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A blog addressing issues and topics of interest for Montana credit union board members. Read a new post every week. 

A Merger Perspective

by Alana Listoe & Donya Parrish, MCUN

This week’s blog explores the topic of mergers, and more specifically, a board’s role in a merger. The most recent credit union merger in Montana was completed July 1 between Park Side CU (Whitefish) and Gateway Community FCU (Missoula). Alana Listoe, MCUN Director of PR & Advocacy, sat down with Carl Thomas, Park Side’s board chair, to ask his perspective on the merger.

How did you determine this merger was in the best interest of your credit union?

We took a year talking about and contemplating this merger. It was slow, and we were diligent in thinking it over. We discussed the opportunity to bring people services outside of the Flathead Valley. We met their board to put faces with names and got to know each other. We learned we were big enough to help them create a larger employee base so people did one job instead of wearing many hats. It gave us more of a service area and more people access to our services.

How does this merger fit with the strategic plan and vision of the credit union?

It fits well because it expands our service area and membership base. We didn’t have to spend a lot of capital, like a new building.

What has been the best outcome of the merger that you did not anticipate?

Some of our staff and board members have lived in Missoula, so they had some insights. We didn’t just jump. We approached it carefully to ensure it was good for the credit unions. Having their insights gave us some first-hand knowledge of Missoula and a more personal feeling and understanding of the culture.

How did you end up navigating CEO and board succession?

The CEO at Gateway was at or nearing retirement so was not interested in maintaining the CEO position. He only wanted what was best for the credit union. Our board was seven members and two joined us from Gateway to make a new nine-member board. We have had 100% participation. Eventually, we agreed to get the board number back to seven, but there is no timeline. We will just let it happen naturally through attrition.

What was one of the smartest things you did in regards to communicating the merger?

We took our time and carefully kept our communications tight in the beginning, so the public wouldn’t know before the staff. Controlling the community so it was timed right, and it worked well. We gave Gateway all our resources to help with that too. We were consistent and open. It pays in a positive way to take your time.

Credit unions can attend a discussion webinar that NCUA is holding on merger best practices on September 17 at noon MDT. Registration is open and questions are being accepted

Donya Parrish is the VP-Dues Supported Services for the Montana Credit Union Network. She would welcome any questions or comments on this material. You can email Donya or call her at 800-745-5546, ext. 122.


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