They kept coming back to what they had in common.
Both Belco Community and Cornerstone Federal credit unions trace their roots to charters with telephone companies – Belco with Bell Telephone Co. in 1939 and Cornerstone with United Telephone Co.’s Eastern Group in 1974.
The two credit unions also serve overlapping footprints, and both were looking for partners in order to expand.
These commonalities proved the most significant factors leading the institutions to pursue a merger. Belco, based near Harrisburg, and Cornerstone, based near Carlisle, hope to be operating as a single institution by fall 2017, they announced earlier this month.
“It was just a very good fit right from the start,” Belco President and CEO Amey Sgrignoli said the week after the announcement.
The combination, if approved, will allow both credit unions to expand in ways they could not have done previously. Belco, while it had members in the Carlisle area, did not have any branches there. And Cornerstone, the smaller of the two partners, was nearing its business lending cap.
Together, they hope to expand their footprints in southcentral Pennsylvania, specifically in Mechanicsburg, Gettysburg, Hanover and Carlisle.
Cornerstone, which has three full-service branches and about $100 million in assets, had searched for other partnership opportunities but opted to merge with Belco because of the potential for mutual benefits, said Cornerstone CEO Sam Glesner.
The arrangement will also preserve the Cornerstone brand – which will live on through a yet-to-be-finalized co-branding with Belco at the current Cornerstone branches – and let all of Belco and Cornerstone’s combined 200 employees keep their jobs.
Glesner, too, will continue with the credit union as a member of its executive team.
More specifics about how the merger will affect member accounts will come after the merger receives approval from Cornerstone’s membership, the National Credit Union Administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Banking.
In the meantime, Cornerstone is sending updates to members and updating an FAQ sheet as it receives additional details, Glesner said.
“Members will continue to be working with the same folks that they had been,” Sgrignoli said. “Really, very little is changing as far as branches and staff.”
When combined, the two credit unions will have about 63,000 members and $555 million in assets.