WesCorp Members Fish for a New Corporate
Still suffering from the bite of losing all their Western Corporate FCU capital in 2009, credit unions report they are still capital shy when it comes to replacing corporate services.
President/CEO Robert Einstein of the $140 UMe FCU said he transferred his Burbank, Calif.-based credit union’s business to Corporate America Credit Union because the Irondale, Ala.-based corporate doesn’t require a capital investment for new members.
“It just wasn’t a good deal for credit unions to capitalize a new WesCorp,” Einstein said, referring to the failed attempt to capitalize United Resources Corporate FCU out of WesCorp’s ashes. “We just weren’t interested so we knew early on we were going to leave.”
Although UMe did consider moving settlement and transaction processing to the Federal Reserve, Einstein said he still likes the service aspect of corporate credit unions, and wanted to continue to support the central cooperatives.
“We really liked WesCorp’s services, they did a good job,” Einstein said. “It’s just unfortunate the investment side ruined the whole thing. Corporate America isn’t WesCorp, but they get the job done.”
Marnie Nemcoff, vice president of marketing for the $130 million Matadors Community Credit Union said her institution also transitioned from WesCorp to Corporate America. Calling Corporate America’s lack of a capitalization requirement “a perk,” Nemcoff said her team was even more attracted to Corporate America’s stability and pricing.
“The main factor was financial stability, safety and soundness, and the fact that their members never lost any capital,” Nemcoff said. “It made us feel very comfortable.”
Matadors did not wait to see if United Resources would successfully capitalize before making its decision, she said. “I think we got in [to Corporate America] before a lot of others did,” she said of the credit union’s third quarter 2011 conversion.
Jo Lynn Austin, senior vice president and chief operations officer for the $4 billion Corporate America, said her shop doesn’t track where new members have moved their services from. However, she said she estimates her corporate has gained 65 former WesCorp members.
Credit unions from across the country have flocked to Corporate America. Austin said the corporate counts more than 550 members after adding approximately 300 new members over the past two years.
“We’re not actively seeking members from any specific corporate, but we’re certainly open to anybody who wants to work with us,” Austin said.
Corporate America still accepts new members without a capital investment, and Austin said the board has no immediate plans to do so. Some new members voluntary invested capital, she said.
The big winner in scoring former WesCorp members was Catalyst Corporate FCU, which won the NCUA bid to purchase and assume the failed corporate’s remaining assets.
Shane Berger, president/CEO of the $165 million Beehive Federal Credit Union, said he moved his Rexburg, Idaho-based institution to Catalyst Corporate FCU. Berger was a member of the board for the group that attempted to capitalize United Resources.
“It didn’t work out, we didn’t raise enough money, but so far, I’m very happy with Catalyst,” he said of the failed capital drive.
Berger said he’s surprised how easy the transition of his check clearing and ACH processing, wire transfer services and line of credit to Catalyst has been. He reported that many of his peers who were former WesCorp members also went with Catalyst.
President/CEO Kathy Garner estimates her Catalyst Corporate counts about 500 members from the West, most of which were once WesCorp members.
More than 300 of those members have deposited capital in the $2.2 billion corporate, exceeding Catalyst’s goal of 284. The remaining 200, she said, are still in flux, and have until September to either move their services elsewhere, or contribute capital at Catalyst.
The transition has gone very well, Garner said, save for a few hiccups that involved individual credit unions. All check processing services, including share draft processing and remote deposit capture, have already migrated over to Catalyst’s core processor. The corporate began moving over ACH services from U.S. Central’s APEX-ACH service to its own in-house solution May 21 and expects to complete the process in late June.
Robert Coyan, senior vice president of marketing and operations for the $4.1 billion Corporate One Federal Credit Union said his Columbus, Ohio-based institution has added 36 new members from the western region. And, his team is in touch with several credit unions that are in the process of recommending to their boards a switch to Corporate One.
“We expect our membership to increase in the near future,” he said.
Chuck Bruen, president/CEO of the $962 million First Entertainment Credit Union of Hollywood, Calif., had said during the corporate crisis that credit unions don’t really need corporate services. Indeed, Bruen put his money where his mouth was, transferring all of his Hollywood-based credit union’s business to the Federal Reserve, save for a line of credit at Corporate America, and some deposits at other corporates.
Although corporates had said going to the Fed would require more back office resources, Bruen said he hasn’t had to hire anybody, and in fact, he plans to reduce his back-office staff because the Fed is so efficient.
President/CEO Stuart Perlitsh said he started transitioning his $325 million Glendale Area Schools FCU out of WesCorp before the 2009 conservatorship.
“Our board voted to never again capitalize a corporate,” Perlitsh said, “so the only thing we have at a corporate is a line of credit and foreign wires at Corporate America.”
Perlitsh called the claim that working with the Federal Reserve is more work “an urban legend.” He said he’s hosted several credit unions at his Glendale, Calif.-based shop to show them how easy it is to work with the Fed. In fact, a contact at the Fed sends curious credit unions his way when they need a reference.
The outspoken CEO, who was the original WesCorp plaintiff in a suit alleging fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, said he estimates 100 former WesCorp members are now working with the Fed, including credit unions as small as $50 million in assets.
“There’s less hand holding, but it’s not insurmountable,” he said. GAS has not experienced any counterfeit or fraud losses since the switch, either, because his staff reconciles checks every day, compared to a monthly review at WesCorp. Daily reconciliation requires about 15 minutes a day, he said, and the credit union hasn’t experienced an increase in labor expense.
“In fact, we’ve grown in assets, so the argument could be made that our expenses have decreased,” he said.