We are a $24 million credit union (that's million, with an "M"). I'm distraught right now because I feel little guys like us don't seem to be on anyone's radar. Heck, I am feeling we maybe don't even matter anymore. Oh, except for our members who happen to love us. I sincerely feel that truly small credit unions (those with fewer than $50 million) ARE the credit union movement. If we go away the whole credit union profile changes, and it is the members of small credit unions that will be the main losers. I am not saying larger credit unions don't provide good member service. I am simply saying there is a lot of merit to a member when they can talk to and see upper management every day. There is merit in being on a first-name basis with the president . There is merit in talking to the decision makers and knowing that members truly have more influence over the operation of a $24 million credit union than a $1 billion credit union. We are truly "family"' to many of our members because of our small size.
I recently learned that the CFPB now considers a small institution to be under $2 billion; there is talk about increasing the CFPB trigger from a mere $10 billion to $100 billion and NCUA is proposing to increase the definition of a small credit union from under $50 million to under $100 million. So, where does a $24 million credit union or a $10 million credit union fit in this environment of enormous financial institutions today? How can we possibly comply with the regulations that are designed to rein in billion-dollar institutions? Credit unions are member-owned and member-controlled. If we are discriminating or doing something our members don't like, they have a voice to change it. Why can't credit unions under $50 million be exempted from many of these new laws? If $2 billion is considered small, then what are we at only $24 million? Give us a break! That is if we still matter to the members, credit union movement and the fabric of our country.
If we do matter — and I sure hope we do — then everyone has to show us we do. We need Congress and the CFPB to remember we have three or four fewer zeros than what they consider to be "small." We need our lobbyists to truly speak for us. Having a large credit union represent us before our elected officials just doesn't cut it. We need small credit unions to speak for small credit unions — if someone cares what we have to say. We need to have adequate representation on the CUNA board. After all, credit unions under $50 million represent about 65% of all credit unions. We need large credit unions to stop viewing us as lunch and try to actually help us survive. Rather than hire someone full time to seek small credit unions to absorb, how about hiring someone full time to help small credit unions survive?
I admit I am feeling a bit cranky as I write this, but I feel credit unions under $50 million are besieged and seriously threatened. Small credit unions (under $50 million), am I wrong? All credit unions, DO we matter? If so, what are you willing to do about it? If something does not happen right now there won't be any of us left in five or 10 years. Remember, doing nothing is an answer.
Tom Pinnow, President
County City CU, Jefferson, Wis.