This commentary was written by Michael J. Hogan, a retired state employee and vice chair of the VSECU Board of Directors.
I joined VSECU in 1986 as a new state employee. After retirement from the state of Vermont, I became a director in 2016 and have extensive experience in board governance as a member of many state and local boards, currently serving as chair of my own town’s Selectboard and as vice chair of the VSECU board.
I felt it was important to be direct and respond to the continuous misleading narrative crafted by VSECU’s past leaders who oppose the merger, led by former CEO Steve Post and four board members. They attempt to opine as authorities who have not been involved in the business affairs of VSECU for the past 9 to 20-plus years since their retirement.
Over 20 years ago, they departed from our state employees’ exclusivity as an employer-based credit union and began the transition to a community-chartered credit union.
Today our membership is 71,389 strong. Our members are from all walks of life, communities, professions and backgrounds. Only 8% of our members today would be considered current or retired state employees based on data last provided by the state of Vermont in May 2016, demonstrating the power behind the network effect where more people participating creates greater value for all.
Early on in this merger process, we invited these former leaders to meet with our board chair and CEO to discuss the proposed merger. They declined.
I want to address a commentary published on Sept. 7, “Former VSECU leaders: Save the Vermont State Employees Credit Union” that is comprised of nothing more than misrepresentations and false narratives that are baseless and designed to inflame people’s emotions.
- There are no conflicts of interest. We are a very diligent board that takes our fiduciary responsibility seriously.
- For months we have provided information to our membership. We have been governed by a regulatory process that required approval from the National Credit Union Administration before we could share certain information. We have received approval and a member mailing of the proposed merger business plan is coming in the near future.
- We have diligently provided information to our members. We hosted member forums across Vermont to gain input and hear concerns. We field calls daily. We act proactively on all feedback we hear. We have operated with high integrity at every juncture of this proposed merger, as our members expect.
- The Board of Directors is not stacked. Members vote us in. Yes, it is different from many decades ago. It is diverse with gender, skin color, preferences and representative of regions from around Vermont, who are all elected by the membership.
Other points for clarity include the following:
- VSECU is not being acquired. This is a conscientious merger between two amazing cooperatives. We will be a new Vermont-based credit union with a new name yet to be determined, reflective of our partnership, membership and communities we serve.
- VSECU is regulated by both Vermont and federal regulators today. Regulators do not impact or dictate local control. Their job is to have oversight over the financial safety and soundness of the credit union.
- Persons who live in Vermont will be eligible for membership in the newly combined credit union.
- The Chases of the world and other regional or mega-banks are indeed making inroads into our small state. Consider that in 2021, banks controlled 77% of deposits in Vermont and out-of-state banks controlled 40.6% of those Vermont deposits.
Governing and running a financial institution with the best interest of people over profit is incredibly complex. To infer the board made this decision recklessly in a smoky dark room for the benefit of a few, is a desperate move to convince others with unsubstantiated statements.
I am deeply grateful for our founding members and proud to have been a State employee for 30 years. I love Vermont and what we stand for. Like Vermont, VSECU is about inclusion, progress and moving things forward. Our boundaries do not define us, our values do.
I will continue to serve as a board member in the new credit union, representing the interests of our state employees and other members. I ask for your support by voting YES on the proposed merger and helping us continue to move forward, and not backward, in this dynamic and ever-changing world.