Members of Beehive Credit Union have chosen, in a close vote, to convert to a member-owned mutual savings bank.

About 36 percent of Beehive's 22,000 members voted: 53 percent were in favor of converting to a bank, while 47 percent voted against it.

During the month-long voting period, members cast their ballots by mail, in person at credit union branches and at a special meeting Feb. 13. Results were announced Wednesday morning.

"We expected there would be some that would vote against it," said Beehive chief executive officer Scott Jorgensen. "We just know there's a lot of people that like us and like the way we treat them and take care of them."

The bank will be called Beehive Bank. Conversion could take months. Approval is needed from the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

"We don't anticipate any hurdles," Jorgensen said.

Beehive's Board of Trustees initiated the election because under state credit-union charter rules, membership was limited to Salt Lake and Utah counties and certain employee groups.

As a bank, Beehive could open new branches outside of Salt Lake County. Beehive also would be able to make larger personal and business loans, Jorgensen said.

"We'll do whatever we can to take advantage of our new rules and continue to serve our members."

The conversion comes at a time when the Utah Legislature is considering a measure that would change state-chartered rules for credit unions. Jorgensen said that even if the bill passed, it would not address Beehive's primary concern of membership and branch limitations.

A group of members who opposed the conversion and called themselves Beehive Members Protecting Member Interests launched a Web site to warn about the changes and lobbied members to vote against the measure.

"As a member, I was really disappointed," said Dave Owen, a political consultant who worked with the anti-conversion group. "I would like to see some examination of the process."

Members had more exposure to the pro-conversion side of the debate, supported by the credit union's board of trustees, through mailers, signs and T-shirts sported by tellers than of the anti-conversion side, Owen said.

Louis Caditz-Peck of the North Carolina-based National Center for Member Trust, which has been advising the Beehive Members Protecting Member Interests, said the group may file a complaint with the National Credit Union Administration, which must certify the election in 30 days.

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