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Levin: VSECU Merger | Remark

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VSECU is a Vermont gem, let’s keep our Vermont credit union independent.

In 1997, when I was eligible for membership (now all Vermonters can join), I proudly became a member of VSECU (then Vermont State Employees Credit Union, now known as VSECU) because I wanted to put my hard-earned money into a financial institution in Vermont whose mission and values ​​I share. As a member/owner of this cooperative, I received the invitation to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VSECU (virtually), as well as the information to vote on the members of the board of directors.

In early March, members received a letter from VSECU indicating that VSECU and a federal credit union have entered into a merger agreement, which is unanimously supported by the board of directors. I read the letter again with complete disbelief. Why? Several of the reasons why I became a member:

— Credit unions are cooperatives, similar to food cooperatives and electric cooperatives, which are democratic organizations owned and controlled by their members. Each member gets one vote to determine the policies and decisions of the organization. Members are the owners of the credit union and contribute capital so that the credit union can then provide services and lend money to members.

— VSECU member-owners are Vermonters whose money is reused by Vermonters and Vermont communities. This means that VSECU member dollars flow back into Vermont and recirculate in ways that strengthen the state in which we live, work and enjoy.

— Members vote on who sits on the board, but it is the member-owners who ultimately vote on important decisions. The fact that there was no discussion, to my knowledge, with the members before entering into a merger agreement goes against the cooperative principles in my view; and beyond principles, does not build goodwill with member owners.

— One of the “selling points” of the merger is that by becoming bigger, VSECU can offer more services. From my perspective, VSECU appears to be in excellent financial shape and is serving its members well. If at some point the board and members decide to have a discussion about increasing the size of the credit union, for reasons parallel to why VSECU exists, I think the best approach is to gain more Vermont members and Vermont deposits to flow Vermont money for the benefit of Vermont.

I do not believe that the (proposed) merger is in the best interest of member-owners and I will use every available opportunity to vote “no” and participate in the decision-making process. It is unfortunate that a broader discussion did not take place for the announcement of something that looks like a “concluded fact” and fundamentally changes the mission and vision of VSECU, which will no longer exist.

I am one of those members who voted for board members at every opportunity but never attended an annual meeting, but I decided to attend the virtual meeting this year on March 30 and I signed up by going to VSECU.com. I encourage participation from other members who care that VSECU remains an independent, chartered Vermont credit union that invests money from Vermonters in Vermont with the goal of building vibrant communities.

Rachel Levin lives in Chittenden.