BIRMINGHAM, Ala., and TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (12/12/08)--The boards of the Alabama and Florida Credit Union Leagues have voted to submit a consolidation plan of their organizations to a vote by their memberships. If approved, the consolidated entity--called the League of Southern Credit Unions (LSCU)-- would represent 332 credit unions with a combined assets of $55 billion. The Alabama league board voted Monday and the Florida league board Tuesday to propose the consolidation. League members will vote in March at specially called membership meetings. Credit Union National Association President/CEO Dan Mica congratulated the leadership of both leagues. “This proposed consolidation has the potential for serving the credit unions of Alabama and Florida with a more efficient system offering an even stronger array of services,” he said, adding that “over the long run, there is the promise of additional innovative programs and services that will give their member credit unions a more competitive posture in the markets that they serve. “I know that the credit unions in the both states will make the best decision for their members and their future in considering blending these two great leagues into the new LSCU,” Mica added. The league boards fully support the creation of LSCU, said Rich Helber, Florida league chairman, and Steve Swofford, Alabama league chairman. Both said the combination would give credit unions a bigger voice in the political deliberations in Montgomery, Ala.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Washington, D.C., while providing members a wider selection of business services. It also would create efficiencies of $1 million or more per year, they said. For the past five months, the leagues have undergone a due diligence process that included financial audits, a review of dues structures, and a market analysis of existing and potential new products. The decision was confirmed by an external accounting firm--Carr, Riggs and Ingram--which concluded the consolidation would benefit both leagues from a financial and tax standpoint. The consolidation was partly driven by external factors such as the meltdown on Wall Street, according to Alabama league President/CEO Gary Wolter. “We are faced with what could be the most sweeping financial regulation since the 1930s, and the consolidation would make it possible to expand and strengthen the localized advocacy programs for both leagues,” he said. “As every day passes and the economic landscape narrows, it becomes more and more imperative that we enhance our advocacy capabilities to continue our fight against the well-funded banking lobby,” Wolter said. The consolidation also would create opportunities for additional, expanded league programs and services that would “enable member credit unions to be more competitive, he said. The next steps in the process entail communicating the plan’s details via town meetings and face-to-face meetings with individual credit unions in both states. The leagues set a goal of touching every credit union member in their respective states in January and February to prepare for the vote in March. “In this time of economic turmoil and the continuing reduction of the numbers of credit unions, an extraordinary opportunity exists in Alabama and Florida to create a new model for future delivery of services and even stronger localized advocacy programs,” said Florida league President/CEO Guy M. Hood. He noted the leagues made a thorough analysis of the opportunity and “the benefits to both leagues were apparent.” Alabama and Florida credit unions have “a long history of close working relationships,” and the creation of LSCU, if approved, “will provide an even greater opportunity for member credit unions to grow, prosper and impact the credit union movement,” Hood added. Long-time league presidents Wolter and Hood have both announced upcoming retirements.