Does Infinity Have An Endpoint? Members Comment

On March 25, I published an analysis of Infinity FCU’s proposed merger with Deere Employees CU in Moline, Il whose tagline reads, “Exclusively for the John Deere family.”

Infinity is Maine’s oldest credit union, founded as Telephone Employees in 1921.  The analysis highlighted the absence of facts supporting any member benefit.  Most importantly it pointed out members will lose their ability to vote annually  for credit union directors or on any future mergers due to the use of proxies under Illinois credit union regulations.

April 15-Voting Ends

Federal credit unions purport  to be “democratically controlled” with a statutorily defined one member, one vote governance structure. No proxies permitted. Member ballots must be submitted by the date of the special meeting or by voting in person on April 15.

The member’s comments below augment the many shortcomings outlined in the above initial analysis.  The most concerning critique is of the board’s role outlined in detail by a former Infinity board member.

If Infinity’s 18,000 or more members do not participate in this critical decision to give up their charter, then the democratic process has been circumvented.   A motivated few will impose their way on the unorganized majority.

Ben Franklin’s once observed: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”  Or in this situation, a century old successful $350 million local cooperative.

Infinity Members Comment

All merger notices include an option for members to post comments via a site managed by NCUA.  Three members have posted their concerns.  Names are required with these posts.

John McGinn: I went with Infinity that was then Telco over thirty years because it was a Maine based credit union. I absolutely do not want to be joined with an out of state large corporation credit union. I do not like or support this merger. If it happens, I will be reviewing all my options.

John Lander:  The CEO has changed the culture of the Board of Directors (BOD) during the last six years. Directors must be committed to on-going education to be able to make “best practice” policy decisions. The current BOD is averse to on-going education and has, as a result, become dysfunctional in many areas. . .

About ten years ago, The BOD hired a local Board Source consultant to help the BOD with governance. Using a Filene Research and Board Source collaboration we developed roughly 12 principles of good governance to guide the consultants’ work. The BOD accepted the concepts and directed the Governance Committee to implement the recommendations with the consultants help.

Unfortunately, the Governance Committee chair relied only on advice from the COO ignoring the consultants. A few years later, the committee quietly reported their satisfaction with our governance. Now dysfunction is present in the development of mission and vision, strategic planning, BOD evaluations and succession planning.

Directors must be committed to on-going education to be able to make “best practice” policy decisions in the best interest of members. . .

Nine months before my term expired, I attempted to join the Governance Committee, but Board Chair and the Governance Committee Chair said no. During my many years on the board, directors have always been welcome to join a committee. . .

A few months before the end of my term, I requested a discussion on governance be put on the agenda. At that meeting the CEO brought an attorney. The hiring of an attorney was not approved nor previously discussed by the BOD. The Chairman did not give notice if he approved it. The CEO asked the attorney to comment on my governance discussion. The attorney agreed with me in his own words. After this BOD meeting the Governance Chair withdrew from her BOD position.

She is now on the Supervisory Committee. The committee usually has had an odd number of members to avoid ties, but not now. As a Board Director and Treasurer, I tried to meet with the Supervisory Chair; I wanted to discuss governance including member service. He would not meet with me. Board members said, “I can only talk to the Supervisory Committee if I file a complaint.” This is dysfunctional governance.

Effective directors maintain an attitude of constructive skepticism; they ask incisive, probing questions, and require accurate answers. This BOD does not have a culture of inquiry because of its lack of commitment.

In 2020 Infinity’s capital was strong. We have opened two branches in four years and ROA is low. Membership growth is also low. We had better loan growth than five larger credit unions in our area.

We don’t need to give away control of our credit union so that we can open another branch soon. We need the BOD to commit to good governance. Please vote against the merger and demand the BOD fulfill their responsibility. John Lander, MBA, NAFCU Certified Volunteer Expert, 2017

Joe Mottershead: I Have Been a Loyal Member Since Infinity Was Telco Credit Union 1990s. I can Not Imagine what Benefits there are to Merging with John Deere CU That is a Billion Dollars in assets Larger? Are any of the Officers of Infinity Getting Stock or other Benefits From this merger? I am TOTALLY AGAINST this Merger!!!

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