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WASHINGTON-The Washington Post columnist Albert Crenshaw wrote in a recent column that bankers should tend more to the needs of their customers in order to beat out credit unions. The noted columnist suggested in his Cash Flow column that banks’ service and pricing, not credit unions, have caused customers to flee. Crenshaw pointed to the Independent Community Bankers Associations’ recent Capitol Hill visits, as well as other groups’ efforts to get credit unions taxed. “The bankers are fighting an uphill battle. Not only are they Goliath going against David, but after two decades of consolidation and efforts to squeeze more profit out of their retail customers, many banks have all but driven their depositors and borrowers into the arms of credit unions,” he wrote. Crenshaw also noted bankers’ unbundling of services in order to charge more fees and their “tacit admission” by larger banks of their trickery by unrolling low- and no-fee accounts in an attempt to woo back customers. He added that not all banks are bad and still are many small banks that remain customer service oriented. “Unfortunately for the banks, their ex-customers who discovered credit unions love them,” Crenshaw wrote. Therefore, the banking groups have decided to make a concerted effort to get credit unions taxed. Because credit unions cannot issue stock to raise capital, taxing their retained earnings would greatly hurt credit unions, which is exactly what credit unions think the bankers want, he said. Credit unions also assert that taxing credit unions could lead to the elimination of a source of low-cost financial services. “Credit unions have always said there should be the opportunity for Americans to do their [banking] business with a for-profit,” Crenshaw quoted CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica as saying. “We don’t go after them, but they go after us. The tax issue, the size issue is a new way to start an old argument. People need an alternative, and we do believe [we offer one] in the cooperative movement. It’s certainly not a business for us – it’s a philosophy, a belief.” Crenshaw pointed out that the bankers have done things to credit unions in the past that have backfired on them, like when they sued-and won-to control credit union growth in 1996, but credit union grassroots efforts got even more liberal field of membership laws pushed through Congress. Nevertheless, bankers are still seeking to control credit union growth, specifically aimed at the moment at larger credit unions. Crenshaw highlighted the American Bankers Association’s listing of taxing credit unions as a “superpriority.” “We’re pretty fired up about this,” ICBA President and CEO Camden Fine said. “This continued unbridled concentration at the top of the credit-union chain is just out of control.” He emphasized that ICBA is not after the credit unions that stick with the single common bond approach. [email protected]

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