ARLINGTON, Va.-Though NAFCU has always had a good working relationship with NCUA, according to NAFCU Director of Regulatory Affairs Gwen Baker, she admits that the current Republican-influenced trend toward less government interference in credit union activities this year is making her life easier. Baker certainly appreciates this, given Communications Manager John Zimmerman said she is one of the top three hardest working people at NAFCU. “We’ve certainly seen a lot of positive regulatory initiatives,” Baker said of the credit union regulator since President George W. Bush’s appointment of Dennis Dollar to the acting chairmanship. “There seems to be a general trend toward letting credit unions decide how to serve their members.” She specifically pointed out NCUA’s proposal for risk-based exams, Dollar’s Regulatory Flexibility proposal, and incidental powers. All of these are expected to culminate at the NCUA’s July board meeting. She added that a great deal of time has passed since credit unions were provided a glimpse into the NCUA’s budget creating process, referring to Dollar’s recent statement that the agency will hold public budget hearings this fall for the agency’s 2002 budget. While improvements have been made to federal credit unions’ regulatory environment, “There certainly can be some changes made,” Baker said. Credit unions are constantly looking to improve their regulatory status, so while she may view the job as somewhat easier, Baker will not be out of a job anytime soon. New issues pop up all the time, or boilerplate issues can come to the forefront at a moment’s notice. “Every day is an adventure,” Baker explained, and having the flexibility to handle issues as they surface is key. Baker said that this is one of the reasons Baker enjoys her work with NAFCU and the credit union movement. “The great thing about my job is that I don’t have atypical work week,” she said. One day she’s stuck staring at her computer writing comment letters for hours to NCUA and the other various regulators with peripheral impact on federal credit unions and the next day she’s instructing credit union officials at a compliance school in the afternoon, after having helped NAFCU members all morning long with select employee group applications. On NCUA board meeting days, Baker attends the meeting, writes up and disburses descriptions of regulatory issues on which the organization is seeking comment from its members, and preparing regulatory alerts. Baker is NAFCU’s “principle face at NCUA,” Zimmerman said. A former NCUA employee with some friends still at the agency, Zimmerman said he hears nothing but good feedback from his former co-workers on Baker, who has worked at NAFCU for the past three years. Baker said that she finds the field of membership issues the most interesting and challenging to her, which also happens to be one of the most important issues to the credit union movement at this time. Other hot button issues Baker listed include the community charter conversions, mergers, member privacy, information security issues, member business lending, and incidental powers. Mergers are of particular significance to NAFCU because the majority of cross-merging credit unions-federal credit union and state chartered credit union combinations-maintain the state charter. Improvements on all of these issues in aggregate make up NAFCU’s recipe for enhancing the federal charter. While the trend is showing indications of slowing, federal credit unions still continue to convert to state charters, particularly in states like California that have liberal regulators, to escape regulatory burden. But Baker’s responsibilities do not lie solely in the regulatory arena. She often consults with NAFCU’s legislative staff on the possible regulatory implications for federal credit unions on legislation pending in Congress. “That’s one of the benefits of our association being smaller, because we can work closely with the other divisions,” she explained. The NAFCU attorney emphatically claimed her current career is better than her stint in high school working at a frozen yogurt and ice cream shop. After an exhausting, unpredictable day, Baker said she enjoys going home and collapsing. In her little spare time, she likes to read, spend time outside, and get together with her friends, family, and her significant other. [email protected]

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