Saving Small Credit Unions Is a Sound Investment for the Future of All Credit Unions
In his Aug. 30 column, Paul Gentile asks if credit unions' new charitable cause should be credit unions--specifically small credit unions. I'm wondering, should ensuring the success of small credit unions ever not be considered an important industrywide cause for all of us? After all, what credit union ever started off with millions in assets combined with the safety and soundness of the best-managed balance sheet? Our humble beginnings as financial cooperatives bears witness to the ways liquidity was carefully generated and shared among people of a common bond or intent. The same holds true for emerging credit unions today. While the credit union industry can be very impressive with its ability to amass charitable contributions, it also has the ability, as demonstrated through passage of H.R. 1151, to master a grassroots effort that can easily impress any political candidate, party or foe. No doubt, we have proven our ability to show our strength in an outward looking sense. We've done so internally as well. Just look at the generous contributions made to the National Credit Union Foundation after Hurricane Katrina. Unquestionably, we have demonstrated that we also have the power to look within and take care of our own. So, why do we hesitate in citing small credit union success as a cause around which we can all rally? Small credit unions, whichever way you define them, are merging at the rate of nearly one a day. This statistic will undoubtedly have far reaching effects on our industry if we choose to ignore the current trend. Already, we see other trends beginning to surface that are challenging us to prove what we always considered hallowed. Yet we hear Congress and the GAO asking how well are we really serving "people of modest means," and whether credit unions are serving everyone in their FOM. NCUA's pending data collection on this and other questions may prove to be a revealing mirror for all of us to behold!
Some may argue that a majority of the credit unions in the nation could be considered small. No doubt, each and every one of them fills an important niche in today's society. Well, maybe that niche is much larger and more important than we all might think. What should that tell us then, about helping them with the burden of compliance they face along with the many other areas of their operation that tends to impede their ability to grow and deliver meaningful value to their members? If we could only embrace this cause with the same cooperative spirit that introduced credit unions to all Americans, we would be making a sound investment in our own future as an industry. Sheri Ledbetter Director, Public Affairs WesCorp San Dimas, Calif.