COLUMBIA, Md. – Starting Jan. 1, 2006, Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Unions will be represented by their new trade association, the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association. In the first-of-its-kind merger in the country, affiliated credit unions of the Maryland and D.C. Credit Union Leagues voted to approve the merger of the two groups. Of the 61 D.C. credit unions that were eligible to vote, 48 voted yes on the merger in a mail ballot. Five voted against the merger, and eight CUs didn’t vote. In Maryland, a special membership meeting was held July 28 and 68 of the 78 affiliated credit unions approved the merger, with one voting against the merger and nine CUs not voting. The Maryland League also conducted a special mail vote among affiliated credit unions to approve bylaw changes to reflect the structure of the new association. That passed 59 to 1. The Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association will represent 188 credit unions with an estimated 2.5 million members and $20.2 billion in assets. The combined assets of the two Leagues are $4 million. Making sure affiliated credit unions voted was a top priority for the leadership of both leagues. Maryland Credit Union League President/CEO Mike Beall – who will also be president of the new association – said the League made it clear to credit unions that “not voting was as good as a no-vote.” Referring to the special membership meeting held July 28, Beall said, “Getting credit unions to do one thing and agree in a two-hour time frame was a massive effort. So getting 68 out of 78 to respond was a phenomenal turnout.” Mann said the D.C. League was particularly concerned that the large number of small credit unions – about 20 D.C. CUs have less than $10 million in assets – would not have enough time in their day to vote. “Some of these credit unions are open only one day a week or their manager is a volunteer, so it required a tremendous effort,” she said. “They have so much on their plate and so little time. Our main goal was to get the information into their hands to let them know how they’d benefit from the new association.” After the ballots were mailed to D.C. CUs in bright yellow envelopes “so they couldn’t miss them,” the D.C. League Board did initial calls and then follow-up calls and e-mails to make sure the CUs voted. “The most important thing was for them to be informed and vote. We tried to inform them of the fact and didn’t try to sway them. We were excited about what we had accomplished and created a wonderful package that we wanted to get to everyone. Once they had the time to listen to us, they understood the benefit of the merger,” Mann explained. Beall added that, “When we started talking (in April) about the merger, we felt we had a lot of good ideas and great ways to bring the two associations together, and we spent a lot of time working on a plan. It was exceptionally important for us to get the message out to our credit unions. The merger was built on the foundation that credit unions would decide if the work we’d done was adequate and in their best interest. Having a super majority of votes necessary to make the merger happen shows that so many credit unions, both large and small, have a good idea what we’re doing and agree with it, and then they exercised their right to vote to move that forward.” Maryland Credit Union League Chairman Rick Stoll, president/CEO, Abaco Maryland FCU had this to say about the merger process: “During the whole process, both boards put the plans on the table. There were no egos or personal agendas. We were all concerned with what was best for all credit unions, that this is what we can do with a regional association. “We had open communication between both boards that worked together on the various joint committees. There was no issue that came up that couldn’t be resolved for the good of the credit unions.” The headquarters for the new Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association will be the current headquarters of the Maryland League in Columbia. Beall said the association is also looking to open a facility in D.C. The D.C. League will maintain its office in Alexandria, Va. through the end of 2005. The leadership of the two leagues is in the process of putting together a revised organization plan that includes space for five new positions. Beall noted that the League would “be putting out” ads to fill those slots. The 13-member board of the new association will include all of the 10 representatives from the Maryland Credit Union League Board. The remaining three slots will go to D.C. credit union representatives, and the D.C. League plans to start the process this week or next for holding an election for those spots on the combined board. While current D.C. League Chairman Mann can be elected to the new board, she stressed that “it’s all up to the D.C. credit unions, they’ll elected the new board members.” Of course the merger between the two Maryland and D.C. Leagues ends a seven-year management agreement the D.C. League has had with the Virginia Credit Union League. That agreement has included the D.C. League paying the Virginia League a monthly management fee and VCUL making available to all D.C. credit unions the same services available to Virginia CUs. Although the new association won’t officially begin operating until Jan. 2006, Mann said she already received a letter from the Virginia League dated July 1 that states their relationship will end Dec. 31. She explained that the management agreement required a six-month notice of termination. In the coming months, Mann will be busy transitioning the Virginia management agreement to the new association including officially transferring assets, the D.C. League’s service organization and dealing with staffing issues. “A lot of administrative transitioning has to be done,” she said. Although the leadership of both leagues were aware that the merger plan could have fallen apart at any time, considering similar situations that happened for example between the North and South Dakota Leagues, and the Washington and Oregon Leagues, they were confident they were doing what was best for their credit unions. “In this business, Maryland and D.C. credit unions have been light years ahead in cooperating with each other,” said Beall referring to the relationships and geographic commonalities several CUs in both leagues already have with each other. “So we’re really playing catch up to that.” -

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