Forced to rebrand, Iowa credit unions settle on new names

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University of Iowa Community Credit Union, a $5.3 billion-asset institution based in North Liberty, Iowa, has applied for a trademark on its soon-to-be new moniker, GreenState Credit Union.

The rebrand was necessitated by a rider attached to the Iowa state budget passed in 2018 that prohibits any Iowa credit union from using the names of state universities in their name. The new law applies to both UICCU and $21 million-asset University of Northern Iowa Credit Union in Cedar Falls.

University of Northern Iowa Credit Union’s charter name had been UNI Credit Union, meaning it did not expressly use the university’s actual name. Leitha Aten, the credit union’s manager, told CU Journal it addressed the issue by adding “TE” to its former name. It now is known as “UNITE Credit Union.”

The name change issue followed several banker attacks on Iowa’s credit unions last year, including a failed attempt to tax the state’s CUs and then multiple attempts to make UICCU change its name. Some banking groups have picked up on the success seen in Iowa and shifted their efforts toward targeting CUs via the legislature. A recent bill in Nebraska would require regulators to notify banks every time a credit union applies to expand its field of membership.

Last week, UICCU President and CEO Jeff Disterhoft emailed members announcing the name change and addressing the reasons why the switch was necessary. The credit union also set up an FAQ page on its website. In it the credit union noted Iowa state law does not require a membership vote to approve a name change.

UICCU said the estimated cost of the name change, including needed updates to signage, documents, collateral material, card plastics, trademarks, communications and more, will be approximately $2.5 million.

“For perspective, this estimate is 0.9 percent of our projected annual revenue,” the credit union said.

According to Disterhoft’s letter, UICCU reached out to its members and received “thousands” of ideas for the new name. The credit union formed a committee comprised of staff, directors and members, which winnowed down the list to “a few” that were reviewed by trademark attorneys.

“Ultimately the board unanimously selected one name and we submitted our application for trademark.”

Disterhoft went on to explain that “GreenState” was suggested by a member and is meant to reflect the state’s landscape, with a logo “representing the diverse and vibrant colors of Iowa,” he said.

The CU said it wanted a name that was “simple,” while not being geographically constraining. It said an effort was made to create a name that is “welcoming and reflective of the cooperative’s Midwestern heritage.”

“Change is never easy, and we will always remember and respect our University of Iowa roots,” Disterhoft continued in the letter. “A new name will not change our mission to be the best that we can be for our members, our staff and our communities.”

Disterhoft said he hopes to receive notice from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the end of March. When the name is confirmed, the CU will begin the transition process, he noted.

In December, Jim Kelly, chief marketing officer for University of Iowa Community Credit Union, told CU Journal the plan was to have a new name in place by the end of February, with the idea of changing its articles of incorporation before the April 30 deadline given by the Iowa legislature.

Signage and member-facing marketing changes probably will happen later in the summer, Kelly added.

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