Credit unions need to change the conversation on Capitol Hill, CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney, told 4,000 attendees at Monday’s Opening General Session.
“We have a big voice [93 million members], we serve our members, we are not for profit, and we deserve our tax exemption,” Cheney said, noting that at no time in recent history has the credit union movement had more political capital.
With more than 100 new members of Congress, Cheney noted, it’s imperative that attendees understand how critically important it is to tell the credit union side of the story on their Hill visits. “Credit unions cannot let others define them. Credit unions promote thrift and provide valuable financial services to their members and their communities,” he said.
There are many important issues to tell Congress about, including the need for capital reform, interchange income issues, the need for business lending reform, and the preservation of the tax exemption.
Taken collectively, these issues could be daunting, Cheney said, but by tackling them individually credit unions can turn these challenges into success stories.
“It’s important that Congress understand the difference between the for-profit model and the cooperative model in the financial services industry,” Cheney noted, promising to announce a 535-seat political strategy to win the legislative battles that loom before the movement.
“Credit unions are here to stay.” he proclaimed, “With 93 million members we cannot and will not be ignored.” Nearly seven in 10 Americans (68%) support credit unions and their issues because credit unions deliver value to their communities.
In fact, credit unions saved their members $6.5 billion between 2007 and 2010 in the form of lower rates on loans and higher earnings on savings. During that same time, business lending at credit unions grew 39% while bank business lending dropped 18%.
“And we are careful and responsible lenders,” Cheney noted. While credit union loan losses are higher than usual, they’re only one-third of the losses banks are reporting.
Finally, Cheney announced the launch of a new consumer website (www.asmarterchoice.org)—developed by the American Association of Credit Union Leagues and managed by CUNA—that will help credit unions grow membership and market share.