Vote Set on Calif. CUSO Ownership
In a move to avoid duplication of services and to establish a more equitable pricing structure, the California Credit Union League and CURoots Cooperative said they are in discussions to transfer the CUSO’s ownership to the California League Services Corp.
At press time, the 16 credit unions, the California and Nevada Leagues, which are based in Ontario, Calif., as well as CO-OP Financial Services that own the CUSO, were set to vote on moving ownership of CURoots to the services corporation. A simple majority vote was scheduled for Feb. 15.
The motivation for the transfer is partly centered on two separate pricing structures for members and nonmembers. Members have a different price to use CURoots’ services compared with nonmembers who have to pay a 25% markup, said Lucy Ito, executive vice president, chief operating officer and president/CEO of CURoots. To be a member of the CUSO, there is currently a $20,000 purchase requirement agreement, she added.
“That was a burden for many credit unions. A number of credit unions in our two states suffered investment losses related to the corporate stabilization program and many boards have been gun shy about investing,” Ito said.
As a result, several credit unions choose not to become members because of the 25% markup, Ito pointed out.
If the owners vote in favor of transferring CURoots to the California League Services Corp., the CUSO would go from a being an entity owned by multiple owners to a program owned and administered by a single program, Ito said, adding those that are members of the leagues are, indirectly, owners. They would retain ownership by way of being members of the league, she explained.
“The ownership of CURoots would expand from 18 organizations to the 324 credit unions that own the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues,” said Diana Dykstra, president/CEO of the California CU League.
Under terms of the transfer proposal, all member credit unions will become eligible for CURoots’ preferred member pricing, according to the league. CURoots’ services would continue interrupted.
“This represents a great opportunity for CURoots users and potential users who will benefit from the streamlining of efforts and the cost savings that will be realized,” said Gary Perez, CURoots board chairman and president/CEO of the $362 million USC Credit Union in Los Angeles.
The Ontario, Calif.-based CURoots offers shared compliance services, internal audit services and CUVitality, a collective health benefits service for credit unions that offers medical benefit plans provided by Kaiser Permanente and United Healthcare.
Ito said since CURoots soft launched, a number of developments have occurred including collaborative efforts with other leagues in the compliance area. What resulted was a duplication of services from the CUSO, she noted.
Discussions to vote on transfer of CURoots’ ownership began a few months ago, Ito said.
CURoots’ debut goes back to 2008 when the California and Nevada leagues conducted a member survey and received an overwhelming response for greater cooperation and collaboration, Ito said at the time. After the creation of an ad hoc committee to explore solutions, 10 credit unions came together to launch the CUSO, which did a soft launch in October 2010 and then fully rolled out in January 2011.
At the time of its launch, CURoots’ access was set to be open to all credit unions, credit union trade associations, and CUSOs across the country. To join, the cost was $20,000 for one share with one share per member. Pricing of specific services was to be determined by the service and how much a given entity utilizes CURoots, among other considerations.
In a January 2011 Guest Opinion column published in Credit Union Times, Ito wrote against the repetition of services among CUSOs.
“Competition among CUSOs is highly desirable to provide checks on pricing and incentives for better service delivery, but CUSOs would serve well to reduce redundancies among them and to minimize redundant charges assessed to credit unions,” Ito said.
She also envisioned the industry having to make some decisions on how credit unions will ultimately be served through collaboration.
“CUSOs will be tested on the degree to which we enable credit unions to minimize redundant expenses to realize significant cost savings through aggregation and to engage in new key pursuits that would not be feasible by a single credit union on its own,” Ito said.