LAKELAND, Fla.-Mergers have been a key component of MIDFLORIDA CU's growth strategy over the last 20 years, having absorbed more than 10 credit unions in that time.

CEO D. Kevin Jones said his approach starts with warm relations with other CEOs and the rest of the credit union community. Over time, he believes, MIDFLORIDA has gained a reputation as as an easy place to merge into, and "any time a local credit union president came to me and said 'We would like to consider merging,' we've always been very receptive to that."

"We have always felt that we could scale up," continued Jones. "One concern people have is 'Can we take it on? Can we do it?' We have a very strong and very tenured management team, and we have good depth in our management team as well. We've always been able to have enough strength in our management to where we can delegate tasks and absorb something like a merger or a data conversion and continue to be able to operate the CU in a very successful way."

When MIDFLORIDA began absorbing other CUs, "There were three larger credit unions in the area, but we were the one that people felt comfortable coming to, because they believed we would take care of the staff, make sure everyone had a job and had opportunities with MIDFLORIDA to continue to grow and be successful."

Making a merger work, he said, requires a lot of time looking at staffing issues. "What are your skill sets, what do you want to do? Often we find out that (the employee's current position) is not what they want to do, that just happens to be where they are today in their life. So we work hard to try to find a position within our organization that fits their needs."

Jones added that because MIDFLORIDA is usually exponentially larger than the organizations it absorbs, "we have a lot of opportunities they don't have at the smaller credit unions."

 

Smoothing The Transition

What also helps smooth out the transition is that there has never been a situation when MIDFLORIDA was not able to find a job for absorbed employees. Jones noted that the CU offers a severance package for any merged employees if they don't want to stay on after the merger. Some employees stay for a while and then move on, but he said those situations are rare.

"Once that credit union merges into us, we treat you as if you started with MIDFLORIDA the day you started with the credit union you worked at before," explained Jones. "All of your tenure stays with you. When we have the annual anniversary breakfast, when we do vacations and benefits, you're treated as if you started way back. That creates an immediate family situation where the employee feels welcome right off the bat. It's not us and them, it's just us."

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