Hood Reflects on Professional and Personal Rewards of NCUA Tenure
Credit Union Times: What have been the highlights of your tenure?
Rodney Hood: The passion that I've seen among people for the credit union movement. And the focus I've given to encouraging appropriate risk management, I've held steadfast to that. More people have recognized that it is important and a part of the overall approach to running a credit union. Some credits are even large enough to have hired risk officers. I have also tried in my speeches and elsewhere to focus on member business lending and the opportunities it offers credit unions. Also, I was influential in getting the agency to create a program officer for member business lending.
CU Times: What about the criticism by some in the banking community that that isn't an appropriate activity for credit unions?
Hood: Many loans made by credit unions were designed by former bankers, so many credit unions now have experienced people running their business lending programs. We can't let the rhetoric of banks distract us. Of 8,000 credit unions, approximately 23% are making member business loans. Credit unions are doing them well.
CU Times: What are the chances that Congress will raise or eliminate the cap?
Hood: I don't know because there are so many other variables and Congress has so much else on its agenda. But I keep telling credit unions that they have to tell their story and let Congress know they are making a difference. Those successes are the reasons that credit unions have gotten a lot in terms of the Corporate Stabilization Fund and keeping NCUA an independent agency.
CU Times: You had experience as a banker and as an official of other government agencies before joining the NCUA but had never been a regulator. How did your time on the board influence your regulatory philosophy?
Hood: We as an agency do a great job of examining credit unions overall and on making sure they aren't taking improper risks. We give them leeway but make sure there aren't safety and soundness issues. But it's important from a regulatory perspective not to hamper credit unions' ability to help their members. The agency has also been able to fine tune technology to require more information in the online Call Reports that are submitted that will make for a more rigorous examination.
CU Times: What doesn't the agency do as well as it should?
Hood: We could have greater transparency. I'd like to see NCUA meetings broadcast on the Internet or on television so people can watch from their credit unions or from other NCUA offices. We should also have a quarterly briefing for the media and the trades on the data that we release so people understand it more and we can place it into context.
CU Times: Has anything surprised you?
Hood: The passion people have about credit unions. Many people tell me they love their credit union, they don't say that about their bank usually. Also, I was surprised about how sometimes you have to really strike a balance. Of course, safety and soundness is paramount, but, at times, you have to be careful when you are implementing a regulatory regime to thrive. Your impulse may be to regulate your way out of a situation, but you have to have a solution that helps credit unions of all sizes, from those with $50,000 in assets to those with $30 billion in assets.
CU Times: Any votes you would have done differently?
Hood: No. My philosophy has stayed the same. Regulations should be effective not excessive. I voted against more data collecting because I thought it was too burdensome. I wasn't afraid to vote my conscience.
CU Times: Anything surprise you about the job or the agency?
Hood: The variety of things we are involved in. Not only are we setting rules for the industry but also helping to run the agency on a day-to-day basis. We are trying to provide opportunities for professional growth among the staff. On the down side, because we are a small board, two of us can't get together and talk about anything because that would constitute a quorum and violate the Sunshine Law. It would be better if there were a five-member board so you could have more discussions and interactions among the board members, like they do at the FDIC and the Federal Reserve.
But the board is a great board. Our core competencies and skills have helped us work well together at a time of market turbulence.
CU Times: What's next for you?
Hood: I am going to take some time for reflection and to relax. I will stay in the financial services arena because that's what I am most familiar with. Whatever I do will be influenced by my work with credit unions. They do wonderful work. Though I won't work in credit unions, that would be a conflict, going from being the regulator to the industry I have been regulating.
CU Times: So you won't replace Dan Mica or Fred Becker when they retire?
Hood: No, that's not likely to happen. But I will be spending time finishing my book on opera, about black opera singers who had to have careers in Europe because there weren't opportunities in the United States because of discrimination.
CU Times: What intrigues you about opera?
Hood: I fell in love with it when I was six and my parents took me to a production of "Carmen" at the Metropolitan Opera. I loved the costumes, the staging, everything.