Credit union leaders have not said much about the news that Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is narrowing the business focus of its subsidiary Thrivent Financial Bank and launching a credit union to take the bank's retail business.
Thrivent Financial Bank is a $550 million operation headquartered in Appleton, Wis., and part of a larger organization that is the only non-profit on the Fortune 500.
NAFCU CEO Fred Becker said it was “[a]lways great to have a new credit union, especially one that recognizes the value of the credit union model over other alternatives.”
CUNA CEO Bill Cheney said his trade group also welcomed the move. “We welcome their steps in offering credit union services to their members, and invite other banks with an interest in providing their customers a better value to consider such a move as well,” Cheney said.
The Wisconsin Credit Union League has not yet commented on the development.
Alan Theriault, president of CU Financial Services, a consulting firm which helps credit unions change to bank charters, put the move in the context of a broader trend he had noticed among insurance companies and banking.
Many insurance companies had started banks and then been forced to back off after they found that the business model had not been as easy to adapt as they imagined, Theriault explained. In addition, the margins on the banking business were not as favorable as they had been, he added.
He also observed that the insurer had not mentioned how it planned to capitalize the CU. “When they dissolved those CUs in 2001, the capital went back to the members, so I would be curious about how the plan to capitalize it now,” he said.
Thrivent Financial Bank, on its website, said three credit unions, one trust bank and one community bank were consolidated in 2001 to create the current bank.