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SA credit union approves Queensland merger

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Adelaide-based People’s Choice Credit Union is formally proceeding with plans to merge with Queensland’s Heritage Bank in a move that would create a customer-owned financial institution worth more than $22 billion.

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The decision to proceed with the merger by early 2023, subject to regulatory approvals and a members’ vote in late 2022, was announced by the two companies this morning.

The newly merged entity will have 1800 employees, 720,000 members and total assets worth more than $22.5 billion, according to People’s Choice and Heritage Bank.

The two companies also insist the merger, first floated in August last year, will not result in any branch closures or redundancies below executive level.

“Most importantly, members will benefit from more branches, better products and services and contemporary secure banking technology,” the companies said in a joint statement today.

People’s Choice is Australia’s largest credit union with 390,000 members, almost 900 employees, $9.9 billion in total assets and 34 branches and advice centres in South Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Heritage is one of Australia’s oldest and largest customer-owned banks with 320,000 members, 800 employees, $11.9 billion in total assets, and 60 branches and mini branches in Queensland and New South Wales.

The merged entity, which is yet to have a name, will split its head offices between Heritage Bank’s current base in Toowoomba and People’s Choice’s home in Adelaide.

The two companies have also agreed to a new governance structure which will see board level and executive leadership split equally.

Current Heritage CEO Peter Lock has been chosen to lead the combined entity for its first 18 months, after which he has agreed to retire and make way for deputy CEO Steve Laidlaw – currently People’s Choice CEO – to take over.

People’s Choice chair Michael Cameron will hold the equivalent role in the new bank, while Heritage Bank chair Kerry Betros has agreed to be deputy chairman.

Cameron encouraged People Choice’s members to vote for the merger.

“The Board is committed to ensuring that we remain a strong values-driven organisation that is dedicated to mutuality, our members, employees and the communities that we operate in,” he said.

Members of both organisations will vote on the proposal at their annual general meetings scheduled for late 2022, with the merged entity to be established in early 2023.

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