Mr. Metsger Goes to Washington: An Exclusive Interview with Rick Metsger, the NCUA’s Newest Board Member

“What the NCUA can do is avoid duplication of effort wherever possible and not create an unnecessary level of compliance. We can make rules clearer and more understandable. We can meet our regulatory responsibility while working to not unduly burden well-meaning credit unions.”NCUA Board Member Rick Metsger, addressing the NWCUA’s Mt. Hood Chapter of Credit Unions

You’re supposed to call him The Honorable Mr. Metsger.

He is, after all, the newest member of the National Credit Union Administration board. Nominated by President Barack Obama. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The first from the Pacific Northwest to serve at the regulatory agency. And yet…

“It’s Rick,” he says with a firm handshake and a disarming smile. “Just Rick.”

And so it has always been.

Rick Metsger—broadcast journalist, auto writer, small-business owner, state senator, and now federal regulator—has the uncanny ability to both command attention and put listeners at ease. That was certainly true during his swing through Oregon last week, when he stopped at the annual meeting of the Northwest Credit Union Association’s Mt. Hood Chapter to mingle with credit union executives and share his perspective on life in the nation’s capital.

It’s a distinctly Northwest perspective, one not likely to fade inside the Beltway.

“It’s a perspective on issues that’s informed by a different background,” Metsger says. “I hope I have a different prism that will add to the conversation.”

Even his love of history is filtered through that prism. Ask Metsger about living and working among the monuments of Washington, D.C., and he’ll tell you about what he saw on his way to watch the Oregon Ducks play football in Virginia. “Every mile, there was great Americana,’ he says, “and the first thing you notice is that people are very proud of living in the middle of that.”

People in Oregon and Washington share that same pride of place, Metsger says.

In the Northwest, “you have a lot of small- to mid-size communities where smaller, local institutions thrive,” he says. “Not exactly like the old mom-and-pop drugstores, but the sense of ownership in Northwest communities is very strong.”

Credit union mergers are inevitable, he says, driven by economic realities and the ever-changing needs of consumers who want access to a greater variety of financial services. But that puts increasing pressure on the Northwest’s smaller credit unions, not only to provide those services but also to deal with the regulations surrounding them.

That means it’s crucial, Metsger says, “to have a good working understanding of the burden our rules place on large and small institutions that have differing abilities to handle compliance issues. In the regulatory environment, you have to be aware of that. And I think our board has shown that it is.”

The NCUA’s policy of reviewing a third of its rules every year is a “very progressive way of making sure that the regulations stay contemporary,” Metsger says. “Things change, and as a regulatory agency, the NCUA recognizes that.”

Metsger says he believes that most of credit unions’ frustration over compliance issues comes from “things (the NCUA) doesn’t control,” like the repercussions of laws passed by Congress or rules imposed by other agencies. “People are regulation-weary,” he says, “but the NCUA is in the same boat.”

“What the NCUA can do,” he says, “is avoid duplication of effort wherever possible and not create an unnecessary level of compliance. We can make rules clearer and more understandable. We can meet our regulatory responsibility while working to not unduly burden well-meaning credit unions.”

Metsger says the NCUA needs to ensure that credit unions can serve their members’ financial needs “within the corral of the safety and soundness of the Share Insurance Fund,” a task that he calls “Job One.”

To accomplish that task, credit unions need to think of regulators “not as the bad guys,” Metsger says, “but as partners who help them minimize risk by focusing on issues they might not have identified.”

Metsger says he plans to be that kind of partner, vowing to leave the Beltway and visit credit unions across the country as often as possible “to hear what’s really going on.”

“I’m pretty accessible, and I’m always happy to talk to credit union folks,” he told the Mt. Hood Chapter meeting. “Going around the country, dropping into credit unions, seeing how they’re being impacted on the ground—that’s important.”

It’s also a very Northwest thing to do.

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

Posted in Compliance, Events, NCUA.