Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma Leagues Meet to Mull Merger
A task force meets in Dallas Thursday and Friday to set the schedule of events that will culminate in a spring vote of more than 660 credit unions on the proposed new Cornerstone Credit Union League that would merge the Arkansas Credit Union League, the Credit Union Association of Oklahoma and the Texas Credit Union League.
Although leaders and board members of the credit union leagues favor the consolidation, they said, it must be approved by a majority vote of the credit unions in each state. If credit unions approve the consolidation in April or May, Cornerstone will be the largest league in the nation.
The credit unions in each state were notified at their annual league meetings last year that the three leagues were discussing a consolidation proposal. On Dec. 17, the boards of the three leagues announced their intention to pursue consolidation into a single regional organization operating as Cornerstone Credit Union League.
The Regionalization Task Force is meeting this week to schedule the distribution of information, town hall events and phone conferences about the consolidation over the next five months, which will help credit unions decide whether to vote for or against the proposed merger.
“At this meeting, we’ll be discussing the roll out plan for getting the information to the respective memberships so they can vote on the consolidation in April and May,” said Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler. “A scheduled roll out of activities will provide a lot information. We will also have a website that members can go to get more information, and we will be regularly communicating with credit unions through league channels.”
He also said credit unions will receive a packet of information detailing how the Cornerstone Credit Union League will be organized and managed under its bylaws and business plan. Town hall meetings and conference calls also will be scheduled, allowing credit unions the opportunity to ask questions about the consolidation.
Ensweiler, as well as Gary Jones, president/CEO of Credit Union Association of Oklahoma and Dwayne Ashcraft, board chair of the Arkansas Credit Union League, all indicated they have received positive feedback from credit unions in their state about the proposed merger.
“In my opinion, I think the credit unions will be very supportive of the consolidation,” said Ashcraft. “The ACUL board voted to support it, and we are hoping the majority of credit unions will vote to proceed with the consolidation.”
In particular, the consolidation will provide the 62 credit unions in Arkansas and the 69 credit unions in Oklahoma with access to expanded products and services. For example, Ashcraft said Cornerstone would provide field representatives to assist credit unions across Arkansas.
Jones pointed out the new league would strengthen and deepen credit union advocacy, networking and educational opportunities, while keeping a strong presence in each state. Although Cornerstone’s operations would be based in Texas, an office will remain in each state capital to advocate and protect the interests of credit unions in their respective state legislatures.
“We (task force) worked to great lengths to do (the consolidation) properly….to deliver an organization that is strong and effective for all of our stakeholders,” said Jones. “My goal is to be transparent about the consolidation and to answer any and all questions from the stakeholders to make sure they are fully aware of why and what we are doing. Based on my conversations with (credit unions), I think we’ll have strong support (for the consolidation).”
Ensweiler also said he has received positive feedback in Texas where there are 535 credit unions.
“I have not heard anything negative,” he said. “There have been some people who have had some questions or clarifications.”
“I think it is a common feeling around the credit union field that the (credit union) base is shrinking because of mergers,” Ensweiler said. “So I don’t think credit unions are surprised that their associations also have to merge. It’s common knowledge in the credit union space that you have to change if you want to stay vital.”
A wave of league consolidations began in 2007 when the North and South Dakota Credit Union Leagues formed the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas. Later, the Maryland and Washington, D.C., leagues combined as did the Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming credit union leagues under the Mountain West Credit Union Association, the Alabama and Florida credit union leagues merged under the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, and the Oregon and Washington credit union leagues consolidated under the Northwest Credit Union Association.
What’s more, in early December, the North Carolina Credit Union League and the South Carolina Credit Union League boards of directors authorized a six-member task force to explore the consolidation of the two leagues.
Not all merger proposals went through. The Maryland and DC Credit Union Association and New Jersey Credit Union League backed off their plans to consolidate in June 2011.