CUSO Group Retools, Aim To Grow Use of CUSOs

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The National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations (NACUSO) has announced restructuring and management changes, and a realignment of its mission and long-range objectives.

The changes being made suggest the group plans to radically increase both its profile and the number of CUSOs and CUSO services available.

The near-20-year-old trade group said that effective Jan. 1, Bob Dorsa, who has been with NACUSO since its inception, will step down and be replaced by Victor Pantea, president and COO of Member Gateways, LLC, and a NACUSO board member. A search for a new executive director is to be launched.

On that same date Dorsa will take over as full-time executive director of the American Credit Union Mortgage Association (ACUMA), a group he also helped found and has been leading on a part-time basis. Dorsa will continue to have responsibility for planning NACUSO's conferences.

"We're adapting our business plan, as good organizations do, to be more proficient and help members compete more effectively," said NACUSO Chairman John Unangst. "The collaborative 0CUSO model offers advantages the hierarchical structure lacks. It's creative, it's entrepreneurial in nature and it works better in today's fast-changing, ultra-competitive marketplace.

As part of the change in direction with NACUSO, the group said it will enter into collaborations with other organizations, including:

* The Member Value Network, a Kentwood, Mich.-based consulting group made up of four people-Ed Callahan, Chip Filson, Mark Elliott and Randy Karnes. Filson, president of Callahan & Associates, said that company will also be providing data and research consulting services to the NACUSO board and membership.

* Counter Intelligence Associates, a San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based consultancy that has been acquired by CommunityAmerica Credit Union. CIA will "facilitate collaborative CUSOs for the purpose of making member business loans," according to Diane Johnson of CIA. It will also provide webcast facilities.

* CU Answers, a Kentwood, Mich.-based data processing CUSO.

Unangst said a primary driver of the changes being made is that changes in the market have made the "collaborative CUSO" underutilized.

"Now is the time to capitalize on leveraging these organizations for the benefits they provide, including reduced cost and risk while maximizing efficiencies and scale," he said. "The potential is way beyond the dreams of what individual CUSOs can provide."

In a straightforward assessment of the changes, Ed Callahan, the founder of Callahan & Associates, former NCUA chairman and former president of Patelco Credit Union in San Francisco, said, "Look, I won't pander. CUSOs and credit unions have different functions, and they each need to stay on point...I was on the board when the CUSO regulation was passed, and the CUSO role was never carved in stone. All this nonsense about credit unions going to community charter and credit unions forming CUSOs to offer more services to members being 'out-of-bounds' according to the bankers, has never been true. When the competition uses a one-sided interpretation of the Credit Union Act to their own ends, it's not for the benefit of Americans. Every American has a right to belong to a credit union. The CUSO side offers things that help keep the profiteers out, and that is certainly for the benefit of Americans. So I'm going to fire 'em up."

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