MIAMISBURG, Ohio – The plan wasn't initially to form a business services CUSO, but the more seven Ohio credit unions talked about their business services strategies and the services they wanted to provide members, the more they realized they could best meet those goals by forming a business services CUSO for their members' small business needs. "It's taken on a life of its own," said John Bowen, president/CEO, River Valley CU, Miamisburg, Ohio. Bowen explained that when he first approached seven area credit unions, he simply wanted to discuss with them ways they could share the expenses of offering business services. River Valley CU has been involved in business lending for about two years and currently has about a $5 million business lending portfolio. The $108 million RVCU's business loans typically are for about $400,000 (the CU's board policy prohibit business loans over $500,000 unless the board approves an exception) and have run the gamut for purposes from commercial real estate to publishing a book. Bowen said some of the other CUs have been involved in business lending and the others that haven't were interested in doing so. The credit union hired a part-time business lending consultant who works at a local bank in the daytime and "moonlights" for the credit union afterwards. Bowen said RVCU was interested in hiring the consultant full-time, and sharing expenses with other interested CUs was one way to do that. "The more we investigated and looked in to what we wanted to do, we realized forming a business services CUSO was the best thing to do," said Bowen. One of the credit unions that participated in the initial discussion has since backed out of the group. Besides RVCU, the other five Ohio credit unions that will have equal share in the CUSO when it's formed are: Wright Patt CU, Fairborn; Chaco CU, Hamilton; Day-Air CU, Kettering; Aurgroup Financial CU, Cincinnati; and Mid-First CU, Franklin. In addition, the Ohio Credit Union League will be an equal partner in the CUSO. OCUL will not make any business loans but will be more involved in marketing the CUSO's business lending services to other credit unions in the state, as well as offering the CUSO legal assistance. At press time, the group of six credit unions and OCUL representatives planned to meet the week of Nov. 11 to discuss the status of their plans. By the end of the year, they want to get the process started doing a market analysis. Bowen said the group had talked "loosely" about how the CUSO's board would be organized, and the plan so far is that each participating party's CEO would have a spot on the CUSO's board. The six credit unions and OCUL plan to open the doors to the CUSO in June 2003. -

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