WASHINGTON -- Two longtime credit union foes are joining forces in the most literal sense: the American Bankers Association and America's Community Bankers have announced merger plans.
ACB will hold a member vote in October and, with approval, the merger should be completed in November. The new organization would retain the American Bankers Association name, but rename its Community Banker Council, America's Community Bankers Council. Ed Yingling would remain in his current role of president/CEO of the ABA, while ACB President/CEO Diane Casey-Landry would become executive vice president/chief operating officer of the combined entity.
ABA Chairman Earl McVicker, chairman, president/CEO of Central Bank and Trust Company in Hutchinson, Kan., stated, "The new ABA will be a unified association that will achieve a broad consensus on industry issues and serve as the advocate for the banking industry...Together, we will be able to provide enhanced tangible benefits and services for our combined membership."
ACB Chairman Mark E. Macomber, president/CEO of Litchfield Bancorp, Litchfield, Conn., said the merger was banker-driven. "As the ACB and ABA have become philosophically aligned on many issues, and with the successful mergers of a number of state organizations, it simply makes sense for two great organizations with extensive histories, engaged members and experienced staff to become one great organization--the unquestioned premier banking association in our great industry," he added.
Yingling added that member banks will not pay any more dues and will likely pay less following the proposed merger.
CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica congratulated the two groups. "America's credit unions hope that the biggest beneficiaries of this merger will be American consumers, who should realize better service by the nation's banking industry. Undoubtedly, the merger will result in an organization with an even stronger voice for banks here in Washington. The new ABA can effectively use that voice in advocating for legislation and regulation, which genuinely benefits banks and their customers--and not in sniping at credit unions as both associations have done in the past, engaging in inter-trade association one-upsmanship."
Regarding the impact on the credit union trades, NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker commented, "From my view, it's one less banking group." However, he added that he does not believe the combined organization will provide credit unions any let up. "I don't think so because that will be the way to keep the banks united," he said of credit unions, pointing out that the larger and smaller banks have differing views on Wal-Mart entering banking, the GSE legislation, and other issues.
Casey-Landry disagreed, saying the idea to merge worked this time around--it was discussed eight years ago--because of "a commonality of interests and points of policy differences that existed eight years ago didn't exist anymore." ACB has strongly advocated maintaining a separate Office of Thrift Supervision, an issue the ABA had come around on in recent years.
And, while the two groups' positions on credit unions were aligned, their tactics were not. Now, according to Casey-Landry, they are.
Mica admitted, "We have no illusions, of course--this new body will be a stronger ABA. For credit unions, that means we must maintain a strong national organization to fully represent our 90 million members' interests." The CUNA chief has raised the issue of CUNA and NAFCU merging in the past, which CUNA declined to comment on at this point.
The two groups are not initially anticipating lay offs. Fully staffed, ABA has about 340 employees and ACB has 90; between the two groups there are at least 30 openings. Many of those are on hold, according to an ABA spokesperson. Some of the combining of the two staff will be worked out through attrition and reassignment, while some early retirements might be offered. "We are going to look at this holistically and want to do this right and not just go in to slash folks," ABA spokesperson John Hall explained.
ACB has 1,002 member banks representing $1.7 trillion in assets. ABA does not publicly disclose its membership numbers.
Independent Community Bankers of America President/CEO Cam Fine was "thrilled" to hear the news. "I think it's a great day for ICBA," he stated. This merger proves ICBA is "the voice for the nation's community banks," he said.
Fine said he expects to pick up some thrift members from the deal of which ICBA already has 400. In total, ICBA has 5,000 member banks in all 50 states with an average size between $100 million and $200 million in assets.