Setting Priorities For the New Year

CUNA is committed to providing the leadership CUs want.

January 18, 2011

Since I started as Credit Union National Association (CUNA) president/CEO in July 2010, I’ve spent a significant amount of time on the road listening to and speaking with credit unions (to say nothing of the many phone calls and e-mails I’ve enjoyed receiving from you every day).

Typically, audiences and letter-writers ask me to share with them my priorities for CUNA and the credit union movement. The simple answer: My priorities are those of credit unions, as expressed to me by your elected representatives on the CUNA Board of Directors.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Credit unions expect leadership from their national trade association to achieve their goal of providing financial services to consumers.

At CUNA, we’re absolutely committed to providing that leadership. During the next year, our priorities include:

Stimulating more involvement in the political process by credit union people—staff, volunteers, and members—so the voice of credit unions is heard loudly and consistently in all 535 congressional offices.

Creating a vision of the movement’s future that’s more relevant
to the changing times.

Establishing and maintaining the best operating environment for credit unions.

A long reach? Perhaps, but all are certainly within our grasp.

Take additional political involvement, for example. Last year, credit unions generated more than one million contacts with Congress in about three months over the interchange issue. That’s an impressive accomplishment.

But while some legislators heard a great deal from credit unions in their districts and states, others heard little or nothing—except from those on the other side of the issue: the merchants.

This uneven feedback limited credit union efforts to convince a majority of senators to oppose the interchange amendment. Ultimately, the amendment became law—and credit unions will be dealing with its implementation later this year.

We have the numbers and support of credit union members. Further, we have the voices of volunteers and staff who understand how deeply these policies affect credit unions. We can make a difference, if we speak with a strong, even voice.

Working with the state leagues, CUNA’s job is to bring the numbers and the voices to bear on the key issues here in Washington—and the sooner, the better.

Sooner comes late next month with CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference (Feb. 27-March 3 in Washington, D.C.). The more credit unions we have represented at the nation’s largest annual gathering of our movement, the better.

These priorities, of course, do not overtake any of our continuing goals. This year, we know Congress will look closely at capital requirements for financial institutions. That clearly opens the door to a discussion about capital reform for credit unions, which we intend to engage in energetically.

And our effort to give credit unions more business lending authority will continue in the 112thCongress. It’s clearly another avenue for credit unions to pursue for growth and better member service.

Of course, our effort to help credit unions deal with the resolution of the corporate system will persist. We’ll ensure credit unions have the services they need and when they need them. And we’ll ensure credit unions control these services (rather than banks or other movement competitors).

Further, we’ll sustain our energies to secure a “Credit Union Bill of Rights” to deal with regulators, and participate actively in efforts by the Obama administration and Congress to reform the government-sponsored entities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Credit unions need access to a vibrant secondary market to provide effective services to their members.

No one’s crystal ball is utterly flawless; certainly as the year progresses we’ll face other issues not addressed here.

But our priorities allow us to incorporate just about anything that comes up. I look forward to a busy, challenging, and—with luck and hard work—successful year.

BILL CHENEY is president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association.