Cunningham Plans Some R&R As USA FCU Merges Into Navy Fed

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SAN DIEGO-After Oct. 22, Mary Cunningham plans to detach herself from the stress of running a credit union through a hailstorm of recession, defaults and assessments.

That date will be her last at USA Federal Credit Union, where the well-known Cunningham has been president and CEO since September 2001. USA Fed was absorbed into Navy Federal on Oct. 1, with Cunningham staying on to help with the transition.

But don't look for her to jump to another job right away. "I will be taking a few months off to play with the grandkids, do a little golfing and hang out with my husband," she told CU Journal. "I will be taking the time to heal my spirit and get happy again. I need a break."

A 34-Year Journey Through The CU Movement
Cunningham has been involved in the industry for 34 years. Prior to taking the helm at USA FCU, she served as president and CEO of CUNA CU in Madison, Wis., and during her career has been board chairman of Western CUNA Management School, the National CU Foundation and the Richard Myles Johnson (RMJ) Foundation, and as a CUNA board member.

Asked if she might come back to run a CU after she has had some R&R, Cunningham indicated she was not ruling out the possibility.

"If something comes along and I'm intrigued enough to get involved in the credit union system again, then maybe, but I'm not really worried about it right now. I'm just ready to get away from it for a while. It has been stressful for the last couple years, so I'm ready for a much-needed break."

At one point USA Federal was a $710-million CU serving a vibrant credit union market. But during the past three years it has reported losses of $45 million, and at June 30 its assets had decreased to $604 million and its net worth ratio to 2.8% as the collapsed California economy and housing market took its toll.

NCUA Called For A Merger
Earlier this year NCUA directed the CU to pursue a merger. "It was a big process of potential merger partners and Navy won out, big time," she recalled. "They have been incredible to work with and our team has embraced it. Things are moving at a very rapid clip and we are pretty far along already. The plan is every USA Fed employee will be kept if they want to be kept. The process has been very seamless and painless.

"It is important to understand we were a credit union that could not make it through the rest of this recession, but we are not costing the insurance fund anything," Cunningham continued. "We are pleased that Navy Fed could be there for us. If we cannot survive on our own, then this ending is working out fine.

Vienna, Va.-based Navy Federal, the largest CU in the world, is taking over all 19 of USA FCU's branches, eight in Southern California and 11 military base branches in Japan and Korea. There is "always a conversion process for systems," Cunningham noted, as teams from Navy Fed spent three weeks preparing for the takeover. "Our teams are working very collaboratively, and Navy brings a lot of resources. We have been delighted. There are really good people at Navy. They are long-tenured and really just came in and rolled up their shirt sleeves and worked alongside our people. Our staff has been delighted at how they have been treated."

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