FEDERAL WAY, Wash. – A “super regional” organization designed to allow credit unions in four western states to share products and services has been unveiled by the Washington, California/Nevada and Oregon credit union leagues. The CU Association of the West was formally announced during a teleconference held Monday, July 16. “We all agree that by working together we can do far more than we can by acting alone,” said John Annaloro, president and chief executive officer of the Washington Credit Union League and who also will serve as chairman/CEO of the new group. “The CU Association of the West is the embodiment of that concept.” Annaloro said the time was right for the leagues, which share many strategic similarities, to come together to form a partnership that breaks away from the traditional three-tier structure of national associations, state associations and credit unions. “.In this age of virtual commerce and borderless business. more progressive structures are both timely and necessary as we’re asked to define the future for cooperative finance in the years ahead,” he said. The regional association will be headed by a seven-member board composed of three directors representing California and two each from Oregon and Washington. Annaloro said three distinguishing characteristics of the new organization were its financing, staffing and decision making process. The CU Association of the West will be a non-dues based organization, with resources provided by the leagues. It will also have no staff, relying instead on the leagues’ personnel. Any decision making will be vested in a board rather than a single person. Because of that structure, he said the group would have no financial constraints and an unlimited staffing. David L. Chatfield, president and CEO of the California/Nevada league, will be president of the new umbrella organization. Chatfield was traveling and did not participate in the news conference. In a prepared statement, however, he compared the CU Association of the West to the European Union. “Just as the European Union has opened borders and eliminated barriers for travel and commerce between member countries for the benefit of all, CU Association of the West opens our borders so that credit unions that are members of any of our leagues have access to the products and services of all of our leagues.” Those products and services are expected to be rolled out to members in the four states by early 2002, Annaloro said. Members in any of the four state leagues are automatically eligible to utilize the services and products of the CU Association. While starting on a regional basis, plans call for fee-based products and association services to be expanded nationally. “Having this regional association in place also positions us well to market products and services that leagues and credit unions elsewhere in the country may want to utilize,” Chatfield added. Officials said that they will continue to support CUNA “in every way, because its national priorities are very important. “However, doing more for the credit unions in the West is a job that falls to the leagues of the West,” Chatfield said. George Poitras, president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of Oregon and vice chair of the CU Association of the West, said there were no plans to merge the leagues. “All three leagues are well run and healthy, therefore, none of the parties needs to release its traditional home-state focus in exchange for management or financial assistance,” he said. “Because a member of our leagues will soon have access to the best products and services from multiple sources, membership in the California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington leagues will become more valuable than ever.” Annaloro called the new group the “first truly super regional association” and said it would make some unique product offerings available developed in one state to members in other states. He said concern about duplication of services was not an issue. “If you look at our current line up of products and services in California, Oregon and Washington state, you’ll see very, very few duplications,” he said. “We have some unique product offerings.” Poitras said representatives from the leagues have been meeting and have “identified and prioritized all of the existing products and services that we offer through the various leagues and will have a number of them ready to roll out. “Some of them we’re already getting started with, and we’re identifying new products and services that the California league has been working on that will move right into this organization,” he added. “They should be ready to come on line in this organization very quickly.” Among the items being looked at is the California league’s Match-Up program, a database system that helps individuals determine which credit unions they can join. The group said that member education and networking would be among its priorities. “Networking opportunities for CEOs throughout the region are one of the new association’s highest priorities,” it said in a prepared release. A master educational calendar was also planned. Other efforts planned include support programs for smaller credit unions, sharing of credit union research studies, compliance programs, publications and regional awards. Joint efforts might also include governmental affairs issues, such as lobbying in Washington, and regional cooperative advertising. A Web site has been established for the new organization at www.thewest.org. The four state leagues represent 960 credit unions with nearly $100 billion in assets, officials said. The region also boasts 53 of the nation’s 200 largest credit unions. Annaloro noted that since the three league groups already enjoyed a collaborative working relationship, “a master collaborative agreement is seen as an ideal way to unlock significant benefits to everyone. “This is a big bang that will expand a universe of opportunity for our credit unions,” he said. [email protected]

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