Growing Together: The latest on our merger with Valley Strong Credit Union
Since our inception in 1954, Financial Center Credit Union’s mission has been to return true value to Members by providing access to credit (aka loans) all while still maintaining the credit union’s safety and soundness. We remain passionate about helping Members today, tomorrow, and beyond to achieve their financial goals. The Board of Directors and Leadership Team of Financial Center Credit Union are excited to announce plans to merge with Valley Strong Credit Union in a Member-focused effort that would allow the combined organization to enhance the credit union’s commitment to greater access, convenience, and increased Member value.
Unlike a traditional bank merger, this is not a buy-out or acquisition. This merger represents a true collaborative partnership between two financially strong credit unions committed to their Members.
The combined credit union would be more than $3.5 billion in assets, employ more than 500 employees, and serve approximately 220,000 Members with 27 branches throughout Central California from Fairfield to Lodi to Bakersfield. With a competitive physical presence and Valley Strong’s strengths in product, services, and technology offerings, we’ll be able to better serve our Members and our communities.
We are excited to share we have received approval from both the state regulator the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) and the federal regulator the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) for our merger with Valley Strong. What happens next? Financial Center Members will receive the official notice of special meeting and ballot and will have the opportunity to vote until the day of the special meeting which is scheduled for Thursday, September 23, 2021. If you have any questions that haven’t been addressed in the frequently asked questions, please email [email protected] or contact us by phone at (209) 948-6024.
Financial Center Member Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT WOULD THIS MERGER MEAN FOR MEMBERS?
The strategic merger between Financial Center Credit Union and Valley Strong Credit Union would provide the opportunity to achieve positive Member impact and value such as:
- More products and services:
Including mortgages, business services and business loans, and solar and energy efficiency loans, to name just a few.
- Enhanced electronic banking products:
Valley Strong’s technology expertise is an unparalleled benefit that advances our capabilities much faster than we could achieve on our own. This partnership would allow us to provide upgraded digital banking solutions in the form of easy online account opening, up-to-date credit scores, account aggregation, business online banking, treasury management products, and card management, to name just a few.
- More branch locations:
We would go from six branches to 27 branches, with plans to continue to expand the branch network throughout the North (San Joaquin) Valley. Additionally, Members would gain access to a new fleet of ATMs, and a 7-day-a-week contact center (open from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.).
- Same knowledgeable, friendly employees:
The staff at our branches would continue to be available to serve you.
- More responsive to evolving financial needs:
This partnership would allow the credit union to better anticipate and meet the financial needs of Members in a competitive financial services industry.
WHY IS FINANCIAL CENTER CREDIT UNION MERGING?
The phrase “Growing Together,” is a perfect adage, as this merger represents a strategic partnership between two financially healthy, future-focused credit unions committed to providing unparalleled branch access, digital access, and amazing service for our Members and our communities. In a financial services sector that is constantly evolving, this merger is a true embodiment of the credit unions industry’s cooperative mindset.
By merging with Valley Strong, Financial Center Members would benefit from a significant expansion of available products and services including mortgages, business banking, digital and online banking, 7-day-a-week contact center, and so much more. These are products Financial Center lacks and would take many years and significant resources to develop.
Additionally, Valley Strong’s expertise in branch strategy is a significant asset to Financial Center as it seeks to deepen existing Member relationships and serve more of your family and friends as new Members with an expanded field of membership.
WHO IS VALLEY STRONG?
Named one of “America's Best Credit Unions” and "Second in California" by Forbes Magazine in 2020, "Best-In-State Banks and Credit Unions,” Valley Strong was formed in 1938 by a small group of dedicated and concerned teachers who met for the purpose of forming a financial cooperative for school employees and their families. From these humble beginnings, Valley Strong has grown and currently serves 160,000+ Members that represent approximately $2.3 billion in assets.
Valley Strong’s mission is to turn people’s financial possibilities into financial realities. They work every day to create a better tomorrow. From extensive loan programs, including home and auto, to the latest in digital technology, retirement and wealth management services, and business banking, Valley Strong strives to be their Members’ lifelong financial partner.
WHO WOULD LEAD THE ORGANIZATION?
Nick Ambrosini would be the President/CEO of the combined organization. Michael Duffy would be named Chief Advocacy Officer.
WHAT WOULD THE CREDIT UNION’S NAME BE?
Immediately following a successful merger process, the name of the combined organization would be Valley Strong Credit Union, a name that reflects our shared commitment to serve the valley community.
WOULD THIS MERGER BENEFIT CREDIT UNION TEAM MEMBERS?
This partnership would provide team members more career development opportunities, and specialization; all while maintaining a positive culture that encourages teamwork and focuses on the exceptional Member service to which you’re accustomed.
DO BOTH CREDIT UNIONS SUPPORT THIS PARTNERSHIP?
Absolutely. Both credit unions are very excited about this merger with the growth and benefits it brings to our Members, team members, and our communities.
