Premier Members Credit Union plants flag in southern Colorado with merger

BOULDER — Premier Members Credit Union members voted this week to approve a merger with Pueblo-based Pueblo Horizons Federal Credit Union, marking PMCU’s initial expansion into the southern portion of the state.

The credit unions, which will operate under the Premier Members banner, will now begin the process of combining their systems and membership, a process that is expected to take several months. During that process, Pueblo Horizons will continue operating using its current name and branding.

“Premier Members is a natural merger partner for us, with a complementary culture, membership base, and an expanded branch network,” Pueblo Horizons CEO Don Ortega wrote in a letter to the credit union’s members.

Current Premier Members CEO Carlos Pacheco will maintain his position, while Ortega will assume the role of Premier’s new president of Pueblo County, the letter said. 

“The path of this strategic merger was set into motion in early 2019. Premier Members Credit Union applied to the Financial Services Board of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to have Elbert, El Paso and Pueblo County added to its field of membership,” Pacheco told BizWest in an email. “Some members of Premier Members Credit Union already reside in these counties. With census data estimates anticipating growth in these counties between 5.3 percent – 14.7 percent, it made sense for Premier Members to look at membership growth from these areas. In concert with Premier Members’ strategic plan, all options were being considered for future growth in additional markets throughout the state of Colorado.”

After the merger, Premier will exceed $1.2 billion in total assets and serve more than 76,000 members at 14 branch locations in Pueblo, Castle Rock, Boulder, Louisville, Longmont, Firestone, Westminster, Arvada, Centennial and Estes Park.

“This merger will benefit both credit unions by expanding offerings and locations to the combined membership,” Premier Members board chairman Mark Gisi said in a prepared statement. “With greater resources, we can provide increased membership value.”

The National Credit Union Administration received no submitted comments in support or opposition to the merger, according to the regulatory agency’s document database. 

The merger will not result in any staff reductions, Ortega said, and all Pueblo Horizons employees will retain their positions and benefits.

Pacheco added: “There is no expectation or plan that any branch location would be closed as a result of this combination.”

Premier Members has been in expansion mode since surpassing the $1 billion mark for assets at the end of 2017. Premier Members bought a new 52,000-square-foot office space in Broomfield’s Interlocken business park for more than $11.6 million in September. The institution also grew the geographic scope of its membership field to include El Paso, Pueblo and Elbert counties in July.

Pueblo Horizons began exploring merger options more than a year ago with the goal of providing members with the rates, service levels and technology that can be elusive for smaller institutions, Ortega said.

“The credit union industry continues to evolve and change,” he said. “We’re a very small credit union with about $26 million in assets and 3,300 members. So from an efficiency standpoint it can be really tough to offer all of the things that members want and keep it affordable. It was important to partner with someone who could bring more resources to the table.”

Ortega’s task from the credit unions board of directors “was to find larger credit unions that were a good fit for us, which was a long process,” he said. “…The biggest piece for us was finding the right cultural fit. As a board and a management team we wanted to partner with an organization that understands that Pueblo has its own identity.”

Pueblo Horizons serves many members on the west side of Pueblo, “which is a part of the community that doesn’t always get the same level of support,” Ortega said.

Pacheco added: “We also expect to provide Pueblo County members with expanded call center support hours, additional technological enhancements and services and additional products that could be offered due to economies of scale. Member and geographic diversity can provide benefits to the combined membership rather than maintaining our independence.”

With the merger, Pueblo Horizon gains access to PMCU’s resources, and PMCU establishes a foothold in Southern Colorado, he said.

“One of the things we considered throughout the process was finding a partner who likes us as much as we like them,” Ortega said. “As I talked with [Pacheco] about his plans for Premier into the future, it was apparent that he was looking for more outreach into broader Colorado.”

The merger negotiations paralleled PMCU’s membership expansion into El Paso, Pueblo and Elbert counties, and “it was clear that Premier had designs on a bigger presence in the southern part of the state,” he said.

BOULDER — Premier Members Credit Union members voted this week to approve a merger with Pueblo-based Pueblo Horizons Federal Credit Union, marking PMCU’s initial expansion into the southern portion of the state.

The credit unions, which will operate under the Premier Members banner, will now begin the process of combining their systems and membership, a process that is expected to take several months. During that process, Pueblo Horizons will continue operating using its current name and branding.

“Premier Members is a natural merger partner for us, with a complementary culture, membership base, and an expanded branch network,” Pueblo Horizons CEO Don Ortega wrote in a letter to the credit union’s members.

Current Premier Members CEO Carlos Pacheco will maintain his position, while Ortega will assume the role of Premier’s new president of Pueblo County, the letter said. 

“The path of this strategic merger was set into motion in early 2019. Premier Members Credit Union applied to the Financial Services Board of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to have Elbert, El Paso and Pueblo County added to its field of membership,” Pacheco told BizWest in an email. “Some members of Premier Members Credit Union already reside in these counties. With census data estimates anticipating growth in these counties between 5.3 percent – 14.7 percent, it made sense for Premier Members to look at membership growth from these areas. In concert with Premier Members’ strategic plan, all options were being considered for future growth in additional markets throughout the state of Colorado.”

After the merger, Premier…