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Credit union gains members, $14.2M

Two Springfield credit unions merging.

International Harvester Employee Credit Union has added nearly 2,000 members, $14.2 million in assets and a location on Springfield’s busiest shopping corridor after acquiring Athena Credit Union.

Board members from IHECU and Athena voted Wednesday to merge the two credit unions.

The newly formed partnership will give the credit union 17,000 members and $265 million in assets.

President and CEO Jim Kitchen said IHECU began looking at the Bechtle Avenue strip last year.

“We just thought that side of town is growing with all the businesses and traffic,” Kitchen said. “Everybody is eating out there, shopping out there, and we just thought we’d like to be on that side of town.”

A Wright-Patterson Credit Union also opened on Bechtle Avenue last year.

The International Harvester credit union serves anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Clark, Champaign, Miami, Logan, Union, Madison, Montgomery and Greene counties.

Athena and IHECU began discussing the possibility of a merger in October, Kitchen said.

“We just decided since Athena was out that way we would approach them and see if there was any interest in a partnership,” Kitchen said. Athena is “a small union but has strong members and good capital and a good location.”

Athena Credit Union was founded in 1941 and originally served Springfield City Schools employees, said Kathy Allen, CEO of Athena. The credit union now serves anyone who goes to school or works in education in Clark County.

“When (IHECU) approached us and asked ‘Have you ever considered a merger?’ we had never considered it before, but thinking of that and the few benefits a small credit union could provide, we feel (the merger) is very beneficial,” Allen said.

Athena has one location off Bechtle Avenue at 1427 W. First St., and had much fewer services for members. As part of International Harvester, Allen said members would have access to mobile banking, 24/7 customer service, after-hour loan service and more.

“They’ll just have better access to their accounts,” Allen said.

Credit union mergers are common statewide.

“It has been a pretty steady number of 15 to 20 (mergers) within the state of Ohio per year,” said Patrick Harris, director of media and public relations for the Ohio Credit Union League. “A lot of these smaller credit unions have trouble keeping up with complying with federal regulations that have come down from agencies. There are a high number of new regulations on financial institutions including banks and credit unions.”

Allen said many of the new regulations have been a burden.

“We have to disclose a lot more to the consumer, which that’s a good thing, but that means we have to reprint all of our paperwork and for a smaller credit union that’s expensive,” Allen said. “And there’s been some changes as far as the fee structure as well. We don’t have the funds to hire someone to take care of compliance issues so we have to kind of share that responsibility with a smaller staff and that’s why (small credit unions) are hit a little harder.”

International Harvester has a compliance employee to focus on those issues, Allen said.

Ohio credit unions are growing, Harris said.

“Overall credit unions in state of Ohio are seeing tremendous growth and adding members at record rates and increases in deposits,” he said. “There’s been a lot of consumer angst towards large banking institutions, as large regional and mega-banks have higher fees.”

One in four Ohioans are credit union members, Harris said. The average size of a credit union is $65 million in assets and about 6,000 members.

Prior to the merger, International Harvester had 15,580 members and $246 million in assets.

Athena will keep all current staff members and employees at the West First Street branch, just under the International Harvester name.

The former Athena branch will close April 1 and will reopen April 2 as an IHECU branch.

Athena members can expect to see information on the merger and new cards and checks in mid-March, Allen said. The new cards can be used starting April 2.

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