The New Jersey Credit Union League's Reality Check Conference last week in Atlantic City, N.J., gave attendees a fast overview of what's hot and what's not in Washington, compliments of lunch speaker Bill Cheney, CEO of CUNA.
The good news for credit unions is that “credit unions are rising,” said Cheney, who pointed to the high levels of consumer trust enjoyed by credit unions. Higher than other financial institutions as well as growing membership, he added. "We may see membership up by two million," said Cheney, who indicated the final numbers are still being crunched.
However, Cheney then said, “There are challenges ahead.”
The first, and perhaps biggest, challenge according to Cheney is continuing pressures, emanating from community banks and banker trade associations to eradicate the tax exemption enjoyed by credit unions. Those pressures just don't stop, suggested Cheney, who stressed that it does not appear there is support for ending the exemption either in the White House or among a majority of members of Congress.
"We have a good story to tell," stressed Cheney, who elaborated that estimates of revenues that might be raised, if the exemption were to cease, range from $300 million to $1.3 billion. Those comparative small numbers, at least by Beltway standards, make it unlikely that sufficient support would be mustered to pass a measure to end the exemption.
The second challenge, and perhaps the most aggravating for many credit union executives, is an atmosphere of heavy regulatory pressures, said Cheney. He added, "Our first priority is to create a better operating environment for credit unions."
In today's credit union world, said Cheney, it has become commonplace for examiners from the regulator to attempt to compel credit unions to pursue certain actions. "They want to tell credit union executives they know better how to run the credit union than do the executives."
"That has to stop," said Cheney.
A third priority is pushing for increased ability by credit unions to lend to small businesses. "We are going to be more aggressive in pursuing this," said Cheney.