United Communities to merge with London credit union

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ellen van Wageningen, The Windsor Star

United Communities Credit Union will be part of the second largest financial co-operative in Ontario as the result of a merger plan announced Wednesday.

The boards of United Communities, which has its head office in Essex, and London-based Libro Financial Group expect to recommend the merger to their members, who will have to vote in a series of meetings held by each credit union later this year. It is proposed the merger be completed by the end of 2013 and the two credit unions integrate their operations in 2014.

Credit unions across the province have been merging at a steady clip for more than 10 years. In most cases smaller operations are taken over by larger credit unions.

“This is significant because it’s two larger credit unions that are performing tremendously well coming together with a shared vision,” said Libro CEO Steve Bolton.

The new credit union will have 27 branches and 556 employees in 21 communities across Southwestern Ontario serving over 95,000 members. Its assets under administration will total $3 billion.

Currently, United Communities has 200 employees, 36,000 members and $800 million in assets under administration at 11 branches in Essex, Perth and Huron counties.

Libro branches take the merged credit union’s reach east as far as Kitchener. It also has branches in Sarnia, Stratford, Wingham, Strathroy, St. Thomas and Blenheim.

“Certainly branches are a very important part of our distribution network, but other methods are as well – phone, Internet, mobile and systems of that type,” said Jim Lynn, CEO of United Communities. “As our members’ needs change we need to evolve with that, so that’s where we see the great opportunities.”

The head office of the merged credit union, which will have a new name, will be in London. Bolton will be the president and CEO, while Lynn will remain as a consultant to ensure a smooth transition before he retires. The Essex headquarters of United Communities will become a regional office.

No jobs will be lost and no branches closed as a result of the merger, say the CEOs. In fact, the plan is to grow, said Bolton, a London area native who earned his business degree at the University of Windsor.

Whether that will include opening a branch in Windsor remains to be seen, said Lynn, who postponed his retirement to help shepherd through the merger.

“Southwestern Ontario can be a real powerhouse in terms of the economy and we intend to be a major part of that,” he said. “We are the largest financial institution that is focused strictly on Southwestern Ontario. That gives us some interesting insights into the market place.”