Sunshine State CU Withdraws Charter Change App-For Now

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Sunshine State CU has withdrawn its application to convert to a bank while it looks for a new CEO, but the $170-million credit union is still "entirely committed" to becoming a bank, according to VP Michelle Clarke.

"This is just a procedural step," Clarke said. "We made this choice so that we could take the time to get the right people in place, to get our management team in place."

The credit union's withdrawal of its conversion application comes on the heels of the board's decision to ask former CEO Mark LeCain to leave, which prompted some observers to speculate that the credit union was having second thoughts about converting. But Clarke was emphatic that was not the case.

Reports Not True

"Some people have suggested this means that maybe we aren't going to convert, but that is not true," Clarke told The Credit Union Journal. "The board and the staff are entirely committed to this conversion." Clarke reiterated the board's desire to have all its ducks in a row before moving forward with the conversion.

But getting a new CEO isn't the only goal: hiring a new chief lending officer is also going to be key to SSCU's timing in resubmitting its conversion application.

Clarke said the former CLO had left the CU "some time ago to pursue other opportunities," and the would-be bank wants to have that part of its management team in place prior to conversion, as well.

"We want to have the best people in place so that when we complete the conversion process, we are able to offer this market a totally new and improved financial services provider," Clarke commented, noting there is no timeline for when the credit union will resubmit its application. "The only self-imposed deadline we have is that we want to do this as quickly and efficiently as possible."

Former CEO LeCain and the previous lending officer aren't the only positions that have been in flux lately. Last month, Sunshine Board Chairman Thomas Napier stepped down citing health reasons. John "Jack" Madden took over as chairman following Napier's departure. Calls to Madden were not returned at press time.

LeCain's departure from SSCU came as a surprise to the CU's staff and industry observers, alike. "This was a board decision," Clarke explained. "With our upcoming conversion, they felt like we needed a shift in leadership."

Even so, it was clear that this "shift in leadership" wasn't part of the CU's conversion vision from the start. "This was not part of the plan," Clarke acknowledged.

Indeed, the board decision to ask LeCain to leave and LeCain's immediate departure had left no time for planning exactly how the CEO's replacement would be selected. In the interim, Sunshine's EVP Brian Baggett is acting CEO.

20% Of Members Voted

Sunshine State CU's conversion was approved last July by the membership, with 62% of the less than 20% of members who voted favoring the move.

As a state charter that is federally insured by NCUA, the federal CU agency's primary role in this conversion was to approve the disclosures put out to the membership, which it did. Secondarily, NCUA would also have a role in closing out SSCU's NCUSIF insurance once the converted institution was approved for FDIC insurance.

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