ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- While many are still sifting through all the data included in the NCUA's 83-page Member Service Assessment Pilot Program, credit union trades seemed pleased with the results while the bank trades wanted time to take a deeper look at the results.
CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica pointed to numerous references in the congressional record outlining that Congress intended credit unions to serve the broad spectrum of working class people and not limiting them to only the poorest. He noted that, according to the American Payroll Association, 65% of Americans are dependent on their next paycheck to meet living expenses. He also stated, "There are more than 40 provisions in federal law which address, define and/or limit who credit unions may serve and the process those credit unions must follow to make changes in their membership eligibility. Further, from the turn of the last century until recently, traditional membership restrictions have obliged credit unions to organize memberships primarily around occupations, in which eligibility for membership was restricted to those who worked for an employer or group of employers, or family members of those so eligible."
NAFCU President and CEO Fred Becker said that credit unions want to do more to serve the underserved, but are "hamstrung" by burdensome requirements. "Credit unions already shoulder a heavier regulatory burden than other financial institutions," he said. "Congress should make it a top priority to amend the Federal Credit Union Act to allow all federal credit unions to take on underserved areas, regardless of charter type...Should those restrictions be lifted, credit unions could do even more to serve a diverse membership." Mica also noted that the banking industry has been behind much of the rhetoric about whom credit unions can or should serve, while at the same time erecting barriers to credit union service. "These efforts stand in stark contrast to bankers' own complaints that credit unions are not doing enough," he said. NASCUS noted that it is performing a similar analysis for state chartered credit unions. "NASCUS and state regulators remain committed to providing accurate and objective data about state credit unions to the United States Congress," NASCUS President and CEO Mary Martha Fortney commented. First thing American Bankers Association Senior Economist Keith Leggett pointed out about NCUA's study was that the break down of data by charter type was statistically invalid--NCUA "guesses." The second thing he noted was that just 18.7% of federal credit union members are actually low- to moderate-income by definition, or 80% of the median income in their census tracts. Leggett also indicated that the data that are statistically accurate show that FCUs over $50 million in assets have a 31.86% penetration rate with members over 120% of the median income in their census tracts versus 22.92% for smaller credit unions. "Clearly this tells you that the larger credit unions are serving and targeting upper income households," he concluded. The economist added, "Credit unions have a very low penetration rate for people under $30,000 [in income] compared to the population...We think this is something [House Financial Services Committee Chairman-designate] Mr. [Barney] Frank may take some interest in."
America's Community Bankers Regulatory Counsel Krista Shonk said the group had been talking with the Government Accountability Office about its report expected to be out at the end of the month. She noted credit union advertising for loans for high-priced toys. "We will read it in depth," she said of NCUA's report.
The Independent Community Bankers of America declined to comment.