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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Like the general population in the Sunshine State, Florida’s state-chartered credit unions are in the midst of a growth cycle. The numbers speak for themselves: * in March 2002, Florida-chartered CUs served 1,947,689 members. A year prior there were 1,404,527 members of Florida SCCUs. * total assets of Florida SCCUs as of March 2002 were $12,872.0 billion, compared to $7,730.0 billion for same time the previous year; * their total capital as of March 2002 was $1,417.9 billion; that compares to $911.5 million as of March 2001. Select employee group expansions are nothing new to Florida state-chartered credit unions. The state Division of Banking has seen an uptick in their select employee group expansion since the early 1980s when the state’s credit union law was amended to make it easier for credit unions to add SEGs by requiring them to simply amend their field-of-membership bylaw amendment. Previously SCCUs were restricted to serving groups with a common bond and they had to prove that the FOM expansion did not put the members or the CU’s safety and soundness at risk. What’s changed, says Sharon Whiddon, financial administrator for the Division of Banking, is not only the number of large Florida-based federal credit unions that have converted to state-charters in recent years – such as the former Jax Navy FCU now $2.2 billion-VyStar CU, and the former Tropical FCU, now $510 million-Tropical Financial CU – but the growing number of SCCUs applying to the Division for geographic expansions, rather than just adding SEGs or association groups (a Florida CU’s field-of-membership is described as being either employee-based, association, or serving a geographic area, or any combination of the three. A FOM expansion requires a bylaw amendment, not a charter change.). Among the most recent applications the Division of Banking has received is from Government Employees CU of Florida. The $135 million CU filed its application July 3 to serve the 2.2 million residents of Miami-Dade County. Government Employee’s FOM already includes the nearly four million residents of Orange County, Hillsborough County, Duval County, and Leon County. The credit union currently has more than 30,000 members. In addition to GECU’s application, there are currently four other FOM expansion applications pending with the Division of Banking – two to add SEGs, and the other two for geographic expansions. Whiddon said applications for geographic FOM expansion have come mostly from credit unions in Northeast Central/Tallahassee, Central/Orlando, and Southeast/Miami/West Palm Beach corridor. This doesn’t surprise Whiddon since these 0are the areas where some of the state’s largest CUs are housed, “and they can afford to provide the additional products and services to their expanded field-of-membership,” she said. The growth of credit unions in the Sunshine State has not only impacted the number of residents who are eligible to become CU members, it’s also increased SCCUs’ expectations of the Florida Credit Union League and kicked up their own involvement with state legislative affairs. League spokesman Mark Ivester said state-chartered credit unions are showing a “keener interest” in what’s going on in the state legislature in Tallahassee, especially as it impacts state-chartered credit unions. As for the FCUL’s involvement in lobbying and legislative affairs, Ivester said, “We’re just as involved now with 111 state chartered credit unions as we would be if there were less. The issues are just as important.” One change that Ivester has noticed is the increase in field-of-membership overlap. “Ten or 12 years ago, every credit union had a niche. Now in Leon County alone around the state capital in Tallahassee, there are five or six credit unions.” Ivester is not concerned that FOM overlap might cause too much competition between credit unions. “Credit unions have to offer services their members want. Their ability to do so will determine where their members choose to transact their financial business.” -

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