In Mike Welch’s recent column, “Fewer CUs Could be a Bad Thing; Or Maybe Not,” he stated that the downward trend in the number of credit unions is irreversible because, “almost no new credit unions are being chartered.” As president of Catholic Aid Association Credit Union, a four-year-old, single sponsor group, non-community development credit union, I know that we are a rare breed indeed. So why aren’t more credit unions being formed? Portland Teachers CU CEO Cliff Dias stated that the cost of technology might be to blame. For us, the answer was to find a partner to help us with the technology costs. We found it with a technology CUSO, CU*Answers, that was eager to see this new venture succeed, so they worked with us on pricing and in getting new products off the ground. We also could not have done it without a very supportive sponsor group. The Catholic Aid Association, a fraternal life insurance organization, had the foresight and long-term vision to want to serve its members by providing financial services through a cooperative. President Michael McGovern, and the board of Catholic Aid, has given CAACU direct financial support from the sponsor group to get the credit union off the ground until it could be viable on its own. They also realized that leadership and staffing were going to be crucial. Rather than going the cheap route, Catholic Aid brought in credit union professionals to provide a strategic vision for the growth of the credit union. We also received a large amount of technical assistance from the Minnesota Credit Union Network in making sure the credit union had the proper legal structure to assure viability. They continue to provide support to our organization through frequent visits and advice from their staff. Our NCUA and state examiners work with us in showing us how to strengthen our financials and policies without restricting our growth. All of this has taken effort, planning and some enthusiasm on the part of the credit union board, staff, members and partners to pull off this venture. Maybe the reason we don’t have more credit unions developing is that we don’t have champions in the credit union industry like we did in the past, proactively looking for groups that would be great sponsors. Maybe the aggressiveness of larger credit unions in bringing on more Select Employee Groups is cutting off the development of smaller credit unions. Or maybe it’s just not worth the trouble to people to find the partners to work together and create the opportunities that still exist. Christopher J. Goebel President Catholic Aid Association Credit Union St. Paul, Minn.
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