LAS VEGAS -- Credit unions need to get back to the basics in order to survive and thrive into the future, NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson said.
She highlighted credit unions' starting point in the United States. "They were pooling to help everyone; it was to help all of the members," Johnson stressed. To do that, credit unions should work to ensure their board of directors is representative of the membership.
"It's important that you
serve that entire membership from top to bottom and bottom to top," she said.
Given the new emphasis of Congress on consumer protections, credit unions have a good story to tell. That is just what the chairman is doing she said, having testified twice before Congress already this year on serving the underserved and credit unions' lack of involvement in the subprime mortgage downturn. Later this week, Johnson will be testifying at a hearing on credit card practices in the House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee, chaired by Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), strong credit union supporter and original CURIA co-sponsor.
She tied this consumer protectionism into NCUA's work on transparency in the mutual savings bank conversion process.
Regarding transparency, the NCUA chairman also brought up the controversy surrounding the Wings/Continental takeover attempt and the agency's lack of action in the immediate aftermath. She pointed out that both boards would need to approve a merger, as well as the membership in the case of a federal credit union. "With the rules we have in place, with the latitude we have as a regulator, it isn't necessary to put out a regulation we might regret," Johnson stated.
On the regulatory side along that vein, she noted that NCUA has recently issued proposed regulations on member access to records and disclosure of material salary increases in mergers. "Transparency rates high on my list," Johnson said.
Another way that credit unions can get back to serving the needs of all their members is through financial education. "Nobody does it better than credit unions. Nobody," Johnson declared. Credit unions need to continue ramping up these
efforts, she urged.
"Go back a bit. Go back to basics to propel your credit union into the future,"