IRVING, N.Y. (12/12/14)--Members of New York's Native American Seneca Nation are filled with anticipation as they await approval of their credit union charter application from the National Credit Union Administration.
"Everybody's anxious," Stephen Scott, the Seneca Nation's acting deputy director for planning and development, told News Now. "It's all in the NCUA's hands right now. I don't want to bother them too much, but I want to let them know we're ready and waiting."
Scott, himself a member of the Seneca Nation, is leading the effort to form a federally chartered credit union to serve the nation's population and employees.
He is familiar with the process. In 2000, he helped charter the Lac Courte Oreilles FCU, Hayward, Wis., with $1.8 million in assets.
"This process is a bit more complex," Scott said. The Seneca Nation group plans to open three locations, an ambitious plan for a startup organization. If the charter is approved, all three branches must be opened within 60 days, according to NCUA bylaws.
The organizers have in place a board of incorporators, which will serve as the credit union's board of directors if the charter is approved. Scott and his group have also identified an experienced financial services professional to manage the credit union.
"We have counters to put in and people to train," Scott said. "That's why we are so anxious about getting started."
Another local credit union that uses the same processing systems and has served as a mentor in the process is making its facilities available for training the new staff. At least 11 people have applied for teller positions in the branches, Scott said.
Scott was brought into the Seneca Nation charter process midstream in 2012, and there were hurdles to overcome. The required documentation for the charter process included a community survey. In 2012, the survey response rate stood at 6% of proposed membership population--well below the 25% required by the NCUA.
Scott and his group were able to improve that response rate to 21%, a result the NCUA deemed acceptable.
But the community is in need of financial services and offers a potentially productive field of membership, Scott said. For example, members could use the credit union for direct deposits of their tribal annuity and minor's trust payments.
With those deposits on hand the credit union can offer credit builder loans and financial literacy courses. It also plans to offer ATMs at each of its branches.
"People have to drive 10 to 15 miles to get to a bank and a lot of them are paid by paper check," Scott told News Now. "A lot of them are unbanked at this time."
Perhaps most importantly, the organizers have financial backing of the Seneca Nation. "As our sponsor they've shown a great commitment," Scott said. "We're ready for the next step."
Scott already knows what it feels like to receive a charter, recalling his previous experience in Wisconsin. "You put all your education and effort into a project that serves the people," Scott said. "To be handed that charter is the greatest feeling in the world."