Kansas, Missouri credit union associations consider combining

The Kansas Credit Union Association said Monday it is working with a similar group in Missouri.

The Wichita-based association whose membership comprises 86 credit unions in the state said its board of directors approved a letter of intent to explore consolidation with the Missouri Credit Union Association, which is based in St. Louis.

Marla Marsh, KCUA’s president and CEO, said the letter of intent allows the association to move from a proposal to a plan.

“It’s preliminary and we’re still working on doing a business plan,” she said.

Marsh said she expects the plan to be completed and to the boards of both associations by the middle of 2015.

She said consolidating could allow both groups to maintain or enhance the services they offer to their credit union members while also improving efficiency and lowering costs. She noted that the number of credit unions continues to decline in Kansas and across the country.

“It’s not the driving factor, but … it doesn’t change the fact credit unions still need some of the same services that we’ve provided.”

According to the Credit Union National Association, the number of credit unions in Kansas has dropped from 121 in 2004 to 93 as of June 2014. During that same period, according to CUNA data, the number of credit unions in the U.S. has declined from 9,209 to 6,557.

Marsh said a consolidation could give credit unions in Kansas a “stronger voice” regionally and nationally, too.

Marsh and Don Cohenour, president and CEO of the Missouri association, said they began talking about a consolidation last year while meeting as part of a collaboration task force for the American Association of Credit Union Leagues.

Marsh said the Kansas and Missouri associations have partnered on several different initiatives in the past, including education sessions and lobbying trips.

“So it’s not like we haven’t been partnering or joining forces in the past,” she said. “We’re just taking it to a new level.”

Cohenour said similar consolidations and mergers of state credit union associations have occurred in the past few years, including the formation of the Northwest Credit Union Associations between associations in Washington and Oregon, and the Mountain West Credit Union Association, which formed in 2011 when the credit union associations of Colorado and Wyoming merged with the Arizona Credit Union League.

“At this point in time we’re very healthy organizations,” Cohenour said, adding now is a good time to consider the consolidation.

What the consolidation will look like isn’t clear right now, they said, in terms of where it would be headquartered or a new name for the organization, or staffing.

And any decision on whether to proceed will require the approval of member credit unions.

“We’re still very much in the infancy stage,” Cohenour said. “We’re looking at this as a very positive thing.”

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or Follow him on Twitter: @jsiebenmark.