A 25-Year Journey of Growth and Empowering Credit Unions

By: Vicky Kinsey

CU Alliance (CUA), formed as Credit Union Acceptance Company (CUAC), is a credit union service organization (CUSO) that has been serving credit unions for 25 years. We reflect on our journey and accomplishments as we celebrate this significant milestone. From our early days as a small start-up to our status as a leader in the credit union community, we have remained committed to our core values of integrity, excellence, and collaboration. We are proud of our achievements and recognize that there is always room for improvement and growth.

The company was founded in 1998 by a group of visionaries who recognized the need for a CUSO offering indirect lending solutions; seven Houston credit unions invested in the company, aiming to create a successful venture on behalf of their members. Led by Dale Roberts, the CEO of Primeway FCU at the time, CUAC achieved modest success. However, they realized the need for a full-time management team to continue the growth. Adrian Dominguez joined the company in 2000 as the President and CEO. Under Adrian’s leadership, the CUSO experienced significant growth surpassing the founders’ initial expectations.

Randall Dixon, Founding Member and CEO of Energy Capital CU from 1989 to 2017, reflected, “This company has exceeded my initial vision. I initially saw it as a regional venture, limited to the Texas market at most. However, the company has grown beyond that, becoming a more comprehensive enterprise with greater reach.”

Debbie Blackshear, Founding Member and CEO of Cy-Fair FCU from 1995 to 2012, also expressed her thoughts: “It has gone even further than what I envisioned. Working in the mortgage sector was exhilarating, as we could earn the trust of our members and other credit union members. But the company’s growth has surpassed even those expectations.”

In 2000, the CUSO launched Member Auto Center, a car shopping service that complemented its indirect lending program. That year, the CUSO funded $44 million in auto loans and integrated Dealertrack into its auto loan application platform. In 2008, they added RouteOne, expanding their reach to more dealerships.

By 2003, the original seven credit unions had recouped their capital investment. They received dividends while the indirect lending service expanded into new markets. In 2005, the company ventured into mortgage lending with the launch of Member Home Loan. The CUSO established a holding company called CU Alliance, LLC (CUA) to accommodate its growing product offerings.

CUA continued the expansion of its indirect services, reaching seven additional states and servicing sixty credit unions by the end of 2005. They funded a total of $867 million in auto loans that year. The introduction of eContracting in 2006 streamlined loan origination and processing, eliminating physical paperwork and manual signatures. This innovation accelerated the lending process and improved efficiency. The implementation of leading technology has allowed for the growth in credit union partners and auto loans originated for their partners. In 2022, CUAC broke all records in indirect loan origination and funding.

“It is hard to believe that I have been here for 23 of the company’s 25 years. We have made so many connections throughout this quarter of a century in our goal to bring valuable services to our lending partners. I am very proud to have been a part of the organization’s success, and I am excited to see what is in store for the next 25 years. I am especially proud of the great friendships we have forged over the years with our Credit Union and CUSO clients. Thank you to all those clients who have helped make this CUSO so special.”Kurt Howard, COO of CU Alliance. Kurt joined CUAC in 2000 and has been instrumental in developing the systems and infrastructure which have made CUAC the industry leader in indirect lending.

Member Home Loan, the mortgage lending service under the CUSO, also experienced significant growth. It expanded into Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri, and in 2009, it introduced mortgage loan servicing. By 2012, its mortgage loan servicing portfolio was worth $500 million and had funded $168 million in mortgage loans.

Remaining forward-thinking, CU Alliance has supported the creation of other CUSOs. In 2009, KLA of Pittsburgh was established and played a vital role in creating ARCUSO, an indirect lending consulting CUSO, in 2014. In 2017, CULANE, a New England CUSO specializing in indirect lending services, was also formed.

Meanwhile, Member Auto Center evolved from a traditional car shopping service into a comprehensive online platform. This expansion enabled partnerships with CUSOs nationwide and provided a more robust and customizable product to credit union partners in the Houston area. Member Auto Center’s core partnership in Houston includes over seventy-five dealerships and twenty-six credit unions and serves more than one million members.

