It’s anyone’s guess just how long Debbie Matz will stay on as an NCUA Board Member. Officially her term ended on August 2nd. Most of her predecessors hung around till they were fired by the President (Norm D’Amours), decided on their own volition it was time to move on (Dennis Dollar), or were replaced. Very early in her NCUA tenure, in some circles at least, the end of her term of office couldn’t come soon enough. Some of her comments or Board votes weren’t very popular. In fairness, some overlooked the fact that in politics, the successful nominee cannot forget how he or she got there and the personal obligations inherent in every Presidential appointment. After that somewhat rocky start, it didn’t take Matz long to work hard to change some of those early perceptions. The first thing she did was immerse herself in all things credit union. As a newcomer to the industry, she knew she had a lot to learn and learn she did. She quickly got her arms around all the major issues. Also, Debbie Matz made herself available to credit union audiences, large and small. Her formal presentations got progressively better. She made every effort to become acquainted with the industry’s movers and shakers. Early on she saw the value of spending less time in her NCUA office and more time in the field rubbing elbows with credit union folks up close and personal. For someone who started out knowing very little about credit unions, Matz became very comfortable with credit unions, credit union issues, credit union people, and her role in that entire scheme of things. To be sure, it never became completely smooth sledding for her. To this day, she hasn’t been able to avoid every bump in the CU road. On more than one occasion during her term she raised a few eyebrows, mine included, with some of her references, ideas, proposals, and votes. Like her views on the role of small credit unions, NCUA compensation and staffing levels, and FOM expansions, to name just three. But as Matz gained confidence and knowledge, and became more attuned to what really made credit unions tick, she demonstrated flexibility, that is as long as she wasn’t expected to compromise her principles. At the same time she was gradually becoming more knowledgeable about her important role as one of three top federal regulators whose decisions could and do positively, or negatively, affect the success or failure of credit unions. NCUA watchers have noted that the number of two to one votes on the three person Board went down from Matz’s early days serving as a Board Member and unanimous votes increased. However, as insiders also know, there is another reason for that. When the Board became a two person Board after former Chairman Dennis Dollar voluntarily departed, many items never actually made it on to the formal Board meeting agenda. The reason was that the Chairman (and others) saw no point in setting up the evitable tie vote. So she chose to just keep certain items off the agenda, those items that did not have Matz’s support. Like certain community charter conversion requests, which explains why approvals for them at the Board level have been non-existent for close to a year. But on the positive side, Matz became more and more active and innovative. Spending quality time with credit union leaders and her willingness to be completely accessible, gave her great input which she used more and more effectively as her term progressed. The PALS Workshops she created and ran is but one case in point. I for one initially thought these sessions were a bad idea and would flop. I couldn’t have been more wrong. All of them have been hugely successful. The turnouts have been above expectations and the workshop content on target. To give an example more current, Matz remains steadfast in her belief that NCUA is absolutely on the side of right in the current and escalating controversy regarding two billion dollar Texas credit unions trying to become banks. Don’t expect her to ever give in on this one. Over the past months it became clear to me that this lady has no intention of slowing down or giving anything but 110 percent until the minute she finally decides to step down, or is replaced with a new Democrat Presidential appointee. In fact, last fall, she released a very ambitious priority list of what she was hoping to yet accomplish, a full 10 months before her formal term was scheduled to expire. It appears she is well along in ticking off all the items on that personal priority list. While a majority of credit union folks feel that there needs to be credit union experience represented among the three member NCUA Board, the reality is that most Presidential appointees get the job not for what they know, but because of who they know. That translates into a big job of educating new Board Members about credit unions. Debbie Matz came in green like most of her predecessors. When she finally vacates her nice office at NCUA headquarters, she’ll be walking out as a seasoned credit union regulator, possessing a treasure trove of industry knowledge and contacts. Knowing that, and knowing that she would like to switch from a life-long career working for the government to the private sector, it seems to me she could prove to be a valuable addition somewhere in the credit union industry if the right fit could be found. Regardless of where she ends up, however, Debbie Matz can leave NCUA knowing she made a difference as a Board Member. And that whomever replaces her, that person will have big shoes to fill when it comes to personality, openness, and an unwavering commitment and optimism towards making credit unions safe and sound and the best that they can be for millions of current and potential members. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected].

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Peter Westerman


Credit Union Times

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