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About a year and a half ago, the Risk and Insurance Management Society looked into the possibility of starting a credit union for its 10,000 members.The New York-based trade group, which represents more than 3,500 industrial, service, nonprofit, charitable and governmental entities and has 81 chapters in the United States, Canada, Japan and Mexico, decided against the idea, said Jill Levy, director of membership and chapter services at RIMS.After some research, the association discovered it was too small to start a credit union and started looking for partnership opportunities that could “offer the benefit of credit union membership without having to start our own credit union,” Levy said.Enter the $129 million OAS Staff Federal Credit Union and UNFCU Financial Advisors, a subsidiary of the $2.8 billion United Nations Federal Credit Union. The two recently partnered with RIMS to bring a plethora of services to the group’s membership. UNFCU will offer investment advisory and financial management services, wealth management, annuities and insurance and risk management programs. OAS plans to offer checking accounts, loans, online services and access to more than 5,000 shared branches and 25,000 ATMs.“They have been extremely responsive,” Levy said. “I may come up with some blue sky idea and they will jump right on it. They have all sorts of ideas that had necessarily not occurred to me.”The collaboration goes back to the core of how UNFCU has positioned its investment and insurance CUSO to link with others, said Stephen Ryerson, president of UNFCU Financial. The New York-based credit union has a small office in Washington, home to OAS Staff. President/CEO Carlos Calderon wanted to expand membership and had taken on two new SEGS over the last 18 months. As a result of prior arrangement, in its meeting with companies, OAS Staff included UNFCU as an additional resource for financial management services.Ryerson said this is the first such partnership with a non-credit union association for UNFCU Financial. Over the past year, the CUSO has been in dialogue with several other groups including international organizations. A 12,000-member association has recently expressed interest in joining the credit union, Ryerson added.“I truly believe that collaboration is the single biggest opportunity that credit unions might see given what’s going on in the economy,” Ryerson said. “Now is the time to reach out to members and potential members. I still believe that some members are not convinced that we have the core competencies.”Levy said RIMS is in the midst of a soft launch of the credit union and CUSO’s services this month. A more aggressive promotion is set for after Labor Day when many of its members return from summer vacations. The group is working with UNFCU Financial Advisors to create a promotional video that will air on RIMS’ Web site (www.rims.org) and a marketing campaign is scheduled to roll out to its 81 chapters worldwide.While RIMS, OAS Staff and UNFCU are all based in the United States, Levy said linking up with a local entity was not as important as a partnership that could deliver services to its international members.“We’re very used to using alternative means of communications. We did want to make sure that the bulk of products and services were available to all our members, not just those in the U.S. and Canada,” Levy said.UNFCU Financial Advisors continues to collaborate with others in the credit union industry. In June, it built a micro branded site for $104 million Xcel Federal Credit Union in Secaucus, N.J., Ryerson said, adding the cooperative wants to invite more SEGs to join outside of its core base of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. For its existing SEGs, a link on the new site lets members know that the credit union offers employee benefits, risk management and other services.Even as it seems the whole world is going virtual, face-to-face communication is still important to some. To that end, the CUSO is in the early discussions of placing someone in Xcel’s office for a half day to carry out that interaction.“Credit unions can approach new SEGs and say they offer a suite of services that would rival any bank,” Ryerson said.–[email protected]

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