Credit unions get both efficiency and innovation through
credit union-owned Synergent
Pictured left to right, John Murphy, Maine Credit Union
League and Synergent president/CEO; Brian Branch, World
Council president and CEO; Mark Lyonette, ABCUL chief
executive; and Gary Glenn, Synergent senior vice
president, met last week to discuss how credit unions in
the United Kingdom could adapt Synergent's successful
central business model.
PORTLAND, Maine - Credit union membership in the United
Kingdom has more than doubled in the past decade; assets have
more than tripled in value; and U.K. legislative reforms
enacted earlier this year have presented even greater
prospects for credit union growth. To help meet a growing
demand for member services, Association of British Credit
Unions Limited (ABCUL) Chief Executive Mark Lyonette visited
the United States last week to learn how a central business
model developed for credit unions in Maine could be adapted
for the British credit union system.
Credit unions in the United Kingdom recently reached the
million member milestone, but many institutions remain
relatively small and financially restricted in terms of
product and service development. As such, ABCUL's member
credit unions have petitioned the trade association for a
shared business model to centralize data processing and offer
more products and services to an even broader population
base. A data service bureau would also help reduce the number
of third-party service providers the credit unions would
otherwise have to contract separately.
Mark Lyonette, ABCUL chief executive, speaks with Roger
Sirois, Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union
president/CEO, about the advantages Atlantic Regional has
experienced with a central processing system.
At ABCUL's request, World Council of Credit Unions
organized Lyonette's visit to Maine last week to learn
how the state league's credit union-owned subsidiary,
Synergent, has managed a successful central business model
for 41 years.
Originally named the Maine Credit Union League Services
Corporation, Synergent was founded to provide credit unions
greater convenience through a form ordering service. Within
just a few years, it established a data processing center to
meet the credit unions' growing needs. Today, Synergent
provides checking, ATM debit cards, shared branching and
direct marketing services for credit unions. Synergent's
ongoing operations also include writing custom code in
response to credit unions' requests for tailored products
"Many centralized credit union systems achieve
efficiencies by offering the same products for all credit
unions," said Brian Branch, World Council president and
CEO, who joined Lyonette in Maine last week. He noted that
Maine's core data processing system offers a variety of
choices for add-on products that allows credit unions to
achieve both efficiency and entrepreneurial innovation in
Synergent, a credit union service organization, generates
US$27 million in revenue and US$10 million in data processing
annually. Its products and services now reach over a half
million members in northern New England, New York and
southern Connecticut. The company bills credit unions per
member rather than per transaction, and longer contract terms
lower the per member fee. There are now 600,000 members using
During his visit, Lyonette met with executives from Evergreen
Credit Union in Portland and Atlantic Regional Federal Credit
Union in Brunswick. Atlantic Regional began using
Synergent's services in 1982 and has since grown to
18,300 members and US$250 million in assets. President/CEO
Roger Sirois explained how shared branching has helped the
credit union reduce expenses by being able to keep its branch
offices closed on Saturdays when members can access services
through other credit unions in the network. Sirois also
emphasized the importance of the core processing system's
flexibility, which he said drove credit union innovation and
allowed small credit unions to offer an array of products on
par with larger financial institutions. He said that 2011 was
the first time walk-in traffic at Atlantic Regional was less
than its web traffic.
John Murphy, president/CEO of the Maine Credit Union League
and Synergent, saw the opportunity to work with World Council
to host ABCUL as a chance to help strengthen credit union
popularity in the United Kingdom.
"The Maine League, Synergent and Maine's credit
unions are committed to sharing information and collaborating
with other credit union systems around the world to
strengthen credit unions and promote growth globally,"
Murphy said. He noted that the Maine Credit Union League and
Synergent previously hosted similar visits with officials
from the Rwandan credit union movement. "We enjoyed
doing it again and look forward to other collaborative
opportunities in the future," he said.
Synergent continues to provide guidance as ABCUL develops a
central business model for credit unions in the United
Read more about the collaboration at Branch's blog, http://makingadifference.posterous.com.
World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is the global
trade association and development agency for credit unions.
World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit
unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to
empower people through access to high quality and affordable
financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the
global credit union system before international organizations
and works with national governments to improve legislation
and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce
new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions'
financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290
technical assistance programs in 71 countries.
Worldwide, 51,000 credit unions in 100 countries serve
196 million people. Learn more about World Council's
impact around the world at www.woccu.org.
NOTE: Click on photos to view/download in high resolution.
Contact: Jennifer Bernhardt
Organization: World Council of Credit Unions