Mergers are Focus of New White Paper from CUNA Councils


April 19, 2010


Ellis Waller

CUNA Councils

(608) 231-4141


Madison, Wis. – The merger landscape is shifting in ways that are both subtle and dramatic. More than one-third of all credit unions operating in 2008, for example, had participated in at least one merger between 1979 and 2008.  As a result, a growing number of credit union executives have been through multiple mergers and have developed a merger competency that will likely become part of an essential skill set for CEOs and senior management during the next decade. That’s the finding of a new white paper, “Developing a Merger Competency,” sponsored by the six CUNA Councils.

The white paper looks at many areas surrounding credit union mergers including the rationale behind many mergers, roles of staff involved and board, effective mergers, mergers to reject, members point of view, and more.

Attitudes are also evolving; mergers are no longer considered the last resort for a failing institution; in some cases they are part of a thoughtful strategy for healthy credit unions.  A merger, like most financial decisions, may at first seem to be about operations and numbers, but its success, will hinge on whether the emotions and culture of the two parties involved were respected and treated fairly, notes the paper.

Mergers sometimes flounder because they focus on the mechanics—financials, operations, products, services—when merging talent and traditions from both organizations is often the critical element. While integrating two cultures, capable leaders know the importance of symbols and signals in communicating with employees about change.

Alan Peppers, CEO of Westerra Credit Union, $1.2 billion assets, Denver, brought four credit unions together through mergers in the last five years.  Emphasizing the importance of being proud of one’s past, the organization developed a museum to preserve the history of the four organizations, which includes a “Spirit of Volunteerism” wall honoring past chairmen and historical documents from each credit union.

“The most challenging part of any merger is the cultural integration, winning the hearts and minds of employees and members,” says Peppers.

Westerra focuses efforts on the integration process by using face-to-face communication in groups of 10 to 15 employees. They follow up by using a third party to facilitate focus groups to ask employees how they did their work, identifying any gaps between the two cultures.  By identifying the gaps, it helped redefine the mission, vision and values of the credit union that would become Westerra.  This was then followed by ongoing electronic opinion surveys.

CUNA Council members are entitled to complimentary copies of these and more than 200 white papers; non-members may purchase the white papers for a price of $50 per copy. 

The paper is available online in the white paper section of – select the “Cross Council” tab.

Press contacts can download the white paper here (until 5/3):


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About the CUNA Councils

The CUNA Councils are a national organization made up of over 4,700 credit union professionals from across the United States. Run by and for credit union executives, the councils target their networking, information, and programs to key areas of credit union management, that make up the six councils:

  • CUNA Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Council
  • CUNA Human Resources, Training, and Development (HR/TD) Council
  • CUNA Lending Council
  • CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council
  • CUNA Operations, Sales, and Service (OpSS) Council
  • CUNA Technology Council

For more information visit

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