This past year was one bursting with challenges and accomplishments for CUNA. But, as poet Anne Ridler noted, “to mark time is not to move.” Accomplishments in 2005 merely set the stage for achieving more in the year to come – and that’s the direction that CUNA is already taking. Here’s a rundown of some of the more significant accomplishments of the nation’s largest trade group for credit unions – and where we think these accomplishments will take CUNA in the new year: * Rang the tax bell: A full four weeks before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the credit union tax exemption – and more than three weeks before the committee officially announced the hearing’s existence – CUNA began notifying its leadership, the leagues, large credit unions and others, that such an event was imminent. Within days, and working closely with leagues, credit union leaders from around the nation began arriving in Washington to meet with their representatives – particularly those on the Ways and Means Committee. Four weeks later, at the hearing, not a single committee member spoke in favor of taxing credit unions. The no-tax stance and expressions of support voiced by many committee members reflected the tremendous grassroots efforts engaged in by the leagues and credit unions after CUNA “rang the bell.” In 2006: A plain message from the Ways and Means hearing was the credit union tax-exemption depends not only on their cooperative structure, but also on the mission of serving consumers, especially (not exclusively) those of modest means. Chairman As credit unions and their federal regulator move forward in meeting this challenge, it is incumbent on us to work together in fashioning a proposal that is acceptable not only to Congress but the movement at large. * Established R.E.S.C.U.: Hours after the winds of Hurricane Katrina blew themselves out, it was obvious: The job of bringing credit unions devastated by the storm back on line would be one of massive coordination among the three-tier system of CUNA, the leagues and credit unions. Within two days of the hurricane, CUNA coordinated daily teleconferences among the leagues in cyclone-devastated states. Soon, CUNA was leading a larger coordinating effort among leagues, other system players and credit unions. To bring all efforts under one umbrella, CUNA established the “Relief Effort and Support for Credit Unions” (R.E.S.C.U.) to focus energies, while also instilling efficiencies into the relief. In 2006: The need for a disaster response plan/program for the entire movement became apparent in the storms’ wakes. Scott Earl, CUNA director of disaster recovery and preparedness, is working with Leagues and credit unions to develop such a program for consideration late next year – a mighty step toward preparing for disasters sure to come in the future. * Launched HLPR: There is already much credit unions do to serve members of modest means. Low-cost check cashing, low-rate payday loans, no-surcharge ATMs, financial literacy programs – one, some or all of these programs are offered by many credit unions. However, there is no uniform program for credit unions measuring results. Considering that, CUNA worked with CEOs of large credit unions to develop the Home Loan Payment Relief (HLPR) program, a below-market-rate mortgage loan for borrowers with household incomes at or below the median in their markets with “no gimmicks” (that is, credit unions do not make up for the lower rate with higher fees, points or other devices). In 2006: More than 80 credit unions have signed on to the program, committing $1 billion in loans. Over the next two years, we hope and expect that number to rise, and the loan commitment to jump to the multi-billion range – all in an effort to extend more credit union service to modest means members, and to better focus attention on the things credit unions do. * Adopted conversion principles: Facing a growing tempest over conversions to mutual savings banks, the CUNA board of directors established a leadership role on the issue. The eight principles adopted by the board (focusing on the ownership rights of members, particularly the net worth of the credit union) were accompanied by a significant set of directives for CUNA staff to pursue. Overall, the CUNA board’s goal in setting the principles and the directives is to make it abundantly obvious that conversion is a decision that must be driven by a credit union’s members, based on what is best for the members. In 2006: CUNA is now pursuing the directives of the board, including: Establishment of a comment period for members before conversion ballots are distributed; enhancement of disclosures; and seeking methods to eliminate or block unjust enrichment in conversions. * Counterpunched bankers: For many years, bankers have acted as if it is their sole right to challenge credit unions. CUNA has never accepted that status quo, and took action to let the bankers know pugilism is a sport for two. When Zions BanCorp of Salt Lake City (whose CEO, Harris Simmons, is chairman of the American Bankers Association) sought a merger with Amegy BanCorp of Texas, CUNA filed with the Federal Reserve in objection. Among other things, CUNA cited a lessening of competition should the merger proceed. The Fed granted the merger despite CUNA’s objections – but the action captured the attention in the financial services industry. As the headline on the front page of the American Banker stated: “CUNA Opens A New Front vs. Simmons.” In 2006: Letting the bankers know credit unions won’t roll over is vital to our protection. CUNA will continue to seek every opportunity to let the banks know their jabs at credit unions will not go undefended – or unreturned. Certainly there were many more accomplishments during the year. Enactment of bankruptcy reform, 100-plus co-sponsors for CURIA, approval of Reg Relief by House Financial Services, CUNA named one of the “most effective” groups on Capitol Hill by a poll of the respected National Journal magazine are just a few more. But that was in 2005. At CUNA, we have taken Ridler’s admonition to heart, and are not sitting still as 2006 gets underway.