By MICHELLE A. SAMAAD
CU Times Senior Staff Reporter
MIDDLETOWN, Pa. -- After an ambitious start in the fall of 2006 providing underwriting and documentation services for credit union business loans, Impel Consulting Group discovered a cold, harsh truth.
"We realized that, with a couple of exceptions, we weren't of any use to those credit unions," said David Dunn, president/COO of Impel, a business services consulting CUSO serving the Mid-Atlantic region.
Dunn previously served on the executive team at CU BizSource LLC, a business services firm originally formed by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association and later bought by CUNA Mutual Group's MEMBERS Development Co. LLC to provide the certification process for CU Systems Fund, a private investment fund that buys participations in member business loans, pools them in a mutual fund structure and sells shares to investor credit unions.
During his CU BizSource days, Dunn said credit unions weren't in a position to originate loans but the CUSO moved forward building its clientele, establishing some relationships and waited. While business picked up there were others that just couldn't get any traction, he recalled. Turns out that many of Impel's clients really needed help building their business deposits. Dunn found that some had stagnant programs and others were sending loans that could not be underwritten.
"As we talked about all these struggles, we saw that it wasn't a pretty picture," Dunn said. "Credit unions, particularly in the $50 million to $250 million size, said they needed professional help to augment their staffs, not people who come in for a project and then leave."
Compounding that was the proliferation of new community charters. Credit unions granted these expansions were spending a lot of money on advertising with nothing to show for it, Dunn said. The tasks of getting the word out to surrounding areas about new fields of membership can be a daunting one and sometimes, membership numbers up fall short, he added.
Taking all of these struggles in mind, Impel evolved to become a consulting firm for credit unions--from those wanting to launch their own business services program to those requesting strategies for improvement. The CUSO has developed a gap analysis tool that assesses where a credit union is and where it wants to be. Impel will identify the missing pieces and fill in the gaps through a network of consultants that will come on site and stay with a project beyond its completion, Dunn said. Mid-Atlantic Corporate CU, one of Impel's founders, aims to provide its asset liability management and strategic planning platforms. Credit union clients get two years of each service and after that, a board review determines the next steps.
"We serve a lot of credit unions that are in an extremely competitive market that are looking for better ways to execute their plans," said Jay Murray, president/COO of Mid-Atlantic Corporate, who will become president in August. "Some need to get a plan in place. Corporates are really taking steps to help grow credit unions."
For three years, the $124 million Cross Valley FCU offered loans to small businesses with less than $1 million in revenue or 50 employees or less. About a year ago, it wanted to not only reorganize its program but also expand into business deposits, said Leonard Shimko, president/CEO. In September 2007, Impel, which had contracted out two former bankers, helped the credit union revise its policies and procedures as well as put in place new documentation. By February, the revamps were in place. That same month, a business deposit training session took place.
"We have at least 50 accounts," Shimko said, adding that the new business money market, checking and savings accounts are still in a pilot phase at one of its newly-opened branches. "We still have a lot to do but we're pleased. What Impel promised, they fulfilled. They helped us immensely."