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PORTSMOUTH, Va.-The Virginian-Pilot recently published a letter to the editor from Guardian Federal Credit Union President and CEO Christopher Anuswith espousing the importance of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 2317). “It’s the quarterly earnings report season for banks and I can’t help but notice that almost all the banks are reporting increased earnings and higher asset levels. Yet they still seek to deny credit unions the ability to modernize their enabling legislation,” Anuswith pointed out in his letter. He cited the banks’ claims that they will be negatively impacted if CURIA becomes law. “The banks have been incredibly active in fighting this bill, which would determine capital requirements for credit unions on a risk basis just like the banks currently do. It would also allow credit unions to make more loans to small businesses that banks are unwilling to serve. “The banks say that they will be hurt if CURIA is passed. How can that be?” Anuswith questioned. “Anyone can be a bank customer, but only 70 percent of all Virginians are eligible to join a credit union.” He noted that Virginia banks hold $221.2 billion in assets and 79.84% of deposits, while credit unions have only $45.2 billion in assets and 20.16% of deposits. “The banks’ position is like Wal-Mart saying that a mom-and-pop store would put them out of business,” Anuswith wrote. He concluded by urging everyone to get his or her lawmakers to sign onto CURIA. And the chief of $38 million Guardian FCU practices what he preaches, he said in a subsequent interview. When asked why he decided to write a letter to the editor, Anuswith replied, “It’s just another way to try to influence our legislators.For me it was just normal.” The credit union is also looking to meet with Pilot editors for a possible editorial in favor of the bill, noting that they did the same thing during the H.R. 1151 battle. “We need to make sure we get every bit of pro-credit union sound bite (and) news bite we can,” Anuswith encouraged. Congresswoman Thelma Drake (R-Va.) is new to Congress and the district that encompasses Guardian, so the credit union has had to start its education efforts all over again. Anuswith worked on her campaign and the credit union had had a previous working relationship with her when she served in the state assembly. But, he said that one thing that Drake has quickly learned is that being a federal legislator is much different from being at the state level; she is still carefully studying CURIA, he said. Anuswith, a former banker, came to the credit union community in 1991 and around the same time joined the Virginia League’s Governmental Affairs Committee, where he served as chairman for a number of years. Guardian has always been active in the local political action committee, he said, and worked hard to get H.R. 1151 passed back in 1998. While Guardian does not have a business lending program, Anuswith recognizes the importance of the provisions. However, the provision in CURIA that will really help Guardian is the risk-based capital system. “My biggest interest is in the risk-based capital requirements. My credit union is running about 8% right now,” Anuswith explained. As Guardian gets more involved in indirect lending, and cannot grow enough deposits to keep up with it, the credit union may be forced to sell off those loans to avoid problems with Prompt Corrective Action. He said he would not consider a bank conversion because he would not “pirate” what belongs to the members. Anuswith said he did not understand the bankers’ gripes about credit unions getting a capital system similar to theirs. “There is less risk in my financial statement than there is in a bank,” he said. -

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