NWCUA Charts Its Course for 2012

With 2011 now safely in the rear-view mirror, credit unions are tasked with building upon last year’s landmark growth in the New Year, both in terms of membership gains and legislative traction. With that in mind, Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) staff and leadership discussed the state of the credit union movement in the region and the Association’s priorities for 2012.

“Looking back at 2011, I really think we can celebrate,” said NWCUA President Troy Stang. “Credit unions nationally can celebrate the massive gains made during the last several months, and Northwest credit unions can celebrate what can be done when we come together. This whole concept of a regional association is something that was talked about for decades, and it’s in its first stages of coming together after the merger. We’ve learned a lot in the last year, and the member feedback has been important to us. But at the same time, we really managed to hit the ground running as a region, and we haven’t taken our eye off the dime. We may have asked you to pardon our dust last year, but this year will see us shaking the dust from our feet and continuing to charge forward. 2011 brought opportunity like never before, and we are going to keep beating that drum.”

“In addition to our merger,” Stang continued, “we had two very active legislative sessions in 2011. Several bills were passed in Oregon and Washington, including prize-linked savings legislation and updates to some important regulations. On a federal level, we saw the beginning of the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, and we saw credit unions make a major impact politically. Credit unions got the Federal Reserve to move on their implementation of the interchange rule, and it was a great example of the growing influence of our movement. The word used in D.C. was that credit unions had made the interchange issue ‘radioactive’—so much so that many legislators steered clear of taking it on. Many lobbying groups can’t say that for their issues.

“For the first time ever, we’ve also got four MBL (member business lending) co-sponsors in the Northwest delegation. That is great progress, but we’re not done until we have every congressional person signed on. When we have elected officials who become credit union champions, when they actually take a stand on a credit union issue, that is where our focus needs to be—on supporting the existing champions and working to create new champions for the movement.

“Individual credit unions need to engage fully, because as we elevate our support politically, our opponents are going to be throwing darts at us. Now is the time for us to continue to leverage our cooperative power and to continue to engage the swelling grassroots support of our members.

“On the programmatic side, we have continued to refine and supplement our opportunities for training and education. The 2012 calendar of events includes newly-restructured leadership symposiums, a dedicated marketer’s convention, and numerous other innovations. We also have more than 200 credit union professionals engaged in committees, so our region’s leadership and involvement have never been stronger—and there has never been more opportunity for individual growth and improvement, which will, of course, only benefit the larger movement.

“The newly-merged Northwest Credit Union Foundation is also launching its work early this year, continuing to build on the long track record of community involvement and generosity that our movement is known for,” Stang said.

Credit unions—along with most other industries—will face challenges politically in 2012, as short sessions promise to have legislators focused on budget shortfalls, leaving little time for new legislation. However, as credit union issues remain at the forefront, a great deal of activity and opportunity still loom on the horizon.

“In Oregon, we have a bill sponsor lined up and are drafting legislation that will allow credit unions to participate in prize-linked savings programs,” said NWCUA Senior Vice President and General Counsel Stacy Augustine. “With a very short 30-day session before us, legislators have already indicated a preference to stick to budget issues. However, at the very least we are requesting an informational hearing to broach the idea and queue it up for further consideration in 2013.”

“In both states, the Association has appointed task forces charged with drafting changes to both the Oregon and Washington Credit Union Acts in order to help credit unions better thrive into the future,” Augustine said.

“In Washington State, we will be advocating for passage of our public funds legislation allowing federally chartered credit unions to become public depositaries (state charters are already eligible) and increasing the allowable amount they can hold in public funds to the level of deposit insurance from the current $100,000 limit,” said NWCUA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Mark Minickiello. “We will also be working on a technical amendment to the Foreclosure Fairness Act passed last year that would streamline the exemption certification process for financial institutions that do fewer than 250 foreclosures per year. Currently there are multiple certifications required, which we see as a regulatory burden.”

