In 1997, when I was eligible to join, I proudly became a member of VSECU (at that time Vermont State Employees Credit Union, now known as VSECU) because I wanted to put my hard-earned money in a Vermont-based financial institution whose mission and values I share.
As a member/owner of this cooperative, I received the invitation to celebrate VSECU’s 75th anniversary (virtually), as well as the information to vote on board members. In early March, members received a letter from VSECU sharing that VSECU and a federal credit union have entered into an agreement to merge, which is unanimously supported by the board of directors. I re-read the letter in total disbelief. Why? There are many reasons I became a member.
- Credit unions are cooperatives, similar to food coops and electric coops, which are democratic organizations owned and controlled by their members. Each member gets one vote to determine the organization’s policies and decisions. The members are the owners of the credit union and contribute capital so that the credit union can then provide services and lend money to members.
- VSECU’s member owners are Vermonters whose money is put back into use by Vermonters and Vermont communities. This means VSECU’s member dollars go back into Vermont and recirculate in ways that strengthen the state in which we live, work, and enjoy.
- Members vote on who serves on the board of directors, but it is the member owners who, ultimately, vote on major decisions. The fact that there was no discussion, that I am aware, with members prior to entering into an agreement to merge goes against cooperative principles from my perspective and beyond principles, does not build goodwill with member owners.
- One of the “selling points” of the merger is that by becoming larger, VSECU can offer more services. From my perspective, VSECU appears to be in great financial shape and is serving its members well. If, at any point, the board of directors and members decide to have a discussion about increasing the size of the credit union, for reasons that parallel the reason VSECU exists, I believe the best approach is by gaining more Vermont members and Vermont deposits to keep Vermonters’ money flowing for Vermont’s benefit.
I do not believe the (proposed) merger is in the best interest for member owners and I will use every opportunity available to vote no and participate in the decision making process. It is unfortunate a larger discussion did not take place for an announcement of something that is made to sound like a “done deal,” and fundamentally changes the mission and vision of VSECU, which will no longer exist.
I am one of those members who has voted for board members at each opportunity, but never attended an annual meeting, but I have decided to attend the virtual meeting this year on March 30, and have signed up by going to VSECU.com. I encourage participation from other members who care about VSECU remaining a Vermont-chartered, independent credit union that invests Vermonters’ money in Vermont for the purpose of creating vibrant communities.
Rachel Levin, Chittenden