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WASHINGTON-How do credit unions fit in with the recently announced mergers of some very large banks? Very neatly, according to CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel. “The impact on credit unions for the most part is good,” he said. J.P.Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank One Corporation recently announced plans to merge as did Bank of America and Fleet. Hampel explained that many really large banks are not interested in serving consumers, but Bank One is consumer oriented. Typically mergers lead to uncertainty among employees, which can be detrimental to service. That is where credit unions step in. Most people pick an institution and stick with it, Hampel said. However, the deterioration in service between low employee morale and service interruptions from incompatible system conversions can often push customers to look elsewhere. He pointed out that credit unions have noticed upticks in membership growth following large bank mergers. Larger media venues picked up on this as well. An article that appeared in the personal finance section of the Wall Street Journal suggested credit unions as an alternative to the mega-banks and their mega-mergers. The article noted that credit unions often have better loan rates than banks, but do not have broad branch or ATM networks though some are working together to create surcharge-free networks. In addition, National Public Radio aired a segment on the Jan. 19 edition of the radio program Marketplace quoting Hampel and a member of Water & Power Community CU outside Los Angeles, as well as American Bankers Association Public Relations Director Charlotte Birch. She said that the large banks are aware of the possibility of losing customers following a merger and “go to great lengths” to reassure them. The segment also mentioned that credit unions are actively pursuing disenchanted bank customers and cited the California Credit Union League’s billboard ad campaign. The merger of J. P. Morgan Chase and Bank One, announced Jan. 14, spawned a great deal of media attention. The deal will result in the second largest banking franchise in the United States, according to core deposits. The companies’ combined assets total $1.1 trillion plus 2,300 branches in 17 states. The merged institution will carry on the J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. name with corporate headquarters in New York. However, the retail financial services businesses will be headquartered in Chicago, home of Bank One. [email protected]

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