Collaboration Ideas and Resources


Nick Kessenich, CEO of $20 million Members First Credit Union briefly discuss his successful experience with collaboration – click here to view.


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“You don’t have to be the biggest Credit Union, you only have to optimize the value your members can gain because you are part of a Network Credit Union.” --Desjardins

It’s a new concept based on an old philosophy. It’s a growth strategy alternative to the traditional merger. It’s the Network Credit Union option, an idea whose time has come. The Network Credit Union option creates a stronger organization, with advantages of economies of scale, lending functions, technological innovations, call centers, and marketing support.

Participating credit unions each retain an Advisory Board of Directors and CEO. The vision is standardization of financial practices bolstered by centralized support. Specialized companies/CUSOs provide a broader base for nontraditional products like investment and insurance services.

It’s about making connections. Partnerships bring possibility. Network CU brochure.


What follows is a short collection of various collaboration initiatives that appear to be interesting and effective examples of leagues, credit unions and/or CUSOs working cooperatively to solve problems and increase credit union effectiveness in the marketplace. We’ll update this list periodically as visitors to the site share their stories through the “ADD YOUR COLLABORATION” function that appears above. Note: CUNA conducts no due diligence on collaboration examples and inclusion of an initiative on this list should not be construed as a CUNA endorsement.

  • Open Technology Solutions (OTS) and Shared Service Solutions (S3) are groundbreaking collaborative initiatives spearheaded by Bellco Credit Union (Greenwood Village, CO), Bethpage Federal Credit Union (Long Island, New York) and State Employees Credit Union (Linthicum, Maryland). The OTS alliance – formed in 2003 – created value for the partners by adding scale and efficiency to the process of providing information services. By sharing the expense of operating computer systems and other technologies, the partners were able to increase skill sets, service, and reduce costs. More recently, the S3 initiative began the process of combining each entity’s call center operations into a single point of contact. Plans call for the S3 collaboration to transition to joint operations for processing residential mortgages, consumer loans, credit and debit cards, and deposits. The initiative is expected to deliver savings of millions of dollars annually and to improve the membership’s overall experience. Click here to find out more.

  • CUENC (Credit Union Executives of Northern California) is a group of 60 credit union CEO's in the San Francisco Bay area. The group was started in August 2004 by 11 small credit unions who gathered to see if there was an interest in creating a regional group where smaller credit unions could network, discuss issues, and find common solutions through the sharing of experiences and resources. Members come from Monterey, California's Central Valley, Northern California, San Francisco and everywhere in between. CEOs of credit unions up to $250 million in assets are invited. CUENC maintains a resource list for members with recommended service providers, a professional bulletin to keep members informed of credit union professionals available for work, and together, the group has worked on commonly needed policies, risk assessments marketing projects and business resumption plans.Click here to find out more.

  • CULink -The Michigan Credit Union League/CU Corp has introduced an exciting new collective approach to cooperative advertising and shared branding. This new collaboration seeks to create awareness of the power of the credit union network with a brand descriptor (CUlink). Marketing and web integration are key components of the effort. Initially, 70 credit unions will have been targeted for the collaboration with plans to expand the base of interested credit unions for deeper shared branding involvement (by region) including branch signage, product development, and common products.  Click here to find out more.

  • Southern California Credit Union Alliance -Over 60 credit unions in Southern California formed a collaborative group that holds quarterly meetings, training events, and coordinates group purchasing initiatives. Members of the Alliance have engaged in various operational collaborations including employee sharing, office sharing, ATM sharing, and group item processing. Future anticipated activities include collaborations on data processing, back office processing and call center services. Click here to find out more.

  • CU Roots Cooperative -Launched in 2010, this groundbreaking credit union service organization was organized by several credit unions and the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues. CU Roots services address the industry's long-standing need to reduce operational costs through back-office collaboration. Current service offerings include shared compliance services, internal audit services, and “CUVitality” - a collective health-benefits solution. These services help credit unions of all sizes reduce the operational costs that cut into their margins and enable credit unions to collectively engage in activities they could not otherwise afford on their own. Future plans include the introduction of Enterprise Risk Management services, asset/liability management and loan portfolio analysis. Other back-office services also may be added in the future, such as collections, and IT services. Click here to find out more.


A number of successful international collaboration initiatives have been widely-recognized as superior drivers of competitive advantage, efficiency, growth and scalability. Start here to gain broad overviews of the history, success and strategic direction of these initiatives.

  • Brazil/Sicredi - Brazil’s 10th largest “financial institution” is growing 25% per year. The Sicredi’s centralized marketing, IT, accounting, HR and compliance services allow 120 credit unions with nearly 2,000 branches and 10,000 ATMs to spend more time on service delivery and less on back office operations. Click here to find out more.

  • Canada/Desjardins - The largest integrated cooperative financial group in Canada offering a full range of financial products and services to 6 million owner-users and 400,000 business members through nearly 450 “caisses” which offer over 1,300 service outlets, 43 business centers, 2,600 ATMs and twenty specialty financial services subsidiaries. Caisses utilize network operations, a common brand name and services backed by shared support services (IT and other) with integrated mechanisms for financial stability. Click here to find out more.

  • Poland/SKOK - Polish credit unions -established in 1992 -now serve 2.5 million members on the basis of outsourcing of services (mainly back office) to strengthen CUs’ sales range as well as their stability. The main objective is to integrate the system of credit unions by standardizing and unifying products, services and processes and applying best practices developed in credit unions and affiliated companies. The Group benefits from the effect of scale, concentration of resources and cooperation. Common branding is a cornerstone of the strategy. Click here to find out more.




Edward A. Filene encouraged and supported innumerable collaborative efforts that ultimately helped to spawn a dynamic, vibrant and economically vital credit union movement that has effectively served hundreds of millions of consumers over the past 100+ years. His idea that “progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better” exemplifies the ideal that this proposed collaboration award hopes to celebrate. Visit again to track progress on this initiative.

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