Jim Nussle

Our advocacy agenda for 2020

This year’s approach leans into our difference through a focus on financial well-being.

February 5, 2020

Last month, I used this space to encourage everyone to talk more about all the good credit unions do.

I promised to limit my 2020 puns, but shared my 2020 vision as a pivot from fighting off our challenges in silos to spreading an “aggressively positive” advocacy approach.

Yes, I’m quoting myself here, but it’s just that important.

Since I joined CUNA, we’ve launched five years of successful CUNA/league 360-advocacy agendas. We passed S.2155, a landmark bill for credit unions, and beat back encroaching regulatory burdens and protected credit union interests across an array of issue areas.

I’ll spare everyone a decade-in-review since we’ve all endured enough of that kind of thing recently. But the takeaway is we’ve accomplished a lot.

So, heading into 2020 the bar was set pretty darn high as we took on our annual credit union advocacy agenda refresh.

We create this agenda by constantly listening to leagues, credit unions, and other stakeholders.

We engage with key groups at specific times of year and coordinate with CUNA business and financial planning and the CUNA strategic planning process.

We gather priorities from the National Credit Union Roundtable, government affairs professionals, league presidents, the CUNA Advocacy Committee and various subcommittees, the CUNA Board of Directors, our annual priority survey—among other stakeholders.

‘While many issues are the same, our approach has shifted.’

These aren’t one-off conversations. These are ongoing, sometimes weekly check-ins to ensure everyone in our CUNA/league system is moving in the same direction.

Through the entire process we maintain a reality check—i.e., the current political environment.

Sometimes, politics creates roadblocks we can’t bypass. We don’t want to set unattainable goals, and it’s a constant balance between credit union policy needs and the realities of politics.

But let me tell you, our process works. For the fourth-consecutive year, CUNA and leagues led the industry in one unified voice as the most effective advocacy organization in financial services.

After an incredibly successful 2019, we’ve developed a new advocacy agenda for 2020.

At the end of last year, the CUNA Board approved the strategy, identifying priorities in the year ahead and outlining how we want to frame our movement. While many issues are the same, our approach has shifted.

Listen to an interview with CUNA Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan about CUNA’s 2020 advocacy agenda.

We’ve long talked about the credit union difference and all the incredible ways our movement makes that statement true for millions of Americans. This year, our advocacy approach leans into our difference even harder through a focus on financial well-being.

As credit union people, we all know the enormous complexity of financial well-being. It’s not just about “money in the bank.” It’s about financial security, health, and inclusion.

We’re reframing our agenda to show how public policy impacts credit unions’ ability to address financial insecurity, improve financial health, and advance financial inclusion.

We’ll continue to aim for our longstanding advocacy pillars to reduce regulatory burden, expand and protect credit union powers and opportunities, enhance information security, and preserve the credit union tax status.

But the financial well-being narrative will tie all these issues together.

CUNA and leagues won’t need to lead on everything. Partners like the National Credit Union Foundation are already trailblazers in talking about financial well-being, and often it’s better to pass the mic to others to make our point stick with policymakers.

But we will cultivate more data from credit unions to tell our story more effectively. And that means we’ll need everyone’s participation.

Ultimately, it’s about passion. We can argue for fewer regulations until our lungs give out.

But when a lawmaker hears how a credit union’s default forgiveness program allowed a family to keep their home, they want to support the best operating environment for credit unions.

That’s the credit union difference—and the difference in this advocacy strategy.

Stay tuned as we work together to gain more credit union champions in Washington and state capitals across the country.

This year’s CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference will kick things off for a big year ahead.

JIM NUSSLE is president/CEO of CUNA.