Members to Vote Again on 'Optiva' Credit Union Name, CU CEO Respects Members' Passion But Concerned About Misinformation
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A petition from more than 140 members of the University of Iowa Community Credit Union has prompted a new vote on changing the financial institution's name to Optiva Credit Union.
For the second time since October, members will get the opportunity to vote Feb. 28 on whether to change the $523 million UICCU's name to Optiva Credit Union. The name was chosen to better reflect the CU's diverse membership beyond the University of Iowa, but some members have cried foul on the new moniker with claims ranging from allegations of questionable voting procedures to simply not liking the name.
On Oct. 4, members attended a special meeting to vote to change the name to Optiva. The proposal was approved 198-192. On Feb. 6, UICCU received a petition with 143 signatures opposing the way the initial vote was conducted. Disterhoft said in response to the petition, another vote would take place.
According to UICCU, the name change balloting and voting process used on Oct. 4 was in accordance with every state and federal rule and regulation known to the credit union. In the days immediately preceding the vote, several members opposed to the name change asked if they could vote between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the meeting, the CU wrote in a letter to members on its Web site. In response to these members' questions, the CU contacted the State of Iowa Credit Union Division. The executive officer of the division indicated that those members could be accommodated.
"In summary, the credit union followed all applicable rules and regulations, and in the only area of ambiguity [allowing members to vote from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the meeting] the credit union acted at the express oral advice of the State of Iowa Credit Union Division," UICCU wrote, adding absentee and proxy ballots were not used in the voting process because the Iowa Code does not permit their use when amending Articles of Incorporation.
"We still believe that Optiva is the right name," Disterhoft said. "But it's a democratic organization and members have every right to vote on the name change."
Disterhoft said what really concerns him is the amount of misinformation that may have caused some confusion. For instance, some members think the name change means the CU will convert to a bank, he said.
"We plan on being a credit union forever," Disterhoft said.
Some members have also questioned the uniqueness of "Optiva" saying others, including a mortgage company, already have the name. Disterhoft said it is the CU's understanding that it is the only financial institution that has applied for both state and federal mandates to the name. On the fervor that the name has caused, Disterhoft said, "Our community is one that is very passionate. I wouldn't change that passion for the CU for anything in the world but we need to be sure that [members] know the facts."
With new signage and letterhead already ordered, the Optiva name was scheduled to go into effect March 1. Meanwhile, Jose Garcia, president of San Diego-based Optiva Mortgage, told "The Daily Iowan" in a Feb. 21 article that he had sent a letter to Disterhoft asking that the CU not use the new name saying that the company plans to expand to Missouri, Iowa and surrounding states. Garcia acknowledged that the company does not own a copyright on "Optiva" whereas UICCU owns the trademark on state and federal levels on both "Optiva" and "Optiva Credit Union," according to Jim Kelly, marketing director at UICCU.
Founded in 1938 as the University of Iowa Credit Union, the financial institution changed its name to its present moniker and has since expanded its field of membership to 14 counties. The CU serves more than 44,000 members.