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TOPEKA, Kan. – “Culture differences” have prompted two Topeka credit unions, the $86 million Credit Unions United and the $67 million Educational Credit Union, to call off a merger that’s been in the planning stages for nearly nine months. “There were differences on our lending and fee policies that we simply could not resolve,” explained Gary Colcher, president of Credit Unions United. When the planned merger was formally announced last August, executives cited their many commonalities including similar data processing systems, their cooperation on joint ventures and the same member size – 12,000. However, disparities showed up during the year as Credit Unions United, tied closely to a blue collar base of factory workers, differed from Educational CU whose membership is made up of teachers and school personnel. As the name implies, Credit Unions United still hopes to interest other Kansas CUs to join a cooperative in which CUs would operate in a “divisional” structure. Though a merger was unworkable, said Colcher, “we still will be working with Educational Credit Union on other projects” including a new shared branch the two CUs are building in Topeka and expected to open in April. “This is an area underserved by either of us,” he said. CUU, with four branches, had changed its name with the state from Rubber Workers Local 307 Federal Credit Union though it still retained the Rubber Workers nomenclature. Many of its members work for Goodyear Tire Co., which has a Topeka plant. One problem, industry sources said, were differences in how each CU handled “liquidity” and the income stream. Though fees are slated to increase, CUU had a $5 fee for returned checks while Educational had a $15 charge. There were other differences on loan policies and basic operations which prompted the two sides to drop the merger plan early last month. “It was a really tough decision for all of us since we had worked on it so long and it had received so much publicity,” said one executive close to the negotiations. Even more curious, observed the executive, was that after the deal had been called off “we did not hear a word about it from the membership” suggesting a general indifference to the proposal though had it gone through there might have been negative reaction by either side. Jack Hohman, finance examiner administrator for the Kansas Department of Credit Unions, said the merger plan had received preliminary approval from the department last year, but “their differences in a joint decision” spelled the end of the consolidation. Colcher said last August that he hoped the merger would “preserve the identity” of the two CUs while also gaining access to more services through a larger organization which might have Wichita or Kansas City “affiliates.” CUU had previously merged the $3.5 million Bell Telephone Employees Credit Union of Pittsburg (cq), some 180 miles southeast of Topeka. “Yes, I will be exploring additional opportunities for Credit Unions United with other credit unions,” noted Colcher. -

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