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Wescom CU to close 11 branches
PASADENA, Calif. (8/6/08)--Members of Wescom CU, Pasadena, Calif., were understanding when the $3.7 billion asset credit union announced that it would close 11 branches and continue Sunday hours only at in-store branch locations starting Sept. 12. “It was no surprise,” Darren Williams, Wescom CU CEO, told News Now. The credit union’s consolidation can be linked to troubles in Southern California’s housing market. Delinquencies are up, and many members who were first-time homebuyers and had modest down payments are seeing a significant decline in the equity of their homes, he said. After the consolidation, Wescom will have 44 branches. Its traditional branches will have extended hours Monday through Friday until 7 p.m. The call center will remain unchanged. The branches to be consolidated are smaller, slower-growth branches and are located close to other branches. “No member wants to see their branch close, but it is less [of an impact] because we still have 44,” Williams said. He also noted that younger members may not be affected by the branch closings because they bank online. Wescom has a strong online presence, and also belongs to a large ATM network, he added. About 100 positions could be impacted by the changes. “We don’t know how many ultimately will be released,” Williams said. The credit union has not recruited externally, and will try to match employees whose positions have been eliminated with open positions at other branches. “We recognize that we may not have a perfect match,” he said. “We also recognize that some people will say no to the transfers. Wescom eliminated 113 positions in January. Only 20 employees did not return to positions with the credit union. “We’re hopeful we can minimize the impact,” Williams said. The credit union has a young workforce that includes part-time employees and college students. Without external recruitment and normal attrition, “I think it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities,” he added. Wescom has a low market share of the mortgage market, but members who received loans elsewhere have struggled to keep up with auto loan payments and credit card payments. Williams isn’t sure the delinquencies will slow. “That’s the $64,000 question,” he said. “No one knows.” The last time California struggled with housing problems of this extreme was in the early 1990s, he said. “It took four to five years for values to come back to their previous levels. I don’t know if we’re at the bottom. But even if we are, there [isn’t going to be] a significant turnaround in the short-term.”
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