PALM DESERT, Calif. – Geoff Bacino, the newest appointee to the board of the National Credit Union Administration, is promising credit union officials a hands-off approach when it comes to how they run their financial institutions. “One question I’ve been asked more than anything else is, `What’s your vision of NCUA and what’s your vision of credit unions,’” Bacino told credit union leaders attending the California Credit Union League’s Palm Tree Educational Conference here. “I always tell people you can boil it down to five words: We don’t run credit unions.” Speaking briefly at the opening session of the May 31- June 2 conference at the Desert Springs Marriott Resort and Spa in what league officials said was his first California appearance since being appointed to the NCUA Board, Bacino said the NCUA’s role was soley to oversee the safety and soundness of the nation’s credit unions. “We are regulators,” he said. “We are there for safety and soundness and that’s our job. It is not my job to tell you how to do your job.” Bacino compared his role at the regulatory agency to that of an umpire at a baseball game. “An umpire doesn’t tell the manager who to start. He doesn’t tell him what his batting order should be. He doesn’t tell him what pitcher he should start. He doesn’t tell him he should make a pitching change or if he should bunt on a particular play or hit-and-run or what have you. “An umpire does have to decide if a pitch is a ball or a strike, if a batted ball is fair or foul, if it’s a home run or a ground rule double,” Bacino said. “Or, as I like to tell people, in the event of an argument, we have the authority to throw people out,” he added to the laughter of the audience. Bacino, who headed his own lobbying and public relations firm in Alexandria, Va., before being appointed to NCUA, said he felt that the NCUA Board should keep a low profile. “A good umpire is one that you don’t know is there,” he said. “I think it should be the same thing for us. I think we should regulate without people noticing us.” That approach is in contrast to Bacino’s predecessor, Norman D’Amours, who was often a lightning rod for credit union comment and criticism. In addition to the personnel changes on the board, one thing that credit unions can also look forward to is regulations which are easier to read and understand, Bacino promised. “English is our second language,” he joked when asked why NCUA couldn’t write its regulations in simple, easy to understand language. He said he has requested that regulations be written more succinctly and contain a question-and-answer section at the end to address what will likely be the most frequently asked questions. Such improvements, he said, “will make it a little easier to muddle through.” Bacino also briefly addressed three issues of concern to credit unions: mortgage lending, predatory lending and dealing with undocumented individuals. Concerning mortgage lending, he insisted that NCUA had not set any “magic number” on the percentage of mortgage lending in which credit unions should be involved. “Like every other product and service you offer, you have to make a business decision based on what you feel is best for your members,” he said. “I think there are probably as many different ways to run a credit union as there are credit unions,” Bacino added. “You’re going to have different business decisions by different CEOs, different boards of directors . . . Even among peers, what works for one will not work for the other.” -

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