There are still a few regulatory hurdles to clear but the $452 million Horizon Credit Union of Spokane Valley, Wash. and the $64 million Montana First CU will move ahead with plans now to consolidate their operations after a revote by members of the Missoula, Mont., credit union.
“With both of us holding community charters, it can get a little complicated with trigger regulations to be cleared in both states and NCUA approval to get our merger finalized by September,” said Jeff Adams, president/CEO of Horizon, the surviving entity. Under the consolidation deal approved by members June 26, Montana First retains its brand.
Members of the Montana credit union had voted down the proposed merger in January. Concerns that service would suffer as control moved out of state were cited for the defeat.
The revote was 56% to 44% in favor of the merger with Horizon, which had long sought a footprint in Missoula, a growing college town. It also has branches in Idaho. "This is an exciting time for Montana First Credit Union and western Montana," said Chris Sisco, CEO of Montana First who is to retire next year but will continue as regional vice president of corporate integration.
"Horizon Credit Union is the perfect partner, bringing a member-first philosophy and additional services to our members, while allowing us to retain our name and local heritage," Sisco said. Adams said the merger would provide new opportunities in both mortgages and business lending in western Montana. “We will be able to serve the small and medium markets and bring credit union services to more areas under the Montana First name," the Horizon CEO said. The combined credit union will have 50,000 members. For now, said Adams, Horizon and Montana First will be working on ad strategies to showcase merger benefits.
“We are taking bids now with newspaper radio, TV stations and other marketing firms,” said Adams, who credits the staffs of both credit unions and a Tacoma ad agency, Jayray Branding, with helping to persuade members of Montana First to vote for the combination.
Jayray was able to recruit member ambassadors who effectively conveyed the Horizon message, said Adams.
Approval of the Horizon-Montana First deal comes as another merger with overtones of member objection appears to have fallen through over the weekend in neighboring Oregon with St. Helens Community CU calling off a consolidation with Wauna CU of Clatskanie.