This commentary is by Edward Fox of Montpelier, who was an appointed, non-elected VSECU board member from October 2019 to April 2020.
During a community forum to discuss the merger of New England Federal Credit Union and Vermont State Employees Credit Union, I had the pleasure of listening to an address by a recent college graduate. He had dark hair, a thoughtful face, and before he spoke, I noticed that he listened carefully and took copious notes.
He told the group that after college he had focused his ambitions and started his own small business. He dreamed of one day owning a home on a small piece of property in the state he loved.
This young man was everything one might hope for in a younger generation: smart, conscientious, full of dreams and ideas. But one crucial thing was missing — hope. As the young man described it, when he looked toward his financial future, the picture was bleak. He didn’t even know how he would pay off his student loans, not to mention afford his own home.
Could the merger of two large credit unions help people like this hard-working young Vermonter? At this point, it’s hard to tell what the possibilities are. But regardless, I found inspiration in his story — something to remind all of us why a strong credit union is so important and what it might represent to many Vermonters: a viable future.
NEFCU and VSECU are the two largest credit unions in Vermont. Based in Williston, NEFCU is the state’s largest credit union with $1.9 billion in assets. Based in Montpelier, VSECU has $1.07 billion in assets.
In a letter to NEFCU’s 95,000 members, CEO John Dwyer said that, pending approval, the credit unions would merge next year under the legal entity of New England Federal Credit Union. Dwyer will serve as chief executive officer, while current VSECU CEO Rob Miller will serve as president and chief operating officer.
During that community forum — where some people approved of the merger, and some did not — I heard a lot of good, thoughtful discussion on both sides. To be fair, the very word “merger” is unnerving for many people, and suggests a predatory, monolithic organization. But not all mergers are the same, and I was glad to see that most of the debate was open-minded and forward-thinking. Certainly, there are fact-based arguments both for and against the idea.
For my part, I believe in the merger. As I listened, my thoughts kept returning to the young man and his future, and what the merger might mean for future generations.
In my view, by coming together as one, two very large, Vermont-based institutions are going to bring a lot of financial resources to the table. The agreement will not only retain all current employees, but additional jobs are expected to be created as well.
Having a very strong Vermont-based credit union will help create opportunity for the people who want to live, raise families, and create businesses and jobs in our brave little state.
The key to thinking about this is envisioning the future we want to have. What do we want for recent college graduates like the one who spoke at the community forum, and others as well?
This is the investment we should be thinking about. Credit unions and cooperatives invest in people and the power of people to do good in the world. And the stronger they are, the more they can provide the one thing we all need most. Hope.
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