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Jun
17
2024
Economy

The village's 75-year-old YS Federal Credit Union could merge with Bridge Credit Union — a decision that will be made by YSCU's 2,000 members. Those members have until Thursday, Dec. 14, to submit their votes about the merger. (Photo by Reilly Dixon)

Credit union merger on the table

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Beginning early next year, the village’s 75-year-old YS Federal Credit Union, or YSCU, could merge with central-Ohio-based Bridge Credit Union.

The decision about the merger will be made by YSCU’s 2,000 members. Unlike a bank, a credit union is a nonprofit institution cooperatively owned by its members, who, according to the YSCU’s bylaws and regulations from the National Credit Union Administration, are the driving force in major decisions like this one.

YSCU’s members have until a scheduled board meeting Thursday, Dec. 14, at 5:30 p.m., to submit their votes about the merger. The results of the vote will be announced at that meeting.

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The News spoke with YSCU CEO Sandy Hollenberg and Bridge CU CEO Jarod Bach this week about the potential merger, and what it could mean for members if they vote in its favor.

Noting difficulties the YSCU has had in recent months with regard to staffing and hours, Hollenberg said this year felt like a “great time” to consider a merger — something YSCU’s board of directors have identified as a possible avenue for the small, local credit union in past strategic planning. Hollenberg said she believes the potential merger would be a “win-win-win,” as both institutions would pool resources to offer expanded services to member-owners.

“Because of our size, we’ve been restricted in some of the things we could offer,” Hollenberg said; business loans, expanded mortgage loan offerings, more locations and hours and phone support are among the services YSCU could offer if merged with Bridge.

At the same time, Bach said, the merger could help shore up the services YSCU already offers, and issues with hours and staffing would be resolved “ASAP.”

”I don’t want to say it’s easy, but I think we can fix some of those concerns people have had really fast,” Bach said.

Hollenberg added: “The same familiar faces will be at our location for folks coming in; that location is going to stay open, the hours are going to get better. Nobody is expected to lose anything.”

Hollenberg said YSCU identified Bridge as a potential merger partner because it’s philosophically aligned with the village credit union’s own mission of community service.

“[Bridge has been] not only committed to, but excited about increasing the budget for the community workings of Yellow Springs,” Hollenberg said. Past YSCU efforts have included offering emergency loans during the first year of the pandemic and providing financing for the purchase of the land that became Agraria farm.

Like many community credit unions, YSCU was started by community members looking for a way to manage savings and loans that benefited community members rather than corporate shareholders. YSCU was incorporated in 1948 by 13 Yellow Springs residents following conversations at the former co-op store on the corner of South High and West Davis streets, according to past News reporting.

Bridge Credit Union’s history is similar to that of YSCU — it was founded in 1967 by five Ohio Department of Transportation employees to “promote thrift and to provide credit for its members,” according to its original articles of incorporation. Since then, Bridge has grown to nine locations in Columbus, Dayton, Powell, Struthers, Springfield and Eaton.

Hollenberg said that, since YSCU announced the merger vote earlier this month, some members have expressed concern over Bridge’s larger institutional size and what it will mean for YSCU’s locally focused customer service.

“One concern expressed to me has been that ‘bigger is not better’ — and we agree with that,” Hollenberg said. “That’s why we have sought out a financial institution that’s big enough to let us improve, but small enough that we will not lose that hometown feel.”

If the merger is approved by member-owners, the two institutions would merge officially on Feb. 1, 2024. There will be some branding changes, but YSCU will keep its name.

Hollenberg said that if the merger is not approved the credit union will continue to operate as usual, “striving to return to service levels pre-COVID and pre-labor market hurdles,” though she added that YSCU will likely not be able to offer “additional resources, support and value without the partnering opportunity.”

YSCU members may vote on the merger in-person at the credit union’s 217 Xenia Ave. location, or online at yscu.org; ballots must be received by Dec. 14 to be counted. A special meeting of the board of directors to announce the merger vote and, if the merger is voted in by members, will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, at YSCU. Members are welcome and encouraged to attend the meeting.

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