By Linda Broughton
In 2012, Henrico FCU ($125 million) won NCUA approval to merge with Bellwood FCU ($55 million). In a statement, Bellwood said “combining these two financially sound credit unions will result in a credit union with more than $180 million in assets, serving over 30,000 members with a potential of 1.2 million throughout 15 counties as well as the cities of Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Richmond.” (www.cutimes.com)
In credit unions, as in any business, the word MERGER sounds huge and threatening to many people. Plans for a merger did inspire fear in many members at our credit union in Richmond, Virginia. As employees, we were instructed to calm member fears and assure the members that it would be fine. Truthfully, in some ways we were just as scared as our members. Change is always scary – it’s the fear of the unknown.
When mergers are considered, members of credit unions are given the chance to vote. Before they do, they can attend a meeting of the membership to ask questions. For our members, the questions were fairly simple: yes, account numbers would change slightly and yes, some employees would be moving to a new office.
Questions from the staff were a little more complex. Immediately following the merger approval, the President and three members of his “team” held a meeting with the staff at our credit union. The question of the day was this: “Will the name of the credit union be changing?” From a marketing perspective, a name change is very significant. It impacts the corporate identity – the logo and colors – and also affects the members and the community. In our case, it was decided to keep our name since it has been in the community for 61 years!
Merging both credit unions’ data into one database took eight months to complete. It took long hours spent by many employees in both credit unions, but it also helped the employees begin to work together. One Henrico employee described their experience this way: “I was selected to help with the data tracking before the official date of merging. I also helped train and support the Bellwood staff the first week of the merger. This gave me an opportunity to meet and engage with the Bellwood staff and members.” Although there were many days of hair-pulling stress, the job was completed before the end of 2012!
Mergers might inspire fear, but they can also inspire hope for better things. When a Bellwood employee was asked how the merger affected them personally, they responded this way: “I came out great! When I was with Bellwood before the merger, my job was a dead-end. With Henrico there were lots of new positions and opportunities available. I now have plenty of room for further promotions.” Employees at Henrico also saw possibilities. One said: “I think the merger was good for Henrico employees because it allowed us to see firsthand how another credit union works. It has opened up potential for new ideas and a sharing of successes and not-so successes.”
Here in 2013, the New Year welcomes us as a merger completed! There are still areas needing attention and work remains to be done. Even so, change is good. Although it brings new challenges, it has created a better credit union!
Linda Broughton is the Marketing Assistant at Bellwood Credit Union, a division of Henrico Federal Credit Union in Richmond, VA. Henrico, as the Richmond-area’s first community chartered credit union, we can serve those who live, work, worship or attend school in Henrico and the greater Richmond area from Ashland to Chesterfield County to Goochland to Powhatan to Prince George, Petersburg & Sussex County. In addition to serving on the VACUL Marketing & Business Development Council, Linda serves on the Richmond Chapter Community Involvement Committee and the Richmond Chapter Workshop Committee. She served on the award winning “What if Credit Unions.com” committee and the VACUL Financial Education Committee. Linda is also involved in the community with the Jefferson Davis Association refurbishing the Route 1 corridor. She is also involved at DSCR, the military base next to Bellwood, bringing credit union awareness and helping the community. In 2011, Linda received the 2011 CUNA Diamond Merit Award for Financial Education. She reached over 1,000 students and adults teaching about savings and credit unions.