Big Sky Credit Union and Australian Unity to explore and evaluate potential merger opportunity

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Big Sky Credit Union Limited and Australian Unity Limited have today signed a Heads of Agreement to explore and evaluate a potential merger opportunity between the two organisations.

Big Sky Credit Union Limited and Australian Unity Limited have today signed a Heads of Agreement to explore and evaluate a potential merger opportunity between the two organisations.

Both businesses have recognised that there may be a way to better serve their combined membership groups. An evaluation committee comprising senior executives and directors of both organisations has been formed to review strategic opportunities to create a strengthened mutual group.

The discussions are at an early stage. Should any more formal proposal be agreed by the evaluation committee, it would be subject to review and approval, including by respective Boards, regulators and the members of Big Sky Credit Union.

Both organisations believe that there is fertile ground to explore in such a union. Australian Unity’s 280,000 members could potentially benefit from the banking services offered by Big Sky while the 30,000 members of Big Sky could benefit through accessing the broad range of wellbeing products and services currently offered by Australian Unity.

Mr Tony Ryan chief executive officer of Big Sky said “Our two strong mutuals have proud heritages with strong member offers. It makes sense to formally review whether we can do more together.

“Big Sky has performed strongly during the recent economic downturn and while it could continue to operate successfully in its own right, the Board is interested in exploring an alternative which would see us further develop as a meaningful alternative to the big banks.

“We are open to all opportunities which we believe will benefit our members. Australian Unity has a set of complementary products and services to Big Sky and we should consider how these may benefit our members,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Rohan Mead, group managing director of Australian Unity, said that the Heads of Agreement would allow each company to formally review each other’s strengths.

“The services provided by Big Sky to its members appear to fit well with the Australian Unity business approach and the member based structure and style of both organisations is clearly complementary.

“We believe a merger with Big Sky could strengthen our approach to providing members with a full range of wellbeing services, including financial services, throughout their lives,” he said.

Preliminary considerations have included Big Sky combining with the Lifeplan Australia Building Society. (Lifeplan became part of Australian Unity as a result of a merger between Australian Unity and Lifeplan Australia Friendly Society in 2009.)

Mr David Bryant, CEO of Australian Unity Investments and the responsible Australian Unity executive, said that he was interested in exploring all options between the businesses as members and customers were increasingly linking “investing” and “saving” and wanting access to trusted organisations to provide a range of services.

“We are serious about offering a very real alternative in financial and investment services. This opportunity has the potential to give us a significant boost in developing this approach,” Mr Bryant said.


For more information please contact:
Tony Ryan (chief executive officer, Big Sky Credit Union) – 03 8635 2812
Rohan Mead (group managing director, Australian Unity) – 03 8682 6601
David Bryant (chief executive officer, Australian Unity Investments) – 03 8682 4401


Australian Unity is a national healthcare, financial services and retirement living organisation providing services to more than 560,000 Australians, currently including some 280,000 members nationwide, 10,000 of whom have been members for more than 50 years. In the financial year ended 30 June 2010, Australian Unity’s revenue was more than $930 million. It employs around 1,400 staff nationally.

Australian Unity’s history as a trusted mutual organisation dates back 170 years. It has grown organically—by continually evolving and providing the services and products needed by the communities it serves—as well as through successful strategic mergers and diversification into new business activities. Australian Unity develops high trust products and services for customers making high trust purchases that support their health and financial wellbeing.

Big Sky is a Credit Union that is regulated under the same rigorous legislation as all financial institutions and is run on cooperative principles for the benefit of its members. Profits are used to benefit members in many forms including: lower interest rates on loans, a low cost fee structure, higher rates on deposits and personalised service. Big Sky has over 30,000 members and more than $570 million in gross assets.

Having grown from the employee credit unions of BP and BHP (initially) its presence is predominantly in rural and mining regions, where it forms the community “bank”. Its more recent acquisitions of the employee credit unions of Holden and RACV provide Big Sky with growth opportunities with a more diversified and growing customer base.

17 June 2011