Oct. 5, 2016
Santa Rosa, Calif. –– Two local credit unions, Mendo Lake and Community First, have agreed to merge, creating a community-based cooperative with greater value and more convenience for their members.
“By combining, we make the financial cooperative the perfect size. We’ll be big enough to take advantage of the latest electronic conveniences for members, but small enough to maintain the personal service our members appreciate,” Community First CEO Todd Sheffield said. Together, the combined not-for-profit financial cooperative will have assets of $423 million and a membership of nearly 48,000.
The ongoing cooperative will use the Mendo Lake charter, which has advantages in helping low- to moderate-income households, and the merged organization will adopt the Community First name. There is no overlap in branches, as the two financial cooperatives provide banking services in separate but contiguous counties. Therefore, all branches, ATMs, employees and managers are needed and will remain in their current locations.
The genesis for this merger was the planned retirement of Mendo Lake Credit Union’s CEO Richard Cooper. “The board considered several options, but felt a merger was best for members. As they looked for a local credit union with shared values and complementary services, Community First was clearly an ideal partner.” said Cooper, who will end his 41-year career in financial services in January.
Cooper and Sheffield have known each other for years and their organizations have followed similar paths. “I’ve always appreciated Todd’s approach to financial management and his dedication to community service. I can retire with peace of mind knowing Todd will run the combined organization,” Cooper said.
Because Community First members must choose to adopt the Mendo Lake charter, Community First members will vote on the merger. After the vote, the California Department of Business Oversight and National Credit Union Administration will review the merger and if all goes as planned, the two organizations will become one in early 2017. It is also important to note that credit unions are owned by their members. Unlike a bank merger, where stock and cash are often exchanged, no individuals or outside stockholders will profit from this process.
“We are in the process of reviewing our service offerings, rates, and fees, and choosing the ones that benefit our members. If Community First has better rates for members with savings accounts, we’ll use those rates. If Mendo Lake has lower fees for members, we’ll use that fee structure. We are all really pleased to be working together, because it is clear we will be able to offer our members even better products and services,” Sheffield said.
Mendo Lake was founded in 1959; Community First in 1961. Both credit unions were begun by local teachers and later converted to community charters to accommodate all local residents.