Mica Reflects On Highs and Lows of Tenure at CUNA
Dan Mica stepped down after 14 years as CUNA's president/CEO on July 1. Mica, who had been a member of Congress and a lobbyist on behalf of the insurance industry before taking the CUNA job, sat down with Credit Union Times nine days before leaving office to reflect on his time as head of the largest credit union trade association.
Credit Union Times: What achievement or achievements are you proudest of?
Dan Mica: First I want to say that anything that might have occurred was because of great staff work and staff support. We changed the perception of credit unions in the United States in general and in Washington. The credit union movement has been changed from being a little-known entity on the national scene to one that has more of a presence.
We also essentially took the issue of the taxation of credit unions off the table. Both Democrats and Republicans tell us that it isn't a viable option. Also, we created a strong Washington office, and that hadn't always been the case and this helped give us a bigger presence. We have gotten stronger politically and are as strong as we've ever been, but the problem has been that our opponents have gotten stronger too.
I am also pleased with how we handled the difficult financial times. We had to make some tough decisions, but we have been transparent about things and we have posted our finances online. Also, 100% of our dues go to our core functions-communications and advocacy-so everything else CUNA does has to operate on a break-even or positive-margin basis.
CU Times: What's your biggest regret?
Mica: You can probably guess this one. I wasn't effective at bringing the credit union system into a one-voice structure. We could get more things done if we spoke with one voice, but that will be somebody else's agenda.
CU Times: Any other mistakes?
Mica: When you do a lot of things there are going to be mistakes and errors of judgment and I made some.
CU Times: Such as?
Mica: I will leave it at that. All I can say is that I put my heart and soul into this and did everything I could to help credit unions.
CU Times: What have been the biggest changes in the political climate during your CUNA tenure?
Mica: When I started here and when I was in Congress, there was a greater interest in collegiality and bipartisanship. Today, partisanship rules the day.
CU Times: How has the NCUA changed during your tenure? Has it mostly changed for the better or for the worse?
Mica: I commend Chairman [Debbie] Matz because transparency helps everybody. Our relationship with the agency has varied. During the tenure of Norm D'Amours, we had essentially no relationship and it has been better with the subsequent chairs. We won't always agree with the agency, but there has in recent years been a willingness there to listen and have an honest discussion.
The recent financial crisis showed that the NCUA is in need of a strong internal review and an updating of its approach and finding a way to strengthen its presence within the financial services community. FDIC Chair Sheila Bair has become a real voice to be listened to on these issues and we are still waiting on that from the NCUA.
CU Times: People love credit unions and your PAC has ramped up its campaign giving. Why haven't credit unions been able to be more successful in getting what they want on Capitol Hill?
Mica: Credit unions are the good guys and they don't like to be tough. Folks on the Hill like us and want to work with us but they don't fear us. We took a different tactic on interchange. The risks of losing were strong but sometimes you have to take a stand.
CU Times: So what's next for Dan Mica?
Mica: I am still deciding. I will give advice as needed to CUNA through the end of the year. I have had opportunities inside and outside the credit union system. But I have never taken three or four weeks off at one time so I am going to do that-and visit family and friends in California and Florida-and then decide. I have been approached by law firms and other places about lobbying and other activities but haven't decided.
CU Times: What advice do you have for Bill Cheney?
Mica: Be good to the people in the credit union system, and they'll be great to you. Have a great deal of transparency and don't spring any surprises on members.