Sarah Snell Cooke

Late last year, the NCUA announced it would launch a working group to study field of membership. Thus far, the agency has simply said the group will be reaching out to stakeholders in the coming months for input. NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz’ comments during the recent board meeting indicated that the agency would be looking for solutions within the Credit Union Membership Access Act, indicating that regulatory changes would be up first, but hopefully that does not preclude the necessary legislative push for greater flexibility.

NCUA Board Member Rick Metsger recently suggested five areas on which the agency should focus, and they’re a good start. They include regulatory relief for community charters and credit unions serving underserved areas and low-income families.

This issue hits home for Metsger, who came to the NCUA from Oregon, where two large credit unions converted from the federal charter for the broader field of membership opportunities of an Oregon state charter. No matter how they tried, there was no way for the $914 million Rogue Credit Union in Medford, and the $885 million Oregon State Credit Union in Corvallis, to structure their long-term growth plans within the confines of the federal charter. That’s a real problem for the long-term viability of the NCUA if credit unions can’t grow under the federal charter.

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