Montreal—NAFCU officials say that they have been contemplating allowing federally insured, state-chartered, credit unions into the trade group for nearly a decade.

The move is hardly a whim of the moment, according to Ed Templeton, chair of NAFCU's board of directors. Templeton, told Credit Union Journal Tuesday that discussions related to opening membership up to FISCUs began as far back as nine years ago.

The Arlington, Va.-based trade group announced at the opening of its annual convention in Montreal that it had changed its bylaws to expand membership to nearly all CUs in the nation.

FISCUs will be able to join as associate members, which means they'll have full access to everything NAFCU has to offer. There are more than 2,500 state-chartered CUs, 95% of which are federally insured, according to the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS).

But FISCUs will not be allowed to vote in elections or run for board positions, according to NAFCU officials. They will be able to participate in the leadership of the organization by serving on committees.

"I've been contacted by state charters who want to join NAFCU," President and CEO Dan Berger told CU Journal in an interview. "They need our help, especially with compliance, the mortgage rules, NCUA, CFPB, the sheer amount of regulations they are having to deal with is incredible. They also like our position on Capitol Hill, as well. Our organization is member-driven, not staff-driven."

NAFCU already represents several state-chartered CUs that were grandfathered into membership after converting from federal to state charters.

"This is not about NAFCU; this is about helping as many credit union as possible," Berger added.

Still, there are benefits for NAFCU, as well — in the form of membership and dues growth, as well as adding to its girth on Capitol Hill.

"By representing both federal and state charters, we will have one focused message," Berger said.

While a number of state charters have already expressed interest in joining—"since we made the announcement, they're blowing up my phone," Berger joked—NAFCU is not expecting a massive influx of state charters.

Added Templeton: "We don't expect the floodgates to open."

Nevertheless, the trade association is prepared, having already budgeted to invest in scalable technology and additional staff to meet the need as it develops.

For the most part, however, Berger and Templeton said it's really business as usual at NAFCU. "We are not going to dabble in state politics, state legislation or state regulation," Templeton said. "We are going to stay focused on federal issues, federal advocacy."

How this move will impact CUNA, the CU trade group that previously been the only trade representing both federally and state-chartered institutions is unclear.

CUNA Media Relations Manager Vicki Christner said her trade group does not comment on the internal workings of other trade groups.

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