October 21, 2013
It makes sense for the small boutique CUs to disappear or consolidate. Too many of the operating costs are independent of the balance sheet, resulting in margin compression. Go big or go out of business.
Can you document that this is really the case re: costs, considering how much the large CUs spend on optional items?
I realize there is some unavoidable overhead which may be inefficient for small CUs, but my small CUs are not wasting money going through complex regulatory manoeuvres to open banks, nor are they sponsoring major entertainment venues.
Meridian, as you know, recently opened a bank, which must have cost megabucks and offers little of interest. They also recently dedicated a lot of money to sponsoring what used to be the O'Keefe/Hummingbird/Sony Centre in Toronto as well as the Centre for the Performing Arts in North York, which have been renamed in their honour. I believe the figure for the sponsorships was $31million over 15 years. https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/2019/01/21/torontos-sony-centre-will-be-renamed-meridian-hall-as-of-september.html
Meridian is also opening tons of branches. While I have no objection, they do cost money both to open and to run, and we have to wait to see if they are viable.
My small one-and-two branch CUs don't do any of these things. They spend very little on advertising. One of them doesn't even send me emails. There are no complicated gimmicky offers, so less spent on lawyers vetting them. Their rates aren't always the best, but they have regular "specials" which I find very advantageous. They don't have call centre, only regular business hours, so that cuts down on call centre costs; and regular business hours are sufficient for me.
I would need solid proof that they are not viable. And I would also ask whether some of the small CUs couldn't share some of the higher overhead costs without amalgamting.
BTW, my FSR at Meridian was not surprised when I declined Meridian for a better rate at one of the small CUs. He said they are often more efficient.
At the end of the day, it depends on local circumstances and ultimately the decision of members as to whether to amalgamate. The trend to amalgamation is real but it may have as much to do with changing membership patterns as anything. The reason for the initial bond may have diminished or evaporated and current ,e,bers may be easily convinced that bigger is better.
In general, it's better to have more choices. Credit union conglomerates function much like banks and are less responsive to member needs.
One thing I am fairly sure of is that if my small CUs amalgamate, I will be worse off financially.
Perhaps things work differently in the southern interior. I've been through Castlegar and can't imagine why they would need more than two FIs at the most - and then only to ensure some degree of competition.