SEATTLE -- Saying he wanted to provide both strong consumer protection and guarantee the safety and soundness of credit unions, NCUA Chairman Michael E. Fryzel told state regulators he wants to work closely with them during his tenure.
"We are linked together with a common responsibility," he told attendees at NASCUS' annual meeting, his first speech since becoming chairman at the end of the August.
"I welcome the opportunity to work with you as partners to help each of us reach greater heights," he said.
Fryzel, who once ran the Illinois department that regulates banks and credit unions, urged the state regulators to be especially vigilant because "nothing else is acceptable."
He also expressed support for a strong dual chartering system for credit unions, a comment that was greeted with applause.
Fryzel described his approach to policing credit unions as wanting regulations that are "as minimal as possible, as much as necessary." He added that it is essential to have regulations that "aggressively protect the rights of consumers" while ensuring that financial institutions are "safe, sound and well-functioning."
As part of those efforts, he noted that the deposit insurance program administered by his agency is in strong financial shape and has capital well above the levels required by Congress.
Fryzel was appointed by President Bush to replace former Chairman JoAnn Johnson when her term expired last year. Though his term on the board runs through 2013, his chairmanship could be shorter since each president is allowed to name his or her own chairman.
During his speech, he praised credit unions for giving consumers good deals on financial services.
He said his agency would closely monitor credit unions to ensure that they continue to be strong enough to keep playing their important role.
Fryzel also said he looked forward to maintaining a good, though clearly independent, relationship with the credit union industry. He said his approach would be characterized by "active listening."
The former state regulator added that "my door is open, my aims are clear, and my dedication is strong."
In a brief interview after his talk, he said he was still learning about the agency and declined to state whether there were any specific regulations that should be reviewed in the short term.
"It's one thing to study regulations from afar; it's different once you get there and have more responsibilities,'' he said. "I have an open mind about everything. I will be a proactive chairman and a hands-on regulator.''
As a lawyer in private practice, Fryzel represented credit unions before state regulators but had had not practiced before NCUA. He said he was in the process of reviewing all of the agency's regulations and learning more about how the agency operates.
"I am just getting to know the staff and find out what their goals and responsibilities are," he said.