The growing merger trend has created a new set of "merger competency" skills that are now being added to CEO r?sum?s, according to a white paper issued by the CUNA Councils last week.
The report, "Developing a Merger Competency," found that mergers sometimes founder because of too much focus on financials, products and operations, whereas the critical element for CU managers is understanding how to blend cultures.
The report, written on behalf of all six CUNA Councils, said the merger landscape is shifting in ways both subtle and dramatic, noting that more than a third of all CUs operating in 2008, for example, had participated in at least one merger between 1979 and 2008.
"Attitudes are also evolving; mergers are no longer considered the last resort for a failing institution," the report concluded. "In some cases they are part of a thoughtful strategy for healthy credit unions."
One CEO quoted in the report, Alan Peppers of the $1.2 billion Westerra CU of Denver, recounted how in bringing four Colorado CUs together in the last five years, management emphasized to employees the importance of pride and history.
To that end, the CU developed "a museum to preserve the history of the four organizations, which includes a 'spirit of volunteerism' wall honoring past chairmen and historical documents from each credit union."
Peppers said cultural integration-"winning the hearts and minds of employees and members"- has long been the greatest merger challenge. Westerra, he said, focuses on the integration process by using face-to-face communication in groups of 10 to 15 employees with follow-up focus groups and opinion surveys.