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Marking a change in the Michigan credit union landscape for next year, two of the state’s largest, the $839 million NuUnion of Lansing and the $639 million Detroit Edison of Plymouth, are merging with eyes on eventually becoming a regional power with possible operations in neighboring Ohio and Indiana.For the time being, the consolidation, taking effect next March and to be known as Lake Trust Credit Union, will concentrate on creating economies of scale and cost efficiencies in a field of membership that stretches across southern and central Michigan from Lake Michigan to Lakes Erie and Huron.“This is a partnership of equals” that involves two healthy institutions each with about 8.5% capital, said Stephan L. Winninger, the designated president/CEO of Lake Trust and the current head of NuUnion.Merger discussions began last February “and so you can see this has not been that long in the planning stages,” said Winninger. The CUs have a combined 22 branches and 415 employees and once consolidated will become the fourth largest CU in Michigan. There are no plans for layoffs, said Winninger.The CEO of Detroit Edison, William Thiess, will become president of Lake Trust under the merger deal still subject to regulatory and membership approval under an intent to merge agreement.Despite the serious economic troubles afflicting Michigan, Thiess told Credit Union Times that Detroit Edison has enjoyed robust 12% growth over the last year and that has even followed the NCUA-engineered purchase and assumption in November 2007 by Detroit Edison of the failed $268 million Huron River Area CU of Ann Arbor.“It’s taken us that long to get our arms around Huron River, clear up the balance sheet and so now we have some well-placed branches that fit well with our planned NuUnion merger,” said Thiess.The Lake Trust name had been selected last June by Detroit Edison as part of a planned expansion and switch from its single-sponsor status.Thiess said his credit union as well as NuUnion have both experienced high delinquencies and charge-offs. Both CUs are expected to break even this year, said Winninger.Discussions on a merger were triggered “as a result of our working together over the years on a business loan CUSO, Michigan Business Connections,” said Winninger.Founded in 1944, Detroit Edison with 66,000 members has been serving the employees, retirees and contractors of DTE Energy and family members. Its community charter includes metropolitan Detroit area as well as eight counties from as far northeast as St. Clair County to southwest Lenawee County.NuUnion’s 28-county community charter extends membership eligibility to all of the lower peninsula excluding metropolitan Detroit. NuUnion has 91,000 members, was established in 1952 by State of Michigan employees and has 14 branches, including eight in Lansing.Winninger said once the merger is complete, Lake Trust would explore expanding into the upper peninsula as well as look at Ohio and Indiana. Also, the new Lake Trust board consisting of 18 members, nine from each CU, would eventually be whittled to a more manageable 11 members, he said.Outside of Huron River, both CEOs said they have not been asked by the NCUA to make bids on any of the troubled western CUs now being informally shopped by regulatory agencies. “We’ve been focusing on Huron River,” said Thiess.In its formal statement, the two CUs stressed that pursuit of a merger unlike those between banks has no profit motive but is expected to add improved services for members.Moreover, said Winninger, “while we’ve seen increased competition within the credit union industry, we’ve seen banks take a step back” making this consolidation more important for continued growth.–[email protected]

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