Larger CUs Are Not The Enemy, And Small CUs Can Still Thrive

I just finished reading a letter to the editor from Ms. De May of V.A. Employees FCU from the June 4th issue of Credit Union Journal.

I have certainly heard the comments she made, but I don't agree that the "big credit unions" are the bad guy. We are a small credit union, $31 million in assets, granted that may seem larger to a $5 million credit union, however I consider the CUs over $100 million to be the "big credit unions."

We have several "big credit unions" in our area and I don't see the problem. Perhaps we are fortunate to be where many credit unions still work together today.

I'm a strong believer that a credit union should partner with as many other credit unions as they feasibly can to maintain the viability of each credit union. We belong to several CUSOs; we are invested in four of these organizations.

Our core processor is a CUSO; because we share the same data processing system, we are able to partner with over 70 credit unions to offer service to our members at over 100 locations in Michigan alone.

No, we aren't the "big credit union," but we have even more service locations than the credit unions not in our CU*Answers CUSO.

We partner with other credit unions to provide the mundane tasks of daily balancing; by combining the job of several credit unions, a new service was formed within our Xtend CUSO.

At a minimal charge, we were able to free up one bookkeeping employee to do much more meaningful jobs.

Our mortgage partner, Central States Mortgage, allows us to offer a huge array of mortgage services without the need for a mortgage originator on staff...and we still book our mortgages!

These are the ways I see smaller credit unions being able to survive and thrive today. "United We Stand," I agree with whole heartedly.

I've been in credit unions for 30 years, large and small, and I see the cooperative spirit alive and well. "United We Stand" if we want to stand.

"Divided we fall?" Sad but true. However, you don't have to fall, you don't have to merge, you don't have to lose viability. You just need to find a better or newer way of doing business.

If you expect the days of 12% loans and 6% shares to last, you definitely are on the road to mergers.

Credit unions as a whole need to invest in their people, their management teams, their succession plans and work to continue to promote from within.

We invite people with no credit union history into our "fold" and expect them to play by the same rules we have always done.

It's not their fault that they don't have the history and philosophy we "grew up" with. It just changes the way we have to do business.

There is nothing wrong with new challenges, unless we are going to just sit back and let things slide in to mergerland.

Sometimes mergers really do benefit the membership. This is when it should be considered, not because we don't want to learn a new business.

We need to remember that we are there to provide service to our members, SEG-based or community. The challenge today is to do the best job in serving our members.

Finding those unique partnerships that help make our jobs easier is the key to avoid going out of business. Seeking out new partnerships and learning a new way of doing business should be our first course of action. I think smaller credit unions are viable, they do provide service to members that they really may not have anywhere else, or they may be the "friend" that people come to see with a paycheck.

Regardless of your membership base, people want convenience, availability, rates and above all the service that makes them feel good. Our job isn't about what others are doing; it's how we can do things better for our members. Make members happy, and they will keep you in business!

Raymond L. Ward, CEO,

Kent County CU, Grand Rapids, Mich.


Credit Union Journal encourages reader feedback. Letters to the Editor can be sent to Managing Editor Lisa Freeman at lfreeman<at>cujournal.com. Letters can also be faxed to 561-832-2939 or submitted online at www.cujournal.com.