Becker to Retire; Berger Named CEO
NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker, who announced his retirement Jan. 7, said he will be leaving the credit union industry for good when he leaves the trade July 31.
“There’s nothing worse than an ‘ex’ anything,” Becker said. Rather than linger in the industry, potentially overshadowing incoming NAFCU leader Dan Berger, Becker said he may pursue a teaching gig at a community college.
Becker’s interest in education isn’t new. He taught part-time during his first career in the Navy and also taught some business law classes for the University of Maryland. The outgoing leader wouldn’t reveal where he will settle in retirement, only that it will not be in Washington.
As he reflected upon his time at NAFCU, Becker said he’s most proud of how he beefed up NAFCU’s already strong education and regulatory affairs services and further increased the trade association’s presence on Capitol Hill, which included hiring of Berger.
“I think we own education and compliance, and our presence on the Hill has been significantly enhanced as well,” he said. “[CUNA President/CEO Bill] Cheney might disagree, but I think we own all three.”
NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said she’s appreciated how Becker has always kept the big picture in mind as NAFCU leader, including support for NCUA’s efforts to protect the share insurance fund from preventable losses. Matz also credited Becker for his “invaluable, thoughtful comments” as the NCUA has modernized its regulatory structure post-financial crisis.
“While we may not have always agreed, Fred’s focus, like NCUA’s, has been on building a stronger credit union system,” she said.
Culter Dawson, president/CEO of the $51.5 billion Navy FCU, said he’s known Becker for many years, as fellow Naval Academy graduates, on active duty in the Navy, and during Dawson’s tenure as a NAFCU board member. Dawson said Becker’s leadership has advanced both credit unions and NAFCU.
“Through his efforts, NAFCU has become an influential voice on the Hill and is poised for success in the future,” he said. “I have the deepest respect and praise for the work he has done, and, as we say in the Navy, wish him ‘fair winds and following seas.’”
Frank Pollack, president of the $15 billion Pentagon FCU, called Becker’s retirement “both a happy and sad occasion for us.” The outgoing NAFCU leader has also been someone PenFed could turn to when faced with an industry issue, he said.
Jan Cowell, president/CEO of the $246 million Parsons FCU of Pasadena, Calif., said she’s liked Becker from the very beginning, when she first heard him address NAFCU members during an annual conference in Hawaii. Cowell praised his energy and how he increased communication from NAFCU to its members.
Current NAFCU chair Mike Parsons, president/CEO of the $343 million First Source Federal Credit Union of New Hartford, N.Y., also praised Becker’s energy, accessibility and direct communication.
“Under Fred’s guidance, NAFCU has clearly become an exceptional full-fledged trade association in every sense of the word,” Parsons said.
Even Camden Fine, president/CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America, had glowing words for the departing NAFCU chief. Fine, who represents NAFCU’s direct competition, called Becker “one of the genuinely good guys I’ve worked with, and you can’t always say that about everybody in Washington.” He also added that Becker is a fierce competitor but has integrity and is honorable.
Fine said he was surprised to hear about Becker’s retirement but said the financial crisis and Dodd-Frank legislation “really took a lot out of everybody” working in financial services.
The NAFCU baton will be passed to Dan Berger, executive vice president of government affairs.
Berger’s leadership and vision make him the right choice to fill the top post, Parsons said.
Becker called Berger the right choice at the right time.
“He is a creative, strong leader respected for his integrity and can-do attitude. I’m confident he will lead NAFCU to further success and I know I am leaving the association in good hands,” Becker said.
Berger said when he takes over Aug. 1, it will be business as usual at NAFCU, and he currently has no plans to make any major changes to the trade association. Berger echoed Becker’s assessment of NAFCU’s strengths in advocacy, education and compliance and said he will continue to make the three top priorities.
Two equally weighted issues to challenge credit unions in 2013, Berger said: regulatory burden and protecting the credit union tax exemption.
Credit unions can expect more regulations from the NCUA and CFPB, and in anticipation, NAFCU beefed up its compliance division, hiring new attorneys to provide assistance to members.
He also said NAFCU will continue to be vigilant cementing support for the credit union tax exemption as Congress considers tax reform and ways to increase revenue. The tax study NAFCU commissioned last fall has been well-received among lawmakers, he said.
“When we’ve visited Capitol Hill, members of Congress said we love our credit unions, but you have to prove the value of your tax status to the American taxpayer,” he said. “So, that’s why we did a qualitative and quantitative analysis to protect the exemption.”
Berger joined NAFCU as senior vice president of government affairs in January 2006 and was promoted to executive vice president in July 2009. During that time he has managed five divisions within NAFCU. He has over 20 years of government relations and political affairs experience, having served as vice president of government relations for America’s Community Bankers and chief of staff for U.S. Representative Katherine Harris.