Montana First ‘Not Giving Up’ on Merger Bid
The chairman of the $63 million Montana First Credit Union of Missoula, whose members three weeks ago shot down a merger bid from an out-of-state suitor, said Friday that his credit union plans to try again.
However, the next time, will be different, he said.
“We do look to engage our members in a new way as we adjust the process,” explained Mark Lodine, chairman of Montana First’s board of directors, as the CU reassesses what went wrong in a narrow defeat – 260 votes out of 7,200 – on a merger proposal extended by the $432 million Horizon CU of Spokane Valley, Wash.
Montana First, he said, is now in the process of “establishing committees and doing various things” as it looks ahead to a revote at a future date, said Lodine, a Missoula attorney.
He said he could not detail a timetable “since it all depends on what we put together.”
And that, he explained, would depend on how the Montana First board decides it will “approach those individuals” who led the opposition to the merger plan by Horizon CU.
The Washington credit union was seeking its first entry into Montana and a youthful college market in Missoula, the state’s second-largest city. Horizon with 16 branches has a presence in eastern Washington State and in the Idaho panhandle.
A group of Montana First members, apparently led by a retired CEO, had conducted a December letter writing campaign in the Missoulian newspaper voicing worries about losing a hometown brand and fearing a loss of personal service.
Montana First management, including Lodine, who also wrote an opinion column in the Missoulian, sought unsuccessfully to dissuade the recalcitrant members against voting “no.”
The Montana First defeat has stirred wide industry interest among CEOs, consultants and marketers on the do’s and don’ts of handling merger communications with members.
Communication issues also were cited in the defeat of a proposed merger this month by members of a Louisiana credit union.
Lodine said he still remains a bit puzzled as to the defeat of the Montana merger but at the same time he understands there was “procedural confusion” and that members did not fully comprehend merger benefits.