Forced to rebrand, Iowa CUs prepare to unveil new names in 2019

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In 2018 Iowa was ground zero for the ongoing battle between banks and credit unions.

First there was a failed attempt to tax the state’s credit unions. Though that legislation ultimately failed, there was the successful effort to attach a rider to an unrelated budget bill that prohibits any Iowa credit union from using the names of state universities in their own name.

That means two institutions, the $5.2 billion-asset University of Iowa Community Credit Union in North Liberty and the $21 million-asset University of Northern Iowa Credit Union in Cedar Falls, have to change their names by April.

University of Northern Iowa Credit Union’s charter name is UNI Credit Union, so it does not use the university’s actual name. Leitha Aten, manager of UNI Credit Union, recently told Credit Union Journal that work was still being done and an announcement would be made closer to the deadline.

Aten previously told CU Journal UNI CU’s management team asked members for name options, and it planned to work with a marketing firm in Des Moines to present options to the board to make a final decision.

As for University of Iowa Community Credit Union, its board has agreed on a new name, and it is under review with trademark attorneys, according to Jim Kelly, chief marketing officer for the institution.

Jeff Disterhoft, president and CEO of University of Iowa Community CU, noted in previous interviews with CU Journal that the institution thought the name issue was settled four years ago. At that time, the University of Iowa contacted the credit union and found no legal avenue to make the institution change its name, in part because the school itself is not using its legal name, the State University of Iowa.

The marketing team at the institution took on the naming project in-house, rather than using a branding consultant, Kelly said. Management asked for ideas from employees and members and then formed a committee to review and narrow down the choices to five options. Those were then presented to the board, Kelly said.

After the board selected the new name, Kelly designed a logo and both were submitted to lawyers for further vetting. The credit union hopes to get clearance for the new name by February. Signage and other changes would probably happen later in the summer of 2019.

Though University of Iowa Community CU has settled on a new name, Kelly declined to reveal it.

“About all I can tell you right now is that the name will be shorter and will have nothing to do with the University of Iowa,” Kelly said.

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