This commentary was written by Barbara Conrey, member of the VSECU, retired professor from a state college and architect who has lived in Montpellier for 35 years.

As a member of the Vermont State Employees Credit Union, I received the ballot for the proposed merger with NEFCU. Being undecided about my vote, I carefully read the attached 12-page merger plan and received several unpleasant surprises.

The reason for the merger appears to be that we need more members to remain competitive while continuing to “offer a local alternative… in touch with the financial needs of its members”. So who would that membership be? The document indicates that there are 71,106 VSECU members and 95,701 NEFCU members; all members of VSECU and an unknown number of NEFCUs are from Vermont.

The total membership of a combined credit union would be 166,807, or 36% of Vermont’s population age 18 or older. Thus, the combined members would represent a significant portion of the eligible population if only Vermonters were considered. Therefore, the “new” credit union must seek members outside of Vermont. From reading news reports, I understood that the “membership field” would be Vermont, New Hampshire, and possibly other New England states. How wrong I was.

It is only in the merger plan document that we are told that NEFCU’s “area of ​​membership” includes (since a 2014 merger) all “people who live, work, worship, do volunteer or attend school” in 4 Michigan counties. These counties are 4 of the most populous in this great state (including Detroit) and combined have over 3.3 million residents over the age of 18 (according to recent census data) who could become members. Additionally, it includes an unknown number of individuals associated with Michigan BlueCross BlueShield and other entities who may be eligible for membership.

Why is this a concern? If the combined credit union wants to grow its membership, where will it look? For whom will he adapt his services? Not for little Vermont, but rather for its much larger market potential in Michigan. The “financial needs of its members” will become the needs of prospective members in Michigan, not here. I left one of those Michigan counties; I certainly don’t want to be part of their credit union now.

The combined administrative facilities would include 2 addresses in Michigan: one the Mortgage Center and the other a BlueCross BlueShield Service Center.

As we see what lies ahead for VSECU members, I think it is clear that members should vote no on the proposed merger.

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Tags: nefcu, New England Federal Credit Union, Vermont State Employees Credit Union, VSECU

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