quarter of 2009, but was surpassed by the others as investor confidence rose significantly in April and May, encouraging investors to look past the current economic data and the financial statements of smaller, less capitalized companies to the earnings potential many of these companies will have in a more stable environment,” Taddie says.

Taddie also reviewed a compilation of analysts’ estimates for internal company performance for 2009. As a group — not as individual companies — analysts estimate revenue for the top 10 will be flat this year, up just .49 percent, but that it will grow 13.5 percent in 2010.

“Over the last six months, we saw many analysts lengthen the duration of the downturn but also decrease its severity,” Taddie says. “If we break it down quarter by quarter, the data reflect a fairly dismal first half of 2009, followed by a fairly decent last half of 2009.”

Estimates for next year’s revenue vary widely, Taddie says, because it is difficult to measure the impact of federal stimulus packages and significant cost-cutting measures in many industries.

“A significant capital-expenditure decline has frozen budgets,” says Taddie, who also is a member of the Western Blue Chip Forecast panel for the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “One firm’s cost reduction is another’s revenue shortfall and that has been trickling down the supply chain.”

Taddie says the data paint a picture in which Arizona firms, like many other companies across the country, are trying to preserve shareholder value by more closely aligning capital expenditures with expected revenue growth, or the lack thereof.

“Typically, the larger the company, the more apt they are to take a bet and invest into a downturn, so when the tide turns, they capture more market share,” Taddie says. “The smaller the company, the less apt they are to do that because they can’t take that risk.”

Managing expenses and growth in an environment where revenue expectations are “jumping all over the place” is a challenge, Taddie says.

“References to this period will show up in economics and business-management textbooks for quite some time,” he says. “The data is showing that the Arizona top 10 are faring at least as well as other companies and, when compared to stock-price performance so far this year, better.”

Oath

Thunderbird School Of Global Management Continues To Deliver In-Demand Education

Managers consumed with maximizing short-term profits and the value of their stock options have destroyed billions of dollars in shareholder and taxpayer money. A culture of greed lies at the root of this economic meltdown that has seen banks collapse, markets tank and unemployment rates soar.

The aftershocks of this global disaster continue to claim victims, and companies around the world are scrambling to brace themselves for the uncertain times ahead. The survivors will be those who are properly equipped to navigate the economic crisis with strong, ethical leadership, innovative global mindsets and sustainable strategies that will solidify their long-term viability and create lasting value for their organizations and the communities they serve.

With this in mind, the Thunderbird School of Global Management continues to create innovative ways to deliver relevant and in-demand education to companies and executives in a market where the need for continuing education is great, but company resources are slim.

Thunderbird Corporate Learning, the executive education division of the school, already has begun tailoring its programs to help companies and organizations navigate this financial crisis, including a new global leadership certificate program called Leading and Managing in Turbulent Times. This program helps global leaders understand what elements of management have changed during the economic downturn — and what things never change. A 12-week session began in March, and a three-day concentrated version took place in May.

The program, taught by Thunderbird faculty members who have extensive first-hand experience working with global managers, will help students broaden their understanding of global business issues that are transforming the international landscape. The program will arm students with useful decision-making tools for increased job performance, and help them build more effective cross-cultural relationships by giving them insights into how the economic crisis is affecting different cultures, regions and markets.

The program will also take topics such as corporate social responsibility, international marketing, organizational culture and financial management and relate them to the economic crisis.

Another new executive education program will debut June 9. Communicating and Negotiating with a Global Mindset is a three-day course that will help working professionals develop strategies for influencing people from other cultural backgrounds. Participants will learn their own global mindset profile and develop an understanding of their own negotiating preferences. The need for such skills has been amplified in the global economic crisis as companies scramble for competitive advantages.

Helping social sector organizations get through the crisis is another area in which Thunderbird has extended its offerings. The Thunderbird Social Sector Leadership Program conducted in March with the support of a grant from the American Express Foundation, reached out to nonprofit, governmental and nongovernmental organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the International Rescue Committee and the Grameen Foundation.

The five-day program guided participants on how to develop new leadership skills in these tough economic times with training in leadership, sustainability, strategy, brand management, fundraising and innovation. The program, designed solely for a group of nonprofits, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, is the first executive education program of its kind for Thunderbird, and the school is hoping to use it as a model for similar opportunities in the future.

Keeping in mind that times are tough and resources are tight, Thunderbird has launched a free, interactive Web site and quarterly executive newsletter, which are both designed to help busy global executives navigate this economic crisis. The Thunderbird Knowledge Network is an interactive, multimedia forum that gives executives open access to the expertise and insights of Thunderbird’s faculty, alumni and other corporate executives around the world on the latest, most relevant global business issues and trends, including the global recession. This content is delivered in stories, columns, videos, podcasts and blogs, including my blog on global leadership. Each posting in the Knowledge Network offers an opportunity for reader comments and feedback.

