Wisconsin looks to end the year with still more shrinkage of small credit unions, primarily because of management succession issues and the difficulty in keeping up with product and service technology.
That was the opinion Friday of the state’s top regulator, Ginger Larson, who said the trendline on disappearing CUs shows a definite increase but that she did not find it alarming.
There are currently 211 CUs in the state, down from 260 in 2007, she said. Only two are federal credit unions.
“We had 13 mergers last year and as of September we had 12 and I know of some more coming next year,” said Larson, who took over last January as the director of the Office of Credit Unions.
In her talks with CU managers looking to merge, Larson said she found a concern over “keeping up to date with computer systems” and a desire by veteran managers to leave the industry but with no successors.
“Merger becomes a reasonable option,” she said. That was made evident this week with the $1.7 billion Landmark CU of New Berlin announcing merger deals under way for four southeast Wisconsin CUs, all under $25 million.
Earlier this year Landmark merged two other small Wisconsin CUs and in 2009 during a swooning economy, Landmark merged four small Milwaukee area CUs, including several that fell victim to the bankruptcy of Central States Mortgage Corp., a Wauwatosa CUSO.
Larson said there are a number of small CUs in the state who indeed “are unable to upgrade their technology” and instead look to larger brethren. CU management simply can’t afford the training and hiring expense, she said.