Paul Regimbal spent the first 17 years of his banking career in the Yakima Valley working for Seattle-based Rainier Bank (now Key Bank), but he's better known for more than 20 years of work with area credit unions.
His longest stint -- from 1988 to October 2011 -- was as president and CEO of Catholic Credit Union. During that time, the credit union expanded its membership, first to all residents of Yakima and Kittitas counties in 2002, then to all residents of several Central Washington counties -- Adams, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin, Grant and Klickitat -- in 2007.
He also was instrumental in the merger with Catholic Credit Union of Kittitas County in 1992 and, last fall, with Yakima Valley Credit Union.
Last month, Regimbal, 64, retired from that newly merged institution -- now called Solarity Credit Union -- after serving as its vice president of corporate integration, facilitating all aspects of the merger, including combining product offerings and data systems.
In an interview with the Yakima Herald-Republic, Regimbal answered questions about his career, the recent merger and the overall credit union industry.
Question: What have been the highlights of your career?
Answer: One was to see the tremendous growth that Catholic Credit Union experienced, especially during the 1990s. When I came to the credit union, we were at about $40 million in assets. When we merged the credit union, it grew to $190 million. Our staff had also grown, from 16 to 49.
Q: What will you miss about being involved with credit unions?
A: I will miss the people within the credit union. And also the camaraderie with other credit union CEOs across the state. There were few times my career that I couldn't call a friend of mine or another credit union with a question and receive cooperation. That really set them apart from the banks. Credit unions were always able to share, whether it was a policy or products.
Q: Any merger is an adjustment for customers. How did you get members adjusted to the merger of Catholic Credit Union and Yakima Valley Credit Union?
A: That is ongoing. In other words, the technical merger took place last fall but the actual merger is still ongoing as we're getting members of both credit unions used to all the branches, changes in the products and the new technology that has come with the merger of the data systems. There are still folks who miss the old credit unions. But overall the reception has been positive.
Q: How do you deal with those customers who miss the smaller credit unions?
A: Just sit down and convince them that the opportunities for additional products and convenience will be a benefit in the future. In other words, we will have more resources combined to provide more products and convenience than each of us individually. You can put more money in advertising, product development and technology development, than you could individually.
After people stand back, they say, "I kind of understand." They are very receptive, especially when they see the benefits of additional products and technology.
Q: Other challenges with the merger?
A: Probably one of the rumors that got started out there was that the credit union needed to merge because of financial situations. And that is absolutely not the case. Both institutions were financially stable and had great capital.
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