Executives also can tap Thunderbird’s global business knowledge through the school’s new Executive Newsletter, a free electronic newsletter that is distributed quarterly to busy working professionals, including the school’s corporate clients and alumni.

Law Review - Arizona’s Legal Landscape

A Look Back Finds Substantial Changes To Arizona’s Legal Landscape

Rapid-fire change has become the status quo in the legal and business community over the past 25 years. This change is particularly apparent to me, as my firm, Fennemore Craig, will celebrate its 125-year anniversary in Arizona next year, and I have practiced law for more than three decades.

One of the most pronounced and positive changes over the years has been who becomes a lawyer. Through an increased emphasis on diversity, law firms and legal departments have become places of opportunity for people of all backgrounds, reflecting the diverse nature of our communities and clients. We can do better, but the profession has made significant strides in the area of diversity since the 1980s.

While the face of the state’s law firms has changed, so has their size. Not too many years ago, the largest firms in the Southwest were still relatively small, with client bases dominated by locally headquartered companies and financial institutions. Since the 1980s, the region has lost quite a few headquarters, yet law firms like Fennemore Craig have benefited from strong economic growth in the Sun Belt, with Phoenix emerging as a regional business hub.

Notwithstanding the current economic downturn, the long-term economic prospects for the region promise continued opportunity. This economic strength has led to growth among several of Arizona’s home-grown firms and it also has attracted firms with their principal offices in other states. In turn, Arizona firms have responded with a growing platform of offices and lawyers expanding into other markets. The influence of technology in changing the legal profession over the past 25 years cannot be overstated. The pace and volume of work for us and for our clients have increased exponentially. Research, which is central to the law, has been almost totally automated. While successful lawyers still must be good communicators and excellent practitioners, information flow occurs literally around-the-clock. Waiting to work on a transaction or litigation based on deliveries through the U.S. Postal Service has gone the way of the typewriter and the mimeograph machine. Transmittal of documents, filings and other activities occurs primarily on an electronic basis and the demand for quick responses has increased accordingly.

The professional aspects of practicing law have shifted as well. Training is better than ever, though time pressures mean some of the one-on-one mentoring and discussions with senior lawyers that characterized much of my early professional learning curve are more rare.
As a credit to Arizona, it is also important to note that the state’s institution of the merit selection system for its judges created a better, more professional judiciary. Merit selection has improved both the state’s justice system and the practice of law here in terms of professionalism, fairness and quality.

One of the appealing aspects of the legal profession is its strong tie to tradition. We must discern when tradition is fostering positive values, rather than preserving the status quo for its own sake. The positive values inherent in the profession 25, even 125 years ago, remain true today regardless of the changes in pace, volume and complexity in the practice of law. Then as now, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help people solve problems and get things done.

money in vice

The Economic Recovery Begins In 2009, But It Will Be Slow Going

The national and state economies are expected to start feeling the effects of a recovery during the last quarter of 2009. However, the recovery over the next year will be slow, with unemployment continuing to rise and economic growth anemic at best. Meanwhile, the state’s expenditures are rising, even as revenue continues to fall, setting the stage for future budget cuts and an expected tax increase.

