North coast merger misfits bank on P&N

Ian Rogers Credit Union
After 20 years, Margot Sweeney will retire as CEO of Summerland Credit Union
After 20 years, Margot Sweeney will retire as CEO of Summerland Credit Union

After five months, Summerland Credit Union and Coastline Credit Union have called off talks over a potential merger between the two regional credit unions.

“After a thorough due diligence process and following numerous discussions between the respective Boards and Management of the credit unions, the Summerland Board reached a decision this week not to proceed with the merger,” Summerland said in a public statement.

Coastline (based in Kempsey) and Summerland (based in Lismore) serve overlapping target markets in northern NSW.  Had they merged, they would have had 16 branches “from Coolangatta in the north to Taree in the south”.

With combined assets of more than A$1.2 billion, the new organisation would have sat just outside the top 20 in mutual ADI rankings.

Summerland chair Katrina Luckie told members on Thursday that, “In the final analysis the board determined that a merger with Coastline is not in the best interests of Summerland.”

Luckie also broke the news that CEO Margot Sweeny will retire in July after 20 years’ service to the mutual sector, “and five years on the Summerland Board as Deputy Chair before that.”

But Northern New South Wales may yet get a progressive credit union merger this year.

P&N Bank from Perth and BCU – the new name of the Coffs coast’s Banana Credit Union – are presumably working away on their merger, outlined three months ago.

If all goes well, “shareholding members would then be invited to consider the Board recommendation and vote on the merger proposal sometime later in 2019”.

Or so said P&N Bank in an explainer on their website. This is the best reference.

The BCU website, however, it’s easy to miss there’s an important story featured, vital to member interests.

BCU’s main comms for members is a two minute, animated emotional pitch.

“We want to be as financially fit and strong as possible,” the voiceover croons.

“As a small credit union, that isn’t possible.”

Taking the long view, BCU said: “We have been providing better banking services to our members for nearly 50 years, and we want to be here for another fifty.”

BCU just lacks scale. For P&N, this east coast “banana bank” brings a decent but recently slighted record of goodwill, given allegations of misconduct by the mutual’s former CEO still before a Queensland court.

“Our industry is facing many challenges, including rising costs, decreasing margins and an increase in required investments in technology and compliance,” BCU told members in their explainer.

It’s a universal problem for finance and P&N Bank is thinking big, finally getting its strategic rollup of smaller (and often far away) ADIs underway. The reach will be national and P&N Mutual Bank is making every chance for its long run success by embracing the best that banking and society have to offer.

The neobank story runs widely in Australia and the credit union movement is in the thick of the drive for material gains in market share and the best owner value stories in the industry.