Ending Autopilot Decision Making in Credit Union Mergers

No credit union merger proposal has ever been turned down by a vote of the members. In over 5,000 voluntary mergers over the last two decades, most were by credit unions that were financially sound.

So why has the voting process been so perfunctory, to the point of meaninglessness?

Why has this fundamental member-owner responsibility become so routine?

This is especially critical when much evidence exists in for-profit sector and financial services, that many mergers destroy value.

One reason why this exercise in cooperative democracy appears pointless is that the voting decisions is presented in such a way that members believe there is no real choice in the matter.

Members are given no economic facts or alternatives, and often given a nudge in the form of a special dividend to follow the course recommend by the Board and management to give up their charter.

In an article exploring why consumers may act contrary to their economic self-interest,  the authors provide the following observation from behavioral economics:

“While it may not sound like a lot of fun to think about the opportunity costs of every financial decision, we need to be careful and not get too caught up in an “autopilot” mode of decision making. Thinking about everything we could do with our money is hard. At the time you make a purchase, remember that you can spend the money only once. More costs exist, so you may miss future opportunities such as a more significant purchase, interest earned on savings, bill payments, or other possibilities. The difficulty of considering several options leads us to revert to mental shortcuts during our decision making.”

Surrendering control over an organization and legacy assets produced by the efforts of generations is hardly a routine decision. Might it be time to ask whether the so called voting process be re-evaluated based on cooperative values and fiduciary responsivity?

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