Thursday April 17, 2014

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Spectra continues to move towards the merger

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(L-R) Spectra Credit Union CEO Tim Schroh and his counterpart from Affinity Credit Union, Mark Lane, are optimistic that the members from their respective credit unions will give the green light for a merger to occur. Votes will be taking place in April.

Spectra Credit Union has been diligently working on the details of its proposed merger with Affinity Credit Union, and dates have now been set for critical meetings.

The first is a membership information meeting on Monday, March 18 at Spectra's Estevan branch. The meeting will be broadcasted to the five Spectra branches – Oxbow, Carnduff, Carlyle, Redvers and Minton – that have videoconferencing capabilities. 

"There will be no decision or voting done at that (meeting)," said Spectra CEO Tim Schroh. "What we plan to do there is to share with the membership the journey that we've been on, the rationale for looking at a merger, and then the benefits."

The vote on whether or not to proceed with amalgamation is scheduled for Monday, April 8. It will coincide with Spectra's annual general meeting. The annual meeting will happen first, and then the merger vote will occur.

The meeting will again emanate from Spectra's Estevan headquarters, and it will be broadcasted to the five branches that can accommodate a teleconference.

People can come to Estevan to vote, Schroh said, or they can vote at the nearest branch that has videoconferencing capabilities.

"We will have management and staff there," said Schroh. "We will have our board representation there. We will also have scrutinizers."

For the amalgamation to proceed, Spectra needs support from 75 per cent of the members in attendance, and the backing of two-thirds of its investment shareholders.

Spectra announced last August that it had chosen Affinity to be its merger partner, pending membership approval.

The merger would take effect on July 1. Advantage Credit Union, which is based in Melfort and has 17 branches in the northeast, is also proposed to merge with Affinity at that time.

If Spectra and Advantage both approve mergers with Affinity, then the benefits of the amalgamation become even greater, Schroh said.

"But it's not a three-way merger," said Schroh. "It's not that all three memberships have to approve it. The Advantage membership decision and the Spectra membership decision are independent of each other. If the Advantage membership turns it down, and the Spectra membership approves it, then we will still merge with Affinity."

Affinity's members will vote on the mergers April 3. If Affinity's members reject the unions, then they won't proceed. Advantage's vote is slated for April 4, followed by Spectra's vote on the 8th.

Advantage had been speaking with Affinity about a possible amalgamation before Spectra approached Affinity.

Schroh said Spectra has been working on due diligence related to the merger in the last few months.

"It went a little bit deeper into 'What are the things that we have to consider in terms of the employment of our people, what are the things that we have to consider in terms of products and services, and how well do they align,' as well as community giving and governance," said Schroh.

The information re-affirmed Spectra and Affinity's belief that they're a terrific match.

They have also conducted financial analysis and projections for the merged entity.

Impacts on Spectra's staff will be minimal, Schroh said. Nobody will lose a job or be forced to relocate.

A merger would also give Spectra members access to a network of services and branches that extends through most of the province, Schroh said. And it gives Spectra access to greater capital, which is a critical component of the merger because of the amount of economic activity in the region, particularly commercial activity.

Schroh reaffirmed his previous statements that Affinity's governance structure is important, as they boast a structure with regional district council representatives. They have 10 existing regions, with seven to 15 delegates. Each region then elects a proportionate share of members from those delegates.

Spectra would add another region to Affinity's structure, and Spectra's existing nine board members would become nine delegates for Affinity. Four delegates would join Affinity's board.  

There are some operational differences between Spectra and Affinity, Schroh said, such as employee benefits programs, but there wasn't anything that he classified as a red flag.

If the merger is approved, people won't notice significant differences right away, Schroh said. Spectra will remain fairly autonomous for some time, and their systems wouldn't change for a while.

"It will take 18 months to 24 months before we get all the operational processes aligned into one," Schroh said.  

Should all three credit unions receive member approval to merge, Affinity Credit Union would serve over 140,000 members from 76 branches in 68 communities across Saskatchewan, and it would have $4.5 billion in assets.


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