President's Perspective

Our Commitment for the New Year

CUNA will take the strongest stand possible to protect the CU tax exemption.

January 14, 2013

At CUNA, we worked relentlessly for credit unions in 2012.

We were outspoken about reducing credit unions’ regulatory burden. We were adamant for expanded business lending authority. We were unyielding in stopping lawsuits over ATM signage. We were uncompromising in our efforts to gain relief for credit unions from onerous Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rules.

For this new year, we won’t let up on any of those issues—plus a few more.

We’ll also take new approaches in other areas, and the strongest stand possible in another: protecting the credit union tax exemption.

One new approach we’ll take is to emphasize straight, clear, and concise communication with our member credit unions.

I’m convinced credit unions must hear more from CUNA directly—in partnership with the leagues—so they more fully comprehend the positive impact their national trade association has on the operation and future of their institutions.

To help us in this major and strategic effort, Paul Gentile has joined CUNA as executive vice president, strategic communications and engagement. In this new position, Paul will develop and implement strategies for all of our communications so we engage our key audiences and stakeholders, especially our member credit unions.

You may remember Paul from one or more of his previous lives within the credit union movement. Most recently, he was president/CEO of the New Jersey Credit Union League. Before that, he was editor and publisher of Credit Union Times—a widely circulated weekly publication covering the credit union movement.

To be clear: CUNA has been doing a solid job of engaging credit unions and others about what we do—and, as Paul says, “We just want to get better.”

We’ll also talk with credit unions about our vision for the movement’s future.

As I’ve written here before, efforts to expand business lending authority or to grant credit unions power to build supplemental capital are constructive. But these are just incremental steps toward a bigger goal: to give credit unions the best opportunities to serve their members as completely as possible.

That’s what the “vision” is all about: how credit unions—and all of us committed to this movement—can unite for good. It’s about how we can:

  • Remove barriers so we can achieve the most favorable political, legislative, legal, and regulatory environment for credit unions and consumers;
  • Create awareness by actively engaging members and nonmembers to build their understanding of credit union value; and
  • Foster service excellence by delivering the best experience, service, technology, education, and financial resources for our members.

Ultimately, we think accomplishing this vision can return substantial results for credit unions, including more members who call credit unions their “primary financial institutions” and increasing the value credit unions return to all their members.

Finally, no one will be more vigilant or committed than CUNA to protecting our tax exemption.

We know that eliminating the tax exemption of not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions effectively eliminates credit unions. It’s that simple. Credit unions are the best option for consumers to conduct their financial services, but taxing credit unions takes this option away.

And, given what consumers have just been through during the past three years coping with the recession, the last thing they need is to lose this best option for their own financial futures.

That’s the case we’ll make.

Let me repeat: No one will be more vigilant or committed to protecting the tax exemption than CUNA.

That’s part of our vision, and part of our communication as well, for this new year.

BILL CHENEY is CUNA’s president/CEO.