WASHINGTON – As Mike Canning approaches his one-year anniversary leading the Association of Corporate Credit Unions, he's beginning to put his stamp on the organization. Canning, 42, joined the ACCU as its Executive Director last November. He had big shoes to fill replacing Gigi Hyland who was extremely popular and successful in the job. Hyland now has a legal position with Empire Corporate. Like Hyland, Canning is also an attorney, but his professional life has mostly been dedicated to politics. "Ever since I became an attorney in 1991, advocacy in one form or another has always been my thing, taking up the cause of something you believe in, trying to force change," said Canning. Prior to joining the ACCU he ran a group called Americans for Consumer Education and Competition. The group lobbied Congress to pass laws designed to require the teaching of money skills to kids in schools, a cause the large credit union trade associations have taken up. Canning has lobbied on the state level in Maryland and heavily on Capitol Hill for a number of different industries and interests, including law enforcement, greenhouse growers, and technology. He even founded his own law firm that specialized in government relations. Politics was always a drive of Canning. He was president of the student body at his alma mater, the University of Maryland. He won that role again while studying law at St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami. He even tried his hand at running for public office. "I ran for the Maryland State Legislature in 1984 as a democrat. That wasn't the smartest thing. It was the same year of Newt Gingrich and his Contract With America." After that defeat Canning figured out what he felt was a better way to stay involved in politics. "At one point I realized a way I can work around the ups and downs of the political process, and that was political advocacy and lobbying." Hello Credit Union Industry Canning knew very little about credit unions and even less about corporate credit unions when he applied for the ACCU position. He said unlike most jobs in D.C. where who you know helps land a position, he simply answered a classified ad. What attracted him was being told that the job would allow him to continue his government relationships through lobbying and interacting with Congress and administration officials. Having gotten his feet wet now, he feels like he has stepped into a great scenario. "I've gone and visited 10 corporates so far and got to know a lot of the senior staff. I consider myself pretty engrained right now in the corporate structure. The people are outstandingly nice and very willing to help and make sure that I prosper," he said. Canning brought a former colleague with him in Josh Jones as the ACCU's program coordinator. "Anyone who knows how to do government relations for a trade association knows it's a full-time job. He helps me with logistics, planning our conferences, doing the newsletter and answering the daily questions we get from members." Funded by dues paid by its members and with a management agreement with CUNA, Canning realizes the ACCU appears to serve two masters, but he doesn't see it that way. "The ACCU is an independent trade association, but we are fortunate enough to have assistance from many players here in Washington to make our jobs easier to do. CUNA, NAFCU and NASCUS all help us," said Canning, though he said the ACCU leans on CUNA and its expertise and lobbying prowess the most and he works out of CUNA's Washington office. He credits NASCUS for helping him get the word out to members on the IRS' Unrelated Business Income Tax, and says the ACCU will always stay close to NAFCU given that some of the largest corporates are federally-chartered. "We meet fairly regularly with NAFCU. My top six or seven members are federal charters. They've made it clear that the widest net I can cast here in town is the best way to go," said Canning and it's a philosophy he agrees with. Case in point. At the ACCU's annual meeting being held Oct. 13-14 in New Orleans, CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica, NAFCU President/CEO Fred Becker and NASCUS Interim President Mary Martha Fortney will all make appearances. Rounding out the big names are NCUA Board member JoAnn Johnson and on the political front former congresswoman Susan Molinari. Canning's dual titles also highlight the ACCU's CUNA relationship. He is CUNA's VP of Corporate CU Relations, as well as the ACCU's Executive Director. Getting Known On The Hill Canning believes it's important that corporates become better understood by Congress. The old tenet of lobbying is that you don't want to try and make friends when you're in trouble, you want to make friends when you're not so you can call on them when you are. "Our members want a slow and deliberate process of educating key members about what they do. It's about making an investment to know you have some friends and people you can go to later on," he said. In that vein, Canning is spearheading a new facility site visit initiative next year. It involves members of Congress visiting corporate CU facilities in their home states. "During congressional recesses, members of Congress like to go back to their home states, travel around and meet voters. We figure this is the time for them to see what corporates do." The initial pilot next year will involve five congressional site visits to corporates. So how does Canning describe to Congress what corporates do? "They work with the Federal Reserve Banks and they compete with the Federal Home Loan Banks. They compete with other agencies for investments. They are a liquidity provider and an investment term provider for credit unions. They are a way to get credit unions money when in need and give them something to do with their money when they have too much in hand." Canning joined the ACCU right after Part 704, NCUA's corporate reg, was passed. While he wasn't involved in that push, he did help on some much needed follow-up to the rule, he said. One of the key things the ACCU changed NCUA's mind on was paying a market gain on term instruments held at a corporate before they mature. "Corporates were not allowed to pay a market gain. If the value of a CD went up a lot, the natural person credit union couldn't benefit form that, in fact you had to charge them a bit of a penalty," he said. NCUA eventually issued guidance allowing corporates to pay the market gain after ACCU proved there was no safety and soundness concern, said Canning. Another achievement he cited was the response corporates crafted to the GAO and their study of credit unions. "We were really able to tell a good story to the GAO about corporates. We submitted a written report and did a conference call with nine of our CEOs and the GAO. And because of the information we provided, they did not feel the need to include corporates in the first go around," said Canning, noting that that doesn't mean corporates won't be called on later. Canning joined a corporate network that has become increasingly competitive in recent years as more corporates have begun to market over state lines. Canning believes that competition is good for credit unions but said corporate cooperation is also alive and well. "Just look at what happened with SimpliCD and the business lending CUSO started up by Northwest. There's also been cooperation on a major initiative to fund the Community Investment Fund. When push comes to shove we can all get on the same page," he said. As for mergers, it's a trend, he said he stays neutral on. "I usually find out about them first in your paper. Consolidation is an efficiency creation mechanism. The boards that make those decisions are the best to do so," he said. During the annual meeting, the ACCU executive committee will vote on a new dues proposal that would result in a dues reduction for most corporates. If approved, the proposal will cut dues from $14 per million in assets to $11 per million in assets. However because corporate CU assets have increased so dramatically it will only trim off about $30,000 of ACCU's annual budget. Only two corporates will see an increase in dues due to the new structure. Some corporates will have discounts as high as $6,000, said Canning. The ACCU's budget for next year will be roughly $512,000. When he's not on corporate business, Canning likes to spend time with his family which includes three children (a 15-year old son, five-year old daughter, three-year old boy) and his wife Rebecca. He relishes being able to coach his five-year old's soccer team. When on his own, deep sea fishing is his hobby of choice. He recounts a story when he and his buddies were trying to bring in a mako shark that looked to be about 15-feet long. "I was out on the bow pulpit of this 25′ Grady White. We rigged up some wire with butter fish to catch it. As I'm throwing butter fish at it, it looked up at me a couple of times letting me know what it would do to me if I fell. It was scary," said Canning. He said any good lobbyist knows there are plenty of sharks in Washington to be wary of. As for the mako, they didn't catch it – he swallowed the steel leader, ate the butter fish and snapped the monofilament line like nothing. [email protected]

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