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LENEXA, Kan.. – Education and “constant communication” are the keys to high membership retention following a merger, according to Community America Credit Union. The $1.3 billion Kansas City-based CU said it retained 9,500 of the 9,800 members of the defunct Farmland Credit Union of Kansas City after it was formally merged into Community America on July 1. Though the merger itself was not high profile, the collapse of the CU’s parent, Farmland Industries, one of the nation’s largest farmer-owned coops, had been widely aired on local TV and in newspaper stories for weeks as the corporation laid off hundreds of employees. Cognizant of member fears and concerns about the status of assets in the $45 million Farmland CU, Community America went to extra lengths to reassure Farmland CU members of a smooth transition. “We’re particularly pleased that we could get our message across and offer products that appealed to members of Farmland,” declared Lisa Ginter, executive vice president of Community America. Community acquired Farmland after the Kansas City CU sought a merger partner following a May 31 bankruptcy filing by Farmland Industries, which got into financial trouble over its investment practices. Farmland, which had been on the Fortune 500 list and had more than $1.1 billion in unsecured debt at its bankruptcy filing, has been steadily unloading subsidiaries including the sale of fertilizer and beef processing plants and negotiating to spin off pork processing and oil refining operations. In letters and e-mails sent to Farmland CU members last May, Community America’s president, Michael A. Patrick, as well as Ginter thanked members for “their loyalty and support” of the CU over 72 years and “now we look forward to this next chapter of excellent financial service to you.” Farmland members were urged to stop by a nearby Community America branch “to get acquainted” as well as log on to Community’s web site. In a May 7 letter, Patrick congratulated the Farmland CU membership “for approval of the merger” and giving “solid support for this exciting new direction.” The letter was signed by Michael Coffey, the former president of Farmland CU who has retired. Coffey also wrote it selected Community America as a merger partner based on the institution’s “high standards of integrity and excellent member service.” As part of the transition program, Community America stationed staff members in Farmland CU’s main office to answer member questions. At the merger, Farmland had 13 employees of which all were hired by Community and initially stayed on the job. – [email protected]

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