Holiday Coast Credit Union may merge with Regional Australia Bank

AT THE RECENT AGM: HCCU CEO Neville Parsons, and founding members Marie Winters, Paul Jones, Pedro Gill, Louise Barr and Ron Barr.
AT THE RECENT AGM: HCCU CEO Neville Parsons, and founding members Marie Winters, Paul Jones, Pedro Gill, Louise Barr and Ron Barr.

The directors of Holiday Coast Credit Union and Regional Australia Bank have begun discussions about merging.

Holiday Coast Credit Union has 25,000 members and 98 staff.  It has branches at Wauchope, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Taree, Gloucester, Laurieton, Tea Gardens, Wingham, Greenhills, Port Macquarie and Tuncurry.

At its annual general meeting in Wauchope Country Club last month, the annual report showed that HCCU has total assets of $607.7m, reserves of $40.4m, made a net profit after tax of $2.23m and had its best financial result in more than ten years.

Regional Australia Bank is customer-owned, and has 60,000 members and 200 staff.  It pledges more than five per cent of its profits back into grassroots community initiatives.  Its roots are in regional NSW and its head office is in Armidale.

It also has branches in Armidale, Uralla, Guyra, Walcha, Glen Innes, Manilla, Tamworth, Inverell, Barraba and Bingara.

It’s proposed that there would be no forced redundancies among any of the staff, and that the merged organisation would continue to operate both Regional Australia Bank and Holiday Coast Credit Union brands in their respective locations.  HCCU staff have already been briefed and will continue to be.

The combined body will have an asset size of more than $2bn.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Holiday Coast Credit Union chief executive officer, Neville Parsons.

“There will be immediate tangible financial and non-financial benefits to existing members of both.”

HCCU chairman, Allan Gordon said that from initial discussions with Regional Australia Bank, they share a similar strategic focus, and a commitment to ongoing mutual values to underpin quality member service in banking.

“A commonality of purpose is an essential ingredient in any successful merger,” he said.

“In today’s banking world, when you are a small fish in a large pond, you need economies of scale.  Regional Australia Bank is a credit union and has the same values as us.  There are benefits for members, especially in terms of new and emerging technology.

“It’s early days.  We need to do a lot of due diligence and make sure it is a good fit for everyone,” added Mr Gordon.

Regional Australia Bank community partnership program.  Photo supplied to Fairfax Media by Regional Australia Bank.

Regional Australia Bank community partnership program. Photo supplied to Fairfax Media by Regional Australia Bank.

Mr Parsons added that with greater product diversification, simplified fee structures and competitive pricing, members will enjoy an even greater, sustainable, customer-owned banking experience.

“One of the things we mentioned at the recent AGM is the challenge of scale.  If we have to recruit another senior staff member, such as a public integrity officer, that would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 a year, which would affect savers,” said Mr Parsons.

“With scale comes the opportunity to absorb that across a broader customer base.  Regional Australia Bank has traditionally served communities as a credit union.  They have very much the same strategy as ourselves,” he added.

“There will be a formal process which is a special meeting at which Holiday Coast Credit Union members ultimately vote whether or not they agree to the merger.  We will set out the benefit to members in a document and that will be about better pricing, a better range of products and still being committed to being member-owned.

“There will be opportunities for staff too, with a commitment to support their ongoing development.  If the merger goes ahead, it will be a far broader organisation, in its stretch and reach,” said the CEO.

Due diligence will now commence and once support is received from both the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) and the respective owner/members of each entity, a formal merger of the two organisations is anticipated to be completed by June 30 2019.

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