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NAFCU Helping To Position CUs As Heroes When Economy Recovers

In the past year, we have seen the financial titans Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns reduced to rubble, unemployment rise to near-record levels and our highly valued housing market find new lows, while regulators and legislators struggle to administer a series of cures to our ailing economy.

These sea changes and a resulting crisis in confidence have precipitated a host of legislative and regulatory proposals that now require us to prove our mettle in a brave new world of financial services.

Through it all, NAFCU's lobbying team has been aggressive in safeguarding our interests against measures like the mortgage cramdown legislation that would have had a significant negative impact on credit unions' bottom lines. Despite the "Doubting Thomases," cramdown was defeated and we were able to gain passage of the corporate credit union stabilization fund (providing credit unions seven years to pay off the fund) and the extension the $250,000 of deposit insurance for four more years.

Additionally, when the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) took the two largest corporate credit unions into conservatorship, our industry was faced with another set of issues. NAFCU, along with the NCUA and others, successfully worked with Congress and the Obama administration to secure legislation that was passed into law in just eight weeks that would address other critical factors, including: increasing the NCUA's borrowing authority to $6 billion (with emergency authority to $30 billion) and allowing up to eight years to restore the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). It also included speaking to CEOs during this critical time period, NAFCU President Fred Becker indicated that passage of the corporate stabilization fund would make H.R 1151 look like a slow stroll. Thankfully for us all, Fred was right!

In addition, NAFCU helped ensure that the impact of a consumer-oriented credit card bill on our industry was minimal.

As the economy begins its gradual recovery, there will be victims, villains and heroes — there always are. I know that our industry can continue to be heroes and thrive by continuing our relentless focus on member needs and helping to rebuild consumer confidence. The qualities that the public is clamoring for now are the basic values that our industry and NAFCU have long held (ethical business practices, a personal/member approach to business and a keen eye for building financial strength). In fact, the first quarter NCUA data show credit union membership grew to over 89.2 million with an annualized growth rate of 2.97%. Now more than ever, we have a unique opportunity to shine, reach out to new members and better serve existing ones.

Rest assured that despite these challenging times, NAFCU will continue its steadfast commitment to credit unions with a sharp focus on our core values. It will continue to be the fiscally responsible, member-driven organization that our industry expects and deserves.

These unique times require innovative leadership. We cannot shy away from change or from future challenges. Like the bamboo that bends and sustains gale force winds, we must learn to adapt and refine our game plan to fit the changing times. Those that adapt can endure and prosper, and embrace change as opportunity, not an interruption of business.

NAFCU has and will continue to innovate, having already introduced three new programs and services this year that are proving enormously popular:

  • www.CULookup.com, a website that assists credit unions with helping new member prospects locate a credit union they can join. CULookup was recently profiled on CBS, and traffic for the site is growing over 25 percent each month.
  • Several 30-second video ads that are available through NAFCU Services Corporation for credit unions to promote their institutions and the benefits of credit union membership.
  • A new online training program, developed completely in-house for volunteers and credit union staff. The site, accessible via www.nafcu.org/training, provides 14 training modules, 10 for volunteers and four for employees.
I find it rather interesting that we are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Federal Credit Union Act in such difficult economic times. The current environment has been compared to the Great Depression when federal credit unions were first established. I have every confidence that just as we surmounted the obstacles of those times, we can meet today's challenges and make our industry even stronger.

There is a Latin proverb that says if you make good use of the present time, you need not be apprehensive about the future. By applying our exceptional know-how in facing the current challenges and preparing for a brighter future, we can only increase our industry's value to our members and our great nation.

Brad Beal is CEO of Nevada FCU and is chairman of NAFCU, he can be reached at bradb@nevadafederal.org.

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