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LENEXA, Kan. – Jeff Kline and Lisa Renner have been around CUSOs long enough to know that when it comes to NACUSO’s new collaborative business model, it might take CUSOs awhile to acclimate to the new strategy. But they’re also certain it will be well worth CUSOs’ patience and perseverance. “It’s more efficient to go that route,” said Lisa Renner, CEO of CU Holding Company, LLC and Beyond Marketing LLC. “If you look at the credit union industry on a product basis over the past 10 years, margins have gotten very small. Now it’s even worse because of the flat yield curve credit unions are experiencing. Ten years ago, credit unions would have asked why they should form multi-owned CUSOs, now it’s so obvious, it’s just a question of how. CUSOs are a very powerful enabler of credit unions,” she added If that’s so, then why aren’t there more multi-owned CUSOs? Kline, executive vice president, Community America CU, Lenexa, Kansas said there are a lot of answers to that question, among which is an “I can do it better by myself” attitude that prompts some CUs to form wholly-owned CUSOs instead. “Multi-owned CUSOs are a way to change the operations of credit unions without having a merger, but the rationale is similar,” he said. “For example, you can have one collection department for six credit unions rather than six separate departments.” Even so, said Kline, “If you look at how credit unions adopt change, it tends to be very slow. When share drafts first came out there were some people who said it was a mistake. The same thing happened when indirect lending started getting a foothold. An idea takes time getting used to.” Renner pointed out that while some credit unions have been wary of forming multi-owned CUSOs because of their fear of failure and the possible economic implications, “there are also economic implications for not acting.” She added that, “Sometimes we get hung up on how to measure the success of a CUSO. Yes, the bottom line is important, but sometimes we also do things in a CUSO because they can’t be done through the credit union. There are a lot of expenses on a CUSO’s books, but it’s not like that’s just going out the window. There are shared benefits of working together.” The Community America exec is still confident the industry will see more innovative types of multi-owned CUSOs appear on the scene because “unique ideas aren’t something we can take on individually. We need a multi-owned, collaborative effort to make innovative ideas work,” he said. Renner agreed and added, “As credit unions we’ve realized we’ve been sending a lot of our members’ money outside the industry because there’s been no CUSO capability. Why do we do that when we have alternative options, namely CUSOs. We can ultimately pay ourselves instead of outside providers and keep the money within the credit union family.” -

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