Changes Will Come
When credit union member/owners become bank customers, there are subtle changes that are likely to begin to evolve very soon since the best interest of stockholders takes priority over the best interest of customers. Such changes may be lower interest rates for deposits, higher and expanded fees, and higher interest rates for loans. Mr. Moltzan says that no such changes have been made at his bank. If that's true I offer my compliments, but how can he be sure that future officers and directors won't do something quite different. A bit more extreme scenario would be for a bank originally formed via a conversion process with good expansion possibilities to be purchased by a larger regional bank. All of the regional bank's policies, fee structures, interest rates, etc. would then be in place. The insider stockholders and other investors would almost certainly reap huge profits from their investments should such an event occur. In the "what ifs" related by Mr. Moltzan he said that all credit union members were given an opportunity to participate in the BUCS IPO but did not indicate how many actually purchased shares. My bet is that a relatively small percentage did so since I know from years of serving credit union members that typical low and middle income members don't know much about investing their hard earned savings in any type stock because they don't know how to evaluate the risk and can't afford to lose any portion of what might be their only savings. These members feel much more secure when their savings are federally insured. The justification for conversions to banks by some of the credit unions that I'm familiar with or have read about has primarily been based on a claimed desire to expand, the ability to raise capital, and to be able to make commercial or business loans. All three of these so-called reasons combined, fall far short of justification to in essence kill a credit union. Changes in the Federal Credit Union Act and regulations adopted over recent years now allow credit unions to expand their fields of memberships far beyond what was previously permitted. Furthermore, I know from personal experience that if a credit union operates efficiently, provides good service through the best delivery systems available, pays attractive rates on share deposits, and provides a broad array of personal financial services that are advantageous over those provided elsewhere, growth will occur at an acceptable rate. From the growth that can be expected, adequate funds will be available to fund various loan programs. Because of the higher risks associated with business loans I personally am not at all sure that they will turn out to be the panacea many seem to believe, especially if a significant percentage of a credits union's assets are invested in that type lending. However, credit unions that wish to venture into that type loan service may do so now on a limited basis. It appears likely that a greater share of a credit union's assets for business loans will be allowed in the future. With regard to Mr. Moltzan's rather severe criticism of NCUA, I believe that he is totally off base. NCUA's most important duty is to protect the best interests of the members of federal credit unions and federally insured state chartered credit unions. Had the current disclosure requirements been in place several years ago at least some of the credit union-to-bank conversions might have been avoided; however, I don't think anyone could have predicted that so many credit unions would pursue conversions. It is my personal strong belief that the current disclosure regulations should be vigorously enforced because if members fully understand what they will be giving up they will reject the proposed conversion. The criticisms directed at national and state credit union trade associations, credit union CEOs who have spoken out against the conversions, and Mike Welch are not only misplaced and wrong but totally ridiculous. Credit union trade associations are governed by very experienced and knowledgeable credit union leaders who strive to act on behalf of America's credit union members in many ways. I know that these leaders have been associated with the credit union movement for a very long time and thus have a great appreciation of credit union philosophy and how credit unions have helped many of their members through very difficult times. With lower and middle income workers being hammered by the down-sizing of companies, jobs being transferred to foreign countries, manufacturing plants being closed and moved to overseas sites, sharp increases in the cost of housing, drastic increases in the cost of college and university tuition, and now record setting cost of gasoline, credit unions are badly needed. Credit unions have earned and maintained a reputation of doing a much better job than banks for providing personal financial services for millions of Americans for a very long time. When their credit unions become banks their members are indeed hurt and their leaders are almost certain to reap financial rewards. Perry Dawson President Emeritus Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union Tampa, Fla.