COLUMBIA, Md. - Starting Jan. 1, 2006, Maryland and District ofColumbia Credit Unions will be represented by their new tradeassociation, the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit UnionAssociation. In the first-of-its-kind merger in the country,affiliated credit unions of the Maryland and D.C. Credit UnionLeagues voted to approve the merger of the two groups. Of the 61D.C. credit unions that were eligible to vote, 48 voted yes on themerger in a mail ballot. Five voted against the merger, and eightCUs didn't vote. In Maryland, a special membership meeting was heldJuly 28 and 68 of the 78 affiliated credit unions approved themerger, with one voting against the merger and nine CUs not voting.The Maryland League also conducted a special mail vote amongaffiliated credit unions to approve bylaw changes to reflect thestructure of the new association. That passed 59 to 1. The Marylandand District of Columbia Credit Union Association will represent188 credit unions with an estimated 2.5 million members and $20.2billion in assets. The combined assets of the two Leagues are $4million. Making sure affiliated credit unions voted was a toppriority for the leadership of both leagues. Maryland Credit UnionLeague President/CEO Mike Beall - who will also be president of thenew association - said the League made it clear to credit unionsthat "not voting was as good as a no-vote." Referring to thespecial membership meeting held July 28, Beall said, "Gettingcredit unions to do one thing and agree in a two-hour time framewas a massive effort. So getting 68 out of 78 to respond was aphenomenal turnout." Mann said the D.C. League was particularlyconcerned that the large number of small credit unions - about 20D.C. CUs have less than $10 million in assets - would not haveenough time in their day to vote. "Some of these credit unions areopen only one day a week or their manager is a volunteer, so itrequired a tremendous effort," she said. "They have so much ontheir plate and so little time. Our main goal was to get theinformation into their hands to let them know how they'd benefitfrom the new association." After the ballots were mailed to D.C.CUs in bright yellow envelopes "so they couldn't miss them," theD.C. League Board did initial calls and then follow-up calls ande-mails to make sure the CUs voted. "The most important thing wasfor them to be informed and vote. We tried to inform them of thefact and didn't try to sway them. We were excited about what we hadaccomplished and created a wonderful package that we wanted to getto everyone. Once they had the time to listen to us, theyunderstood the benefit of the merger," Mann explained. Beall addedthat, "When we started talking (in April) about the merger, we feltwe had a lot of good ideas and great ways to bring the twoassociations together, and we spent a lot of time working on aplan. It was exceptionally important for us to get the message outto our credit unions. The merger was built on the foundation thatcredit unions would decide if the work we'd done was adequate andin their best interest. Having a super majority of votes necessaryto make the merger happen shows that so many credit unions, bothlarge and small, have a good idea what we're doing and agree withit, and then they exercised their right to vote to move thatforward." Maryland Credit Union League Chairman Rick Stoll,president/CEO, Abaco Maryland FCU had this to say about the mergerprocess: "During the whole process, both boards put the plans onthe table. There were no egos or personal agendas. We were allconcerned with what was best for all credit unions, that this iswhat we can do with a regional association. "We had opencommunication between both boards that worked together on thevarious joint committees. There was no issue that came up thatcouldn't be resolved for the good of the credit unions." Theheadquarters for the new Maryland and District of Columbia CreditUnion Association will be the current headquarters of the MarylandLeague in Columbia. Beall said the association is also looking toopen a facility in D.C. The D.C. League will maintain its office inAlexandria, Va. through the end of 2005. The leadership of the twoleagues is in the process of putting together a revisedorganization plan that includes space for five new positions. Beallnoted that the League would "be putting out" ads to fill thoseslots. The 13-member board of the new association will include allof the 10 representatives from the Maryland Credit Union LeagueBoard. The remaining three slots will go to D.C. credit unionrepresentatives, and the D.C. League plans to start the processthis week or next for holding an election for those spots on thecombined board. While current D.C. League Chairman Mann can beelected to the new board, she stressed that "it's all up to theD.C. credit unions, they'll elected the new board members." Ofcourse the merger between the two Maryland and D.C. Leagues ends aseven-year management agreement the D.C. League has had with theVirginia Credit Union League. That agreement has included the D.C.League paying the Virginia League a monthly management fee and VCULmaking available to all D.C. credit unions the same servicesavailable to Virginia CUs. Although the new association won'tofficially begin operating until Jan. 2006, Mann said she alreadyreceived a letter from the Virginia League dated July 1 that statestheir relationship will end Dec. 31. She explained that themanagement agreement required a six-month notice of termination. Inthe coming months, Mann will be busy transitioning the Virginiamanagement agreement to the new association including officiallytransferring assets, the D.C. League's service organization anddealing with staffing issues. "A lot of administrativetransitioning has to be done," she said. Although the leadership ofboth leagues were aware that the merger plan could have fallenapart at any time, considering similar situations that happened forexample between the North and South Dakota Leagues, and theWashington and Oregon Leagues, they were confident they were doingwhat was best for their credit unions. "In this business, Marylandand D.C. credit unions have been light years ahead in cooperatingwith each other," said Beall referring to the relationships andgeographic commonalities several CUs in both leagues already havewith each other. "So we're really playing catch up to that." -

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