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ALEXANDRIA, Va.-Like many NCUA Board Members that have come-and gone-before her, Debbie Matz is unsure of her professional future. She does know that after 26 years of government service, she plans to look for a job in the private sector, possibly within credit unions, but Matz is not limiting her search except to the Washington, D.C. area. “To me, it will be so luxurious to wake up in the morning and not just rush out of the house and read the newspaper leisurely,” Matz said. But, she does not expect her time for gardening and catching up on reading to last long because she will be itching to get back to work. What she does next will be in stiff competition if the job is to compare with being a member of the NCUA Board. “It’s a great job. I loved it. I loved the challenge. I loved meeting all the credit union people. I loved the travel,” Matz raved. “I loved engaging with the NCUA staff on some of the complicated issues that we dealt with. I really, really enjoyed working with Dennis Dollar and JoAnn Johnson. It’s a great job. “There aren’t many dislikes I can think of to tell you the truth. The term could have been longer,” she said, laughing. Two years of Matz’ term were eroded when former NCUA Chairman Norm D’Amours stayed a year beyond his term and Geoff Bacino received a one year recess appointment. She announced her resignation earlier this month, effective Sept. 30. She added that it is sad when you have to conserve a credit union or turn down members’ insurance appeals. If Matz has created any legacy at the agency, she thinks it would be her Partnering and Leadership Successes workshops. “I think I’ll always be remembered for the PALS initiative,” she said, “which really brought credit unions together to share their success stories and to learn from each other and to value the importance of reaching out to the underserved populations in their field of membership. Also to appreciate the role that small credit unions play in the credit union community.” Some have a tendency to minimize the importance of small credit unions, but they do stand out with lawmakers as “the icon of the credit union community,” she insisted. They are typically located in the low-income areas and often serve fields of membership with no other financial services alternatives. Matz added that she never goes to Capitol Hill to discuss credit union issues without someone saying that some credit unions are so large they are banks anyway. She explains that the consideration is not size but what they do to serve their members. However, she said, it would be hard to make that distinction without small credit unions. Which leads to another of Matz’ accomplishments that she is most proud of: the creation of the Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives within NCUA. This restructuring has “made it an agency-wide initiative and has provided resources, both staff and monetary resources to institutionalize that unity at NCUA,” she said. Also, during her tenure, the board approved expansions to the community charter. “I still feel that expanding the field of membership is the right thing to do,” Matz said. She explained that strictly SEG-based credit unions are often feeling the pinch of downsizing and sponsors going out of business or going bankrupt. On the flip side, it also provides people not within those SEGs the opportunity to become credit union members. “I think that’s so important to reach new markets,” she added. Some have suggested that Matz has not been a friend of the community charter, but she said the converse is true. “I think there was that perception because I did vote against three of them, one of which was Tooele, which was overturned by the courts,” she pointed out. Matz admits that she has required a lot of documentation on justifying the community and business and marketing plans, which has created more work for NCUA staff and credit unions. “I have felt, and still do, that a community charter, in my mind, is a contract and if a credit union wants a community charter, they have an obligation to serve the community,” she said. Therefore, she felt the applying credit unions’ business and market plans were particularly important. The credit union needed to demonstrate it had a handle on the demographics of the area and it is important to have written record of that before it is approved. However, more so than that perception of her, Matz felt the Tooele decision had a chilling effect from the credit unions’ standpoint. From the very beginning of her time on the board, Matz worked to expand the powers of the credit union charter. She and NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson collaborated on easing business lending restrictions where possible by regulation. “Member business lending also I think is really an important tool for credit unions to have to attract new members,” according to Matz. “I think that banks don’t serve the commercial needs of small borrowers. Somebody who wants to open a hair salon-particularly if they’re a minority, particularly if they’re a woman-or if they want to buy a truck or two for their carpet business or open an auto repair shop, generally, they’re not going to be very welcome at banks. So that’s a very important niche for credit unions to