CUSO's Purchase Puts It In Direct Competition With CUNA Mutual

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska-Alaska USA FCU last week said its CUSO, Alaska USA Insurance Brokers, has agreed to acquire Rainier Pacific Insurance Services, a one-time subsidiary of credit union-convert Rainier Pacific Bank currently owned by Oregon's Umpqua Bank.

The news follows last month's announcement that William Eckhardt, CEO of the $4-billion credit union, resigned from the board of CUNA Mutual Group "as a result of anticipated competing business obligations at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union."

Dan McCue, SVP of corporate administration for Alaska USA, confirmed to Credit Union Journal the two were related. "Since we will be selling personal lines of insurance in Washington, in Tacoma, that was the conflict with CUNA Mutual Group," he said. "Bill just felt it was inappropriate for him to stay on the board. He wanted to live up to the spirit of his relationship with CUNA Mutual. And the timing was right-Bill was up for reelection."

In terms of additional expansion into insurance by the 390,000-member Alaska USA, McCue said the credit union approaches such matters "one at a time, and we see how successful we are before moving on. The right deal doesn't come along often, and it took us a long time to find this one."

Umpqua Bank acquired the insurance agency as part of a February purchase and assumption deal after the FDIC closed Tacoma-based Rainier Pacific Bank, which had been a credit union until a 2001 conversion to a mutual savings bank. Rainier Pacific Insurance, chartered in 1994, provides insurance for individuals and small businesses including home, auto, boat, commercial and surety coverage. It has locations in Federal Way, Tacoma, and Gig Harbor, Wash., serving 6,500 clients in King, Pierce, and Kitsap counties.

Alaska USA, which has operated in Alaska and Washington for several years, has been expanding its footprint on the West Coast, acquiring two California credit failures last year, High Desert FCU and The Members Own CU, and five branches from troubled Arrowhead Central FCU earlier this year.

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