At CUNA, Cheney's Legacy Means Full Steam Ahead
Bill Cheney's decision to join SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union as CEO was unexpected, but understandable. He returns to California to guide the fifth-largest credit union in the country, doing something he relishes: Improving the financial lives of credit union members and their families.
Bill will move on to SchoolsFirst with credit unions – and CUNA – in solid, strong positions:
- We are on the cusp of 100 million memberships nationwide – a number attained after surging growth over the past three years and the best in 12 years.
- We’ve left the recession in the dust – lending is back on track, savings are growing, and net worth is on a path to match pre-recession levels.
- We’ve had a very big win recently in the Congress: In the first major tax reform proposal unveiled, no changes were made – or even suggested – to the credit union tax exemption. That's not small potatoes, especially considering that more than 200 other groups were hit by the plan – including the nation's largest banks.
- We’ve had important regulatory improvements including better exam guidance on DoRs, a revised loan participations rule and a revamped derivatives rule, along with a more workable approach to troubled debt restructurings.
- The credit union movement is energized: Our biggest crowd ever – 4,400 strong – traveled to Washington to attend our Governmental Affairs Conference just last month. Credit union advocates fanned out over Capitol Hill (“They were everywhere,” we heard from more than one source) driving home the messages of “don't tax my credit union,” relieve the regulatory burden, and help us enhance the credit union charter.
- CUNA is coming off one of its most successful years ever financially and operationally.
In short: Bill returns to California having left your national trade association in a very good position indeed. But he's also made it clear – to myself and my CUNA board colleagues, as well as the CUNA staff – that sitting still is not an option. He counsels full steam ahead – and we are taking his wise words to heart.
Working with the leagues, CUNA will continue on its course of action for credit unions: Protecting, reducing the regulatory burden and helping prepare for the future – all through our primary role of advocating on credit unions’ behalf.
We’ve heard the first word in tax reform – but not the last. Bankers despise the fact credit unions were left out; the ABA and Independent Community Bankers of America – are already working to erode the proposal's silence on our tax exemption.
CUNA will continue to protect our tax status. Our “Don't Tax My Credit Union” campaign generated more than 1.3 million contacts since last May urging lawmakers to leave our tax status alone. And the campaign's award-winning social media outreach – touching more than 9 million social media users – helped every day to underscore our message. We will be building on both of these actions in the months to come to continue protecting credit unions.
The regulatory burden must be eased in order for credit unions to best serve their members, and we are working on two tracks – legislation and regulation – to give credit unions the break they deserve.
We have successfully passed out of congressional committee – for the first time in 15 years – standalone regulatory relief legislation for credit unions. That's a major accomplishment, when no else is getting any legislation to move in this Congress.
On the regulatory side, we have taken strong stands to limit and ease the burden. For instance, we have argued that the NCUA's risk-based capital proposal is unneeded by credit unions, whose net worth system withstood the worst financial downturn in 80 years.
We support, and want, risk-based capital – but not in the way that the NCUA has proposed. We were the first to call on NCUA to conduct public hearings on the proposal (which they have done), and we are marshaling our considerable grassroots resources to build a strong cache of credit union comment letters to the agency. This proposal may in fact become regulation – but not before we convince the agency to fix it.
With a shared agenda of removing barriers, increasing awareness and fostering service excellence, we have the direction to build our movement, by 2023, to a total of 55 million members who consider a credit union their “primary financial institution,” and return to them annually financial benefits of $20 billion – or more.
And, by design, this initiative is designed to take advantage of the “cultural shift” in society: People – especially younger ones – who want access to values-based products and services, in order to see themselves (and to be seen by others) in a more responsible light. That's right in our wheelhouse as credit unions.
All of this was begun, and fostered, during Bill Cheney's tenure at CUNA, beginning just four years ago.
I can assure you: CUNA will continue to build on what Bill and his team at CUNA have accomplished, without skipping a beat. True, it will be a challenge to bring on new leadership that matches the knowledge, commitment and passion that Bill brings to the job. Further, the CUNA board intends to take a long look at the system structure. We have big goals ahead, and will need to change the status quo if our future is to look bigger than our present.
Fortunately, Bill Cheney gave us a course for moving forward – full steam ahead.
Dennis Pierce is chairman of the CUNA Board of Directors and is president/CEO of Community/America Credit Union in Lenexa, Kan. He can be reached at 913-905-8100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.