Editor's Column: Credit Union Wallflowers and Media Mongers
As the credit union community watches the evolving situation in North Carolina, no matter which side of the issue you’re on, you’re witnessing organizations that know how to grab attention.
With his folksy and outspoken personality, Jim Blaine grabs headlines frequently. He said what’s on his mind and, minus the GAC banker-brothel debate debacle of 2004 when he garnered attention he did not relish, he always has substance behind what he says whether you agree with his opinion or not. For those who say, “You always quote, so-and-so,” there’s a reason.
Beyond grabbing attention, Blaine is always available and willing to talk to the press for the record. He once returned a call to me while he was out on bereavement leave. That might be a bit much, but it is one example that demonstrates his dedication to the credit union community.
Creating a public, industry-wide debate in a national forum such as Credit Union Times airs the issues and educates the community about what’s going on around them. How are CAMEL codes calculated? How subjective are they? Why shouldn’t a solid credit union be able to demonstrate that with its CAMEL when there are several ratings agencies already putting out essentially the same thing? Making his credit union the example to generate a national debate on the NCUA’s oversight took guts, which Blaine obviously has, and shines a little more light on the regulator.
The question of whether the agency is retaliatory is no longer up for debate. The NCUA’s overtly bullying response requires all state-chartered credit unions to submit to a federal examination in addition to the state’s each year. Despite its testaments in support of a dual chartering system, this action demonstrates exactly the opposite. It lays bare that the NCUA believes it knows what’s best and the North Carolina regulator can’t keep its house in order but the NCUA can.
The NCUA was established to regulate credit unions and not the state regulators. A variety of alternative solutions exist that wouldn’t penalize dozens of state-chartered credit unions that were following the rules. Such draconian behavior as punishing all of the state-chartered credit unions in North Carolina for the actions of one is costly to all.
More importantly, it takes credit unions’ eyes off bigger and more important issues, like return to the membership and quality strategic planning. These are two things that SECU does exceptionally well.
In a conveniently timed yet coincidental public relations move, the NCUA board announced last week that it was canceling its February board meeting because it did not have any pressing issues to consider.
Chairman Matz stated, “We understand that many credit union officials are feeling overwhelmed by a large number of proposed and final regulations, many of which are mandated by statute and issued by several different agencies. As part of my regulatory modernization initiative, we are carefully evaluating which NCUA rules need to be streamlined, eliminated or clarified in 2012. We have concluded that there are no essential board action items to publicly consider at this time and, therefore, no need for an open board meeting this month.”
I applaud the cancelation of any meeting that wastes more time than it’s worth and believe the world would be a better place with fewer meetings. The chairman has vowed to cancel more meetings if they are deemed unnecessary.
But canceling an NCUA board meeting does not mean there are no regulations coming from the NCUA or any other regulator. It does not even mean that examiners aren’t out there waving their big sticks at this moment, following central office’s lead in North Carolina. It doesn’t negate the repeal of certain RegFlex provisions–though the agency has proposed expanding the pool of eligible credit unions–and it doesn’t mean there won’t be a new CUSO reg, albeit possibly less all-encompassing than the original proposal. Not holding a board meeting also means that promised regulatory streamlining and elimination isn’t getting put in place yet either.
Still it got attention because it is not in the usual order of business and that is another way to attract attention, which is something that credit unions need to do better. Some, like SECU and others, do a great job at grabbing interest and being consistent. Every credit union could adapt that model to scale. Knowing how to grab attention is part of the reason credit unions like SECU have consistent membership and loan growth.
This month’s Trailblazer 40 Below, Nathan Anderson (see story, page 6), said of his sales philosophy, “You’re still not serving them unless you help them.” Help your members and potential members by selling them on your credit union.