Bakersfield, CA – A proposed merger between Valley Strong Credit Union and Financial Center Credit Union has received regulatory approval as well as consent by an overwhelming majority of Financial Center’s Members.
With nearly 11% of participating Members casting ballots, 86% voted “yes,” paving the way for an October 1, 2021, legal merger. The results were announced Thursday, September 23, during a special meeting held at Financial Center’s Stockton headquarters.
Combined, the organization will operate under the Valley Strong name, with President/CEO Nicholas Ambrosini leading the credit union. The organization’s combined assets will be approximately $3.5 billion and will serve more than 210,000 Members with 27 branches throughout the San Joaquin Valley from Lodi to Tehachapi. Two additional branches are expected to open before the end of the year.
The biggest change at this time is Financial Center will be legally combined with Valley Strong. From a Member perspective, there will be minimal impact at legal merger date. Both organizations will continue to serve its respective Members “business as usual” at their branch locations as they ramp up efforts to work on Financial Center being fully integrated from a systems perspective in early 2022.
When the merger was announced, the phrase “Growing Together,” was adopted as the mantra to represent the strategic partnership between two financially healthy, future focused credit unions who are committed to providing unparalleled branch access, digital access, and amazing service for the Members and the communities they serve.
Michael P. Duffy, President/CEO, of Financial Center Credit Union said, “In a financial services sector that is constantly evolving, this merger is a true embodiment of the credit unions industry’s cooperative mind-set. At its core this is about a collective mindset that allows us to achieve our goals faster than we could duplicate on our own.”
When asked what it means to Members to achieve these goals faster, Duffy added, “We recognize merger critics may point to our healthy capital and ask why we didn’t just opt to go it alone. That was of course the first consideration. But the reality is, we do the same things for the same reasons so why not eliminate redundancy and grow faster and better together. On our own it would take years to develop and implement while still having the challenges scale so why not give members more and build the organization for the next decade at the same time.” Duffy continued, “We took our national search for a partner seriously. Together with Valley Strong, it’s a win-win, because members are the focus, and we will be able to serve even more people throughout San Joaquin and the state of California.”
Ambrosini agreed with Duffy. “I recently shared a thought leadership piece about my journey as CEO of Valley Strong. In it, I talked about my belief that credit unions are uniquely positioned to address the challenges of an increasingly fractured financial landscape. By our very nature – and charter – we can lean into social issues and engage with Members in ways that improve their lives.” Ambrosini went on to say, “I am steadfast in my belief that mergers, when done for the right reasons, are one strategy that allows us to deliver ultimate value to Members, communities, and team members. Our strategic partnership with Financial Center is grounded in a human-centered, collaborative, democratic approach.”
Ambrosini added, “As Valley Strong looks to the future and how to turn peoples’ financial possibilities into financial realities we’re committed to maintaining a cooperative mindset.”
From the onset of their partnership both organizations have worked diligently to develop and execute merger communication that included education that would encourage Financial Center Members to cast their votes.
As the merger process continues to moves forward, both credit unions will provide information to their respective memberships via their websites (fccuburt.org and valleystrong.com), and other applicable communication channels.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Valley Strong Credit Union pursuing a merger with Financial Center Credit Union?
A partnership with Financial Center would create a better credit union for all of our Members. By combining our two organizations we can provide better member service, offer expanded products and delivery systems, and create an even stronger balance sheet to more effectively compete in a financial services industry that is constantly evolving.
Why is Financial Center pursuing a merger with Valley Strong?
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.
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.
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.
Who is Financial Center Credit Union?
Established in 1954 and with approximately $600 million in assets and serving more than 30,000 Members, Financial Center is the largest credit union based in San Joaquin County and continues to be voted the best credit union in the area.
What would this partnership do for the Credit Union?
Overall, our combined assets would be approximately $3.2 billion, serving nearly 200,000 Members with ultimately 27 branches throughout the Central Valley from Vacaville 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 Valley Strong accounts be affected?
There would be no impact to Valley Strong Member accounts or the products and services you currently use. Eventually, Financial Center would convert to Valley Strong’s operating system to enhance their capabilities and deliver a more robust product and service line to their Members.
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 more friends and family members throughout the state, and a more robust product and service line. In turn, this would allow us to meet more of your financial needs, and goals.
Would you open more branches?
Both Financial Center and Valley Strong have long-term growth strategies focused on investigating and considering branch expansion opportunities. 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 would remain part of this strategy.
What is the merger timeline?
First approval from regulators must be received. Subsequent to that approval, Financial Center Members would have the opportunity to vote on the proposed merger. It is anticipated the merger would be finalized by October 2021, with systems fully integrated in early 2022.
What would this merger mean for Financial Center Credit Union Members?
By merging with Valley Strong Credit Union, Financial Center would achieve greater 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 Financial Center 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:
- Combined would go from 18 branches to 27 branches (ultimately), with plans to continue to expand the branch network throughout the Central Valley. Additionally, Financial Center 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 Financial Center branches would continue to serve Members.
- More responsive to evolving financial needs: This partnership would allow the combined credit union to better anticipate and meet the financial needs of Members in a competitive financial services industry.