A New Name On A Familiar Door

Credit unions involved in even a well-run merger have to anticipate uneasy members.


Every company has a culture. When businesses merge, it is often a source of trepidation as to how those two cultures will co-exist and, eventually, blend. Credit unions are no different.

When credit unions merge, it affects the employees, the members, and the Boards at both institutions. To ease nerves, it is helpful to present a consistent message about expectations for the upcoming merger. But even with high-quality communication, members can still be nervous about what to expect.

Credit unions have a variety of reasons to merge. Southern California Postal Credit Union ($56. 6M, Long Beach, CA) is acquiring Sacramento District Postal Credit Union ($20.5M, Sacramento, CA) in an effort to stave off a depleting net worth for the smaller institution. Apple Federal Credit Union ($1.3B, Fairfax, VA) is acquiring Synergy One Federal Credit Union ($179.7M, Manassas VA) to expand its market in Prince William County and better serve the employees of the Prince William County School District.

I was sitting with my wife at the dinner table a week ago when she opened a letter from her longtime credit union, Synergy One. The letter highlighted the impending merger and reassured members that there would be no change in staff members or branch locations.

Still, my wife was apprehensive. She was worried about what would happen when her favorite financial institution was taken over by, what she felt, was a group of strangers. As she put it, “I know nothing’s going to be different, but I’ve been with Synergy One since I was 15 years old. There’s a comfort to that.”

My wife is a perfect case in point: Even when communication is flawless and business actions well-intentioned, your to-be members might still have worries about their financial futures.

Apple Federal and Synergy One are doing what they can to ease fears. They’re keeping the same employees, the same branch locations, and the same cooperative spirit. In reality, only the name on the door is changing. Yet sometimes, even a change like this is enough to put your members on edge.

So the best that merging credit unions can do is keep their messaging consistent and stay true to the credit union cooperative spirit that made them successful in the first place. In the end, it is always our actions that show our value, not just our words. As my wife put it “For 10 years I knew Synergy One was there for me. I just hope these new guys will be, too.”


Aug. 29, 2011



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