By Slim Majority, Members Of Columbia CU OK Conversion To Bank

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A slim majority of voting members have approved Columbia Credit Union's conversion to a mutual bank. The vote took place at a special meeting Nov. 3.

According to Colleen Boccia, Columbia's vice president of marketing, the vote was 52.25% in favor of the conversion. The vote drew a larger number of members than the credit union expected, she said.

"Emotions ran high at the meeting," Boccia told The Credit Union Journal. "Many members expressed their concerns: they don't want us to turn into a 'typical bank.' But we are excited about our future and we are excited about meeting members' expectations. These are exciting times."

Asked what the soon-to-be bank would do to avoid the "typical bank" tag, Boccia said Columbia does not plan on changing what she termed the "consumer aspect" of being a credit union after it converts.

"We serve a large group of the Clark County population. The conversion will expand what we can offer," she said. "We will be able to offer more business loans as a bank; we have a cap today."

'Credit Union Perceptions'

"When people hear 'credit union,' they have certain perceptions," Boccia continued. "They think of car loans or maybe home equity loans, but they don't think of a credit union as a place to get a first mortgage. If we can get them to think of us as a place to get more services, while holding on to the consumer aspect, we'll be in good shape."

Columbia CU was founded in 1952. It has more than 59,000 members and $600 million in assets. Columbia's management said in a press release the charter change is expected to be complete as of Jan. 1, 2004. The new bank is expected to open for business the following day.

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