VyStar Credit Union, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, is the second-largest credit union in the Sunshine State. It has an agreement in place to merge with 121 Financial Credit Union. Combined, the financial institutions have over 150 years of experience helping their members and communities.
Mergers between credit unions are typical in the industry today — and coupling with 121 Financial Credit Union makes perfect sense, according to Brian Wolfburg, VyStar president and CEO. “We look forward to welcoming their employees and members to VyStar and working together to build on their many contributions to Florida,” stated Wolfburg.
121 Financial Credit Union is also headquartered in Jacksonville, a city located on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Florida. The transaction is expected to close before the end of Q4 2023. However, it depends on standard closing conditions and member and regulatory approval. 121 Financial Credit Union expects the system conversions to be completed before June 2024. It will continue communicating updated time lines throughout the process to ensure all its employees and members remain fully informed.
What makes them the right choice? Wolfburg stated, “121 Financial Credit Union has a proven history as a mission-oriented credit union, which aligns with our organization’s commitment to improving the places we call home.”
Both financial institutions pledge to make the transition seamless for employees and members. To accomplish this, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP will represent VyStar, while Williams, Gautier, Gwynn, DeLoach & Kiker P.A. will represent the 121 Financial Credit Union.
What Happens When the Credit Unions Merge?
Since 2003, approximately 200 credit union mergers have taken place annually, according to the National Credit Union Administration. The majority of mergers are initiated and approved by a credit union’s board and membership. It can be a part of a business growth strategy. David Marovich, 121 Financial Credit Union’s president and CEO, stated, “We have proudly served northeast Florida for generations, and we are confident that our partnership with VyStar will strengthen these efforts.”
VyStar has over 2,000 employees, more than 875,000 members, and in excess of $13 billion in assets. Once the merger is finalized, it will be responsible for more than 920,000 members with assets of more than $14 billion.
Based on asset size, it’s already the 13th-largest credit union in the United States. Currently, 121 Financial Credit Union has eight branches and 140 employees. The financial institution also has more than 49,000 members and almost $680 million in assets. Once the merger is complete, its employees are welcome to join the credit union’s team.
This is customary in the industry. Typically during a merger, one credit union assumes the assets — such as investments, loans, equipment, and buildings, and the liabilities, like shares and payables — of the other credit union. Traditionally, the continuing credit union charter gets amended to include the groups formerly served by the merging financial institution.
“Our combined partnership will expand access to best-in-class products and services to members, offer enhanced benefits and new opportunities to our employees and amplify our collective impact within the community,” stated Marovich.
The merger will expand access for both 121 Financial and VyStar members to branches and locations across Northeast Florida, Central Florida, and Georgia. According to 121 Financial Credit Union, decisions haven’t been made on changes to branch locations following the merger. Instead, its collective commitment is to ensure it maintains best-in-class experiences for its members.
CEOs Discuss the Merger
“With a shared history of commitment to our employees, to our members, and to our communities [the credit unions] will be joining together to create an even better financial organization for those we serve, one in which we can continue to strive to live up to the credit union founding principles of people helping people, and in which we can all do more good for those we serve,” said Wolfburg.
“That is really what it is all about,” said Marovich. “Serving the community and continuing to help our members reach their financial goals and achieve their dreams.”
Wolfburg noted that while the credit union grows, it “will continue to uphold a steadfast commitment to northeast Florida.”
“From the early days of being a credit union for the telephone company and VyStar’s roots in serving the military, we have both been fortunate to see our credit unions thrive,” said Marovich. “We have enjoyed a long history of giving and helping guide our members toward financial wellness to help improve lives and make the places we live stronger.”
Wolfburg said, “For the reasons David mentioned and because the core values of VyStar and 121 Financial have been so closely aligned since our beginnings, we couldn’t be more confident and more excited as we embark on this new journey together. It is a partnership that will undoubtedly enable us to do even more for our employees, our members, and our communities.”
“Both VyStar and 121 Financial have each been trusted in reliable financial institutions on our own, and we truly believe that now we will be even better together,” said Marovich.
The financial institution was founded by 12 members in 1952 as the Jax Navy Federal Credit Union at Naval Air Station. Its objective was to serve the financial needs of active military service members, veterans, civil service employees, and their family members. In 2002, it changed its name to VyStar.
Throughout its history, the credit union has kept abreast of the changes in the banking industry by debuting its first computerized accounting system in 1966 and opening its first ATM in 1982.
Members can access special discounts, free services and tools, and special discounts to help them achieve their financial goals. It offers a variety of financial products that meet the needs of members. The credit union provides financial education to members and nonmembers and is focused on being a force for change in order to improve the lives of its members and the communities it serves. It acts on those beliefs by supporting nonprofit organizations in the community and like-minded organizations while furnishing financial products and services to help members reach their economic goals.
VyStar’s growth, including the upcoming merger, allows it to keep fees and interest changes lower while increasing the interest earned. In addition, it has the resources and capabilities of the banks, the innovative spirit of modern fintech, and the heart of a credit union.