Gary Tantleff is senior vice president of the credit union group at UBS. Contact 877-269-1776 or [email protected]

Our industry is at a crossroads and is facing more challenges than I’ve seen in my 25 years of working with credit unions. I have spent decades advising over 500 of the top credit unions in the nation and speaking with industry leaders, and the confusion and concern I hear now is palpable. The Federal Reserve’s proposal to cap interchange fees looms large and the very survival of many credit unions may be threatened. Although only three credit unions fall directly under the scope of the rule, the fallout is expected to have industrywide impact. In this challenging economy, seized corporates and the $9 billion corporate assessments not only squeeze already tight margins, but also force credit unions to change longstanding practices and relationships and consider alternative vendors to provide wholesale services. Credit union leaders are under pressure to deliver the true value of a credit union to your members. The good news is that our industry is full of great leaders, and in difficult times those great leaders will take decisive action to keep their credit unions strong.

At the same time, the value of the credit union proposition is gaining awareness on the national stage as shown by the recent Senate Banking Committee hearing held to review the role of credit unions. On the legislative front, the bill introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is based on the belief that credit unions can provide new avenues of credit to small businesses, where traditional bank lending may be lacking. In addition, as banks react to the Federal Reserve interchange rules and loss of overdraft fees, credit unions may have an opportunity to gain new market share as banks move to drop free checking. Multiple surveys have also shown that as customers lose faith in the banking industry, they are increasingly moving toward credit unions. At its core the one critical factor that has always differentiated credit unions and will continue to do so is that credit unions exist for the benefit of their members not profits.

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