Mergers: Protecting Small Town Finance
Whether a mid-sized credit union in Colorado or a billion dollar credit union in Philadelphia, the messaging about protecting small town financial services surfaced again last week.
In Colorado, the CEO of the $135 million Aventa is completing a March 30 NCUA-engineered purchase of the once-conserved Saguache County Credit Union voiced strong support for credit unions of his size to preserve small town credit unions wherever possible.
The fact is, said Gregory Mills, Aventa’s president, while larger credit unions deserve credit for supporting the movement in wielding political clout in state legislatures, healthy credit unions like his serve an important economic niche in protecting small communities threatened by banking’s retreat.
As for Saguache, “we did our due diligence and were able to step up and handle this merger with NCUA though it did require a second look,” said Mills in commenting on Aventa’s purchase-assumption of the $17 million Saguache located in tiny Moffat, Colo.
In November the 18,000-member Aventa pulled back from a similar takeover offer to the NCUA following altered terms.
Aventa was one of a handful of credit unions that were solicited by the NCUA last year for a voluntary merger, but apparently there were no takers leading to the July conservatorship, industry sources said.
In Philadelphia, the $1.4 billion TruMark Financial Credit Union agreed to take over the distressed $1.5 million Kenrick FCU in suburban Wynnewood. Vincent Market, chief financial officer of TruMark Financial, said the NCUA had contacted TruMark several months ago about a merger for Kenrick, which had suffered capital quality problems.
“NCUA was looking for a partner and we agreed to help out,” said Market, whose 95,000-member, 14-branch credit union took over the NCUA-liquidated, $635,000-assit People for People Community Development CU in February in a purchase-assumption deal.
Trevose-based TruMark Financial last June also merged the $17 million Borinquen FCU after a conservatorship and cease and desist order.
“We do feel an obligation to assist when it appears members might lose credit union services or when a credit union might close,” Market said.
In the case of Saguache, Aventa was willing to reconsider the purchase of Saguache’s three rural facilities in Moffat, Center and Crestone once the bad assets were removed by the NCUA.
Saguache went into conservatorship last July after it became mired in loan trouble and becoming overextended as it sought to build a new branch. Saguache has 3,000 members in a rural county of 6,000 and had been the leading financial institution in the area. Saguache has its two other branches in Alamosa and Rio Grande Counties..
The troubled credit union with its high penetration level was nearly closed by the Colorado Division of Financial Institutions in 2011 until its liquidation and Aventa’s purchase-assumption March 23.
“I’m an old school credit union guy determined to serve the membership, and in this case we feel we could help protect our industry and this community from the loss of financial services,” said Mills.
For its part, a spokesman for NCUA noted the shrinkage that has taken place over the decade. There were 216 completed mergers last year and in 2,000 there were 10,000 credit unions, dropping to 7,094 at year-end 2011.“The trend unfortunately remains the same for credit unions as it does for all financial institutions,” said the spokesman adding “the big majority of mergers involve a small credit union.”