What Should the Role of TDECU Member-Owners Be In a Major Bank Purchase?

Yesterday the $4.7 billion TDECU announced its intention to purchase the $1.2 billion Sabine State Bank and Trust whose head office is in Many, LA

The joint press release  states:  Founded in 1901, Sabine has a footprint of 51 branches across Louisiana and east Texas and had approximately $1.2 billion in assets as of March 31, 2024. Sabine is an active lender in its markets and specializes in lending to the oil and gas, forestry, timber and agriculture sectors.

The CU Today article quotes TDECU’s CEO’s ratiionale for the purchase as: “TDECU is on a growth journey to expand across the state of Texas and beyond.”

The transaction is for cash. No financial details except broad asset totals were given.

The size of this $1.2 billion transaction (25% of TDECU’s balance sheet) the probable cash outlay of several hundred million if the price is in the 1.5 to2.0 times book value, and the operational/business expansion (51 more branches added with the 34 already),  plus new risk exposure to commercial lending raise critical questions:  What is the members’ role in this $1.2 billion purchase?  What should board and senior management be informing them about an action that could transfers as much as 50% of TDECU’s $465 million of collective savings to the bank’s owners?

TDECU’s Performance

TDECU’s 2023 yearend performance shows slightly  negative loan (-2.19%) and share growth (-2.55%). External borrowings total $310 million, a 14% increase over 2022. The credit union’s loan to share ratio has hovered around 100% for the past several years.   Delinquency is at 1.59%, ROA is .70% and net worth 10.06%.  Steady but not superior performance.

The credit union reports 386,000 total members out of a potential of 30 million.

What is the Members’ Role?

TDECU held its annual members meeting on March 23.  Was the CEO’s ambition of embarking on “a growth journey in Texas and beyond?” outlined there.  Or, were members not informed about board and management’s efforts to commit a significant portion of their net worth to a bank purchase?

The members are the owners. It is their collective savings accumulated over decades that has provided the ability to consider such an acquisition.  But what is in it for them?  What will be the return on their equity as TDECU’s ROE historically is in single digits?  How will this out-of-market expansion better serve their needs?  How will the “cash” be raised–will the credit union have to increase expensive external borrowings or seek subordinated debt to complete this transaction?

Putting TDECU’s Future on the Line

The financial size and business scope of this transaction puts the future of TDECU on the line. Members should be given full financial details including how large the intangible Goodwill asset created by the event will be.

Without full disclosure, the customary process in public bank to bank transactions, the members are left in the dark.  Management is not being held to any performance outcomes.  The traditional member-focused core service model is being put at risk to underwrite an expansion that has yet to be explained in any relevant detail.

Presumably full financial projections are being presented to the regulators who must approve this deal.  Shouldn’t the member-owners who are bankrolling this transaction be given the same details?

This transaction is not just a financial event; it is an obligation for TDECU’s board and senior management to be fully responsive to THEIR owners’ interests in this most consequential step.



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