Editor’s Column: Lots to Be Thankful For
Credit unions have a lot to feel good about, and this time of year makes it easier to recognize even when times are tough in general. Credit unions are beginning to distribute member dividends and new membership signups are rolling in at a pace credit unions have not experienced in a very long time.
According to data from the California Credit Union League, 160,408 new members joined between Oct. 1 and mid-November. In the first nine months of the year, new member signups in California were 15,500 per week, but reached 26,735 since then, an increase of 72%.
Credit unions nationwide are experiencing similar boosts. Don’t let it fade away as a one-off event. Keeping and developing new members with excellent products, service and value has to be a priority. Even the best of credit unions can improve in some way, so identify something, fix it or improve what’s there, and then tell your members.
I recently served as a guest on NPR’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show in Washington, D.C., and was impressed to hear the intelligent questions and comments, mainly positive for credit unions, from the live callers to the show. Still, misperceptions definitely persist about credit unions’ convenience and offerings, so there’s more work to be done. Riding the Bank Transfer Day wave will only last so long. Keep paddling.
Many credit unions are doing just that by rewarding their members, as they do every year they’re able, with dividends that–no matter the dollar amount–further emphasize that the members own the credit union and the benefits of membership. Keep up the great work of not only giving back to members as Goldenwest CU, DFCU Financial and Founders FCU have announced recently but also maintain solid financial footing to be able to provide dividends.
Retailers, however, don’t want you to be able to make any money it seems. They’ve now filed suit against the Federal Reserve claiming the regulation restricting debit interchange fees to 21 cents didn’t go far enough. To them, I say, good luck. Suing a regulator must be an incredibly arduous feat. I’m surprised the retailers haven’t moved on to credit card interchange yet, another thing to feel good about. For now. Issuers are likely safe at least until the 2012 elections. Unfortunately, the same is likely for the legislation to repeal the Durbin amendment as well.
Also on the Washington front, Barney Frank, ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, announced that he would not seek re-election in 2012 after 30 years in the House. Frank was a general supporter of credit unions. As CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney pointed out, he often said that if all financial entities had acted like credit unions, the financial crisis might have been avoided.
At the same time the financial reform bill that bears his name has caused plenty of headaches, I mean unintended consequences, for credit unions. Still he played a key role in the under $10 billion in assets exemption from elements of Dodd-Frank like the debit interchange cap and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
And so the battle begins for those who’d like to replace him as ranking member, a role that would be more appealing if it were chairman. It’s no fun being in charge of the minority party. A plus for credit unions is that the line of potential ranking members include several credit union backers. First in line by seniority is Maxine Waters, who, despite her ethics problems, would be a net positive for credit unions. Waters was a sponsor of the ill-fated Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act, which would have expanded credit union member business lending authorities and modernized their capital framework. She also recently smacked the bankers around during a bank regulatory relief hearing for not working out their differences with credit unions.
Even if she’s passed over though, Carolyn Maloney, currently the ranking member of the financial institutions and consumer credit subcommittee, is no slouch on expressing her support for credit unions either. In fact, Maloney was an original sponsor for CURIA, and most recently, she introduced legislation with Republican Shelley Moore Capito to create an ombudsman at the FFIEC to allow financial institutions to appeal examination determinations. Maloney is a Democrat who understands the business of financial services. However, she’s on the record as “reserving judgment” regarding expanding Community Reinvestment Act reporting to credit unions. Frank, a fan of CRA, had come out against applying it to credit unions. Still, with the Republicans in charge of the House, the issue is unlikely to get a serious look.