If the roughly 73,000 members of Technology Credit Union, a $1.5 billion institution headquartered in San Jose, Calif., vote to convert to a mutual bank charter, they will likely find their increased expenses not restricted to taxes alone, according to CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel.
Technology CU posted a notice to its members about a potential charter change earlier in October and has scheduled a board vote on Nov. 2 to formally consider making an application. In order for the CU to change charters, a majority of members voting would have to approve it. Technology has not returned calls for comment on the potential charter change.
At first, it could appear Technology would save money by leaving the credit union charter behind, Hampel noted.
An analysis of the credit union's deposits with the NCUSIF as well as the CU's obligations under the NCUA Corporate Credit Union Stabilization Plan indicated some pending payments.
This year, the CU paid in $3.2 million as part of the stabilization plan and would avoid additional payments of $6.5 million over the next five years if it were to become a bank, Hampel found, assuming the CU changed charters before the next stabilization assessment and assuming the agency's losses came in at around the midpoint of its estimates.
If the credit union changed charters after the next stabilization assessment, it would pay another $1.1 million and avoid paying another $5.4 million by becoming a bank, according to Hampel's analysis.
But if Technology remained a credit union, Hampel found, the CU's insurance expenses would come in significantly lower. While Technology Credit Union would face that $6.5 million as a credit union, that would likely be all the CU would pay since the NCUSIF is fully funded and “likely over reserved,” Hampel said.
But if the CU goes through the charter change, Hampel pointed out in his analysis that Technology members would not only face an additional $5.5 million in FDIC premiums over the next five years, roughly the same as the cost of participating in the stabilization plan, but also an additional five years of payments as the federal bank insurer makes good on a commitment to raise its insurance fund ratio to 2%.
The next five years of payments would mean the former CU turned bank would wind up putting down an additional $5.3 million with the FDIC. This means the institution would have to put into the FDIC just about double what it would have to put into the NCUSIF and stabilization plan if it remained a credit union, according to Hampel.
Then there is the potential loss of shared branching. Technology Credit Union is a participant in the Financial Service Centers Cooperative, and the credit union told members that if they use shared branching to make transactions as credit union members, they will not be able to do so as bank customers, though the credit union said this would only inconvenience “a small percentage” of members. Technology also said its planned additional ATMs with deposit capability will ease some of that inconvenience and suggested the loss of shared branching would be worth it.
“Additionally, the board and management believe that access to additional capital available to a federal mutual savings bank, and other factors, outweigh the loss of shared branching in the long run,” Technology wrote.
But records of the credit union's shared branch usage raises questions about the contention that only a “small percentage' of members use the service. According to those records, which are widely distributed among shared branching credit unions, Technology Credit Union logged 75,000 shared branching transactions through the end of September, more than one transaction for each of the CUs 73,000 members, indicating that the service is used fairly vigorously.
Further, when asked about the impact of shared branching on a credit union's operations, Sarah Canepa Bang, FSCC CEO, said that many CUs look at shared branching transaction data and mistakenly assume that it is the same people over and over using the service.
“On the contrary, what we find is that it is different people using shared branching, and they are often using it for more significant reasons that just dropping off a deposit or picking up some cash,” Bang said. “Our data shows that shared branching members are not using it to get five bucks,” she added.
Canepa Bang also noted that other credit unions have found that increased ATM access had not eaten into shared branching use but had instead developed alongside it. “Credit unions with strong ATM programs and shared branching find members use both,” she said.
Technology also told members in its notice that it was seeking to change charters in order to avoid field of membership restrictions, but the data indicate Technology has not made much progress in recruiting members from the field of membership it has already.
According to the CU's website, Technology can accept for membership individuals who work, live, go to school, or regularly worship in Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Contra Costa counties. Based on U.S. Census data from 2010 and counting only residents of those counties, not including anyone who merely works, goes to school and worships there, Technology Credit Union has a pool of potential members of roughly 6.2 million people has just over 73,000 members currently.