Are Credit Unions, Banks Snuggling?
When I noticed the picture of Camden Fine, president/CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America on the front page of the June 18 issue of Credit Union Times, two thoughts came to mind: I know that guy and what is his picture doing in a CU publication? Well, it turns out NAFCU and ICBA agree they should oppose a proposal by the Treasury Department to overhaul certain financial regulations. Based on a documented account of Dan Mica's comments on this topic, it sounds like CUNA feels the same way.
Surprised a trade association representing the credit union movement and another separate and distinct association representing banks agree on something? I'm not. Well, let me qualify that response. At one time in my career, I would have been shocked, today I'm not.
About six years ago I decided to embark on a career change. After 20-plus years working in a variety of credit unions positions, most recently the president/CEO of a multibillion dollar CU, I moved over to Fidelity National Information Services, a large, publicly owned Fortune 500 company that provides transaction processing services to both credit unions and banks.
In my current role, I have the opportunity to meet with many executives from banks and credit unions, from casual phone calls to formal meetings. Early in my career with FIS, I realized that credit unions and community banks may have more in common than I would have ever guessed. In day-to-day conversations with executives from these groups, I repeatedly hear mutual concerns about regulations, regulators, cost of funds, expenses, market share, capital, ROA and a host of other like issues.
Rarely did I hear individuals from banks complain about credit unions or people from credit unions admonishing banks. Of course, competitive feelings exist, and I have heard both sides of the argument. But based on first-hand experience, I do not think the respective sides harbor the deep-seated animosity wrought with passion and volatility against one another as one might imagine or believe. On the other hand, mention any of the other issues and everyone is running to the corner to put their gloves on to fight a common enemy.
Want another example? Just mention Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) Credit Card Fair Fee Act of 2008 (H.R. 5546). If passed, this law would allow U.S. merchants to negotiate interchange fees charged by Visa, MasterCard and other large associations.
Many financial institutions and the card associations oppose this legislation as a uniform attempt to legislate price controls. As a result many of these organizations representing various bank and credit union trade associations have come together to organize the Electronics Payment Coalition in order to oppose this legislation. The membership roster reads like a Who's Who of the financial services industry. Among the members are Bank of America, Capital One, JP Morgan Chase, American Bankers Association, ICBA, CUNA, NAFCU, Card Services for Credit Unions, CO-OP Financial Services and the list goes on.
The headline on this recent Credit Union Times article reads "Strange Bedfellows: NAFCU, Banks Rail Against the Treasury's Blueprint." Stranger things have happened but in the future you might see CU Times substituting the word "strange" for "regular."
Robert W. Bream
President North America Card Services
Fidelity National Information Services
St. Petersburg, Fla.