Bucs Federal Credit Union of Owings Mills, Md., has won membership approval to convert to a federal mutual thrift.

It was the last hurdle for the conversion plan. Members voted Feb. 7 on the change; 55% of the 11,306 eligible to vote endorsed it.

Bucs, with $59 million in assets, is expected to convert March 1. The institution is the first of seven credit unions seeking a mutual thrift charter to complete the approval process.

Herbert Moltzan, Bucs president and chief executive officer, complained that the National Credit Union Administration rules made the switch more costly than necessary. "The NCUA put a lot of stumbling blocks in the way," he said.

A majority of a credit union's members-not just those who submit ballots-must approve a conversion. Also, voting must be held within 30 days after management mails documents explaining the switch.

Mr. Moltzan said those requirements added $50,000 to the conversion cost because a proxy solicitor had to be hired and the credit union's staff worked overtime to make mailings and phone calls to members. "We could have saved a lot of money, if we were given a reasonable amount of time to get the word out," he said.

"It takes a real organizational effort by management to successfully convert," said Alan Theriault, president of CU Financial Services, a consulting firm that helps credit unions switch charters. "Members will throw their ballots in the trash unless you get to them."

NCUA officials said the rules prevent management from pressuring credit union members.

Bucs, which was founded to serve Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland workers, is switching charters because a federal court injunction prohibits employer-based credit unions from adding new member groups.

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