Woodlands members OK credit union's merger with Northeast

Despite some opposition, Woodlands Credit Union members voted by a 3-2 margin on Saturday to merge the Berlin-based credit union with Northeast Credit Union of Portsmouth, the company announced Wednesday.

The merged Northeast Credit Union will have assets of $800 million and serve over 90,000 members in 14 (soon to be 15) branches ranging from New Hampshire's Great North Woods, the Seacoast, Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee region and the Merrimack Valley.

Northeast CEO Peter Kavalauskas will continue in his role at the new entity, which will still be based on Portsmouth, while Timothy Collia, current CEO of Woodlands, will serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Before the merger, Northeast had $725 million in assets and 74,000 members, with branches in the Seacoast and as well as in Manchester and Concord. Woodlands, with about $112 million in assets and 16,000 members, had its branches mainly in the North Country, though one branch reached as far south as Lebanon, which it gained with its merger last summer with the Upper Valley Community Credit Union. "By combining the strengths of both credit unions, we are able to provide all of our members with improved product lines, financial planning services, insurance offerings, expanded technology services, and greater financial stability," Kavalauskas said.

The approval by Woodlands membership was the last barrier standing in the way of the merger, but it wasn't' an easy one to cross.

Woodlands' board of directors endorsed the merger 8-1, arguing that the small credit union had lost money for the last five years and could no longer continue as a stand-alone institution. But opponents, noting the credit union's local roots – it was started in 1956 by mill workers who worked in Berlin – said that the credit union would abandon its founding mission if it went along with the merger. They also thought that the credit union would bounce back as the North Country economy improved.

Northeast did not include vote totals in a release, but a spokesperson told NHBR that the merger passed by a 60 to 40 percent margin.

The merger will be effective on Jan. 1, 2013, with the combination of operating systems set for late summer 2013. – BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW


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