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<p>So we’re merging Sunland FCU into American First Credit Union. Not particularly newsworthy, you say. “Bittersweet” is what one of our friends at CCUL called it. But we, the board, staff and I, and yes even the membership are actually ecstatic! Bob Street, CEO at American First, and I think of it as one of the best successes in mergerdom, and an attestation to the cooperative spirit of the credit union movement where so many of our credit union friends, including state and federal regulators, did everything in their power to make this a smooth transition. Unusual? We think so. You see, Sunland was a CAMEL #4 just three years ago. Under the continuous diligence of our regional examiners, CUMIS, our CPA firm, and “friends” like Dave Chatfield, Bob Street, Mike Maslak, Joy Waldrup, Mark Holbrook, Grace Mayo, Darren Williams, and Rudy Hanley, not to mention the great assistance from our vendors, all of whom gave unconditionally of their time and resources to “turnaround” our credit union, Sunland became a #2 credit union in just 18 months. As a credit union with 10% capital, we were perched for success. But the examiners threw us a curve, giving us one last DOR item to “expand our charter.” We threw the curve right back. We would merge our healthy credit union. The board and supervisory committee would disband. The President/CEO would relinquish her position. The staff was eager for career growth, and, the core sponsor supported us 100%. Irrational? Not hardly. We could go toe-to-toe with the big guys who were all converting to community charters, shrink, or merge. So, we chose to merge. The real success came in our response from the regulators, who actually became our champions.Under the tutelage of Joe Melchione’s firm, our “dual representation” legal counsel helped us produce a perfect package. Beth Dooley, Assistant Deputy Commissioner at DFI approved it in a record two weeks, and NCUA Region VI, not to be outdone, said OK in just 4 days! We ask our peers not to be saddened at merger stories, our merger is a gift to the industry and a precious gift to a membership that will only thrive with expanded service! Jill Bechard President/CEO Sunland FCU Orange, Calif.</p>

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