Blaine: Mergers and CUNA Board Structure Fueled SECU Disaffiliation
State Employees’ Credit Union President/CEO Jim Blaine said he has no beef with CUNA or the Carolina Credit Union League. In fact, he said the $27 billion SECU has been very involved in these organizations for a very long time.
However, Blaine said SECU decided not to renew its combined $340,000 membership dues – $250,000 to CUNA and $90,000 to CCUL – because there are serious issues that are not being addressed by both organizations.
Though the merging of the North Carolina and South Carolina leagues was overwhelmingly approved by member credit unions last year, the number of credit unions in the two states continues to shrink.
“After the merging of the North Carolina and South Carolina leagues and the number of credit unions in those states continue to shrink, what do you do next?” said Blaine. “The long range (question) is what is the role of the CCUL going forward? This is not a complaint on our part, but you are heading to a collision with realty and that reality is that the number of credit unions is shrinking. You can’t escape that fact and it ought to be dealt with.”
Blaine said he also has issues with the CUNA board structure that includes representatives from only six leagues, but there are 40 leagues in the nation. That should prompt some cooperative concerns, he said.
“Why should a quarter of CUNA’s 24 seats be allotted to six leagues out of a pool of 40 state leagues? And who do the leagues represent as they consolidate?” he said.
When SECU was presented with the consolidation of the North Carolina and South Carolina leagues, he said it made sense from the standpoint that it would save costs. But what didn’t make sense to Blaine was when he was told that his membership dues would more than double.
“We are only in North Carolina,” explained Blaine. “Prior to the merger, we had the entire (North Carolina CU League) staff and they were doing a great job. Now we have half of their time and energies and we are going to pay twice as much. I have a hard time explaining that to the board and other people.”
However, Blaine said that CCUL has since backed off its proposal to increase membership dues.
“Small credit unions want more services (from their league) and larger credit unions want lower costs (from their league),” Blaine said. “Those issues are being kicked down the road, but they are not going to go away because we all agree that the number of credit unions is going to continue to shrink, if not accelerate. Those issues need to be addressed.”
Last Fall, SECU backed a proposal that would have allowed CCUL to conduct a one-year test pilot program that would have allowed CCUL members the choice of joining CUNA or the league.
The objective of the pilot program was to observe what impact affiliation choice would have on the state league and CUNA, including changes in affiliations rates, dues revenue, and what affect would affiliations choice would have on legislative, regulatory and political affairs.
But Blaine said the test pilot program was not accepted by CUNA and CCUL late last year.
In a Jan. 31, Blaine wrote a letter to John Radebaugh, president/CEO of the Carolinas Credit Union League, informing him that SECU would not renew its 2014 membership.
“SECU asked that consideration be given for credit unions to have the option to separately choose between membership in CUNA and the league,” Blaine wrote. “The right to independently choose membership and to have direct representation in CUNA appears to be very much in line with our core cooperative principle – one member, one vote.”
Blaine continued to write: “The accelerating pace of the merger/dissolution of credit unions, paired with the resulting consolidation of numerous leagues, would indicate an urgent ‘inevitable’ need for structural changes in our trade association, if cooperative principles are of key importance.”
Radebaugh responded to Blaine’s letter: “We believe affiliation provides great mutual benefit for our organizations and are disappointed in your decision. Nonetheless, we respect your decision and appreciate the notice.”
CUNA President /CEO Bill Cheney also responded to Blaine’s letter and invited him to meet with the CUNA executive committee later this month. Cheney also noted in his letter that incoming CUNA Chairman Dennis Pierce is appointing a Renewal Review Committee to look at these (Blaine’s) concerns and others immediately following the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference.
Blaine wrote a brief letter responding to Cheney writing: “Glad Dennis has appointed a Committee. That should be helpful. SECU does not have any remaining concerns which require discussion. Wish you and CUNA the best of luck in the future.”