Even Before Snowmageddon, Credit Unions Got the Cold Shoulder From D.C.
Disaster recovery and business continuity plans are a must to respond to crises like the 9/11 terrorist attack, but the crisis doesn't always have to be that dramatic to warrant a back-up plan. Sometimes it could be an unexpected four feet of snow dumped in your region, like the mid-Atlantic experienced over the last week or so, or a power outage or both. How many credit unions were prepared?
Often during crisis, access to cash, like in Haiti after the earthquake, is crucial for the people affected. Keeping ATMs well-stocked when you may not be able to open the office, offering virtual tellers at banking centers as well as full-service ATMs and kiosks and Internet banking with bill pay can all help your members better deal with the crisis. If your employees can get to the branch but there's no power, does your credit union have a back-up power supply and fuel? Don't forget employees must be trained on how to use the generator. Additionally, all files should be stored at a separate facility at a distant location and ensure easy and secure access by those who need it.
For those credit unions that have all this in place and more, please forgive me. The subject just seemed apropos as I sit snowbound in my home on my laptop remotely accessing all our networks to do my part in getting this magazine out. Credit Union Times has a small but geographically diverse staff that-while snowed out of the D.C. office most of the week and despite a foot of snow with sleet on top in Hoboken, N.J., another key office for us-can put out a quality magazine that our readers keep coming back to week after week, year after year and now decade after decade. Our loyal readers are why we cannot allow ourselves to fail but continue to excel. And I want to take this opportunity to thank our staff for upholding this ideal, including our back up team in Erlanger, Ky.
Congress, like much of Washington, was riding out the storm elsewhere after hearings and other meetings on the Hill were canceled due to snowmageddon. But before they left, they were able to hand credit unions another huge slice of humble pie. Credit union lobbyists have been selling the expansion of credit union member business lending authorities as a job creator that won't cost the taxpayers a dime. Yet the Senate job creation bill will not include any provisions to increase the 12.25% cap on business lending, and the idea was already swept under the rug when the House passed its jobs bill in December.
Credit unions have expended a lot of money and political capital on the matter. Stand-alone bills have been introduced in the House and Senate but have not gotten much traction publicly, even after a fly-in by 600 executives and the daily routine of the hired guns. After President Obama "snubbed" credit unions during his state of the union speech, leaving CUNA "outraged and baffled." Dan Mica requested a meeting with the president. NAFCU too was "extremely disappointed that the administration continues to fail to recognize credit unions as part of the solution."
It just goes to show the political sway the banking lobby still carries. Don't blame it on money because that's not it. The fact is most banks were victims of the housing and economic crisis as much as credit unions were, but they're taking a beating from consumers because they share a name with the shadow banking industry that brought on much of the problems the world is experiencing today.
This is all the more reason for credit union executives to make their presence known next week during CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference. This annual rite very tangibly demonstrates credit unions' numbers as lawmaker's schedules become filled with meetings with credit union executives and volunteers. Member business lending expansion will very likely be one of the key topics of credit union discussion buzzing around the halls of Congress. GAC participant figures-not including vendors and guests-are tracking slight ahead of last year's number so bravo to you for recognizing the importance of lobbying Washington for your credit unions' and members' interests.
At the state level, beware of bankers bearing legislation to buy and merge with credit unions. The Virginia Credit Union League was able to somewhat neutralize an attempted capital grab in its home state by amending the legislation to a credit union-to-mutual savings bank conversion bill. However, the American Bankers Association has shown time and time again that they like to float test cases at the state level and see if they grow legs to other states, as it has with previous field of membership and tax challenges.
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