“At the federal level, most of our early efforts will be targeted at our MBL cap legislation (HR 1418, S 509), hoping to keep up the momentum that we gained in 2011 with hearings in both the Senate and the House,” said NWCUA Director of Legislative Advocacy Jennifer Wagner. “We currently have more than 110 co-sponsors on the House bill and 21 on the Senate bill. In 2011, credit unions did a great job of educating our delegation about the importance of this bill. We can’t walk into a legislative meeting with a Northwest member without them acknowledging this issue as one of our priorities. That’s an important first step. Our next focus will be facilitating communication between our small business partners and our delegation members. If our senators and members of Congress begin hearing from small businesses regarding their support for raising the MBL cap for credit unions, we will see a new level of attention put on this issue and movement on a bill.”

“Another issue that will garner some much needed attention in 2012 is the need for credit unions to be able to access supplemental capital,” Wagner said. “Increased deposits as a result of Bank Transfer Day and the positive press associated with it helped to bring this issue to the forefront quicker than it may have otherwise. In 2011, we worked with our Northwest delegation to educate them about supplemental capital, why it will prove necessary for some credit unions and how it can fit within the credit union model. We anticipate that in 2012, we’ll be approaching our delegation with legislative language to consider.”

“2012 is going to be another big year in regulatory advocacy,” said Jaycee Winn, director of regulatory advocacy for the NWCUA. “The Association will remain vigilant in working to limit the regulatory and compliance burden, monitoring and responding to proposals as they emerge and proactively pushing positive change. We want to ensure that credit unions are able to operate and thrive in a safe, sound, and competitive marketplace.”

“With the continued rulemaking and implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, we will see a marked increase in the number of proposals coming out of familiar agencies such as NCUA, the Federal Reserve, and Treasury,” Winn continued. “In addition, with the recess appointment of a director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) looming, the dam of regulation could finally break, and we may well see a tidal wave of proposals from this new agency. While the CFPB only has direct regulatory supervision over financial institutions with more than $10 billion in assets, they will be taking on rulemaking authority for key consumer financial protection laws from seven agencies. We look forward to the opportunity to weigh in with CFPB to help guide the direction of these inherited regulations as well as additional promulgations.

“In the next few months we expect a revised proposal from NCUA on Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO) accounting. We are also excited to work with our Regulatory Advisory Committee, which will help advise the Association in developing responses and providing input on emerging proposals and issues as well as working toward big-picture changes, such as strengthening the credit union charter and achieving long-term regulatory relief.”

The NWCUA communications staff was busy in 2011, working to create new opportunities for exposure while helping credit unions take advantage of the opportunities for positive press that accompanied the Occupy movement and the events surrounding Bank Transfer Day. With the addition of the Marketers Convention to the 2012 calendar and the growing prevalence of digital outreach and social media campaigns, those efforts will only expand in 2012.

“The communications team is here to help our member credit unions promote the credit union difference and to advance the credit union movement,” said Assistant Vice President of Public Relations and Communications Lynn Heider. “A priority in 2012 will be finding and perfecting the message that recruits new members and engages the millions of members who are already part of the movement. In addition, in this International Year of Cooperatives, we will be working with member credit unions to organize community service events that showcase our cooperative spirit and embody the ‘People Helping People’ philosophy.”

“We have a primary focus of keeping our member credit unions up to date on advocacy, government affairs, compliance and other challenges through our twice-weekly newsletter, ‘Anthem,’” Heider continued. “The newsletter also showcases career advancement and professional development opportunities being offered by our Training and Development Department, as well information about credit union outreach grants and scholarships offered by the Northwest Credit Union Foundation.”

“The communications team is always available to assist our member credit unions with media inquiries through news releases, media contact assistance, talking points and interview coaching,” she said.

“We are primed for a big year in 2012,” Stang said. “When credit unions come together in the world of association work, it’s advantageous for the entire movement. It’s the united voice, that together we are stronger than any individual credit union. And we come together in ways that no other industry does. There is certainly collaboration within other industries, but there isn’t the love and the passion that credit unions are able to garner.”


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

Posted in Compliance News, NWCUA.