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TOOELE, Utah – Peruse Robert Swan’s CD and album collection, and even the most finicky jazz enthusiast would be impressed by the eclecticism. The former NCUA Board member has an appealing mix of the old and new – from big band leader Duke Ellington and blind pianist George Shearing to contemporary Diana Krall. He’s usually front and center when a favorite jazz artist comes to town for a gig. He also played the upright bass for his college’s symphony band and later garnered local gigs of his own playing along side a core of musicians. His wife Jan gushes over the many artists they’ve seen over the years, lingering on the enthralling afternoon performances captured at the exquisite Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “My brother and I paid our way through college playing on the weekend,” Swan recalled. Close friends and colleagues are privy to Swan’s expert hand with the golf clubs. An “excellent putter” as one golfing budding described him, Swan, 67, used to play on the amateur circuit in Utah and many consider him the guru when debates arise on the rules of the game. “I don’t play as much as I used to, but it’s certainly a passion of mine,” he said. These are sides of Swan that most credit union people familiar with him from his NCUA days probably don’t know about. Since leaving NCUA in 1996, the Tooele native has since started his own lobby and consulting firm which has kept him quite busy given the brouhaha stewing in his home state of Utah as banking groups continue to pounce on any attempt by credit unions to expand or offer competing services. Swan has traveled to Salt Lake City on numerous occasions to educate legislators on the reasons why credit unions should maintain their tax exemption status. He’s worked on and off with the Utah League of Credit Unions to “create a united” front against banking critics. A number of credit unions have sought Swan out for assistance with various research projects. In 1999, he was in the thick of a heated battle led by a then newly-formed Utahans for Fair Taxation created by banking interests during a lawmaking showdown. The legislature had placed limits upon credit unions’ ability to openly serve Utah consumers by restricting geographical field of membership criteria. Nearly four years later, those limits remain and a number of credit unions have begun the switch to federal charters. Meanwhile, Swan is also closely watching how the suit recently filed by the American Bankers Association and the Utah Bankers Association against NCUA for approving a six-county field of membership expansion for Tooele Federal Credit Union will play out. The matter is close to Swan’s periphery because he served as Tooele’s president/CEO from 1983 to 1990. During his tenure, the credit union, which was originally chartered as Benecia Arsenal Federal Credit Union in California, went from $30 to $80 million in assets, broke off from its army depot sponsor and switched to a community charter. Even then, Swan honed his mediation skills, getting rid of the internal strife that divided employees when changes were made to Tooele’s board of directors. “Bob is one on the strongest advocates for credit unions I’ve ever met,” said Tommy Delk, former president of the South Carolina Credit Union League. “During his tenure at NCUA, he was the one who really listened when it came time to hear the `credit union’ side (on industry regulations). Even during the emotional time involving corporate credit unions, Bob kept a level head and felt passionate about his views.” For any industry heavyweight, the standoff in Utah can easily take its toll but Swan shows no sign of slowing down. In addition to his continued lobbying, he’s ready to take on a full-time executive position at “ideally, a large credit union” that may need assistance with developing a succession plan for top management. And, even though Swan has spent the better part of his life in Utah, he’s willing to relocate to wherever the opportunity exists. “I’m not as busy as I would like to be,” Swan admitted. “When I retired, I discovered there’s a redundancy in retirement that doesn’t fit my character.” His wife Jan, two children and seven grandchildren may beg to differ on the “redundancy,” relieved that Swan took the golden exit off the career highway to take time out for him. But Swan’s not ready to call it quits just yet. Indeed, Swan’s career reads as if he’s had little time to pause between the twists and turns his path took after graduating from the University of Utah with an accounting degree and an MBA. The military veteran worked as auditor for the U.S. Army in California for two years and would later buy and run the family-owned grocery store, Swan’s Market in Tooele for nearly 15 years. His zeal for politics was nurtured by his father who never ran for political office, but engaged Swan and his siblings around the dinner table on local issues of the day. Swan would go on to serve on Tooele’s city council and was elected mayor in 1970 for one term. On the state level, Swan was appointed by Gov. Scott Matheson to the deputy director for finance post in 1977 overseeing the workman’s compensation fund, agency budgets and accounting. Prior to his post at Tooele FCU, Swan served as vice president for Western United Mines. Swan recalls the conversation he had with former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Jake Garn on why the then Tooele FCU president would be the right person to hold the minority seat on NCUA’s-three member board. “The Senator told me I would probably have a pretty good chance of getting the seat given the connections I had made in Washington,” Swan said. “Of course, my political juices started to flow, but I never really thought it would happen.” After enduring “the wait,” as he described it in an internal Tooele credit union newsletter, Swan was appointed to NCUA’s Board in 1990 with “the full support” of his colleagues back home and became the first credit union CEO to sit on the regulator’s board. The early 1990s cast a dark outlook on industry regulations, specifically with low-income credit unions. NCUA wanted fewer, but larger credit unions, according to the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions’ historical account. The ranks of credit unions officially designated as low-income by NCUA declined to a low point of 142 by 1990. Mergers and forced liquidations became more common and not a single CDCU was chartered in 1990, 1991 or early 1992. While Swan was the designated liaison to CDCUs and helped them gain easier access to the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund, “NCUA remained largely hostile to CDCU concerns under Chairman Roger Jepsen,” according to NFCDCU. “He had a real sense of how to run a credit union when he came to NCUA,” said Chris Kerecman, vice president of federal governmental affairs at the California Credit Union League. “Because he had a clear understanding of the impact regulations had on operations, it helped to shape many regulations.” Kerecman was director of governmental affairs for Utah’s league when he started working with Swan. Over the next six years, Swan also had an impact on the merging of the industry insurance fund, regulatory issues surrounding FOM including fending off bank attacks and community chartering “for survival” – the closures of several military bases had wide-reaching impact. The failure of many private insurance companies and revamping the way corporate credit unions operated were also on the table. The latter issue spawned a contentious dispute that saw Swan advocating for a thorough review of the corporate system. Looking back without a trace of regret or bitter blood, he said his days at NCUA were a “great experience,” particularly in building up the CDCUs and “working with credit union people around the nation.” “He had the political experience and he was one of those guys that came directly from a credit union to NCUA – those connections gave him very good insight and provided courage during a very turbulent time (for NCUA),” said Marcus Schaefer President/CEO of Truliant Federal Credit Union, who served as NAFCU’s director when he met Swan. “He brought a level-headiness that was really needed at the time and stood up for important issues that he may have paid for politically.” Swan believes the quest for survival essentially rests with expanded FOM but he’s still acknowledges the presence of “niche credit unions” which can endure under the right circumstances. “Without growth, you won’t survive,” he said. “Economically, mergers have to happen and if they are curtailed, credit unions won’t be successful. And, the tax exemption status is strongly linked there – needless to say, banks won’t let up on that one.” He’s been on both sides of the fence as a CEO and NCUA Board member and if anyone can prove that member satisfaction is paramount to the philosophy of “people having people,” and the bottom line, he can. “One trend I’ve noticed that really disturbs me is the inaccessibility and aloofness of management to members,” Swan explained. “With some credit unions, you have to go through a telephone treadmill to get to a real person. That impression makes us look like banks and we should revive the spirit of direct communication with the member.” Friends wanting to get in touch with Bob Swan, can reach him at (435) 843-0059 or (435) 843-1313. They can also email him at: rhswan@juno.com. -

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