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Cornerstone celebrates 1st year of consolidation
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (7/1/14)--One year ago today, the credit union leagues of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas became one. Today, the Cornerstone Credit Union League is the largest credit union league in the country, serving 557 credit unions which in turn serve more than 9.5 million consumers.
 
Member credit unions have and will continue to benefit from this consolidation, said league CEO Dick Ensweiler.
 
Points of access provided by the Cornerstone Credit Union League in its first year include:
  • 130 professional development opportunities, including seminars, workshops, conferences, and webinars.
  • Asset-liability management services as a dues-supported service. These services included a semi-annual key ratio report and peer-group statistics, as well as monthly dividend and loan pricing guidelines. Cornerstone is the only league in the country offering these ALM services as a dues-supported service to credit unions.
  • Nine councils, including the CFO, Compliance, HR, Lending, Marketing and Business Development, Operations, Technology and Member Business Services councils. In the true spirit of collaboration, the league collaborated with the Louisiana Credit Union League in 2013 to offer the Member Business Services Council. Cornerstone added a Volunteers Council in 2014. Overall, council membership increased 20% in 2013.
  • Thirty-five credit union chapters, offering credit union professionals and volunteers opportunities to learn, network and share best practices.
  • Ideas and insight from Cornerstone's Young Professional Advisors. Cornerstone selected 12 young credit union professionals from across the region to serve in leadership roles, working to recruit and empower credit union professionals under the age of 35 to be engaged in the current and future successes of credit unions.
  • Financial education, professional development and disaster relief grants through its charitable arm--the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation. In 2013, the foundation approved 301 grants totaling more than $384,000.
  • Services and solutions through its wholly owned subsidiary--Credit Union Resources, including human resources consulting and employment services, compliance, financial and auditing, technology consulting, strategic planning and shared branching. In 2013, CU Resources' signed partnerships with CO-OP Financial Services and INTECH, and in 2014 launched the only executive search program working inside the credit union system, recruiting and placing the next generation of leadership with credit unions.
"Consolidation has enabled us to harness the expertise and resources of each respective league. Our name may have changed, but our commitment to credit unions and the movement has not," said Ensweiler. "Drawing on the talents and experience of a diverse staff of 119, we are well positioned to respond to the needs of our member credit unions and deliver the outstanding products, services and resources they have grown accustomed to."
 
Tandie Lee Kenser, president, Garland County Educators FCU, Hot Springs, Ark., with $3.4 million in assets, said she believes the consolidation was necessary. "The Arkansas and Texas credit union leagues had already been collaborating in a number of areas including education and compliance, without the validity of true oneness,"  she said. "In my opinion as the leader of a small credit union, this change has been extremely positive. The quantity and quality of dues-based services have increased dramatically, the library of information is easily accessible, and the willingness of peers to work together is something I have never experienced before."
 
Sean Cahill, president/ CEO of Southwest 66 CU, Odessa, Texas, said he was initially concerned about the consolidation. "The Texas Credit Union League, to me, was the best league in the country, and I was worried that services may suffer with the consolidation," Cahill said.
 
 "But the absolute opposite has occurred," he added. "Cornerstone has taken things to a whole new level and I could not be more impressed.  The dues services are incredible, and the non-dues services provided through Credit Union Resources are world class. I use Cornerstone and Resources as much as I can because I know they have my best interests at heart. The leadership between both of these businesses lives and demonstrates the credit union motto every single day."
 
In hindsight, consolidation was the right decision, Cahill said. "The combined power of the three states collaborating together has brought new and exciting ideas to the table, as well as connecting the credit unions in these three states," he added. "I feel like my network has expanded as a result of the consolidation. And I do feel the league is in a better position to serve our needs, especially with regard to advocacy."
 
Cornerstone is headquartered in Dallas and maintains offices and a strong presence in the state capitols of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Cornerstone also has a satellite office in Houston, Texas. Advocacy remains a critical area of focus for the league, so maintaining a presence in Austin, Little Rock, and Oklahoma City was a necessity, according to Cornerstone Paul Trylko, the league's board chairman.
 
"Being politically engaged is essential for the continued growth and prosperity of our movement," Trylko said. "It's important that lawmakers know that we are present, engaged and ready to defend and protect the rights of consumers who depend on credit unions to meet their financial needs."
 
Mike Kloiber, president/CEO, Tinker FCU, Oklahoma City, Okla., who was involved in the consolidation efforts from the beginning, feels it has exceeded expectations in the first year. "The feedback in Oklahoma is very positive, and the concerns held by many regarding the loss of identity and becoming lost in a bigger trade organization has proved unfounded by most everyone," Kloiber said.
 
While the consolidation has offered many benefits to member-credit unions, Kloiber highlights the following as the top three benefits:
  • Premium educational meetings, webinars and conferences provided by an impressive league infrastructure now available to all credit unions in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas;
  • A league staff of highly trained and experienced professionals willing to assist in every way possible; and
  • Network of communication through personal contact, technology and professional publications.


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