The Virginia Beach credit union, whose management has been outspoken on its mission to enlarge its nationwide field of membership through the merger route "provided our partners are the right fit," was successful on New Year's Eve in winning regulatory approval for the takeover of the $311 million HeritageWest FCU of Tooele, Utah, located in a Salt Lake City suburb.
HeritageWest went astray over the last year, suffering large 2008-2009 losses when it ventured into costly large-scale commercial ventures, officials said.
For the NCUA, it was the 15th and final NCUA liquidation of 2009 and underscored the treacherous economic year for the industry. For Chartway, with 52 branches and now with 200,000 members, its successful takeover of HeritageWest began well before Thanksgiving when it met with the HeritageWest board and management to discuss a potential consolidation, coinciding with NCUA discussions.
The Virginia credit union, formerly known as Naval Air FCU, has for months through e-mails, phone calls and conference networking made clear its plans to enlarge its FOM by seeking out struggling credit unions.
Chartway President/CEO Ronald Burniske disclosed early last month that over the past year he and other managers have conducted about 150 formal and informal solicitations or contacts across the U.S. Chartway, with 8% capital, is poised to take on additional credit union mergers, said Burniske.
Though year-end figures were not immediately available, HeritageWest, with 40,000 members, had lost $15.9 million through the first nine months of 2009 on top of a $12 million loss in 2008, according to NCUA data.
In its formal statement about the Chartway takeover, the NCUA said it had "accepted Chartway's offer to purchase and assume the assets, loans and shares" of HeritageWest which had been in "declining financial condition" leading to its closure and the subsequent purchase-assumption.
In the purchase deal, whose terms were not disclosed, the Virginia Beach CU said it will be taking over the five branches of HeritageWest and operate them as a Chartway division but using its current name. The HeritageWest branches are in Salt Lake City, Tooele and nearby counties.
No employee layoffs are anticipated, said Burniske, and HeritageWest President/CEO Bruce Bryan will serve as regional president.
In a statement, Burniske stressed the commonalities of the two credit unions, including their military FOMs, with the Chartway CEO also noting that HeritageWest had "dealt with weak financial results recently." Still, HeritageWest does have a "robust lending program," a key benefit to HeritageWest members.
"Making loans to members is at the heart of what credit unions do best," he said. "Chartway's strong capital and solid financial position mean we can make credit available at a time when many other institutions are much more limited."
In an interview, Burniske, was critical of credit unions that have pursued big-ticket commercial real estate loans. Large commercial loans, said Burniske, remain the purview of big banks because the managements at many credit unions lack the depth and expertise to take on such risks.
Chartway, he said, shuns making such big-ticket loans but remains active in small business lending "for the dentist adding to his practice or the marketing firm wanting to expand." Those are naturals for CUs, he said.
Despite its unfortunate experience on commercial loans, said Burniske, HeritageWest has an enviable reputation in Tooele, a community of 27,000, about 35 miles west of Salt Lake.