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TORRANCE, Calif. – A recognized pioneer in the corporate credit union network, former WesCorp President/CEO Dick Johnson, may have more new ground to plow in the form of CUs branching into Canada. The $300 million Honda FCU, Torrance, Calif., retained Johnson to help in the CU’s efforts to open a branch in Alliston, a town in the province of Ontario, Canada about 60 miles Northwest of Toronto. The branch would serve employees of a Honda plant in Alliston. Honda FCU VP of Marketing Mary Anawalt said the branch has a few thousand Honda employees, and there is no financial institution presence in the town, so there is a need. As for Johnson, Anawalt said he will be meeting with the California Department of Financial Institutions as well as regulators, deposit insurance officials and members of Parliament in Ontario to try and bring change to Ontario’s rules on international branching. “He will be lobbying (Ontario) Parliament for change to take place in order for American credit unions to do business there,” said Anawalt, of Johnson’s role with the CU. Johnson will likely be teaming with one of his old board members on this initiative as Honda FCU President/CEO Jim Updike has already got the ball rolling in Canada. Updike is on the board of WesCorp, and served during the end of Johnson’s career there. Honda FCU is in the process of converting to a state charter because it sees an easier road to Canada as a state charter as opposed to a federal charter. International banking is an issue CUNA, NAFCU and NASCUS have been working on in recent years. NAFCU is especially concerned because NCUA’s current rules leave no chance for a federal charter to branch in another country, while there are four states -California, Washington, Florida and Michigan – that have language addressing the situation in their acts. Still, no credit union – federal or charter – has ever branched out into another country. Federal charters, however, may ultimately have the easier road in the near future. At its September board meeting NCUA issued its proposed rule on international branching that requires CUs to go through four steps: * The CU must receive approval from the host nation and recognition from them that NCUA has authority over the branch, * The credit union must provide NCUA with a business plan, * Federally-insured state charters must get approval from their state regulator, and * All federally-insured CUs must get NCUA approval. If no CU has ever branched out internationally, then what about all those branches Navy FCU and others operate overseas? The difference there is those are military-base branches, said Navy FCU spokesperson Loren Moeller, so the CUs are still technically operating on U.S. soil. Moeller said all overseas Navy branches operate very much as if they were in the continental U.S. For instance, they deal only in U.S. currency despite being located in other countries. NAFCU Director of Regulatory Affairs Gwen Baker said she’s pleased with the progress NCUA is making on this issue, and NAFCU believes no FCU will have to convert to a state charter to branch outside the country if the rule is passed. “We generally support what appears to be a solid proposal by NCUA that will address the difficulties some federal credit unions have in wanting to serve members overseas who otherwise do not have access to credit union facilities,” said Baker. At press time, Johnson could not be reached for comment. [email protected]

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