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NAPERVILLE, Ill. – Illinois credit unions have reached a milestone in their history. After 44 years of having two credit union associations in the state – the Illinois Credit Union League and the Midwest Association of Credit Unions, – as of May 1 there will only be one. After several months of discussions between ICUL and MACU, league delegates attending the ICUL’s 76th Annual Convention voted overwhelmingly to merge with MACU. Under the merger agreement, ICUL, the state’s primary credit union trade association, will be the surviving association and will continue to be called the Illinois Credit Union League. MACU president/CEO Joni Senkpeil will join the league on May 1 as its director of small credit union development. ICUL President/CEO Dan Plauda will continue in that position. MACU’s 59-affiliated CUs that were not previously affiliated with the Illinois league will become affiliated as a result of the merger. That brings the total number of Illinois credit unions affiliated with the league to more than 430 serving more than 2.6 million members and with combined assets of more than $20 billion. Senkpeil said the decision to merge with the Illinois Credit Union League “wasn’t an easy one to make and was only decided after long and deliberate discussions by the MACU board.” MACU’s membership voted in favor of the merger in December 2005. “Because of the declining number of credit unions in the state, the mergers of small credit unions and MACU’s shrinking financial resources, it was hard for us to achieve economies of scale. So the board decided a merger with the Illinois league would bring MACU-affiliated credit unions significantly enhanced products and services and also strengthen the credit union community in Illinois.” MACU once boasted of having more than 100 affiliated credit unions when it peaked in the late 1980s. Senkpeil stressed, “MACU has also had a good relationship and a very comfortable one with the Illinois Credit Union League. The league staff has always been very helpful and been willing to share information with MACU. By combining the two organizations, credit unions in Illinois will be able to speak with one voice on the state and federal legislative fronts.” Plauda agreed the merger has been an amicable process. “The combination of these two trade associations will result in one credit union trade association serving Illinois’ credit unions with a stronger and more unified voice,” he said. MACU, based in Lisle, Ill., was incorporated in 1962 to provide more focused support to Illinois’ small credit unions – those with assets of less than $1 million to approximately $40 million. The dues-supported trade association was not affiliated with CUNA. Affiliated credit unions paid dues based on asset size, and Senkpeil said annual dues typically ranged from $750 to over $5,000. Vicki Ponzo, senior vice president of member services for ICUL, said initiative for the merger came from MACU. Merger talks started in earnest last June, and Ponzo said the discussions were “pretty straightforward.” According to Ponzo, MACU and the ICUL opened discussions about merging several years ago when MACU was led by Ron Boots, but nothing materialized from those talks. When Boots died, Senkpeil was hired as president of the association, and Ponzo said, “She was gung ho and wanted to go with the merger.” Prior to joining MACU, Senkpeil was president/CEO of BNSF CU, Amarillo, Texas. One of the reasons a merger between MACU and ICUL was more achievable in this round of discussions was the increased products and services the Illinois League provides for small credit unions. For example, it offers them special discounts for education sessions, and the league field staff works with small CUs on fee planning sessions. In addition, the Illinois Credit Union League’s foundation makes grants and scholarships available for small credit unions. “MACU didn’t have the money or resources, including field staff, to provide the services small credit unions need,” said Ponzo. In addition to the products and services available to former MACU-affiliated CUs now through the league, small CUs will also be able to take advantage of offerings from CUNA, including attending conferences that they couldn’t previously since they weren’t league-affiliated. Although Senkpeil is confident the decision to merge with ICUL will benefit the state’s small credit unions, she still regrets changing circumstances made the move necessary. “MACU gave small credit unions a choice. Since it focused on small credit unions, it gave them their own association and the opportunity to network with credit unions with similar needs as their own. But the needs of small credit unions are greater than ever, regulatory changes are extremely burdensome. We’re certain our small credit unions will benefit from the merger,” said Senkpeil. -

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