Banks and credit union officials in North Carolinians are working feverishly to avoid what they fear is a possible merger with a larger bank, after the state’s top banking regulator signaled that the merger could happen in coming months.
At least three credit unions are looking to merge, with the biggest one already in the process, according to people familiar with the talks.
The three credit union entities would be led by the North Carolina Public Service Commission, which has jurisdiction over the two largest, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
A fourth credit union, Bank One, has not yet been named.
North Carolina has been trying to lure Bank of American and Wells, and the state has also said it is looking at merging its two largest banks, Bankrate and First Federal.
North Carolina’s banking regulators and regulators from other states have been meeting in Raleigh to try to craft a regulatory framework for merging.
“The banks have already done some initial work on it,” said Brian DeMars, president of the state Senate Banking Committee.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of resistance right now.”
North Carolina has more than 100,000 credit unions and other financial institutions.
It has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and has been hit hard by the economic downturn.
But the state is trying to attract more big banks to help it attract new businesses.
Banks are also trying to get into the mortgage lending business, but many of them are reluctant because of regulations that prohibit them from doing so.
Bankrate CEO Richard L. Dixons said he thinks a merger would make sense because the combined entities could provide a better balance of risk, transparency and value to consumers.
The state has been offering incentives to the largest credit unions for a few years to help them attract and retain new customers, said Lacey Clements, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Banking and Financial Institutions.
But she said there’s been no formal discussion with any of the three credit banks about merging.
She said the state wants to see if the three entities can provide value to the state.
North Carolins first merger came in 2010.
That’s when the state started allowing credit unions to merge.
That allowed them to combine with other banks to form a larger one, which then became known as North Carolina Bank and Trust.
North Cascades Bank and Bank of Oklahoma merged in 2012 and then in 2013 the state merged with First Federal and the credit union that merged with Bank of North Carolina.
Bank of the West merged in 2019 with Bank One.
North Bank, which merged with Wells Fargo, has said it’s also exploring possible merger possibilities.
North North Carolina also has a bank called the North West Bank, but the merged entity would have no jurisdiction in the North Carolinian banking system.
The state also is considering merging with the Credit Union of North Dakota.
BankOne is the largest national bank in North America and the fourth largest in the United States, with about 15,000 branches.
The bank recently announced it will merge with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Wells Fargo has about 5,400 branches in the state and about 2,500 employees.
Bank One also has about 1,500 branches.
BankRate is the second largest credit union in the world with more than 7,000 employees and about 3,000 locations, with more locations in Florida.
Wells has about 4,000 staff in North Texas.
BankTwo has about 3-1/2 times the number of branches as BankOne and about half the number as Bank of Omaha, but about three times the employees and has a larger geographic footprint.
Bank Three has about 7,400 employees in North Dakota and has about 8,000 offices in North California, New York and Florida.
The combined entity is not subject to state rules that prohibit a bank from merging with another financial institution.
The credit unions were created by state lawmakers in 2005 to help consumers avoid high interest rates and the potential for the banks to collapse.