TAMPA, Fla. -- The two Tampa appointees to what is thought to be the lone credit union director's slot in the Federal Reserve System were speaking out last week on the need for a higher CU profile in the nation's central bank. "This is the best kept secret," declared Wendell "Bucky" Sebastian, president of the $2.1 billion GTE Federal Credit Union, referring to the Fed selecting him as one of seven directors of the Jacksonville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. It was understood there may be one or two credit union CEOs who sit on advisory panels of district Fed banks or branches, but the Atlanta Fed by tradition is believed to be the only one that has a full-time CEO as one of its branch directors
"I believe Fed banks should be going out of their way to select credit union people when you consider a huge portion of financial services away from money center jurisdiction has now fallen into the hands of credit unions," said Sebastian, who was officially named to the Jacksonville job in November.
His appointment was formally announced by the Atlanta Fed last week.
In joining the board at the Jacksonville branch, Sebastian succeeds Robert Fisher, president/CEO of the $1.7 billion Macdill Federal Credit Union. By statute, Fisher must step down from the Fed branch board after ending his second two-year term.
Sebastian's appointment on the Fed branch board began Jan. 1 and runs through Dec. 31, 2009.
"When you add up all the Fed district bank boards and their branches, there are 270 directors and so this is the only one we know of that has a credit union CEO," said Fisher.
Even though by law bankers must occupy Class A and B seats on Fed district banks, that very low CU representation, said Fisher, pales with the growing industry role in the check and payments system in many U.S. cities.
Echoing that view, Sebastian, an attorney, former NCUA executive director and co-founder of Callahan & Associates, said while large banks dominate the Fed system, within certain metro areas, very often CUs remain the chief domiciled institution.
"I'm looking out my window and I see Bank of America, AmSouth, Colonial Bank, Fifth Third and M&I, all with branches and yet there is Suncoast Schools with $5.3 billion as the largest domiciled in Tampa," he said.
Regarding his term as a Jacksonville director, the Macdill CEO had high praise to his fellow directors on Fed boards and in the Fed system in Washington for a high level of professionalism and dedication to protecting and strengthening the nation's economy and monetary system.
"It has been one of the most fascinating and rewarding jobs I've had in my career to work with a smarter and nicer group of very special people," said Fisher commenting on the loyalty and job commitment of Fed staffers.
Moreover, he was particularly admiring how forthright the Fed has been in recognizing the need to downsize in light of the changing nature of check reduction and handling as Fed banks continue to close and consolidate offices.
Fortunately, the Jacksonville branch has been on the rise in its importance in the system as check operations have moved out of Miami and other areas into north Florida.
Regarding the Sebastian appointment and noting the history of a CU "slot," a spokeswoman for the Atlanta Fed said she knew of no current plans to add more CU CEOs at its other branches, which include: Nashville, New Orleans, Birmingham and Miami. Sebastian is a former general counsel and Chicago administrator of the Illinois Department of Financial Institutions and executive assistant to the Illinois Secretary of State Michael J. Howlett. Sebastian earned a degree in advanced scholastic philosophy and a doctorate of jurisprudence from Loyola University of Chicago. He is a licensed Illinois attorney. --email@example.com