The Ohio Credit Union League board of directors decidedWednesday to allow its 311 credit unions to join the league withoutrequiring them to join CUNA.

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The Buckeye State league is the third trade association to reject CUNA's dual membershiprequirement.

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Stan Barnes, who chairs the Ohio league and is president/CEO ofthe $205 million CSE Federal Credit Union in North Canton, Ohio,said the board decision was based on a combination of factors andthat it was the right time to make the decision on membershipoptionality.

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“I really think the CUNA task force report was a masterful pieceof work that really laid out the issues. It did a good job ofdiscussing system change and the need for a different look as faras membership was concerned,” Barnes said in a CU Timesinterview Thursday.

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“In addition to that, we wanted to make sure that we had a goodhandle on what Ohio credit unions were thinking. Not only did werely on information from the CUNA research study, but the (Ohioleague) staff here undertook their own research to see what theOhio league credit unions felt about membership,” Barnes said.“Clearly the majority felt they should have the choice.”

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An Ohio league survey showed 58% of the state's credit unionsfavored membership choice, while 27% supported dual membership.More than 5% said they wanted a simple nationwide membership modeland 8% were not sure.

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Of the state's 311 credit unions invited to participate in thesurvey, 105 filled out the survey for a response rate of nearly34%. In CUNA's national survey, only 15% of Ohio's credit unionsresponded. In that survey, nearly 46% of credit unions favoredmembership choice and nearly 21% wanted to keep the dualmembership.

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Ohio Credit Union League President/CEO Paul Mercer said despitethe decision, the league will continue to recommend CUNA membershipto its member credit unions.

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“While we're following the path laid out by the task force andchoosing membership optionality and choice, we are simultaneouslydoubling down on our commitment and interdependence with CUNA,which was the second suggestion that the task force had forleagues,” Mercer said. “So we are embracing both of the suggestionsthat are contained for leagues in the task force report and we aredoing so heartily and confidently.”

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The task force's second recommendation saidthat CUNA should enter into agreements with the leagues to committo practices and procedures in advocacy that promote collaboration,efficiency and joint efforts to establish and advance a system-wideadvocacy agency. The recommendation also said that both CUNA andthe league promote dual membership by highlighting each other'svalue proposition and provide financial and other incentives thatencourage credit unions to belong to both the league and CUNA.

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Mercer also said he is confident that the vast majority ofcredit unions will continue to remain members of both the leagueand CUNA.

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“The reactions (from CEOs) I've had so far are positive andencouraging of the steps taken here by the league board andsimultaneously the credit unions are noting their continuedcommitment to CUNA and the league,” Mercer said. “When creditunions make that choice, it is evidence that they value the powerof the three-tier system and understand the essential aspect ofcontinuing to have the league and CUNA working together.”

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On Sept. 18, the CUNA board votedto maintain the longstanding dual membership requirementdespite a final recommendation by the CUNA System Structureand Governance Task Force to offer credit unions membershipchoice in CUNA and/or a league.

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What's more, CUNA's own national survey found that nearly 50% ofcredit unions supported membership choice and 30% backed jointmembership.

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In September, the MichiganCredit Union League became the first trade association in thenation to allow its credit unions to join the league withoutjoining CUNA. The Michigan league board strongly encouragedcredit unions to continue affiliation with both CUNA and theMichigan league.

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On Oct. 16, the board of the League of Southeastern CreditUnions became the second trade association to approve membershipchoice for its credit unions in Florida and Alabama.

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Southeastern league President/CEO Patrick LaPine said 84% ofcredit unions in both states that responded to the survey voted infavor of choice and 16% of credit unions voted to retain dualmembership requirements.

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LaPine also said the Southeastern league will be stronglyencouraging members to maintain their CUNA membership nextyear.

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