OLYMPIA, Wash.-Dr. James This, founder of the Paragon Consulting Group, believes credit unions continue to look for ways to work together, despite the ever-increasing number that are competing due to charter expansion and consolidation.

"I think credit unions are still cooperating, especially in the region I'm in, the Pacific Northwest," he said. "Credit unions up here still help smaller credit unions with policies and procedures, and even by loaning people to help out during tough times."

Founded in 1990, Paragon Group, in addition to consulting services and merger management, also links CUs to vendors, offers assistance with functions ranging from compliance to strategic planning, and can supply IT host systems replacement.

This said CUSOs have proven their worth more than ever in recent years.

"I think one thing that is happening with the recession, lower interest rates and high unemployment - along with the NCUA stabilization fund for corporates - net income has been down at credit unions," This assessed. "Therefore, credit unions are looking at ways to help net income. There are several areas where assistance is needed: collections, HR, compliance and perhaps training. Credit unions are looking to share resources on these areas and have a cooperative venture, that way each credit union does not have to have people staffing those areas."

For specialized functions such as auditing or compliance, it is difficult to have a staff person handling the function, "and if that person leaves the credit union has to start all over," he said. "If there is a CUSO, it solves a real staffing problem. No longer will one person leaving create a void."

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