Massachussetts bankers have an unusual ally in their fight to check the expansion of a Pittsfield credit union - other credit, unions.

In June, Pittsfield GE Employees Credit Union submitted an application to the state regulator to change its name and expand its membership field to include everyone who works or lives in Berkshire County in western Massachusetts.

During a crowded application hearing before banking commissioner Alan R. Morse Jr. last week, representatives of four credit unions joined state bankers to block the bid on competitive grounds.

Small Groups Take a Stand

"It's difficult to take a stand against a credit union, but small credit unions here have to take a stand because they're the ones that will be hurt," said Evelyn Torrey, president of Pittsfield-based Berkshire Federal Credit Union, which has $6.5 million in assets. "My, credit union would be put at a competitive disadvantage."

Pittsfield GE is the third-largest financial institution in Berkshire County, with $268.4 million of assets and 25,963 members as of Aug. 31.

The credit union also wants to change its name to Berkshire Community Credit Union, a move Ms. Torrey said would create confusion in the marketplace.

Pittsfield GE is seeking a name change because its membership is more diverse, Ms. Reilly said.

Previous Expansions

If successful, this would be Pittsfield GE's third expansion in four years. In 1990 it added employees of three affiliated companies to its ranks. In 1992, its doors were opened to Berkshire Gas Co. workers,

Despite these gains, the credit union needs to expand more to offset the downsizing of General Electric Co., said Karen Reilly, its marketing manager.

"To remain as stable as we are now, we need to expand," Ms. Reilly said. "We have had continued growth with family members of employees, but that market is saturated. We need to expand our potential field to remain competitive."

At last week's hearing, David Bruce, president of Lee Bank, denied this claim, noting that Pittsfield GE has grown substantially even as GE has downsized. The credit union isn't "in need of a jump start," he said.

Pittsfield GE's assets have grown steadily to $268.4 million, up nearly 3% since December 1992, and up 14.5% from 1991. Its membership has jumped to 25,963, up from 24,930 in December and 24,768 in 1991.

The comment period on the application runs through Oct. 1.

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