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CHATSWORTH, Calif. – No one could have predicted how much of a need existed for business services at credit unions nearly a decade ago, but one member business lending CUSO has more than proved that there was a void. On Sept. 30, Business Partners, LLC surpassed the $1 billion mark in member business loans serviced, nine years after the CUSO launched in 1995. Originally formed as Telesis Partnerships, LLC, the CUSO has accomplished this milestone while managing zero losses for the credit unions it represents, said Jean Faenza, president/CEO of Business Partners. “We’ve seen it. Credit unions can have partnerships and collaborate well,” Faenza said. The CUSO is owned by 14 credit unions: Telesis Community CU, Chatsworth, Calif.; Community One FCU, Las Vegas; Public Service CU, Denver; USA FCU, Auburn Hills, Mich.; Sierra Point CU, San Francisco; Travis CU, Vacaville, Calif.; Advanced Financial Services FCU, New Providence, N.J.; Seattle Metropolitan CU, Seattle; Community CU, Plano, Texas; Hawaii Community FCU, Kealakekua, Hawaii; Langley FCU, Hampton, Va.; Patelco CU, San Francisco; T&C FCU, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; and Western Corporate FCU, San Dimas, Calif. Business Partners’ managing member is the $434 million Telesis Community CU with the CU’s President/CEO Grace Mayo serving as chairperson of the CUSO. It works with 123 credit unions in 31 states ranging in assets from $8 million to $4 billion and provides a number of services including loan participation, underwriting, servicing and quality control as well as business real estate, SBA and other government-guaranteed loans. In its heady, early days, it was more of a challenge to grow the business while “still serving and maintaining ethical standards,” Faenza said. “It really wasn’t a hard sell to credit unions,” she recalled. The pitch seemed effortless: encourage credit unions to pool their collective resources to serve their member needs and have access to a turnkey member business lending operation founded by credit unions and owned by credit unions. “Consumers want an alternative and they have a right to that alternative,” Faenza said on credit unions entry into offering business services and loans. Telesis Community CU sold its equity ownership interest in the former Telesis Partnerships in July 2003 opening up the door for its first nine credit union owners to get a share of the CUSO. In February 2004, Business Partners partnered with CUNA &Affiliates, Inc. through a marketing agreement for the CUSO’s services. It also co-hosted a spring conference with the California Credit Union League on participation lending, small business lending, credit scoring, legal issues and best practices in business mortgage lending. While it currently provides servicing to 12 credit unions that are in “various stages of SBA lending,” more emphasis will be seen on beefing up this newest offering for the industry. Indeed, the CUSO helped Telesis Community CU achieve the SBA’s Preferred Lender Program status, the first credit union in California to earn the designation. Telesis has been an SBA lender since 2001. Business Partners’ biggest mission is to up the ante on SBA loans. “With any new business, it takes time to get it rolling,” Faenza said on the movement’s embracing of SBA lending. “If you look at the banking environment 15 years ago, banks were where credit unions are today. It takes time to get the word out.” Meanwhile, the CUSO is basking in the glow of its latest accomplishment. “It took the collaboration of many credit unions to reach this milestone,” Faenza said. “Our philosophy is simple – to protect the assets of our partner credit unions while providing services to their membership that might not otherwise be offered.” [email protected]

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