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MADISON, Wis. – In a shakeup of its academic ties, the Filene Research Institute has split from the University of Wisconsin School of Business on the college’s long-time contract to manage credit union-related research projects with Filene deciding instead to hire its own research director. The ending of its “formal management partnership” on June 30 effectively closes down the Filene-funded Center for Credit Union Research, which has been operating for 15 years on the UW campus as an academic research unit focusing on consumer finance and CU concerns. While the chairman of Filene, Tom Dorety of Suncoast FCU in Tampa expressed disappointment with the the end of the relationship, the severing of ties is a positive step in allowing Filene to broaden its creative reach to universities including Ivy League schools. It also, he said, enhances Filene’s push toward more applied research projects dealing with CU topics ranging from home equity to serving low income. “This is really a great opportunity by letting us reach out to more universities,” maintained Dorety, the president/CEO of Suncoast. Bob Hoel, Filene executive director, stressed that Filene’s research mission “will not change” in sponsoring CU/consumer finance research projects at universities and other organizations across the nation “including the University of Wisconsin.” However, key changes in operations include creation of an advisory panel of five to seven top researchers from universities nationwide. Currently the advisory panel includes only University of Wisconsin researchers. “Our new research director will be a direct Filene employee instead of a UW employee,” explained Hoel in announcing the July 5 hiring of George Hofheimer, vice president and chief learning officer at CUES. Fred Johnson, president and CEO of CUES which has a long-standing partnership with Filene, said “it pains me to lose George” who has been responsible for CUES building strong ties with leading business schools including the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the Darden School at the University of Virginia and Cornell. The dean of the School of Business, Michael Knetter, said the decision to end its Filene contract is based on “our need to find space for our own faculty” during a period of major school construction. In addition, though the university maintains good relations with the CU community, “we wanted to stop being a landlord” for Filene, he said. “There’s no reason Filene couldn’t find alternate space for the Center at CUNA headquarters,” said Knetter. The current director of U-W’s Center for Credit Union Research is William Kelly, who said he will be looking for a job in academia or related fields. Kelly, said Knetter, was in essence a Filene employee “with funds for his operation paid directly to the university by them.” Ending the relationship “is their choice, not ours,” he said. Knetter went on to say that “it was simply hard to justify giving our space to an outside group like Filene when we needed it for our own faculty.” In its statement, Filene’s Hoel said Kelly who has been with the Center since 1996 “may assist on individual Filene projects” in the future. Hoel also said ending of the UW contract means the Madison `think tank’ would now have “a more direct working relationship with researchers and their projects than was the case previously.” The Center, said Filene, has long played a major role in managing Filene projects at other universities and research organizations. There are more than 1,500 CUs and related trade organizations plus CU executives who are members of the institute. “Researchers at more than 60 universities across North America have contributed to Filene publications,” said the statement. “Now those projects at other institutions will be managed directly by Filene.” Hoel said Filene’s Administrative Board approved a general plan to cut ties at its February meeting and finalized those details May 20. “The UW School of Business and Filene mutually developed a transition plan that will keep projects currently underway moving forward smoothly,” said Hoel. Dorety, the Filene chairman, stressed that Filene’s purpose will remain constant: to provide independent research on vital issues affecting the future of CUs and consumer finance. “We want to thank all individuals at the University of Wisconsin who have contributed to the Filene Research Institute’s success, and we look forward to working with those at UW who will contribute in the future,” he said. Hofheimer, the new research director, has been with CUES since 1998 and is a frequent author of articles and reports on CUs. He has designed numerous professional development programs for CU executives and directors and managed partnerships with consulting firms developing education curricula. Apart from working closely with faculty at Harvard, U. of Virginia and Wharton, he also has contacts at Oxford University and the London School of Business. He recently initiated and obtained Ford Foundation funding of $100,000 to support research on CU efforts to serve low-income communities. Filene said Hofheimer also developed credit union curricula in cooperation with The Brookings Institution in Washington. Prior to joining CUES, he was a country manager for Price Waterhouse Eastern Europe BV. Filene said it will be working with CUES “to ensure a smooth transition. CUES is a Benefactor Member of Filene “and has been a strong Filene supporter. In turn, Filene supplies CUES and all our members with helpful research findings.” The Filene Institute releases 10-12 research reports a year and there are currently 21 projects underway. -

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