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Mergers within the corporate credit union network aren’t new – there have been one or two a year for most of the past 15 years. Indeed I’ll be the first to stipulate that sometimes mergers actually occur for the right reasons. But in light of the recent merger announcements that would eliminate a “local” headquarters for many credit unions – it’s time to ask a few critical questions. How does reducing the number of corporates really enhance our industry’s ability to meet members’ financial service needs? What happens as control and representation, including member business meetings, are shifted to fewer, remote geographic locations? Does a bigger entity help foster cooperation among members? These, and other questions, ought to dominate the public discourse because the corporate credit union network truly is the credit union community’s greatest cooperative venture. At 30-plus years of age, it’s the model that has been used to create an industry-wide infrastructure of ATMs, shared branches, card processors, and other cooperative organizations that are owned and operated for credit unions’ exclusive benefit. A lot is at stake for the credit unions that will be asked to make a choice about the future of their local corporate. They should pay careful attention to recent case studies, because, if history is a guide, it demonstrates that not much is gained after all the dust settles. Corporates already have the scale and systems that enable credit unions of any size to cost-effectively transfer money throughout the world, obtain low-cost liquidity, and earn competitive rates. The national settlement system, created by corporates, continues to be unique within banking circles. And, let’s not forget that some of the most innovative products and services for credit unions came from mid-sized and smaller corporates – including investment brokerage and advisory services, check imaging technology, and business lending solutions. In real estate, it’s often said that you should never live in the biggest house on the block. The same might be true for credit unions. Bigger isn’t necessarily better. Over the past 27 years at EasCorp (I guess that makes me the longest-running corporate CEO), I have seen the corporate network change in many positive ways. These changes have enabled today’s credit unions to serve more members, offer more services, and operate more efficiently. But the recent interest in merging just for the sake of being “big” may no longer serve that noble purpose. It should make all of us ask tough questions. Where do we want to be and need to be to continue serving our members into the future? A world where only a handful of corporates are left to operate may not be the place Jane C. Melchionda President/CEO EasCorp Woburn, Mass.

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