Members Show Clout On Conversion Bids
It's tempting to attempt to predict how many credit unions might try to jump to a bank charter in 2013. But that is hard to say. It's easier to observe some trends that came to the fore in 2012 and are likely to continue next year.
First, NCUA's regulations have definitely leveled the playing field between credit union executives and members when it comes to changing charters. The days when credit union boards of directors were able to reliably count on credit union members to vote themselves out of being credit union members largely on the basis of the directors' mandates have largely ended.
If Technology Credit Union's charter change loss at the ballot box proved nothing else, it showed that a small but organized and determined collection of members, if able to communicate with other members, can convince other members to make their credit union vote more than a rubber stamp. Credit union members faced with a proposed charter change have every right to demand their leaders provide them with clear, understandable and authentic reasons for making the change and if they don't get the explanations they seek they will not go along with the change.
Second, as has been the case for a couple of years now, the largest impediment to credit unions changing to bank charters is not NCUA or even credit union members themselves, but the FDIC. In the wake of the financial service crisis, while teams of FDIC experts are still arriving in the dead of night on Fridays to shutter or forcibly merge banks, the bank insurer has been loath to take on any more institutions whose loan portfolios or executive expertise might leave them with another Friday night clean up to do. No matter how many of the lines between not-for-profit credit union financial services and for-profit banking services have blurred, the two are still not interchangeable. And don't expect FDIC to relax its high standards for credit union to bank conversions in the year ahead.