09:49 PM PST on Tuesday, November 30, 2010

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL / The Press-Enterprise

Arrowhead Credit Union plans to close eight branches as of Dec. 31, the majority of them inside Stater Bros. markets, leaving 11 branches for the financial institution’s Inland members.

In a statement, officials with Arrowhead, which has been managed by federal regulators for six months, said the closures were part of “ongoing efforts to bring the credit union back to profitability.”

The National Credit Union Administration seized the credit union in June.

At the end of September, Arrowhead had 137,779 members and 338 full- and part-time employees. Six months earlier, the credit union had 151,160 members and 449 employees.

At the end of 2009, the credit union had 25 branches. After Dec. 31, Arrowhead will have 11 branches: two in San Bernardino and one each in Chino, Crestline, Fontana, Highland, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, Riverside and Yucaipa.

John McKechnie, a spokesman for the NCUA, said in an e-mail that the agency expects to reduce its staff by 37 employees as a result. Twenty-seven employees were laid off in July and 10 workers have been laid off since October.

“Some employees at the closed branches are being offered positions at other locations,” he said.

Jack Brown, CEO of Stater Bros., said it was the NCUA’s decision, not his, to close the branches inside his stores.

“The leases were written very openly. That gave them an easy way out,” he said of the agreements signed by Arrowhead’s former management team.

“Because they were a hometown credit union we worked very hard to accommodate their needs,” he said. “They were a great partner.”

Stater Bros. has already partnered with a new financial institution, a major bank, to fill that space, he said, declining to name the bank.

Brown said he expected the new bank would offer even more services than the credit union could.

Fernando Juarez, 38, walked out of the credit union’s branch off Mt. Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino on Tuesday afternoon unsure if he’d remain a member or transfer his accounts entirely to Chase where he also banks. His branch is set to close Dec. 31.

He sometimes visited the branch three times a week, since it is located between his home and the nearby Santa Fe Depot where he works. He had visited that day to make an appointment with a loan officer to review his options for a home loan having heard through his union that getting it through the credit union was, “the best way to go.”

John Husing is a Redlands-based economist and an Arrowhead Credit Union member who transferred the bulk of his accounts to another financial institution after regulators took over Arrowhead. The credit union was an early sponsor of his quarterly economic reports starting in 1988.

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