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AUSTIN, Texas – Lewis Aven is bringing nearly three decades of commercial banking experience to his new role as CEO of CU Business Solutions. The member business lending CUSO was recently formed by seven Austin-based credit unions: $461 million A+ FCU; $358 million Austin Telco FCU; $216 million Greater Texas FCU; $366 million IBM Texas Employees FCU; $40 million Texas Health CU; $671 million University FCU; and $497 million Velocity CU. Aven began his new career on Sept. 1 and is excited about the possibilities that business lending will present for credit unions. “I recognize that there will be a tremendous amount of work to make everything successful but the key here is having a team approach to make it a success,” Aven said. Aven is in the process of hiring two more professionals to oversee loan documentation and accounting services and underwriting. Both individuals will also do double duty in promoting member business lending at the Austin credit unions and making staff more comfortable with the newest offering. The CUSO is building its technology infrastructure and Aven expects to have all systems in place by Jan. 1, 2006. An official rollout to members will occur around that time too, he added. What sets the Austin credit unions apart is their “progressive and forward thinking,” even though business lending is fairly new for many of them, Aven said. “They all want to jump in and become engaged,” he said. “They really see this as another way of taking care of their existing members.” It’s those current members that own small to medium-size businesses that will get nearly all of the focus from CU Business Solutions. Aven said the CUSO doesn’t have a certain range of loans in mind that will be offered but the Austin credit unions do want to move to offering commercial real estate loans as well. “In our market, it’s very prominent,” Aven said. Indeed, Texas and several of its cities are home to very successful MBL CUSOs that have strong commercial real estate loans in their portfolios. Aven said the Austin credit unions are also hoping the CUSO will be another way to grow membership through the cross selling of deposit services, mortgages and home equity lines of credit, for example. Each of them will respectively offer their own custom line of deposit services. “Frankly, we’re so new, we need to get the business lending up and running,” Aven said. “We are contemplating offering ancillary support services to (complement) the deposit service packages (the credit unions) might offer.” SBA loans will certainly be offered but the decision to offer them directly or use a certified SBA lender is still being considered, Aven said. With 28 years of experience in commercial banking, Aven has expertise in a number of areas: underwriting, business development, and relationship management. He is understanding of community bankers who are feeling the competitive squeeze in business lending but the tightening isn’t coming from just credit unions. “It’s more competitive than it ever has been before,” Aven said. “It’s not just a matter of credit unions offering MBL programs that is creating competitive pressure for community banks, brokerage houses and almost every type of financial institution you can think of are doing the same thing.” Aven offered “the real winners are business owners and their employees because it gives everyone more choices.” Meanwhile, what will make CU Business Solutions stand out is the synergy between it and the Austin credit unions, said Aven. “We can spend all the money we want on technology and staffing but we still have to go out and capture the business. It’s a collaborative effort. For me, it’s a really exciting opportunity.” -

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