The trend toward trade group consolidation picked up more steam last week with plans by the Arizona Credit Union League and Credit Union Associations of Colorado and Wyoming to merge.
In a letter of intent, the leadership of the two groups said a merger plan presented the optimum method to improve service and generate economic efficiencies to member CUs in the three states.
Moreover, if implemented, the planned consolidation might be a blueprint or business model for mergers of other leagues in the Mountain States, though there have been no discussions with those boards, said Michael Williams, chairman of the Colorado group and president/CEO of Colorado CU of Littleton.
"We are all three healthy, well-capitalized organizations, but regionalization looks to us the best way to serve our members," said Williams.
Under the consolidation plan, still subject to approval of members in the three groups, Scott Earl, the president/CEO of the Arizona League and the former head of the Utah Credit Union League and ex-CUNA staffer, would become head of the new entity, which will have about 40 employees. The headquarters for the combined group would be in Denver, but smaller offices would remain in Phoenix and Casper, Wyo.
In a formal statement, Marsha Tynsky, chair of the Wyoming group and president/CEO of Trona Valley Community FCU of Green River, said, "Our members expect us to pursue ways to continue to provide them with high quality association services while looking for new ways to operate more efficiently and effectively."
The proposed merger, said Tynsky, will provide credit unions across the three states "a chance to collaborate and share opportunities."
Williams said that the Colorado-Wyoming group began months ago exploring the merger option with Arizona, which had a veteran league manager in Earl. The discussions followed the sudden May departure of John Dill, its former president/CEO.
While no official timeline has been developed for the planned merger, "a membership vote is required and could be scheduled for early spring of next year," said the joint statement.
Disclosure of the merger coincides with the announcement last week that the marriage of the Credit Union Association of Oregon and the Washington Credit Union League becomes effective Jan. 1, with formation of the Northwest Credit Union Association following a final vote of members and boards.
That merger has been in the works for two years. Earlier this year the new League of Southeastern Credit Unions joining Alabama and Florida began operations with offices in both Tallahassee and Birmingham.
John Annaloro, the president/CEO of the Washington League and head of the new Northwest Credit Union Association, forecast more state league mergers lie ahead in 2011 as discussions continue in various parts of the country, which he did not identify.
"I am not at liberty to discuss where and when, but I believe you will see this new multistate business model being repeated" said Annaloro. Industry sources said talks among boards and staffers have occurred in the South and Southwest, though the New Mexico League, for one, said it had no interest in a consolidation.
Bob Ramirez, chairman of the Arizona League and president/CEO of Vantage West CU of Tucson, said the consolidation trend has long been evident among banks and credit unions across many parts of the country. And considering economic conditions in Arizona and the fewer number of CUs in the state, the time was ripe to explore a merger.
The Arizona League founded in 1934 has 51 members. The Colorado-Wyoming Association has 80 Colorado members and 25 in Wyoming. The Colorado group owns its own building, an historic structure blocks from the state capitol. The facility would serve as the home for the consolidated association.