AUSTIN, Texas – With the majority of her 26 years of law experience devoted to the banking industry, Ann Graham said the timing was right to switch to credit unions. The former senior vice president/chief regulatory counsel and corporate secretary for the Texas Bankers Association is the new general counsel and senior vice president of advocacy for the Texas Credit Union League. "I see [this position] as a wonderful opportunity. The League has great resources, a great legislative profile, and a great attitude of service toward people who are credit union members in Texas. And that, member service, is the most appealing aspect of all," Graham said. An attorney friend told Graham about the opening with the Texas League and suggested she was ideally suited for the job. After contacting the League, Graham said indeed it was a good match. "When I spoke with TCUL president/CEO Dick Ensweiler, his vision for the industry and for the League convinced me this is where I need to be. This is a very impressive organization, and I think I have a lot to offer in terms of regulatory, legislative, and team building experience," she said. "Working at Texas Bankers Association, I had great respect for Dick's efforts and those of Jeff Huffmann, TCUL's vice president of legislative affairs, and Brian Jammer, TCUL's deputy general counsel." In her three-plus years with TBA, Graham provided the banking industry with legal and regulatory advice, comment letters, articles, and testimony, and performed federal and state legislative analysis and lobbying. Of particular interest was her involvement on home equity reform in Texas, a priority issue for credit unions. Her background also includes five years on the senior management team at the Texas Department of Banking, seven years with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and seven years in private law practice in Washington, D.C., Austin, Dallas, and Houston. During her tenure at FDIC and in private law, Graham had extensive experience in bankruptcy matters. Graham said she is looking forward to working closely with CUNA's legislative team on federal issues, but that her primary focus in early months on the job will be legislation in Texas. "The Texas legislative session will start in January, and one of the things we will be looking at is reform in home equity legislation. To accomplish that, we will have to generate awareness on the part of legislators. That means getting to know them and their families on a local basis," said Graham. "In addition, Harold Feeney, commissioner for the Texas Department of Credit Unions, is doing a great job. I'm looking forward to keeping credit unions informed about regulations proposed by the commissioner. He has a Department bill we would like to see passed during this next session. We will be looking to find an individual sponsor and working toward getting the bill through in an acceptable form," said Graham. Graham is an adjunct professor at both the University of Texas Law School and St. Edward's University. She also used vacation days this past year to teach an international economics course in Chihuahua, Mexico – across the border from Texas' Big Bend National Park area, one of Graham's favorite getaway spots – through Sul Ross University's MBA program. "We covered trade theory, monetary policy and current events. The students loved it and I loved it," she said. Credit unions continue to lobby for their place as a viable financial alternative alongside larger and sometimes more influential banks. After years in the banking industry, what is Graham's perspective? "I believe competition is most beneficial to the American public, and as financial institutions, credit unions compete very effectively on member service. They deserve every dollar they safeguard for their members, because they earn them with service – and not just financial services, but also community services. For example, the Texas League's efforts in establishing financial services for Hispanic citizens of Texas and Mexico. Border initiatives are so important. New entrants to Texas need access to affordable financial services, and credit unions are on the cutting edge to provide those services. I applaud them for that. I'll say it again, credit unions are doing the right thing by competing with banks, not on negative statements, but on service." Graham noted that she is not stepping into an area of the League that needs fixing. "The League already has a good legislative team. We're just going to take it to a higher level. I'm looking forward to working with credit unions of all sizes. And I'm looking forward to talking to non-member credit unions and showing them the benefits of League membership." Concerning her switch from banks to credit unions, Graham related, "When I spoke at my first chapter meeting, I told them [my move] is like the Texas bumper sticker: I wasn't born here, but I got here as fast as I could." -

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