DENVER — Given tough economic conditions, the merger trend among both the "high profile large credit unions" and among smaller ones is definitely on the increase in 2008 with boards and senior management more open than ever about discussing consolidation, a top Denver merger consultant said Friday.

"When you look at some of the raw operating expense data linked to membership coming out of NCUA, you can see the trendline is primarily for the largest credit unions to show real growth underscoring economies of scale," said Ronald Nice, head of a firm bearing his name and which he said is witnessing a sharp upturn in client business.

The merger environment, he said, has changed in such a way that frank "merger talk is now above ground" whereas it previously tended toward the hush-hush, observed Nice whose firm, Nice Enterprises, together with Westerra CU of Denver since last fall have been pushing a "merger kit" designed for both small and large CUs to save on strategy and execution expense.

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