TAMPA, Fla. (3/4/09)--The boards of two Tampa-based credit unions--Suncoast Schools FCU and GTE FCU--have signed a letter of intent to merge the two large credit unions, subject to satisfactory due diligence reviews and regulatory approval. In a joint press release, the credit unions said they will conduct due diligence to review a number of points including but not limited to financial statements, reports of operation, contracts, loan quality and underwriting standards, computer and telecommunication systems, human resource practices, regulatory examinations and others. "We believe this merger would help both credit unions achieve their ultimate goal to provide better value to our member-owners," Tom Dorety, president of SSFCU, said. "The due diligence process will be thorough and deliberate, with both parties agreeing along the way." The credit unions expect the process to take about four to six months before the merger application will be turned over to regulators to determine compliance. After that, the time frame is unknown, they said. "Benefits such as an expanded branch and ATM network and greater efficiency in several areas are just part of the merger potential," said Bucky Sebastian, CEO/president of GTE FCU. "While we have an agreement to consider the merger, we realize it will take time to complete, but we look forward to the process unfolding." Both credit unions will continue operating in a manner consistent with current operations, they said, adding that business will not be interrupted in any way during the due diligence process. Suncoast Schools FCU, chartered in 1934, serves more than 473,000 members and operates 50 full-service branches in 15 Florida counties. With $6 billion in assets, it is the largest credit union in Florida and the seventh largest in the U.S. GTE FCU, chartered in 1935, serves 205,000 members and operates 38 branches in 14 counties in Florida. It has $1.8 billion in assets.