ALEXANDRIA, Va.-"I plan on going out the same way I came in: at the fastest pace possible to accomplish the most I can," NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar said as his tenure on the NCUA Board is nearing its end. Since Dollar joined the NCUA Board in 1997, credit unions faced the infamous AT&T court case and the battle for H.R. 1151. Consequently, the agency has "rewritten every rule in the book," Dollar explained. But just because his term is reaching its end, Dollar cannot be described as the typical "lame duck." "I don't know when my last day at NCUA will be but we'll be going fast and furious until that day," he promised. Recently, NCUA has greatly expanded the field of membership chartering manual, updated the corporate rule, and modernized investments. Still to come, the board will consider the final version of the expanded member business lending rule and the agency will be continuing its efficiency efforts. NCUA's original goal was to get the member business lending rule out at the July board meeting, but the board has opted to wait until the September meeting (there is no NCUA Board meeting in August) due to the intricacy and detail of the comments submitted. Dollar commented, "I'd rather have a rule done right than a rule done fast." For the last year, NCUA has been focusing on making the agency more efficient to conserve its limited resources. In that vein, credit union examinations and their frequency have become more risk-based. Dollar initiated the Accountability In Management project, which realigned offices within NCUA's headquarters. "The agency is realizing that is a sound approach, particularly in the view that we have limited resources," he explained. Additionally, the agency is in the process of closing down Region IV (Chicago) and parceling out its responsibilities among the remaining regions, as well as moving Region VI's headquarters from the pricey San Francisco-area to Phoenix, Ariz. "I want to see as much of that gel as possible," Dollar said. Also tied with the efficiency efforts, NCUA has made its budget process more transparent by holding annual public hearings for the last two years. Some of these realignments may have contributed to a strengthened effort among NCUA employees and the National Treasury Employees Union to organize at the agency. Dollar said there have been efforts to unionize at NCUA for the last 20 years, but the potential for a vote this time could take it to the next level. "I am a strong believer in the right of employees to take advantage of every opportunity available to them, including unionization," Dollar commented. However, a union could have a bloating effect on NCUA's budget, which is funded by credit unions. But not all efficiency items are matters NCUA can fix right now. Dollar said that he hopes Congress will revisit credit unions' field of membership laws to make mergers easier, allow credit unions converting to a community charter to maintain their select groups, create a risk-based Prompt Corrective Action system, and remove the statutory member business lending cap. Risk-based PCA is the chairman's latest proposal, which he presented to Congress during testimony he gave to the House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee on the regulatory relief bill. "Every credit union with 7% capital does not have the same financial strength," he said. "I'm taking it on because I think it's an important issue. I want to use this position to help shape the agenda not only while I'm here, but after I'm gone," Dollar stated. He stressed a risk-based PCA system would present "tremendous opportunity for managed credit union growth." Dollar is not against credit unions having some secondary capital options either. However, secondary capital without PCA reform would only put a band-aid on the symptom and not cure the ailment. Dollar estimated from his travels through credit union-land that about 20% of credit unions care about having secondary capital and those are divided on the issue. The remaining 80% do not necessarily want it right now, but they would like the option, he said. With this composition, Congress is unlikely to pay much attention to the issue at all, Dollar projected. He also pointed out that prior to the Credit Union Membership Access Act in 1998, NCUA took risk-based prompt corrective action. Through triumphs and losses, Dollar said he is pleased with the results of his six years on the NCUA Board. "When you come into a position such as this, your primary goal is to leave the organization better than you found it," he said, adding that he believes the agency is better respected and credit unions are better positioned than they were when he began. Dollar has said he is also committed to serving until a successor is appointed. "I truly believe there should be a credit union representative on the NCUA Board. However, I recognize this appointment process is a political process." He clarified that his heir-apparent Gilbert Gonzalez, deputy undersecretary for policy and planning for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office, should make an excellent credit union regulator. Even though he does not have direct experience with credit unions, his community development background is a solid start. Dollar added that the White House had been very supportive of his policies and had been searching for someone with similar philosophies to take over the position. Looking into the future, Dollar is unsure of what lies ahead, but he assumes it will be in the private sector. Though Mississippi will always be home, he said, he will not limit his future endeavors by geography. -email@example.com
Now Drawing to a Close, Dollar's Ride at NCUA Has Been an Eventful One
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