The second- and fourth-largest credit unions in Niagara County are merging, forming the fifth-largest credit union based in Western New York and giving the combined entity a broader reach throughout that county.
Niagara County's Federal Credit Union will merge with Niagara's Choice Federal Credit Union, under the latter's name, as of Dec. 1, 2012.
The combination will form a single member-owned institution with more than $120 million in assets and 23,000 members, with five offices in Lockport, Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda and Wheatfield.
"A mutual commitment to the Niagara County community, access to affordable financial services, expanded products and services, and five convenient locations will be beneficial to all of our members," said Nancy Kasprzak-Whitmore, CEO of Niagara County's Federal Credit Union.
All locations will remain open, and the staffs will remain intact. Card numbers and account numbers also will remain the same for virtually everyone, as only two members of the combined customer base shared a common account number.
"We don't anticipate any change in the faces you see when you walk in the door," said Alfred Frosolone, CEO of Niagara's Choice. "All employees are expected to remain with the credit union."
The merger has already been approved by the two credit unions' boards and the membership of Niagara County's Federal Credit Union.
The new Niagara's Choice will be led by Frosolone as CEO, while Kasprzak-Whitmore will take on an executive role in administration and auditing that will be determined later this week.
"I'm very, very pleased to hand it off to him," said Kasprzak-Whitmore, who has been at her credit union for 30 years and said she is relieved not to be "taking the middle-of-the-night alarm calls" for the new institution.
Kasprzak-Whitmore said the merger stemmed from a long-standing friendship between the CEOs, common systems and products, and simultaneous searches for new branch locations in each other's territory.
"We do a lot of things very similarly. Why don't we just get together?" Kasprzak-Whitmore said. "We're looking at it more as a marriage than a merger."
Niagara County's FCU has offices at 260 West Ave. in Lockport and 900 Main St. in Niagara Falls. Founded by a group of Niagara County employees in 1967, it had $47 million in assets and 9,500 members as of July 31.
Niagara's Choice has three offices at 3619 Packard Road in Niagara Falls, 3577 Niagara Falls Blvd. in North Tonawanda, and 2131 Sawyer Drive in Wheatfield. Chartered in 1953, it has $77 million in assets and over 13,000 members.
The largest credit union based in Niagara County and also in all of Western New York is Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Lockport, with $321.6 million in assets.
Olean Area Federal Credit Union, of Olean, is second, with $222.6 million. Moog Employees and Western Division federal credit unions, of East Aurora and Williamsville, respectively, are next, with $140.6 million and $129.3 million, respectively.