That was the consensus forecast unveiled by top economic experts from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and the Arizona governor’s office at the annual Economic Outlook Luncheon on May 20. Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at W.P. Carey and editor of Economy@W.P. Carey, provided an overview of current economic conditions on the state and national level, and offered a forecast for the coming year.
“The economy is going to show some signs of recovery in the last part of 2009, but the way I like to look at this is that lots of our economic indicators will still be underwater in a sense — they just won’t be as far underwater,” he said. “We’ll probably see positive growth in GDP, we will see job losses getting smaller, but there will still be job losses. There will still be people claiming unemployment insurance and, of course, unemployment rates will still be going up.
“It’s going to be a deep, sort of U-shaped recovery and 2011 will probably be a pretty good year of job growth,” McPheters added. 
In the meantime, job losses will continue to mount. In March, with an over-the-year employment decline of 7.1 percent and 136,000 jobs lost, the Valley just edged out Detroit as the weakest large metro labor market in the nation. And even as the economy begins to recover, the Greater Phoenix area will still see its labor market contract by 1 percent in 2010, according to McPheters.
Nationally, McPheters stressed that while the current recession has been painful, it still is not on par with the Great Depression. The Great Depression was marked by four consecutive years of decreases in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the current recession is expected to result in four consecutive quarters of decrease in inflation-adjusted GDP. In fact, in the first year of the recession, the national GDP actually increased by 1.1 percent.
“During 2008, the first year of the recession, you would expect that the GDP would be decreasing,” he said. “Well, one of the factors holding it up was exports. Exports continued strong in the United States through 2008.”
This year, however, exports are expected to drop by 10 percent. That’s just one example of how the national and state economies will continue to struggle as the recovery begins to take hold. Another example is the expected freefall in the commercial real estate market, especially in Arizona.
“Commercial is the next shoe to drop and we have seen this pattern before,” McPheters said. “Even as you see residential (construction) begin to pick up, I think you can expect that commercial building is going to be very, very weak all the way through 2010 and probably 2011, because what we need to see is population growth come back and job growth to come back. There’s no point in building retail space and office space if the jobs are not there and the consumer is not coming out to shop.”
And it is consumers, who account for 71 percent of GDP, who really hold the key to the economic recovery.
“The consumer is the only part of this economy that can bring us back,” McPheters said. “Consumers are not going to come back into the game until home prices stop falling, until the stock market stabilizes, until they see unemployment rates have peaked out and job losses start to get smaller and smaller. And the consumer has to have confidence to buy, and believe it or not, the consumer has to back off of their inclination to save their money.”
In March, the savings rate as a percent of disposable income was 4.2 percent, up from 2.6 percent six months earlier. While increased savings are considered a good thing in robust economic times, a pullback by consumers as an economy tanks can have devastating effects. McPheters pointed out that for each 1 percent increase in the savings rate, approximately $100 billion are being pulled out of the consumer-spending stream.
However, McPheters expressed confidence that the very calamity that sent our state and national economies reeling will eventually add to Arizona’s attractiveness to new residents and businesses — falling home prices.
“Housing prices have now returned to the traditional level, where Arizona housing prices are now more affordable than the national average,” he said. “In 2005 and 2006, we had come to the point where we were one of the least affordable markets. That has turned around and it has turned around very quickly. Of course that has been very painful.”

Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at W.P. Carey, agreed with McPheters, adding that he believes the state’s economic rebound will be strong.

“This of course is the big question: What kind of bounce will take place? Now, I’ll have to say that the dramatic shakeout in prices in housing, while it has been absolutely disastrous for a number of folk and put a lot of pressure in a lot of different places, it might set us up for a more robust recovery than I would have thought six to nine months ago,” he said. “The thinking is really, very, very simple; an attractive attribute of Arizona has historically been great climate, affordable housing and a place to get a job. That third aspect really doesn’t exist right now, but it could exist if our economy recovers at a little faster pace.”
In the economic downturns of the past four decades, Arizona has bounced back strongly, and Hoffman is confident history will repeat itself, especially if the state and Valley can re-create the environments that people from around the country have found so attractive.

However, a major wrench in making the state attractive again is Arizona’s current budget crunch. In fiscal year 2009, the state’s budget gap stands at $1.6 billion. In fiscal year 2010, that’s expected to almost double to $3 billion dollars. As the economy has worsened, unemployment has soared to almost 8 percent, foreclosures have skyrocketed and businesses have closed their doors. As a result, billions of dollars in revenue from income, property, sales and business taxes have evaporated. Conversely the need for state services has exploded.

“We’re really seeing the effects of the downturn in the economy, both in terms of state revenues — our collections are down at a very significant rate — and likewise, our caseloads are up at a very significant rate, because more of our citizens are in need of services,” said Eileen Klein, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, adding that in the past two months alone the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) has enrolled 50,000 people.
Hoffman pointed out that in the past, $48 to $50 out of every $1,000 of personal income had gone into the state’s general fund.

pill to swallow

Arizona’s Health Care Industry Must Adapt To New Compliance Procedures In 2009

The current economic downturn and the prospect of dramatic changes to the nation’s health care system under a new administration are making 2009 one of the most challenging years ever for Arizona’s medical industry.

If that weren’t enough, however, our state’s hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic and out-patient centers — and the physicians who serve them — are getting a crash course on how to administer sweeping new compliance procedures and regulations recently issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Last year, CMS posted the 2009 Final Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) rule, which is having an impact on hospital operations and policies, as well as physician arrangements. Included were several changes to the so-called Stark Law (named for U.S. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif.) covering Medicare and Medicaid.

The impetus for the new provisions was a worthy one — curbing physician self-referrals and stopping kickbacks. Nevertheless, Arizona doctors and health care entities are scrambling to alter their ways of doing business. The downside for not doing so: denied payments, or penalties, from Medicare and/or Medicaid.

Some of the provisions went into effect last October and others begin this October. They will result in the significant restructuring of many physician arrangements, particularly joint ventures between doctors and facilities. Some of the rules are providing more flexibility in these arrangements, while others have become more restrictive.

