This commentary is from Edward Fox de Montpelier, who served as an appointed and unelected member of the VSECU Board of Directors from October 2019 to April 2020.
At a community forum to discuss the merger of the New England Federal Credit Union and the Vermont State Employees Credit Union, I had the pleasure of listening to a speech by a recent college graduate. He had dark hair, a pensive face, and before he spoke I noticed he was listening intently and taking many notes.
He told the group that after college he focused his ambitions and started his own small business. He dreamed of one day owning a house on a small property in the condition he loved.
This young man was everything one could hope for in a young generation: intelligent, conscientious, full of dreams and ideas. But one crucial thing was missing: hope. As the young man described it, when contemplating his financial future, the picture was bleak. He didn’t even know how he would pay off his student loans, let alone his own house.
Could the merger of two large credit unions help people like this young Vermont worker? At this point, it’s hard to tell what the possibilities are. Either way, I found inspiration in her story – something to remind us all why a strong credit union is so important and what it could mean 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 Montpellier, 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 New England Federal Credit Union legal entity. Dwyer will serve as general manager, while current VSECU CEO Rob Miller will serve as president and chief operating officer.
During this community forum – where some people approved of the merge and some didn’t – I heard a lot of good thoughtful discussions from both sides. To be fair, the very word “merger” is confusing to many people and suggests a predatory, monolithic organization. But not all mergers are the same, and I was happy to see that much of the debate was open-minded and forward-thinking. Certainly, there are factual arguments for and against the idea.
Personally, I believe in fusion. 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 opinion, by coming together as one, two very large Vermont-based institutions are going to bring a lot of financial resources to the table. The deal will not only retain all current employees, but additional jobs are also expected to be created.
Having a very strong credit union based in Vermont will help create opportunities for people who want to live, raise families, and build businesses and jobs in our brave little state.
The key to thinking about it is to envision 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 too?
This is the investment we should be thinking about. Credit unions and cooperatives invest in people and in the power of people to do good in the world. And the stronger they are, the more they can provide the thing we all need the most. Hope.