Transformational moment in the credit union movement.
Have you ever been involved in something that you knew was going to be incredibly special, perhaps even historic? Even while the process was unfolding, you had this extraordinary feeling that you and everyone else involved were meant to be there for this moment – a unique combination of destiny and fate where everyone involved had a specific purpose and reason for being placed together at a specific time for a specific purpose. That is exactly what I experienced as a participant in the CUNA-NAFCU merger and collaboration discussions.
As many of you know, I have the privilege of being the chair of the American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL), which is the professional association for state and regional credit union leagues. Even though we are each independent associations with our own membership and governing boards, we serve as the system partners for CUNA and make up one of the tiers in the CUNA-League system.
As the chair of AACUL, I also serve on the CUNA Board and CUNA Executive Committee in an ex-officio capacity. This assignment led to my being involved and engaged in the CUNA-NAFCU collaborative dialogue these past 18 months. I can honestly mark this experience as a significant highwater mark for me, both personally and professionally. While this was an exciting opportunity with the potential to provide an impactful outcome for the entire credit union movement, it didn’t come without an extraordinary burden.
Photo above: Early CUNA/NAFCU Collaborative discussions; a crucial meeting where significant progress and a commitment to move forward collaboratively were made. CUNA-NAFCU ex-boards met June 29, 2022, Nashville, TN and included Tony Budet, CUNA Chair at the time; Tom Dewit, NAFCU Chair at the time; Brad Green, CUNA Immediate past Chair; Gary Grinnell, NAFCU Vice Chair; Caroline Willard, CUNA Secretary-Treasurer; Jeff Olson, AACUL Chair; Karen Harbin, NAFCU Executive Board; Patrick Pierce, CUNA Executive Committee; Brian Schools, NAFCU Secretary-Treasurer; Brian Best, CUNA Executive Committee.
With something as big and transformative as this potential merger, these discussions had to be kept confidential. Any leak or breach could have easily derailed the discussions, not to mention the trust that we all had earned from each other. Imagine trying to negotiate and adequately represent your constituency without the benefit of getting their direct input and feedback. Terms such as “spit balling” and “put a pin in that” were often used to advance the discussions. However, probably the most compelling experience was everyone’s steadfast commitment to build a superior and impactful trade association that can serve an evolving credit union movement.
As evidence of this commitment, I’m sharing the “Purpose Statement” that came out of one of our initial discussions that took place in Nashville in June of 2022. There was certainly an undercurrent of excitement from both of our organizations as we envisioned what this means for credit unions: We believe it is possible to equitably merge/combine our two fine organizations into a superior model that extends Credit Unions more unified, focused, and impactful advocacy.
The first question many of you may have is, “Why a merger?” The short answer is, we all desire a superior, more impactful model. We want to eliminate duplication and mixed messages, combine scale and influence, and reduce expenses. Leaders of both organizations prioritized accountability and an even more intense focus on the needs of our members—coupled with increasing the value we bring to the cooperative movement—throughout our collaborative discussions.
This came about by leaders of the two organizations listening very carefully to you about your desire to create one national voice for all credit unions and provide aggressive, relentless, measurable, and impactful advocacy in all areas of public policy.
Many of you have been through—and led—mergers yourselves. You know it will take the absolute best of our organizations to transform and create something new while maintaining the positive culture and high degree of passion and professionalism you have come to expect from NAFCU and CUNA.
I am convinced this merger is best for credit unions and their members as a superior model for a national trade association, providing a stronger, unified, and impactful advocacy voice. Ongoing credit union system evolution is necessary and a rich source of opportunity for system growth, strength, and resilience.
A single national association will allow us to create an even greater advocacy scale together with Leagues, allies, and the thousands of credit union advocates across the country at the federal and state levels. Jim Nussle put it best last week when he said, “This isn’t a transition; it’s a transformation,” and shared an appropriate quote from Ed Filene: “Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better.”
Some specifics and background.
The two organizations have been collaborating for more than a year, and this was a natural evolution. Both CUNA’s and NAFCU’s Boards and Executive Committees were engaged throughout the process, which included many thoughtful, thorough, and productive discussions, and signed a letter of intent to merge the two organizations in May 2023. Members of both organizations will have the opportunity to vote in support of the merger during a 60-day voting period, which begins on August 28 and concludes on November 2. If members vote in favor of the merger, America’s Credit Unions will legally be established no earlier than January 2024, with the intent to be fully operational by early 2025. When the transaction closes, Jim Nussle will serve as President/CEO of America’s Credit Unions.
Why are CUNA and NAFCU merging?
Both CEOs and Board members believe this action is in the best interests of the industry and its members. While both organizations are vibrant and doing very well today, the industry is evolving, and the associations need to evolve to meet the needs of members in the future. This merger will increase the associations’ value and efficiency for an industry that continues to consolidate.
How will America’s Credit Unions work with the Leagues?
The Leagues will continue to be valued partners and will have membership status as part of America’s Credit Unions. As part of this process, League presidents signed a resolution of support for the proposed merger, as members of the AACUL. In their resolution, they stated they believe the merger is best for credit unions and their members as a superior model for a national trade association, advocacy and support, and feel one voice is essential for credit union movement growth and success. They further recognized that ongoing credit union system evolution is necessary and a rich source of opportunity for system growth, strength, and resilience, and noted ever stronger advocacy for credit unions and their members at the national and state levels is a highest priority outcome.
