Top Five Stories of 2011 from the Northwest Credit Union Movement

Northwest credit unions faced an interesting year in 2011. Between increasing regulatory pressure and an influx of new members greater than any in history, the year was full of ups and downs. Five stories in particular stood out to the editors and writers at the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) as events that shaped 2011 for the Oregon and Washington credit union community.

No. 1: Northwest Credit Union Association Formed

Following an overwhelming membership vote and board affirmation of the merger between the Credit Union Association of Oregon and the Washington Credit Union League, the newly created Northwest Credit Union Association began operations on Jan. 1, 2011. Led by CEO John Annaloro and President Troy Stang, the NWCUA immediately introduced its new branding and identity following months of preparation. Operational priorities for the new Association focus on government affairs, regulatory relief, compliance services, education and communication. Combined, the new organization currently serves 168 Northwest credit unions and their 4.1 million members.

No. 2: Bank Transfer Day

For credit unions, Nov. 5, 2011, will go down in history as the day everything changed. Bank Transfer Day started as a social media whim and quickly came to represent a massive consumer shift toward credit unions and away from big banks—and it has continued in the weeks since. While the full scope of the member influx prompted by this event and pushed across the country by Occupy Wall Street coalitions will remain cloaked until Q4-2011 data is released by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), there is no doubt that credit unions became media darlings and poster children for safe, affordable and fair financial services following Bank of America’s $5 debit card fee announcement on Sept. 29.

No. 3: Oregon Credit Union Modernization Act

The much-needed Oregon Credit Union Modernization Act (SB 177) amends board meeting requirements to permit greater scheduling flexibility, exempts standard mortgage loans to directors or senior managers from the requirement for board approval of loans, and adds additional safeguards regarding loans to directors and senior managers, among other things. Called a “great victory for Oregon credit unions,” it helps to maintain the charter’s relevance during these rapidly changing times. The act goes into effect in June 2012.

No. 4: Washington Prize-Linked Savings Act

Washington State’s prize-linked savings bill was signed into law by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, surrounded by a coalition of supporters who championed the bill through a difficult legislative session. The passing of this bill was a major victory for credit unions and their members, allowing financial institutions to encourage thrift and savings by linking savings accounts to large yearly prizes. The law goes into effect in 2012. Prize-linked savings is currently not legal in Oregon—a law that the NWCUA may seek to change in the coming year.

No. 5: Drumbeat of MBL

Credit unions are capable of immediately providing more help to small businesses if Congress would raise the limit on member business lending (MBL) from its current cap of 12.25 percent of assets, a move that is staunchly opposed by bankers. Deep bank pockets kept the increase just out of the reach of credit unions in 2011, but a House subcommittee hearing provided evidence of the growing pressure and congressional awareness surrounding the issue. New data showing that banks have all but abandoned small-business financing may change the equation in 2012.

 

Questions or Concerns? Contact Matt Halvorson, Anthem Editor: mhalvorson@nwcua.org.

Posted in NWCUA.