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A bearer of bad tidings with many ideas for improving the health of credit unions. That’s how NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz positioned herself since taking office in late August.Returning to the NCUA Board after serving from 2002-2005, she was able to come up to speed on issues facing the agency quickly. She also chaired the Obama administration’s transition team for the agency and also had exposure to a range of credit union issues while executive vice president and acting president/CEO of $842 Andrews Federal Credit Union.In October, Matz told a Senate subcommittee that it is a “challenging time for financial institutions, including credit unions,” and in a written statement predicted that the number of troubled credit unions will probably increase through at least part of 2011.However, despite those and other comments, she hasn’t just been a nattering nabob of negativism.She’s weighed in on many legislative and regulatory issues and staked out positions that balanced a desire to give credit unions more power with a concern for ensuring their safety and soundness.At her direction, in November the agency sent a letter to its examiners instructing them to take a broader perspective when looking at the earnings and other financial results of a credit union. The letter stated that examiners should consider six factors: adequacy of net worth, in light of a credit union’s risk profile; quality and sources of the earnings structure; how the earnings results fit with credit union’s overall strategy; the likely future direction of earnings performance; the adequacy of the allowance for loan and lease losses; and the credit union’s ability to realize an adequate earnings level in a safe and sound manner.Matz wrote that the agency “appreciates the delicate balance credit unions must strive to achieve between the short-term and long-term needs of the credit union.”She wrote the letter three weeks after House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and committee member Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) sent her and the other heads of financial regulatory agencies a letter urging them to take action to encourage financial institutions to increase the flow of capital into the economy.On capital, in December Matz wrote Frank that Congress should enact legislation that would “allow well-managed credit unions to better manage net worth levels under varying economic conditions.”She said that the current system discourages some credit unions from accepting deposits for fear of the negative impact on capital. Healthy credit unions should be allowed to exclude from total assets those that have virtually no risk of loss, such as Treasury securities. Those credit unions would have to attain a minimum net worth as determined by the NCUA and show that share growth is the cause of their declining net worth ratio.She also sought to help credit unions do more member business lending when in November she wrote Gene Sperling, counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, urging the administration to support raising or eliminating the cap on MBLs. She said lending limits should be set by regulation and not legislation and that the NCUA has “reasonable regulatory standards.”Matz also persuaded her fellow board members to approve a $200.9 million budget for 2010; it is a 13% increase over the current budget and includes funding for 74 new positions. Of those new positions, the largest single increase will be 39 new examiners and 12 problem-case officers.The budget also establishes an Office of Consumer Affairs, which the agency began planning for during the tenure of her predecessor, Michael Fryzel, who remained on the board when Matz became chairman.In a break from her predecessors, she ended the tradition of having a public hearing on the budget before the vote. CUNA, NAFCU and NASCUS all said they were disappointed with that action.Matz also oversaw the final stages of the preparation of the proposed corporate credit union rules. The process began during Fryzel’s chairmanship, during which the board spent a considerable amount of time dealing with the fallout from the problems of the corporates.At the first board meeting over which she presided, she praised the actions of the Fryzel-led board. She said that without their work “what was a bad year for credit unions would have been a catastrophic year.”–[email protected]

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