Changing Charters, Changing Stripes: Would Your Bank Give Up a Federal Tax Exemption? Two Texas Credit Unions' Decisions to Convert into Mutual Banking Companies Carried Just That Price-And It Didn't Faze Them a Bit

By Cocheo, Steve | ABA Banking Journal, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Changing Charters, Changing Stripes: Would Your Bank Give Up a Federal Tax Exemption? Two Texas Credit Unions' Decisions to Convert into Mutual Banking Companies Carried Just That Price-And It Didn't Faze Them a Bit


Cocheo, Steve, ABA Banking Journal


Alan Theriault is not what you'd calla popular man in the hearts of true believers in the credit union industry. Indeed, he hasn't been for some time. Back before email and websites became ubiquitous, he was a voice in the wilderness. He'd transmit periodic fax newsletters (remember those?) promoting the concept that individual credit unions' future didn't always best lie in remaining as credit unions. And how those executives who had converted in mind could convert their institutions in actuality.

Theriault knew whereof he spoke. He had been through the process of conversion himself. In fact, next month marks the tenth anniversary of his groundbreaking conversion, the first state-chartered credit union to do so.

In 1996, Theriault, then president and CEO of AWANE Credit Union, Peterborough, N.H., orchestrated the transmutation of his credit union into a mutual savings bank: AWANE Bank, fsb (now Monadnock Community Bank).

In time, Theriault became such a believer that he got into consulting with other credit unions to show them how to make the conversion. Today, the website that his consulting firm, CU Financial Services, hosts continues to carry his newsletter, Converting from a Credit Union Update.

Over time a network of specialists in conversion formed around Theriault's firm. The group is called the CU Financial Services Conversion Network, and its members have helped most of the 29 credit union transactions involving either a conversion to a stock or mutual savings bank or a merger with a banking company. In some cases credit unions that converted have also made the jump into mutual holding company form. This is a structure which, in spite of the name, enables the company to raise capital through public offerings; depositors have the first shot at shares.(See table, p. 30, for completed deals. More are pending.)

Texas twosome

Last year, two such mutual savings bank conversions occurred nearly at the same time, and in the same state. Consultant Theriault is excited for them.

"They have a tremendous opportunity ahead," he says. Both converted institutions--OmniAmerican Bank, Fort Worth, and ViewPoint Bank, Plano--will gain substantial capital from upcoming public offerings, fueling up for aggressive expansion following their conversions. (For an interesting parallel, see the related article, "The AWANE story: A pioneer changes its charter, structure, and even its name," at www.ababj.com)

The two institutions have gone through both the official conversion process and the unofficial process. The latter includes running a gauntlet of industry abuse and a successful joint court case against the National Credit Union Administration, in which ABA filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the converting credit unions.

In the end, both organizations unveiled their conversions in January. By way of jumping right in, both CEOs headed for ABA's National Conference for Community Bankers in mid-February. ABA Banking Journal spoke with OmniAmerican Bank's Larry E. Duckworth, president and CEO, at the conference, and spoke with ViewPoint Bank's Gary Base, president and CEO, as he was preparing to leave for the banker meeting.

The discussions covered not just the struggle to convert--it's still quite controversial in the credit union industry--but how the banks planned to expand; cope with increased, bank-style regulation; and--who could miss this one?--how they felt about having to get used to paying federal taxes.

For the sake of perspective, understand that the asset sizes of both institutions--OmniAmerican's was $1.1 billion and ViewPoint's was $1.4 billion at the time of the interviews-put them in the top 50 banking institutions based in Texas, where there are more than 600.

OmniAmerican Credit Union of Fort Worth becomes OmniAmerican Bank

The trouble with movements and causes is that they sometimes take on a life of their own. …

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