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ARVADA, Colo. – With 10-month old twin boys and a second corporate merger just closing, good things have been coming in two’s for Eric Kenealy. Kenealy took over the top spot at the $2 billion SunCorp Corporate CU in mid-2000. Fast-forward two and a half years later and it looks like a much different corporate, with more change coming. The most apparent change is the corporate’s size. The corporate was about $800 million when Kenealy came on board. SunCorp almost doubled in size through a 2001 merger with the $650 million, Salt Lake City-based Rocky Mountain Corporate. Just a few weeks ago SunCorp closed its second merger under Kenealy’s leadership with the $115 million Nebraska Corporate Central FCU. Kenealy believes that SunCorp is now a true regional corporate for the Rocky Mountain/Great Plains region. Regional corporates is where Kenealy sees the network going from here on out. “I think regional corporates have advantages. They have economies of scale and diversification of membership, and you can spread the costs of development of new products and services over a much wider membership base,” said Kenealy. While some view consolidation in the network as a signal that corporates are becoming more competitive and less cooperative, Kenealy has a different take. “I think mergers are corporates partnering. I think the economies of scale of a corporate really kick in at about $2 billion, and partnering with other corporates and the network is a much more effective model to serve the members than the competition model. It helps us build our human capital, and it results in better products and services for the credit unions.” Corporates are obviously competing though, with many corporates seeing other corporates market to their field of membership. Does that bother Kenealy? While not a fan of too much competition among corporates, he says it keeps everyone sharp. “From the perspective that it raises the bar and makes you work harder to make sure your products are as good or better than other corporates, it’s good. It keeps us on our toes,” he said. Kenealy said if more regional corporates do evolve, the biggest challenge, as he’s found out with SunCorp’s regional status, is “managing the member relationship for a much bigger area takes more resources.” Regional corporates need to have hubs that can serve their entire FOM, said Kenealy. SunCorp has members in five primary states – Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, and Idaho. To serve them the corporate has positioned regional offices in three key areas: Salt Lake City; Arvada, Colo.; and now Omaha with the Nebraska merger closing. But SunCorp’s size is just one aspect of the change that has come under Kenealy. Having a zero stake in check processing, when he arrived, SunCorp is now one of the largest item processors for CUs, processing about 21 million items per month. (It all started with adding Rock Mountain Corporate’s share draft operations). “People say check processing is a dying business. We see a lot of opportunity there. You have the Check Truncation Act coming down the road and the opportunity to convert checks to electronic images. We’re in a position to help credit unions process those images and get that money collected to where it’s earning interest as early as possible,” said Kenealy. SunCorp is also big on electronic bill payment, recently signing its 50th CU client. “We’ve got the payment processing infrastructure, the staff, the expertise and we have both the electronic and payment processing wherewithal to really make the product work.” Over on the bleeding edge, SunCorp is also looking into a person-to-person (P2P) payment product. “We want to give our credit unions the technology to compete. There’s a real unique opportunity to empower members to pay anyone in using ACH, check or credit card type systems to send and receive payments over the Internet.” There’s more change coming in the form of a new home for SunCorp. The corporate will be moving its headquarters six miles from its current Arvada location to Westminster. The corporate will get double the space it had with the 30,000 square-foot new headquarters, and according to Kenealy, SunCorp is getting quite a deal. “We were able to get an incredible value for our new facility due to the current environment in Denver. The building has been vacant for 18 months,” said Kenealy. The environment Kenealy refers to is a number of tech companies going out of business or scaling back operations. He said two years ago the base rent for the building was $22.50 a square foot; SunCorp is now getting it for $6. Kenealy said the extra space will allow the corporate to continue to grow. When asked what the true role of a corporate is, Kenealy said first and foremost it’s as a liquidity provider, but also as an aggregator. “If members want or need a product that is in line with our core competencies, as an aggregator we have to aggregate volume to do things at a lower cost then they can do it for themselves,” he said. On the competition front outside of the network, Kenealy said nobody can compete with corporates in overnight investments. That fact is clearly supported in CU balance sheets where corporates hold almost all the overnight money. On the term investment side, Kenealy said corporates are being hit hard by federal agencies, but they should be winning there too. “Credit unions that really do their homework will find that corporate rates are better than federal agencies by 10 to 20 basis points, which is significant, but federal agencies continue to be our most competition. They are offered through brokers who have good relationships with their customers. We all have to do a better job selling our term products to our members,” he said. Speaking of investments, SunCorp has just started offering marketable securities. It now has registered investment reps on staff to assist CUs in buying securities. “Just in the past six weeks we’ve signed up about eight credit unions. It’s one-stop shopping. Members can call our investment sales area to find out about all our products of course, but also agencies and callables,” said Kenealy. Kenealy is a credit union industry “lifer” as they say. He started with Mid-States Corporate as a member service representative intern while he was at Elmhurst College in Illinois pursuing a degree in public accounting. (Kenealy also holds a master’s degree in finance from DePaul University, Chicago.). He worked at Mid-States from 1982 to 1988 and again from 1991 to 2000, both times under then president Don Finn, who he considers a mentor. Kenealy was the No. 2 at Mid-States when he left, serving as Chief Operating Officer. Kenealy had a brief stint away from the corporate when he worked as director of transactional services for the service corporation of the Illinois CU League. He was at Mid-States during the planning stage of the Mid-States/INDICORP merger (the largest in CU history), but left while the merger was still in process. “We had a really good team at Mid-States, but the opportunity came up out here and I had the chance to run my own shop, so I took it. SunCorp was a solid corporate. It was hard to pass up.” Kenealy was born and raised in Chicago and spent his whole life in Illinois prior to the SunCorp move. He now lives in Golden, Colorado in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Kenealy says he likes to do anything outside that ends in “ing”, including skiing, fishing, camping and golfing. “Golfing in the Rocky Mountains is a lot of fun because the ball really goes a lot farther. People don’t realize that Denver is really a nice climate. We get as much sunshine here as anywhere. We play golf year round. When it snows, it snows a lot in the mountains, which is great for skiing. It goes away in a day or two. I’ve never shoveled snow here.” Kenealy said Rocky Mountain living does make you more aware of your surroundings. “The Midwest is just plain flat. You move here and you’re more aware of the altitude, and you don’t leave the kids outside unattended. We’ve got foxes, coyotes, bears, elk, deer. We were up in the mountains camping last year driving a long a road when a whole herd of antelope just surrounded the car all around us,” he said. Kenealy said he doesn’t see himself leaving the area any time soon. “We really like it here. My wife and I have the twin boys now. We have really built a nice life for ourselves here,” he said. “And I really enjoy coming to work everyday.” [email protected]

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