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<p>By MYRIAM BOURJOLLY CU Times Staff Reporter ONTARIO, Calif. – This year finds the No. 1 credit union EFT network, CO-OP Network, announcing that its sixth merger will be with Southfield, Michigan-based Service Centers Corporation. Both boards recently approved a “Letter of Intent” and the merger should be completed by the end of March pending a due diligence process. “This is one of the biggest mergers that I can recall,” said CO-OP President/CEO Robert Rose. “The sheer size of this merger is quite relevant because credit unions would then have access to a network of more ATM locations than any large bank – even Bank of America.” According to Rose, once the merger is complete over 1,150 credit unions will be served with well over 12,000 ATM locations to choose from. The combined entity will be known as CU Cooperatives Systems, Inc., with two operating units- one each for EFT and shared branching. SCC’s shared branching network, and the ATMs owned and deployed as part of it, will continue to operate as a separate line of business within the proposed new organizational structure. SCC President/CEO Daniel Balagna will continue to run the shared branching operation and is excited about the merger. “A business combination between SCC and CO-OP Network creates a significantly stronger position for credit unions within the EFT industry, from both a value and service perspective,” said Balagna. “This is a very important service delivery option which we plan to offer and grow within the combined organization. Our integrated technology for shared branching and EFT is one of the major strengths we are bringing to the table.” SCC currently serves almost 350 credit unions in 12 states. As part of the merger, SC24 ATMs will be re-branded with the CO-OP Network logo. Earlier this month SCC also made the official announcement that it was joining forces with the nation’s two other credit union shared branching networks, Financial Service Centers Cooperative, Inc. and Credit Union Service Corporation to form a nationwide shared branching network under the umbrella of the Credit Union Service Centers Network, Inc., which acts as a single national switch for shared branch transactions among the networks. “This is bigger than any one network,” said FSCC CEO Sarah Canepa Bang. “There are plenty of credit unions whose members will benefit from this. By working together we are strengthening all three networks and ultimately the credit union movement.” Although FSCC and CUSC partnered nearly eight years ago, all three networks are equal partners in the network that now offers over 16 million members of 900 credit unions branch access at over 700 locations in the U.S., Guam, Japan and South Korea. “When we first started, the notion of sharing branches was difficult for some to accept,” said CUSC CEO Mike Culbertson. “But we’ve made it work.” While the idea of working together with existing credit unions and eliminating the need for additional brick and mortar buildings is not new, there has been a renewed interest since a recent unprecedented growth. All three networks have reported record increases in the number of shared branching transactions being performed by members, which is estimated to be over 4 million per month. According to Balagna, the vision over the years has been consistent in that credit unions need a full service delivery system and the convenience of physical locations are another benefit members need and want. “For members to have access on a national basis gives credit unions another edge over the competition.” The shared branching network vision is for any member to walk into any credit union or service center branch in the nation and transact business as if they were at their own credit union. Sounds familiar and it’s no wonder that CO-OP is a shareholder in CUSCNI. Rose certainly has made no secret of his vision of establishing CO-OP as a nationwide credit union EFT. “SCC and CO-OP Network have very similar organization structures and share the same philosophies,” said Rose. “This business combination would be considerably different in that we are looking to use the management and operational resources of both organizations to deliver exceptional shared branching and EFT services from what will emerge as two major corporate office presences, covering the entire country from East to West.” While CO-OP Network does not provide shared branching services, it operates in 49 states, serves more than 800 credit unions with a EFT support products and services, and has a monthly switch volume of more than 45 million transactions. [email protected]</p>

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