In a deal that may be the first of its kind, a credit union will be taking over two branches of a California community bank, employees and all.
Unlike a bank that buys a branch, Government Agencies Federal Credit Union will not get the customers and their $15 million of deposits automatically. (Regulators objected because the deposits are insured by different government funds.)
But $85 million-asset Borrego Springs Bank of La Mesa is so worried about leaving its customers high and dry that it has put up posters encouraging them to switch.
They also have the option of becoming long-distance customers of what will be the bank's nearest branch, 40 miles away.
Borrego Springs announced last week that it would close the branches, in the rural Southern California desert communities of Calipatria and West Shores, on June 29. Three days later both will reopen as branches of $150 million-asset Government Agencies Federal, which is headquartered in El Centro and has over 29,000 members.
Financial terms were not disclosed. The bank is the only financial institution with branches in the two desert towns.
William J. Donavan, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions in Arlington, Va., said he was unaware of another credit union ever buying branches from a bank. "This is the first time I've ever heard of anything like this happening," he said.
Government Agencies has agreed to hire the branch employees, who number about 10. The credit union holds a community development charter that allows it to serve all the residents of Imperial County, where Calipatria and West Shores are located.
Michelle D. Whelehan, the bank's chief financial officer, said it decided to sell the tiny rural branches because they no longer fit into its strategic direction.
"We're not out in the desert anymore," Ms. Whelehan said. "Most of our business operations are in La Mesa," a suburb of San Diego. "But we were concerned about those communities and our employees there."
Beverly Dawson, the credit union's chief executive officer, said officials of the bank are "bending over backwards" to make sure the transition is smooth. The credit union plans to put up signs in the branches to assure customers that they will still be welcome there and can expect the same level of service.
Borrego Springs "is a bank that really cares about delivering service to their customers," Ms. Dawson said. "That's our internal culture, too."
John Reosti contributed to this article.