What are the priorities for CUNA in the New Year? In general, CUNA will work to remove barriers, create awareness and foster service excellence for credit unions (with the ultimate aim of achieving our overall vision of "Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner"). We'll take some specific steps to do that, including:
- Maintain and defend the tax status
We ended 2014 on a high note: No changes to the credit union tax status were proposed in H.R. 1, the tax plan introduced by outgoing Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.) in the closing days of the 113th Congress. That's a key development going forward for the 114th Congress, as it gives us solid ground to stand on — vital, as tax reform is already emerging as a key discussion over the coming months. We don't rule out massive grassroots action — a continuation of our "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign — if anything bubbles up on Capitol Hill.
- Achieve regulatory/examination relief
Credit unions — which didn't cause the financial crisis — continue to be mired in the regulations imposed to curb big banks and other bad actors, who did trigger the economic morass. New regulatory mandates by Congress, and sometimes harsh examination experiences with state and federal examiners, hinder credit union service to members. Our top regulatory advocacy goal is to give credit unions relief from existing rules, working with both the Congress and regulators, and to stop any new rules that do nothing but add to the burden, instead of applying only to material, safety and soundness, system challenges.
- Ensure a revised risk-based capital proposal that helps, and doesn't hinder
Led by CUNA's relentless advocacy, more than 2,000 comment letters were filed in 2014 by credit unions and their supporters in opposition to the proposal. Further, more than three-quarters of the members of the U.S. House signed a letter to NCUA outlining apprehensions, and dozens of senators have weighed in with their own concerns. These actions helped convince the agency to retool its proposal, which we will review carefully when released (scheduled for Jan. 15) with an eye toward improvements, such as by lowering or eliminating the higher RBC component for well-capitalized credit unions, and use of supplemental capital for RBC purposes.
- Reduce the regulatory burden to open service to more members
We made some important strides for credit unions in the 113th Congress, including enacting legislation (making it clear that federal share insurance covers interest on lawyer trust accounts (IOLTAs)), and setting the stage for more regulatory relief (passing through the U.S. House a directive for a study on expanding or eliminating the automatic cap on transfers from savings to checking accounts under the Fed's Reg D). These two actions are among many others in the last Congress that propel us into the 114th Congress with opportunities to further reduce the regulatory burden on credit unions.
- Enhance the charter
There is so much more that credit unions could do for their members if their charter were reflective of their needs and the times in which they operate. We will pursue greater authority for credit unions to make business loans, and for the option to use supplemental capital, in the new Congress. These enhancements are essential to the future of credit unions.
- Ensure more consumers understand what we are all about
Last year credit unions reached a milestone: 100 million memberships nationwide. What's more, throughout the year, survey after survey by respected third parties (the Harris Poll, American Customer Satisfaction Index, Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index... and more) showed credit unions as the most trusted — and their members the most satisfied — among all financial institutions. We can tap the burgeoning strength and reputation of credit unions in 2015 so that consumers will more fully appreciate what it is credit unions do.
- Hold merchants accountable for data breaches
Data breaches at Target and Home Depot cost credit unions at least $90 million (and likely much more) in 2014, as found by two CUNA surveys. Little or nothing has changed for 2015 — especially since merchants still are not being held to the same data security standards as are credit unions and other financial institutions. And that likely means more data breaches ahead. This year, we'll continue to shine a bright light on the issue, and urge Congress to take a close, hard look.
And More To Come
There's more: In this New Year, as we gear up for the national elections in 2016, we'll continue to urge credit unions to mobilize their members in support of credit union candidates and issues. Our schools, conferences, programs and products will be geared to helping credit unions remain "most trusted" and "most satisfied" through a vigorous agenda that fosters service excellence across the board. And look for us to improve and streamline our communications with credit unions and those interested in what we do — to help everyone see how our national trade association works for a stronger, healthier and growing credit union movement.
This is not an exclusive list — nor is it exhaustive. But, I hope it is a clear map of CUNA's approach in 2015. I look forward to taking the journey with all credit unions.
Jim Nussle is president and CEO of CUNA.