Stand in its Shoes
One area of flexibility is CMS’ decision, effective last October, to decline adopting tougher “stand-in-your-shoes” procedures. This would have mandated that when physicians’ organizations contracted with an entity such as a hospital, each physician in those groups would have been deemed to be part of that contract as well.

Under the finalized rules, only physicians who have an “ownership or investment interest” in such an organization will be considered to “stand in its shoes” for purposes of compliance with the Stark regulations.

Percentage-Based Compensation
Soon to be a thing of the past is percentage-based compensation arrangements for space and equipment rental lease arrangements. CMS initially proposed a broad prohibition for using percentage-based compensation formulas to calculate revenue from services performed or business generated in leased office space or from leased equipment.

This October, the final rules will take a more targeted approach, specifically addressing CMS’ concerns with percentage-based compensation regarding lease arrangements.

Per Click: Lease Arrangement Payments
Also this October, the new procedures will significantly limit the use of unit-of-service, or “per-click,” payments in the context of physicians’ space and equipment lease arrangements. This pertains to physicians leasing time on diagnostic equipment to perform tests on Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Specifically, CMS revised exceptions for such leases, determining fair market value, and for indirect compensation arrangements to prohibit “per-click” payments to a physician lessor where the payments reflect services on patients who had been referred to the lessee by the physician.

Furthermore, the prohibition applies regardless of whether the physician is the lessor or whether the lessor is an entity in which the referring physician has an ownership or investment interest.

CMS states that the new rule does not prohibit physicians from leasing equipment or space to entities on a per-use basis for services rendered to patients who were referred from others. In most cases, CMS will not prohibit time-based deals in which a physician rents time on a CT or MRI scanner.

Services Provided Under Arrangements
Entities, including physicians, that provide services to hospitals “under arrangements” (for example, when a hospital bills for services but arranges for another entity to provide the services), will now be considered DHS (designated health services) entities themselves for Stark Law purposes.

Previously, only the person or entity that billed for DHS was deemed to be “furnishing” the DHS. CMS’ new definition of entity, effective in October, is that a person or entity is considered to be “furnishing” DHS if it has (1) performed the DHS even if another entity bills for the services; or (2) presented a claim for Medicare benefits of the DHS.

As a result, physicians will be limited in their ability to refer patients to “under arrangement” service providers in which they have an ownership or investment interest. Restructuring of existing joint ventures between physicians and hospitals will be needed.

This is only the start. There are several other provisions — including malpractice insurance, physician retirement plans, disallowed referrals, compliance requirements and other hospital-physician agreements. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of the issues and challenges facing Arizona’s health care industry during the rest of 2009.

Jeff Roberts Opus West

Jeff Roberts – Vice President Of Real Estate Development At Opus West

About 10 years after its Phoenix headquarters opened in 1979, Opus West came up against a major recession in the Valley. It survived that test and is weathering today’s economic downturn with the same tactics.

A division of the Minneapolis-based Opus Group real estate development company, Opus West is going head-to-head with Arizona’s moribund economy with its corporate structure, diverse product base and a development philosophy that has served it well.

“We are vertically integrated and that allows us to react quickly in good times and bad,” says Jeff Roberts, vice president of real estate development.

Opus West has in-house property management, construction, design and development services. Presently, the company’s design-build staff is opening new revenue streams by offering its services to outside clients, such as corporations and governments.

The company still looks for opportunities and is more likely to find them within its broad line of products — retail, industrial, office and residential, including condos, apartments and senior housing.

As part of its approach to development, Opus West does not hinder its flexibility with a sizeable property portfolio and keeps its land inventory low, Roberts says.

“In the late ’80s and early ’90s (recession), many companies accumulated a large portfolio and were much more affected, while we had built our buildings and sold them for a profit,” he says. “That makes us much less subject to market cycles.”

In these tough times, Opus West is again focused on finishing existing projects to get new tenants moved in, taking care of existing tenants and keeping the door open to build-to-suit projects for tenants that are willing to commit, Roberts says. Projects on its plate include the 263,000-square-foot mixed-use Tempe Gateway building in downtown Tempe and the 170,000-square-foot Mill Crossing shopping center in Chandler.

One bit of good news Roberts sees in today’s economy is a “reasonably strong amount of large tenant activity” as companies move for economic reasons or to take advantage of a down market and upgrade to nicer space. Roberts expects little new construction in 2009.

“I don’t look at it as a year where there will be any major projects,” he says. “It will be a year of people working through leasing up what they’ve got and, hopefully, a year we hit bottom and see things heading back up. The big question is whether the economy picks up enough where we can get some significant net absorption.”

Roberts has more than 17 years of real estate experience in eight different cities. Prior to joining Opus West, he was an asset manager for Beta West in Denver. Roberts holds a bachelor of science degree in real estate from Arizona State University.

www.opuscorp.com