fill.” Matz hit on a variety of subjects in the work she did for the agency. She could not think of any other items she wanted to get done while at the agency, but maybe would have liked to delve deeper into some issues, like providing alternatives to predatory lenders. “I think that is such a great opportunity for credit unions,” Matz commented, “and I really would have liked to have gotten more into that issue.” Despite serving more than one full year with a two-member NCUA Board, Matz said she did not feel the agency could not have dealt with serious policy issues if the need arose. “As a minority member on a two-member board, I thought it was great because it gave me a lot more-to be frank-a lot more power than I would have had,” she admitted. “I have veto power over anything that might have happened. “Having said that, there really weren’t very many issues that we disagreed on. Most credit union issues aren’t political issues and, philosophically, Chairman Johnson and I agree a lot more than we disagree on credit union issues.There’s nothing that I know of that was held up because we disagreed.” Internally, however, Matz raised the idea of capping NCUA staff salaries, which quickly became a non-issue. “That is one issue where we didn’t have agreement on how to proceed so it didn’t get done,” she said. According to Matz, she and Johnson could not agree on where the cap should be or how to get it implemented. While NCUA’s staff is very hardworking, Matz said, and some of the best in government, they are “also earning so much more” than rest of the government. She was also troubled by the disparity between the higher staff and the rank and file. “We have a particularly weird situation here.[with] the staff earning so much more than the board,” she noted but that is not the reason she raised the issue. She feels it is a red flag “and I think in the long run it will hurt the agency.” “There’s a court of public opinion and I think that’s really important,” Matz said, and particularly with NCUA testifying a lot on the Hill this year, there has not always been goodwill with members of Congress because of the way NCUA operates; this is just another issue in that realm. Much of the lack of goodwill among some members of Congress was the issue of NCUA’s required disclosures in the mutual savings bank conversions, highlighted by the lawsuit brought by Community Credit Union and joined by OmniAmerican. Matz said it “became a very contentious issue and I think there are still members of Congress who feel that NCUA didn’t handle it properly and that our authority should be curbed.” Legislation is introduced in the House right now to do just that. However, the notorious `fold’ was not the only issue for Matz. “I felt that the issue really was how well the members were informed before they voted and I think it’s a very important issue,” she said. “Perhaps we didn’t convey it as well as we might have.” Another contentious issue between NCUA and some that it regulates was the agency’s Risk Alert on indirect subprime lending, increasing the due diligence required for credit unions engaged in these activities through a third party. Matz said it is the agency’s duty to recognize “systemic problems occurring or about to occur and I think that we would be remiss if we didn’t do everything we could to prevent that problem from erupting. I think that the Risk Alert was proper and I think our concern about subprime indirect lending is justified.” While cost has been a major problem for some smaller credit unions involved in indirect subprime lending, Matz said NCUA has not performed a cost analysis for credit union compliance. “There’s a built-in tension between the regulator and the people you regulate and sometimes they don’t understand why you’re doing something and therefore they get angry and we sometimes have proprietary information so it’s a little frustrating because you can’t really tell them why you’re doing something or what you know.” she said. “We have information that has caused us concern.” And, as Matz’ term sunsets, credit unions-particularly those along the Gulf Coast-are facing one of the biggest crises they have in a long time in the aftermath of Katrina. “It’s been amazing,” Matz said of credit unions’ response. “To me, that is the true credit union spirit. Before anybody even asked, credit unions were just mobilizing, raising funds, staff were going down there. And, I put NCUA into that category because the NCUA staff has so risen to the occasion and have worked so hard, literally around the clock seven days a week, to figure out what the needs were and to try in any way possible to contact the credit union officials, to find out where the members are, to man the phones to answer questions from members that are calling in and really trying to get information to the members. Credit unions have really come together and really demonstrated what credit unions are all about.” As she exits the seventh floor of NCUA’s Alexandria, Va. headquarters for the last time on Sept. 30, Matz has this advice to leave behind for the incoming board members: “I think they should meet as many people as possible and keep an open door an listen to all sides on any issue. Ask a lot of questions.” [email protected]

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