This is Part 1 of a 4-part series introducing the Campaign for Common-Sense Regulation, a CUNA/league effort to marshal the full resources of the credit union industry around the fight to erase excessive regulations on credit unions. Mark your calendars for the webinar on how to get involved on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 2 p.m. (ET).
CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle sees 2017 as the strongest year yet for possible credit union advocacy victories on the regulatory relief front.
With a new administration interested in reducing regulations and a pro-credit union majority in Congress, Nussle says the industry is poised for an even more successful year than 2016, when CUNA, the leagues and their member credit unions achieved a number of significant victories, including reduced frequency of examinations, new field-of-membership rules, and much more.
To kick off 2017, CUNA’s president and chief executive sat down for a Q-and-A about the opportunity credit unions have to make a real dent in regulatory burden in the new year.
The CUNA/league system recorded significant advocacy victories in 2016. How hard-fought were these wins?
We certainly built up considerable momentum heading into 2017. I’m proud of the way the credit union movement came together to fight for issues like exam frequency, and member business lending and field-of-membership rules. These are priorities we’ve worked hard on for some time, and often against considerable opposition.
In Congress, we made solid progress in key committees and the full House on a number of important issues. Not to mention, 97% of the 364 candidates credit unions supported through CULAC won election in November. In the end, we prevailed in many of the areas we focused our resources.
How does the success set the stage for 2017?
When the dust settled after the elections, credit unions were left with a pretty favorable political environment for reducing regulations. This is something we can’t take for granted, which is why hammering overregulation will be the central focus of our advocacy work. We feel that, with full buy-in from the entire credit union industry, including our member-consumers, we have a huge opportunity to make changes that will shake credit unions free from cumbersome regulations so they can really thrive.
When was the last time Congress and an administration have been so aligned on a priority such as regulatory relief?
To be honest, I can’t find anyone who can remember a time when, as an industry, we’ve had an opportunity to make such substantive improvements to credit union operating environments. In 1998, we passed H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act, but many would suggest that was a defensive effort. This year, with our Campaign for Common-Sense Regulation, we’re going on offense, and I believe that approach will enable us to move the needle on Capitol Hill in ways we haven’t seen before.
Which specific issues will the industry push with the 115th Congress to achieve regulatory relief?
From listening to members, we know they have the biggest issues with the Truth in Lending Act-Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act integrated disclosure (TRID) rule, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) and the Military Lending Act (MLA). MLA has been a nightmare for credit unions, and TRID and HMDA, rules written for the big banks, are hitting credit unions, particularly smaller credit unions, with costs that plainly make it more difficult to serve members and expand services to broader areas of the community.
We’re keeping our eyes on several pieces of legislation in the making, but we will work with Congress to pursue any laws that ensure that regulators treat credit unions like credit unions, and big banks like big banks. In fact, I’ve already met with Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), ranking Democratic member of the Senate Banking Committee, to discuss avenues for reducing the burden on credit unions.
Why is it important for credit unions and credit union members to tell their stories to legislators?
From my experience in Congress I can tell you that no message rings louder than a note or call from a constituent. Elected officials are always acutely aware that you only get to serve in Congress because of your voters, the people who elected you to represent their interests. My voters literally shaped my legislative agenda when I was in office.
I say this to point out why it’s so important for credit unions and members to reach out. Nothing is more powerful than sitting down with your member of Congress and telling her or him that, for example, regulations are forcing you to withhold products or services from your members or ability to serve your community. I can’t stress this point enough. Advocacy is all about connecting your story to policy makers and getting them to act on your behalf. The more you tell your stories to Congress—and the more you educate members about the issues you face—the more advocacy success we will have in 2017.
What are the best ways for credit unions and their members to get their voices heard?
Start with the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference and your league’s Hike the Hill trip. If you’ve never attended GAC—first, you don’t know what you’re missing. There’s a reason why it’s the No. 1 credit union event of the year—the event gives you the perfect opportunity to walk into your congress members’ offices and tell them, face-to-face, about what’s important to your credit union and how they can help. Hike the Hill trips present similar opportunities.
Beyond these events, participation in the CUNA Member Activation Program (MAP) is the perfect way to get members involved. Through easy steps, we send you content that you can use to educate members about the issues, and later to give them tools to easily contact their congress members calling for their support. We also encourage credit unions to invite members of Congress to their branches—something I loved doing while in office—and to educate your members and local community leaders about the impact these regulations are having.
What are your goals for 2017? How would you like the industry to look when the calendar flips to 2018?
As I said and have often repeated since my first day on the job—winning is growing. All efforts that CUNA and the leagues undertake focus on putting credit unions in the best possible operating environment to best serve their members and communities. We want as many people in this country choosing credit unions as their best financial partners as possible. We want to extend access to credit union membership far and wide. We want to increase the capacity of credit unions to serve their members with the broadest possible array of products and services.
We will continue to work for this through all our conferences, learning events and through collaboration with our system and business partners. We will also do this, of course, through advocacy. I spent much of 2016 traveling across the country meeting with leagues and credit unions to learn the best way to deliver advocacy success for 2017. We conducted advocacy focus groups and polls to identify the issues most important to members. I greatly appreciate that input and feedback, and we will put it all into action.
Lastly, I want to say that CUNA remains committed to being as responsive and transparent as we have ever been, and that starts with me. If you want to talk to me about an issue your credit union is facing, or about the industry, or about CUNA, please, pick up the phone and give me call: 202-508-6745, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m absolutely serious and I am at your service. Thank you.
To learn about the initial steps credit unions can take to get involved in this yearlong campaign, tune in to the campaign-launch webinar Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 2 p.m. (ET).