America’s Credit Unions will be governed by a board of directors that will include 16 seats, consisting of 15 transition directors and one CEO. Each transition director, except the CEO, will have voting authority. Members of America’s Credit Unions’ transition board will include current executive committee board members from both CUNA and NAFCU.
Why is this merger needed and significant?
This merger will help ensure the growth and prosperity of all credit unions nationwide and the 137 million members they serve. By merging the two organizations, credit unions will have a stronger voice in Washington and, in partnership with the Leagues, across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. A single association will allow board members and staff to prioritize accountability and increase focus on the needs of its members.
How will America’s Credit Unions be different from CUNA and NAFCU?
America’s Credit Unions will provide the industry with one strong and united voice. As one organization, we will offer the best of advocacy, education and compliance training and be able to increase value to our members by providing more effective resources to strengthen and grow credit unions across America. With combined membership and a stronger voice, America’s Credit Unions will increase its influence where it’s needed most.
How will CUNA and NAFCU ensure a smooth merger and launch of America’s Credit Unions?
CUNA and NAFCU are working together to ensure the merger and launch of America’s Credit Unions is successful and will communicate with employees, members, partners, and vendors throughout each step of the process, while soliciting feedback and answering questions.
How will the merger impact members?
This merger will increase value and efficiency for members and maximize cost benefits. With one united voice, America’s Credit Unions will strengthen the industry’s representation in Washington and, in partnership with the Leagues, across the country, and offer increased value by aligning services and programs with members’ needs. Make no mistake, this new organization will not lose sight of the importance of strong advocacy, compliance assistance, and education.
How will the merger impact membership structure and dues?
Membership packages and dues will be communicated directly to credit unions in the fall of 2023 prior to the close of the member vote in November.
What are the long-term strategic goals and vision for America’s Credit Unions?
By combining the best of both organizations into a single, powerful entity, we will be able to serve our credit union members more efficiently and effectively, without redundancies. The vision is for America’s Credit Unions to have a stronger voice and greater impact on federal and state advocacy and maximize value by aligning products, services, and events. Working together, we will identify new opportunities for innovation and lead our industry into the future.
The success of this merger depends on hearing directly from members and employees, and ensuring they understand how beneficial this merger will be for them and the 137 million Americans they serve. Over the next few months, Jim Nussle, and leadership from both CUNA and NAFCU will prioritize their time meeting with credit union members and employees.
A merger is in the best interest of the entire credit union industry. It means members of both associations benefit from a combined, unified organization with strategic alignment, greater efficiencies and streamlined member engagement.
The vision is for America’s Credit Unions to have a stronger voice and greater impact on federal and state advocacy and maximize value by aligning products, services, and events. Working together, we will identify new opportunities for innovation and lead our industry into the future.
The future of the credit union industry is brighter than ever. Americans have long relied on credit unions as their trusted community financial institution to provide secure banking while evolving in a dynamic financial world – filling the niche of what larger banks cannot do. As we move ahead, this merger will allow us to continue to be the best in financial services with an even stronger service offering for our members. I encourage anyone with questions to contact me directly.
Next up – New Ideas Conference
We are now in the “dog days” of summer, soon to be fall – which means it’s time to start planning your trip to fabulous Deadwood, SD for our New Ideas Conference. Credit union professionals have a lot to consider when working in our ever-changing and growing industry. Researching, collaborating, promoting, and managing both co-workers and members’ needs is a full-time job in itself. If you are looking for some New Ideas to inspire and guide your next moves, this is a “can’t miss” opportunity to explore new ways to engage members, cutting edge innovations, leadership, marketing, and current trends and disruptors. For best pricing, be sure to register by August 31 to receive the early bird discount of just $299; starting September 1 registration will be $349. Click here for more information.
Congratulations to Steve Davis, ND GAC Chair
The North Dakota Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) has announced that Steve Davis, Senior Vice President of Mortgage Lending, First Community Credit Union, has been elected the new ND GAC Chair. Tyler Neether, VP of Business Lending, Town & Country Credit Union, will continue to serve as Vice Chair. The committee is also seeking applicants to fill several vacancies. North Dakota credit union professionals with an interest in legislative affairs and advocacy are encouraged to reach out to Steve for additional information or submit the application form found here. We sincerely appreciate Steve stepping up as a volunteer for this important work, and we are confident both our ND and SD GACs will continue to rank among the top in the nation in advocacy fundraising and legislative successes.
#ILoveMyCreditUnion across the Dakotas
The Illinois Credit Union System along with over 1,000 organizations, legislators, and friends of credit unions took social media by storm for the 3rd annual #ILoveMyCreditUnion social media blitz on July 28. campaign saw participation from all 50 states and countries from all around the world, raising awareness about the incredible work of credit unions and our dedication to community. I was incredibly happy to see so many credit unions sharing the message. Thank you to all who joined the campaign!
I am looking forward to seeing many of you next week in Fargo as we gather for the DakCU Professionals Forum (August 15) and Foundation Golf Scramble (August 16). This is always a fun and casual opportunity to have open discussions on topics that are of interest to Dakota credit unions and our members.
Have a great week,
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