TULSA, Okla. -- As predicted, the nation's shrinking number of credit unions is forcing the hand of trade groups, resulting in consolidation and cutbacks. Now it's the Oklahoma and Texas Credit Union Leagues that are looking seriously at an outsourcing partnership.
The Arkansas League is in the outsource mix as well.
News of a plan by the Texas league to start offering to its Oklahoma counterpart services ranging from IT and auditing to education and human resources was unveiled at the Oklahoma league's annual meeting last week.
Considering the 80-member league for nearly a year now has been without a president/CEO as it pondered reorganization, merger or a management pact with another league, reaction to the news was generally upbeat, tinged with regret that the Oklahoma league would have to reduce staff and relinquish direct control of certain functions to the Texas league.
"We will not be changing our advocacy program, our chapters, our committees," insisted Michael Kloiber, the chairman of the Oklahoma league in a featured address at the annual business session as he detailed elements of the proposed Texas pact.
Kloiber, who also is president/CEO of Tinker FCU of Oklahoma City, said the need to seek out partners like Texas reflects the changing dynamics of league operations leading perhaps toward a regional framework where large leagues serve as hubs for smaller ones.
The Oklahoma league, he stressed, will retain its government affairs identity in the state capitol and on that score the trade group is moving ahead with its long-planned opening in February 2009 of a new headquarters building contained in the Oklahoma Credit Union House.
Architect designs for Credit Union House patterned after similar facilities in Washington, D.C., and Missouri were shown to the audience of 500 assembled in a ballroom at the Marriott Southern Hills Hotel.
In his remarks, Kloiber said the Texas service offer, now being considered by the board and staff, could be the wave of the future for smaller state leagues elsewhere as they seek to achieve economies of scale suggesting a consortium of six to eight leagues buying common services could be in the offing in the Southwest or Midwest.
The Texas offer, now on the table and undergoing due diligence represents the best solution to the Oklahoma league's desire for efficiency and cost savings, said Kloiber, noting a decision by the board is expected within the next 30 days.
On hand to give credence to the partnership were Texas league President/CEO Richard Ensweiler and Chairman Ayn Talley, both of whom maintained the Oklahoma package is a model for regional league servicing.
Sharing resources to reduce expenses seems logical for smaller leagues like Oklahoma, observed Talley, who also is president/CEO of the $295 million Houston Police CU. During Tulsa receptions and dinners, the Houston CEO fielded questions from Oklahoma executives on the service plan.
Ensweiler said the proposed Oklahoma agreement represents a third example of league collaboration following the two existing league combinations--management pacts or outright mergers. California-Nevada, Colorado-Wyoming, and Massachusetts-Rhode Island-New Hampshire typify management pacts, he said. And then, he continued, there is the most recent phenomena: mergers including the leagues in North and South Dakota and Maryland-District of Columbia.
Because of the scope of its services, the 600-member Texas league, said Ensweiler, can absorb Oklahoma's needs, noting that it has already reached a similar agreement with the Arkansas league to handle IT, human resources and several other functions. "That agreement was reached with Arkansas in the last 90 days," said Ensweiler.
Even though a Texas-Oklahoma pact has been under study for months, it moved to the forefront, he said, because Oklahoma has been without a CEO for an extended period following resignation in June 2007 of Lisa Finley, a career staffer.
Serving as interim CEO since then has been attorney Debra J. Morrow Ingram, previous the executive vice president, who during the Tulsa conference won repeated high praise from Kloiber and others for her skill at managing the organization during a difficult time. It was also described as a period of high anxiety for the league's staff and the CU leadership.
Kloiber admitted in his speech that the search for Finley's replacement as well as a possible league partner dragged out "probably longer than it should have or I would have liked."
In the final analysis, the league board, he said, relied on Ingram for her valued stewardship and chose Texas as a natural partner to come up with a bid.
In her remarks, Ingram herself acknowledged the pressures and strains of running the organization about to relocate its headquarters or restructure on top of a difficult period in her own life. "It has been challenging," she told the league audience coming also while so many parties "were peeling back the onion" to look at the internal workings of the trade group.
However, the league remains strong with a solid staff and broad CU support, she concluded.
There was no mention of how many of the league's 15-employees would be let go once it moves its headquarters from Tulsa to Oklahoma City in 2009. But Jason Boesch, chairman of the league's government relations committee, forecast the impact of staff disruptions would be minimal, cushioned by a number of employees finding new industry jobs while others were already nearing retirement.
Boesch noted that the new showcase Oklahoma City headquarters will house the full complement of the organization's lobbying staff and serve as a meeting ground to host and entertain lawmakers.
As for the Texas league linkup, Boesch, who also is president/CEO of the $22 million Oklahoma RE&T Employees CU of Oklahoma City, told delegates that Oklahoma and Texas have much in common. For one, "we share the Red River," he said, citing the stateline border adding "we have the very same 12 ecosystems" pointing to the environmental characteristics of the states in terms of prairie, hills and forests.
In the final analysis Boesch said he was confident that relying on "our neighbor to the south" will prove beneficial to both organizations.