TOPEKA, Kan. – Borrowing a chapter from corporate America and the banking industry, two Topeka credit unions are trying to prove that a CU can maintain its original “identity” following a merger. “The idea of setting up a new division or affiliate relationship is really not a new concept, but we believe it is a means for small credit unions to preserve their identity and still gain access to more services through a larger organization,” explained Gary Colcher, co-president of the newly formed Credit Unions United. As the new name implies, the new $150 million consortium-with Rubber Workers Local 307 Federal Credit Union and Educational Credit Union as the core-expects to add more small Kansas CUs to the corporation and start formal operations as Credit Unions United by Dec. 31. Each of the CUs plus a third one, the $3.5 million Bell Telephone Employees Credit Union of Pittsburg, will become divisions of Credit Unions United. Colcher, manager of the $80 million Rubber Workers CU, said he will serve as co-president along with Ann Malecki, president of the $66 million Educational CU. Colcher said he has had contacts from several other Kansas CUs interested in possibly joining Credit Unions United and a similar setup is being explored by Wichita and Kansas City area CUs. The merger of Rubber Workers and Educational plus the creation of Credit Unions United has already received preliminary approval from the Kansas Department of Credit Unions with member ratification slated later this month in CU meetings. In many CU consolidations, the name of the institution being merged is eliminated, but Colcher said the boards of Rubber Workers and Educational and of Bell felt that members might be upset or confused by the loss of long-standing logos and nomenclature. Thus, there will be the Rubber Workers Division, Educational Division etc. From a marketing standpoint, both the local name as well as Credit Unions United will be featured in CU advertising, “but depending on how members react we may decide to go with Credit Unions United,” said Colcher. Once the merger is complete, Credit Unions United will have seven offices in metropolitan Topeka, plus the Pittsburg branch. The new organization, said Colcher, will permit small CUs like Bell to offer a broader range of services that they otherwise could not have provided. He cited share draft servicing, ATM access, debit cards online bill payments, as some examples. -

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