Credit Unions Not Getting Pampered With a Spa Day
Some dustups have taken place or are in the works that are affecting credit unions. It’s enough to clog your pores, so I’m going to just clean that up a little bit with an apricot scrub. (I’ll apply a light cleanser to that mixed metaphor while I’m at it.)
Just as we were going to press, the $1 billion MECU of Baltimore announced that it would be purchasing the $61 million Advance Bank, also located in Baltimore. No purchase price was announced, but the deal calls for MECU to acquire all loans, investments, real estate, accrued interest receivables and other banking-related assets, as well as to assume all deposits, Federal Home Loan Bank advances and accrued interest payable.
We knew that MECU CEO Bert Hash was a trailblazer back in 2007 when Credit Union Times named him our CEO of the Year. Only a handful of credit unions have purchased banks so far but the time is ripe and they seem to be coming on stronger than your nausea from the manicurist’s perfume.
Michael Bell, one of our Trailblazer 40 Below honorees (go figure), has been masterminding these deals. This could definitely be the start of a trend, despite what others may want to hear. The timing is perfect as financial institutions have hit hard times, margins on loans are tight as are investment earnings, regulatory burden is growing exponentially, and the big banks have enough troubles of their own that they aren’t seeking relatively penny-ante deals.
In making the announcement, Advance President/CEO John Hamilton said, "We are pleased that this new partnership will allow us to continue to serve our customers with the same care and commitment that they have come to expect." Maybe but the move to MECU could be more like moving from ACME Hairs R Us to a full-service salon. I’ve witnessed executives from other credit unions oohing and aahing – literally – over the savings rates at MECU during a tour there, and wondering how it achieved that kind of volume for its members.
MECU’s acquisition marks continued growth for MECU, which recently merged a small health services credit union in Baltimore, and bears out the fact that this fashion statement could be the start of a trend. Other credit unions preceding MECU in bank purchases were Landmark Credit Union in Wisconsin, United Federal Credit Union in Michigan and GFA Federal Credit Union in Massachusetts within the past year and a half.
People tend to think of technology or faster acting hair color when innovation comes up but the engineering of these purchases is innovative no doubt. CO-OP Financial Services’ THINK Conference is all about innovation, and in fact, CO-OP has invited yours truly to participate alongside Bell and Patrick Basler, CEO at First Financial CU in Illinois (Hmm, another T40B. I see a pattern here). We will be debating the benefits of massive versus measured change. The three of us say ‘you need a full makeover’ on Team Massive, and will face off against Team "Just Take a Little Off the Top" Measured in Chicago next month in the Disruption Challenge.
The NCUA has innovated this week in wordsmithing. A press release from the agency stated that the agency received $165 million in a settlement of its suit with Bank of America. That amount is nothing to sneeze at though it’s not hypoallergenic. This is what’s under the skin of credit union executives that contacted me this week: that amount is barely a blemish compared to the billions of dollars that the failed corporate credit unions lost to these awful investments. A quote from Chairman Debbie Matz states that the agency has recovered "a third of a billion dollars," which is true, and certainly sounds better than $335 million, which is also true. It’s like the time I returned from the hair dresser’s and my husband said, "That’s different," which was true and sounded better than ‘did she stick your finger in a light socket?’ Still something is better than nothing in this scenario.
But don’t forget the tip to the outside lawyers. The hullaballoo over contracting lawyers is political hot air; it was a smart move for affordable expertise and manpower. Don’t let it frizz your hair out.
Since my last column, a hearing on credit union regulatory relief has been announced. That’s cause for a small spa package, but when credit unions really see some relief is the time to chip in for a full spa day for the CUNA and NAFCU lobbyists and others working the issue on the Hill. n