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10 steps to starting your own credit union

If you and a group of people want to start your own credit union, don't be put off by thinking it's too hard to do.

Below are the Florida Credit Union League 's recommendations on how to organize a credit union.

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How to start a credit union

1. Find something in common. Credit union members are a collective group having a common bond:

  • Occupation -- Employees of the same company.
  • Association -- Members of a professional and trade association, fraternal order, labor or church group.
  • Community -- Residents of the same well-defined neighborhood, community or rural district.
  • Income -- Low-income members can contact the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. Click here for more information.
2. Get together. As a rule, a "yes" vote by 500 potential members warrants continuation of the process to form a credit union. The National Credit Union Administration requires that a credit union with fewer than 3,000 potential members provide more evidence of support, since only about one-third of potential members will join and credit unions with less than 3,000 members may not be economically justified. Survey your potential members to determine whether they have an interest in supporting a credit union.
3. Do the paperwork. You should order the Interpretive Ruling and Policy Statement 98-03, which redrafts the NCUA's Chartering and Field of Membership Manual. The NCUA also has material on how to start a credit union. You may obtain this document from the NCUA's Web site.
4. Meet the membership requirement. If you want to discuss your potential field of membership, you should contact state or federal regulators. You must ensure that your survey covers a defined membership group and meets the definitions as required by state and federal regulations. It is suggested that you get your proposed FOM in writing.
5. Find a financial expert. A CPA or a person with a strong financial background needs to be on your organizing committee. This person will be responsible for developing realistic pro forma financial statements based upon your survey responses and the degree of sponsor assistance you will receive.
6. Form a committee. Your organizing committee should be comprised of individuals with very good credit. Both the state and federal regulators will obtain a current credit bureau report on each organizer and will take a dim view of a bad credit bureau report. Furthermore, the state will not allow someone who has had a bankruptcy within the past seven years to participate on the organizing committee or in the future operation of the credit union.
7. Set up a board of directors. The board is responsible for the general direction of the entire credit union, and its members should be able to understand the general and social environment in which it operates.
8. Collect some money. To help the credit union offset the cost of enrollment forms, a membership fee (typically $5) is charged. Additionally, each member is required to purchase at least one share (usually at a cost of $5 to $25) to help provide a base from which loans can be made.
9. Get by with a little help from your friends. It is recommended you obtain assistance from a credit union consultant in your area. This service is provided free of charge and, by utilizing this service, it will make the chartering process simpler and less time-consuming, since the consultant will be familiar with the necessary paperwork that must be completed.
10. Apply for status. Petition your state's Comptroller's Office or the National Credit Union Administration for official status.


Robbie Woliver is a freelance writer based in New York
To comment on this story, please e-mail the editors


-- Posted: March 1, 2000

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Main story: Taking on the bank
AND: Why join a credit union?
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