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University of Iowa Community Credit Union eyeing 'GreenState' as new name

State law requires the large financial institution to rename by April

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union has applied for a new trademark.
The University of Iowa Community Credit Union has applied for a new trademark.
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Two months shy of a state deadline to change its name, the University of Iowa Community Credit Union is unveiling what it hopes will become its new brand: GreenState Credit Union.

The 80-year-old credit union shared the name and logo featuring a green leafy tree with its 525 staff, directors and advisory board members Wednesday afternoon, and then hours later with 140,000 of its 190,000 members — everyone it had email addresses for, according to Jim Kelly, chief marketing officer for the credit union.

The message, signed by the credit union’s President Jeff Disterhoft, reminded members that Iowa lawmakers forced the name change by passing legislation in 2018 mandating credit unions “shall not include the name of any public university located in the state of its name.” It had until April 30 to comply.

The law grew out of a long-running dispute with banks that the nonprofit credit union was unfairly growing market share at their expense. A tax increase for credit unions also was included in 2018 legislation, but did not pass.

“We have tried to be open and transparent about this process,” according to Disterhoft’s letter. “We have reached out to our members and received thousands of name ideas to consider.”

A committee of about 20 staff, members and board representatives whittled down the more than 2,000 ideas to three to five they ran past trademark lawyers. In the end, the board unanimously chose GreenState Credit Union and applied for a trademark — an application still being processed. A name change does not require a vote of its membership.

Inspiration for the new brand came from a member “who shared their feelings when flying back to the State of Iowa after a long time away,” Disterhoft said.

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“From the rolling valleys of farm ground to the trees that speckle our landscape, Iowa appeared to them as a warm welcoming ‘quilt,’” according to the message. “So, in order to pay tribute to our birthplace, we chose GreenState and have since developed a logo representing the diverse and vibrant colors of Iowa.”

Officials hope to hear back from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices by the end of March. Once confirmation comes, the credit union will begin its transition process — working toward the legal deadline of April 30. Changes to signage, documents and other materials will occur later this summer, according to a question-and-answer posting on its website.

The changes won’t affect member account numbers or debit and credit cards. Cards and checks with the traditional UICCU logo will continue to work until their scheduled reissue dates. Routing and contact numbers for branches and staff also won’t change.

“Change is never easy, and we will always remember and respect our University of Iowa roots,” Disterhoft wrote. “A new name will not change our mission to be the best that we can be for our members, our staff, and our communities.”

Reporting current assets of $5.2 billion, the UICCU is the largest credit union in Iowa and among the state’s top two largest financial institutions. Although its history is rooted in the UI — starting in 1938 as a State University of Iowa Hospital Employees Credit Union and expanding in 1966 to serve all staff, students and alumni — it no longer restricts members to individuals with UI ties. In 1988, officials added “community” to the title and expanded its charter to serve all residents. Today, officials estimate about 75 percent of UICCU members are not affiliated with the university.

The lasting perception of a connection, however, drove debate and the eventual law change.

Board of Regents member Larry McKibben last year also raised concerns over university names attached to unaffiliated organizations.

After the Legislature passed its law requiring both the UI and University of Northern Iowa credit unions change their names, regents adopted a new policy barring unassociated entities from using university trademarks in their names.

Credit union officials have estimated the cost of the name change — including signage and collateral material and communications — at about $2.5 million, or about 1 percent of projected annual revenue.

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