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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Shared branching may at last be grabbing a toehold in New Mexico with plans under study to set up the state’s first facilities “in three to four months.” That was the word of the New Mexico Credit Union League which is considering signing up with a service subsidiary of its Colorado counterpart to set up “pilot” shared branches in the Albuquerque or Santa Fe markets. New Mexico is among some 21 states without shared CU branches. Under the guidance of CU Service Network of Colorado, the service unit of the Colorado Credit Union System, five CEOs representing Albuquerque and Santa Fe credit unions flew to Denver three weeks ago for what was called a “road show” touring shared branches in the Denver area. “This is really a new concept for us, but we think it’s one that will let us expand without building a lot of brick and mortar,” said Harold Dixon, president and CEO of the $70 million State Employees Credit Union of Santa Fe. Dixon joined in the Denver trip. State Employees, with five offices and 18,000 members many of whom work in state government, could profit, said Dixon, from a shared branch in Albuquerque where State Employees could reach more of its members who reside in the state’s largest city. Other CUs who made the Denver trek include Rio Grande Credit Union, New Mexico Central Credit Union and Southwest Federal Credit Union (all of Albuquerque), and Guadalupe Credit Union of Santa Fe. Jared Cahill, vice president of services for the New Mexico League, said CU executives in the group interested in shared branching favor linking up directly with the Colorado service corporation rather than signing on with one of the national CU shared firms because “of reporting and implementation rules.” Though the Colorado League is hooked up with national CU provider Credit Union Service Corp. in Atlanta, the “structure” of the package being offered in New Mexico is more expedient, said Cahill. It is better to rely on the Colorado experience rather than doing a “stumble when we start out,” he said. What is heartening in shared branch arrangements among credit unions, he said, is the ability of CUs nationwide to share their data and track record. “You’re not going to find a Wells Fargo sharing with Bank of America, and that is something we do among credit unions,” said Cahill. The need for shared branching has become more pressing in recent months, he said, as national opinion surveys show CUs rank higher than banks on having lower fees and low loan rates, but “we lose out to the banks when it comes to multiple locations and convenience,” Cahill said. “They are way ahead of us,” he said, referring to banks. Douglas Burke, senior vice president of network services for the Colorado League, said shared branches have existed in Colorado since 1993 with 41 now in operation. The League estimates it will record 1.9 million transactions by year–end, up 15% from a year ago. The Colorado League, said Burke, has also been talking to CEOs of Nebraska CUs also interested in starting shared branching. Colorado League officials flew to Omaha several weeks ago to meet with Nebraska League representatives there, but at press time no plans had been firmed up to start a Colorado linkup. – [email protected]

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