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<p>This new year of 2002 couldn’t have come soon enough. While it is likely we will never forget (nor should we) the catastrophe and assault on our liberty in 2001, a new year can and does give us hope that we can move forward. I’m very optimistic. Overall, I think credit unions have opportunities in every area of their endeavors-lending, encouraging thrift, and serving their members’ financial needs. In fact, I think these opportunities are unlimited. For CUNA and our membership, I see major opportunities in five key areas. They are: A vigorous effort to begin realizing the vision of the CUNA Renaissance process. Our task now is to look for, identify and capitalize on opportunities as they develop for realizing the visions. An obvious opportunity will be any early legislation that may arise, such as a regulatory relief bill. In fact, by the time the GAC rolls around, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first legislative proposals directly linked to the Renaissance Commission’s work were poised for introduction in the Congress. We will also be making a similar effort on the regulatory front, with NCUA, the Federal Reserve, Treasury and other agencies having an impact on credit unions. A more visible face before the Congress. We have accomplished so much in the last three years: unparalleled growth in the Credit Union Legislative Action Council; the establishment and expansion of the “Hike the Hill” program which brings hundreds of credit union representatives to Capitol Hill throughout the year; the construction, dedication and operation of Credit Union House on Capitol Hill (giving credit unions a permanent presence at the scene of the national legislature). These are now firing on all cylinders and, working in combination with the considerable resources and relationships of the leagues, these programs are poised to give credit unions more “face time” before Congress than ever before. A clear articulation from credit unions of how they are serving their communities, particularly their efforts to beef up service to the “underserved.” It should be clear in the aftermath of the NCUA Board’s action on CAP that the issue of how credit unions are serving their communities will not go away, if for the only reason that the Congress and others will continue to press all financial institutions to detail their actions in this area. It is therefore vital that credit unions individually and eloquently describe their efforts to serve their communities. Credit unions would be wise to tell the story themselves, tell it all, and tell it early. There are a number of tools credit unions can employ, specifically CUNA’s Project Differentiation. More than 1,000 credit unions to date have taken part in the program, preparing their “statements of commitment” which efficiently and thoroughly catalog how credit unions are serving their communities. Yet no matter how the story is told, telling it is a priority for our members and the credit union community at large. A counter to the bankers’ continued harassment of credit unions. It seems that whenever credit unions have the pluck to take destiny into their own hands, the bankers jump into the way with whining, conniving and griping. It happened with the Renaissance Commission, NCUA’s field of membership manual, and the “Reg Flex” proposal. In fact, in advance of my meeting with the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service late last year, the bankers sent to him a letter complaining about the tax treatment of credit unions. This harassment cannot continue. Using a variety of strategies and related tactics, we will be working this year to counter the banker-caused aggravation, and diminish its effectiveness. A shift in how we communicate and plan amongst ourselves in the credit union community. There remains a great deal of uncertainty in the nation about travel. But credit unions still have the need and desire to follow their traditional practice of talking amongst themselves, sharing ideas and concerns with their colleagues across the nation. Consequently, we are putting a greater emphasis on our distance-learning programs to deal with this development, as are other associations. But there is no guarantee that credit unions will respond to this change. Our own budget reflects this uncertainty. CUNA took the rare step of budgeting for a marginal shortfall in 2002, as we expect revenue (particularly from conferences and meetings) to be reduced. But just how much-if at all-is unclear. Given that lack of clarity, we chose to adopt a budget deficit, avoid making draconian and expensive changes to our organization in the short term, and concentrate on erasing the budget deficit as early as possible. Certainly distance learning will play a role in this effort, although we also expect the more traditional approaches of conferencing and learning to return to near normalcy as the year progresses. Aside from these five areas, I urge the credit union community to develop a sense of unity in this upcoming year-if for no other reason than, simply, a unified front serves all of our interests. This isn’t to say that there isn’t room for a divergence of views among credit unions. We found out through the Renaissance process that there are, indeed, a number of opinions about what the future of credit unions should resemble. But there are some things about which, I think, most credit unions will agree-such as the ability of credit unions to offer the financial services their members most desire-and these are the issues over which we can and should unite. To that end, CUNA will be in 2002 working with the leagues and member credit unions to present a united front for the credit union community-as we seize the opportunities before us.</p>

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