WHAT WOULD THIS PARTNERSHIP DO FOR THE CREDIT UNION?
Overall, our combined assets would be approximately $3.5 billion, serving approximately 220,000 Members with 27 branches throughout the San Joaquin Valley from Lodi to Tehachapi. With a competitive physical presence and Valley Strong’s strengths in product, services, and technology offerings, we’ll be able to better serve our Members and our communities.
WOULD MY ACCOUNTS BE AFFECTED?
There would be no immediate effect with your accounts and there is nothing you need to do today. Eventually, we would convert to Valley Strong’s operating system to enhance our capabilities and deliver a more robust product and service line to Members. Rest assured, as that time approaches, the credit union would work to ensure seamless integration.
WOULD I CONTINUE TO GET THE SAME LEVEL OF SERVICE?
Both credit unions are committed to providing high levels of service. This partnership would allow us to provide unparalleled service to Members. Merging with Valley Strong represents being able to serve more Members, including your friends and family members through an expanded field of membership, and a more robust product and service line. In turn, this would allow us to meet more of your financial needs, and goals.
WOULD MY RATES CHANGE?
The rates on fixed-rate loans and certificate of deposits (CDs) will remain the same until the end of their existing terms. As always, any CD renewals or new loans will be subject to current rates which are determined by several factors including the interest rate environment at the time of a new loan or investment.
WOULD MY ACCOUNTS CONTINUED TO BE INSURED?
Yes. Member savings will be federally insured to at least $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration.
WOULD YOU CLOSE BRANCHES?
There are no plans for any branch closures. In fact, this merger would provide the resources to enhance our branch and digital Member experience.
WOULD YOU OPEN MORE BRANCHES?
Both Financial Center and Valley Strong have long-term growth strategies focused on investigating and considering branch expansion opportunities. Most recently, Valley Strong has opened branches in Visalia and Tulare, and plan additional locations in Dinuba, Porterville, and Hanford. As a combined organization we would continue to focus on how we can enhance delivering our products and services to Members, and the communities we serve. Considering branch expansion opportunities will remain part of this strategy.
WHAT IS THE MERGER TIMELINE?
Our regulators, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, have both approved our merger plans. With Member support of the merger through the voting process, our legal day as a combined organization would be October 1, 2021. We would then begin to work on fully integrating the operations and systems of our credit unions with a target completion date in early 2022.
WHEN WILL THE MEMBER VOTE TAKE PLACE?
Now that we have obtained regulatory approval, a Special Meeting Notice and voting instructions was sent on August 6, 2021, to Financial Center Credit Union Members providing voting information. Voting will be accessible in a multi-channel manner (mail-in, or in-person at the special meeting). Thus, voting by mail will commence immediately upon the delivery of the Special Meeting notice.
WHO GETS TO VOTE?
Financial Center primary Members who meet these requirements:
- Must have at least a $25 on deposit in base share;
- Age 18 or older;
- Must have been a member on or before June 30, 2021;
- Primary Member (excludes joint account holder, business, trust and representative payee accounts).
WHEN DO I VOTE AND HOW?
Ballots will be distributed or made available to all qualified Members and Members will have the opportunity to vote through one of two voting methods: by mail or at the Special Meeting. The voting period opens upon Member’ receipt of their special notice and ballot which were or will be sent out on August 6, 2021, and will remain open until the night of the Special Meeting, which is September 23, 2021.
I WANT TO VOTE BY MAIL, WHAT IF I LOST MY BALLOT OR DIDN’T RECEIVE ONE?
We will have extra ballots and return envelopes available at each branch. If a Member loses or misplaces their ballot, a replacement ballot and return envelope can be requested at a Financial Center branch location.
WHAT IF I CHANGED MY MIND? CAN MY VOTE BE WITHDRAWN SO I CAN VOTE AGAIN?
A Member is eligible to vote one time only, and therefore their first vote is their final vote. Members can vote any time after they’ve received their ballot up to the special meeting.
HOW AND WHEN WILL MEMBERS BE NOTIFIED ABOUT THE VOTING OUTCOME?
We will know the results of the vote on the day of the special meeting on September 23, 2021. We will notify Members of the outcome as soon as possible via an announcement on our website and other applicable channels. An official announcement will also be sent to Members as quickly as possible on/or around September 27, 2021.
WHO WILL OVERSEE THE VOTING PROCESS?
The receipt, custody, and counting of all ballots will be conducted by an independent third party, Carroll and Associates LLP, and not the management, Board, or Audit Committee of the credit union.
WILL THERE STILL BE FINANCIAL CENTER BOARD REPRESENTATION ON THE COMBINED BOARD?
Yes! Two members of Financial Center’s current board of directors will serve on the Valley Strong board of directors after the merger. In addition, a total of five members from Financial Center Credit Union’s board of directors and audit committee will have the opportunity to serve on an Advisory Board to Valley Strong’s management team.