“This year marks 30 years for me in the credit union industry; it’s difficult to believe that 23 years have been with CU Alliance. When I first heard about the CUSO in the late 90s, I never thought I would be part of the adventure of building something valuable to the credit union movement. Years from now, when all of us original pioneers of the CUSO have faded into history, the presentations we conducted, miles we traveled, and friends in the industry we made will still be a permanent part of the fabric of CU Alliance.”John Riley, CU Alliance, EVP Sales & Marketing. John joined CUA in late 2000 and developed and launched a member car buying program for partner credit unions. John manages the ongoing marketing and sales efforts for the CUSO.

Demonstrating its relentless pursuit of innovation, CU Alliance further diversified its product portfolio by entering the insurance business in 2018. Through a strategic partnership with CU Certified™, the organization introduced a best-in-class vehicle service contract exclusively for Texas credit unions. By retaining 100% of the underwriting profits, CU Alliance gave credit union partners greater control, shifting away from traditional insurance companies and administrators. To date, credit union partners have collectively received $2 million in underwriting profit, strengthening their financial positions and enhancing member experiences.

Remaining dedicated to the credit union philosophy of community involvement, CU Alliance established the Dream Educational Foundation in 2020. This philanthropic initiative aims to provide financial assistance to high school students within the community and credit union staff members seeking to advance their education in the accounting and finance sectors. By nurturing the aspirations of future leaders, CU Alliance continues to foster the spirit of community and empower individuals to pursue their dreams.

Since its inception, CU Alliance has evolved into a nationally recognized, successful credit union partner, excelling as an indirect automobile loan aggregator, mortgage loan originator and servicer, and provider of best-in-class loan products. Today, CU Alliance proudly serves over 250 credit unions across fourteen states, delivering innovative products and services tailored to their unique needs.

“What an incredible journey it has been. It’s hard to believe that our company started 25 years ago as an Indirect Auto Lender serving only the Houston market. Today, we’ve grown into a multi-services CUSO operating in multiple states, offering various financial products, including auto loans, mortgage loans, and other ancillary services. Our success is a testament to the collective effort of our talented team and visionary board members who have dedicated themselves to our company’s growth and mission. As the leader of this exceptional team, I’m humbled by what we’ve accomplished. I am committed to upholding our values and mission in the credit union space.” Adrian Dominguez, CU Alliance, President and CEO.

Guided by a collaborative approach, the board of directors and leadership team at CU Alliance believe that partnership and constructive collaboration among credit unions and CUSOs are the driving factors behind the organization’s enduring success. Looking toward the future, CU Alliance is filled with excitement and anticipation for the opportunities ahead. The organization remains steadfast in its commitment to delivering innovative solutions that propel business success while fostering a culture of collaboration, diversity, and inclusion.

“As the current Chairman of CU Alliance and former Chair of the Member Home Loan CUSO, I am excited to see not only the growth of this organization over the last 25 years but the continued effort to excel for credit unions using innovation and a service mindset. I am proud of what this team accomplishes daily in assisting credit unions of all sizes throughout the country, helping us further the credit union mission. Through their helping credit unions approach, CU Alliance is rapidly gaining market share, and the next 25 years will be even more impressive! A big thank you to Adrian Dominquez, CEO, the Executive team, and all the employees of CU Alliance and Member Home Loan.” – TW Jolly, Primeway FCU, EVP and Chief Operating Officer. T.W. Jolly is the current Chairman of CU Alliance since 2022 and former Chairman of Member Home Loan from 2020-2022.  Jolly is a veteran of 30 years in financial services which included tenure in the largest US Banks and currently the Houston based organization, PrimeWay Federal Credit Union.

As we commemorate this momentous milestone, CU Alliance extends its heartfelt gratitude to our valued clients, partners, and tenacious team members for their unwavering support and invaluable contributions to our success. Together, we will continue to embark on this remarkable journey, shaping a brighter future for credit unions and their members.

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