Rich Losea didn’t begin advocating for credit unions until late in life, but for the last 20 years he’s been a die-hard voice for the movement.
His earliest form of credit union advocacy began in 1998 with a letter to Chuck Robb and John Warner, then U.S. Senators representing his home state of Virginia, asking them to support the Credit Union Access Act or H.R. 1151.
The bill would allow CUs to serve communities rather than just specific groups of people, and banks were opposed to the legislation.
“One of the problems back then is that banks were against access to credit unions,” Losea said.
That is not to suggest that the banks relented. H.R. 1151 passed that year, but the banks continued lobbying against CU interests. But Losea didn’t stop advocating for credit unions, either.
“Banks can’t stand apparently the competition that only 7% of the market gives them,” he said. “We’re too good a deal that the banks have to oppose us.”
His activism continues today with six visits to Capitol Hill in the past three years, regular contact with legislators and a lively Twitter feed.
For these and other initiatives, the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions recently awarded Losea the Paul Revere award for political advocacy at NAFCU’s 2017 Congressional Caucus.
Losea first came to the CU movement when he joined Guardian Federal Credit Union in 1971, when he was working and traveling for the U.S. Coast Guard. “I was stationed in Virginia Beach when I joined,” Losea said. “I kept that membership while I traveled around the country.”
He began volunteering for Guardian in 1995 when he retired from the Coast Guard to “sink his roots” into the community. Prior to becoming a credit union advocate, he was an advocate for the disabled, fighting on behalf of his son as a member of the Community Services Board in Chesapeake, Va., where he served from 2000 to 2010.
“I spoke with city council, the state legislature and gave speeches,” he said.
In 2014, after he was elected chairman of the credit union’s board, Guardian FCU merged with ABNB Federal Credit Union. At that time, he became an ABNB director before later being elected treasurer. At ABNB, Losea and other Guardian FCU employees had the funding to become more politically active. Losea began making trips to the Hill in 2015.
According to ABNB President and CEO, with Losea as the chair of the board’s legislative committee today, half of ABNB’s employees and 90 percent of its board donate to one of the trade associations’ PACs and many employees meet with their elected officials in their district offices.
“Rich is a natural and sincere credit union activist,“ Mallon told Credit Union Journal via email.
Losea has made trips to Capitol Hill for many years, and he said every year he has been on the Hill, he has heard young staffers say political gridlock would make it difficult for anything of importance to happen for CU-related issues. Yet he remains undeterred.
“How has that affected me? It’s not going to stop me,” he said.
Staffers often have more job security than their legislators, said Chris Anuswith, ABNB’s VP of risk management, who has worked with Losea for 23 years (and, incidentally, is the credit union’s only other recipient of the NAFCU Paul Revere Award, having earned it in 2015). While House members are up for reelection every two years, reminded Anuswith, their staffers start in their early 20s and jump from one office to another.
“Neither Rich nor I are millennials,” Anuswith said. “It’s amazing when you see the amount of responsibility and power that 25- and 35-year-olds exercise on the Hill.”
Being a political advocate for CUs over the long haul is a critical part of bringing about change, Anuswith said.
Building relationships with politicians early in their career is important. The first part of that relationship is helping candidates who support CUs get elected. Congressional and state elections are easier because they have lower voter turnout than presidential elections. “It doesn’t take a lot of votes to get someone elected, and it’s good to be engaged at the beginning,” Anuswith said.
Losea has also taken classes and earned volunteer certifications from NAFCU as well as the Credit Union National Association. In 2003, the Virginia Credit Union League recognized him as volunteer of the year.
The main thing that has changed over Losea’s years of advocacy, he says, is the amount of regulation driving credit unions out of the market.
At NAFCU’s 2017 Congressional Caucus, Losea advocated for changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “I told Democrats that I met with in regard to the CFPB: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” he said. “Improve the execution. Make it more than a one-man dictatorship.”
Another issue that has become more pressing for Losea over the years is cybersecurity. He’s taking what he learned from sessions at NAFCU’s Caucus to join new fights: “It’s incumbent on me to continue to talk to federal and state legislators that need to hold companies’ feet to the fire on protecting customers’ personal identifying information,” he said.
Losea plans to advocate for CUs for as long as he can and by whatever means he can. Even in his 70s, he continues to learn about the best way to advocate. “I do this tweeting thing now, so I also advocate in tweets,” he quipped.