EXCLUSIVE: Two of Hollywood’s biggest and oldest credit unions are becoming one, the latest in a series of mergers that have consolidated many of the industry’s member-owned, nonprofit financial cooperatives. The latest tie-up will fold the Musicians’ Interguild Credit Union, with its $73 million in assets, into the much larger SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union, which has $236 million in assets.
The merger has already received approval from state and federal regulators, and has been approved by the boards of the SAFCU and the MICU. It must now be approved by the MICU’s 6,300 members. Ballots will be counted June 26.
The merged credit union will keep the name SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union, and Roger Runyon, SAFCU’s CEO, will be its chief executive officer.
“For some time, your board has contemplated how to better serve the needs of our membership and stay relevant to them,” said Stephan Zupkas, chairman of the MICU board of directors, in a recent communique with MICU members. “After much analysis, it became clear that the best way to accomplish that is to merge with a larger, well-run credit union that offers many of the products and services that our members expect. The dilemma for your board was to find a credit union with the same philosophies and focus as MICU. After careful review of a number of options, we found that SAFCU most closely fit what we were looking for in a partner. SAFCU is a credit union that is focused on entertainers’ unions with a field of membership that most closely resembles ours and a strong management team.”
Said Zupkas to Deadline: “We took a long hard look at this. The board’s responsibility is to serve our members the best we can, and we determined that more products and more branches to serve them would create a stronger institution. And the SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union has the same goal as we do — to serve the performer.”
Throughout the process, he wrote, “We met with the management of SAFCU and conducted the due diligence to ensure that the successor credit union will continue to be relevant to our members. The merged credit union will be a larger, more viable institution that will be able to continue to serve the unique needs of our combined membership.”
“This is a very positive thing,” SAFCU board chair Kerri Tombazian told Deadline. “This is an opportunity to expand and improve services to the Musicians Interguild Credit Union members, partly because the SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union has services and products that they don’t have. We have very similar fields of membership and many Musicians Union members are also SAG-AFTRA members. And their field of membership includes some other entertainment union members. So it’s a very well-matched field of membership. Obviously, in these financial times, it’s just a great thing to be able to join forces and have a stronger unified body.”
The history of Hollywood credit unions, which offer the same services as banks and lending institutions, is one of mergers. Founded in 1954 to serve members of the American Federation of Musicians Local 47, the Musicians’ Union Credit Union merged in 2006 with the Interguild Federal Credit Union, which served members of the WGA West, the DGA, the Producers Guild of America and other industry unions.
SAFCU, meanwhile, started out in 1962 as the AFTRA Federal Credit Union, and changed its name in 1971 to the Southern California AFTRA-SAG Federal Credit Union, to reflect eligibility of members of the Screen Actors Guild. It went national in 1976, and changed its name to the AFTRA-SAG Federal Credit Union. In 2012, following the merger of SAG and AFTRA, it changed its name again.
Once SAFCU and MICU are merged, its $309 million in assets will still be dwarfed by those of Hollywood’s biggest credit union, the First Entertainment Credit Union, which opened in 1967 in a small office on the Warner Bros lot with only $40 in assets. First known as the Warner Seven Federal Credit Union, it changed its name to Warner Bros Employees Federal Credit Union in 1970, and following a merger with the Columbia Studios Employees Credit Union in 1973 became the Columbia/Warner Bros. Employees Federal Credit Union.
It became the First Entertainment Federal Credit Union in 1984, and the next year, merged with the Golden West Broadcasters Federal Credit Union. In 1990, following a merger with Screenland/MGM Employees Credit Union, its assets nearly doubled in size — from $40 million to $73 million. It merged in 1993 with A&M Records Employees Federal Credit Union; merged again in 1998 with Six Flags Employees Federal Credit Union; merged again in 1999 with the Las Vegas Credit Union – shortening its name to First Entertainment Credit Union – and in 2003 merged yet again with the Paramount Studios Employees Credit Union. It now manages $1.4 billion in assets and serves more than 75,000 members.
“Nationwide, one credit union goes out of business every day through a merger with another credit union,” said John Fairbanks, a spokesman for the National Credit Union Administration, which regulates the nation’s credit union system. “Usually it’s because their members want services they can’t provide, and economies of scale. Mergers are a trend that’s been going on for several decades. It’s been pretty consistent.”
Credit unions, in contrast to commercial banks and lending institutions, are service organizations that exist solely for the benefit of their members and to serve their financial needs, without profit. Charted by Congress, they are people who share a common bond who save their money and make loans to each other at low interest rates from their accumulated funds. They’ve been around for more than a century.
Once merged, the new SAFCU will not only serve the needs of actors and musicians, but numerous other industry professionals as well. Unions and organizations that offer membership under pre-merger SAFCU include:
SAG Pension Plan
SAG-AFTRA Health Plan
AFTRA Retirement Fund
Actors Fund, Western Region
American Guild of Variety Artists,
Casting Society of America
Hollander Talent Group
Set Decorators Society of America
Talent Managers Association
Joining them from MICU once the merger is completed will be anyone who’s a member or an employee of:
The Directors Guild of America
The WGA West
The Producers Guild of America
American Federation of Musicians Local 7
American Federation of Musicians Local 47
American Federation of Musicians Local 308
American Federation of Musicians Local 325
American Federation of Musicians Local 353
American Federation of Musicians Local 655
Musicians’ Credit Union and the Department of Business Oversight of the State of
Musicians’ Assistance Program
Musicians’ Club of Los Angeles
Orange County Musicians’ Club
IATSE Prop Local 44
IATSE Grips Local 80
IATSE Cinematographers Guild Local 600
IATSE Costumers Local 705
IATSE Studio Electrical Lighting Technicians Local 728
IATSE Set Painters and Sign Writers Local 729
IATSE Art Directors Guild Local 800
IATSE Animation Guild Local 839
IATSE Treasurers & Ticket Sellers Local 857
IATSE Script Supervisors Local 871
IATSE Costume Designers Guild Local 892
Employees of the IATSE’s West Coast office
Employees of Technique System Solutions
Employees of Western Costume Co.
Entertainment Publicists Professional Society
So Cal IBEW-NECA Trust Fund
The Valley Master Chorale
Welsh Choir of Southern California
Association of Theatrical Press Agents & Managers
Spouses of deceased members, providing they have not remarried