Former NCUA Board Chairman Dennis Dollar strove to find the better side of a number of different challenges facing credit unions today, declaring at one point that “credit unions are flirting with change but haven’t decided whether we want to marry it yet.”

Speaking to credit union and CUSO executives at PSCU Financial Services Annual Forum, Dollar offered a more opportunistic or “opportunity centered” perspective on current problems facing credit unions. He argued for different strategies they and the NCUA could adopt to use the problems to prompt credit union growth.

But the problems he outlined were significant, predicting at one point that the numbers of credit unions in the U.S. will fall by 2,500 by the middle of the decade. “I would not be surprised if we saw only 5,000 credit unions by 2015,” Dollar said, adding that the current economic times had, created circumstances where it could make sense to merge two healthy credit unions.

He mildly criticized the NCUA for its current policy that requires at least one of the merging credit unions to be “almost at death’s door” before the merger could go forward.

This policy almost guaranteed that the share insurance fund faced additional risk that could have been prevented if mergers had been allowed before one of the credit union partners suffered sharply reduced capital.