Northwest Delegation Joins 4,400 Advocates for Start of Governmental Affairs Conference

Susan Streifel, president/CEO of Woodstone Credit Union, stands outside the Hall of the Americas in Washington, D.C., on Monday with NWCUA President/CEO Troy Stang. Streifel will become vice chair of CUNA’s board of directors and GAC chair for 2015 during this week’s Governmental Affairs Conference.

More than 4,400 credit union advocates gathered in Washington, D.C., on Sunday to kick off the 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference, facing issues ranging from risk-based capital proposals and data security issues to the likely unveiling this week of a major tax-reform package in Congress.

Northwest representatives comprise one of the largest delegations to the conference, with more than 225 participants hailing from Oregon and Washington. The conference itself will have a decidedly Northwest feel: The region’s credit unions will be honored with political and community impact awards, two of its leaders will be honored with Herb Wegner Memorial Awards, a unique “Unite for Good” display will feature more than a dozen Northwest stories, and several of the area’s legislators will be featured speakers at general sessions throughout the week.

“It’s a real honor to be a part of this Northwest credit union family,” said Troy Stang, president and CEO of the Northwest Credit Union Association, who will lead the delegation. “The culture of engagement is deeply embedded in our credit unions, and they understand the importance of making sure that the credit union story is told and understood in our nation’s capital.”

Advocacy will be at the heart of the conference, which runs through Feb. 27. In addition to appearances by more than two dozen lawmakers, attendees will hear from all three members of the National Credit Union Administration board and the executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation. Bill Cheney, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, will deliver his opening remarks Monday morning; in the afternoon, CUNA’s advocacy staff will provide a political and legislative update.

And on Wednesday, attendees will “Hike the Hill” to spread the credit union message to lawmakers. Northwest delegates are scheduled to meet with all four of the region’s senators and all 15 of its representatives.

Risk-Based Capital Proposal on the Agenda

First-time attendees get a crash course on what to expect at GAC this week during a special orientation session on Sunday. Earlier, Northwest first-timers got some tips from Jennifer Wagner, the NWCUA’s senior vice president for advocacy.

Among the pressing issues advocates are likely to discuss with lawmakers is the NCUA’s risk-based capital proposal, which was the subject of a special session at GAC on Sunday. The proposal, which would require credit unions with assets of more than $50 million to recalculate their balance-sheet risk using a new, weighted system, has drawn fire from CUNA as “burdensome” and “unnecessary.”

“CUNA supports a modern risk-based capital system for credit unions. Period,” CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney told an estimated 400 credit union leaders at the Sunday session. “What we don’t support is layering additional capital requirements on top of our one-size-fits-all outdated system of prompt corrective action.”

The risk-based capital plan recently proposed by the National Credit Union Administration is flawed, and the best fix “would be to withdraw the proposal as written today and start over,” Cheney said.

During the session, attendees were asked in a quick survey about the impact of the proposed rule on their credit unions. The survey showed:

  • 44 percent of session attendees believe their current capital cushion above PCA thresholds is “about right,” and 33 percent said they have more than they need;
  • 26 percent said the NCUA proposal would reduce their capital cushion below what is needed;
  • More than 80 percent preferred the current risk-based PCA system; and
  • Most of the credit unions in attendance said they’d need 3-5 years to adjust to a new system.

Also at the Sunday session, CUNA unveiled its online “Risk-Based Capital Action Center” and asked credit union representatives to use sample letters on the site to contact regulators and lawmakers during the conference. CUNA has included a brief background about the rule on the site, as well as a summary of the association’s concerns and a list of questions that writers can use to edit and personalize their own letters.

CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney urged advocates across the country to also use the Resource Center. “We will collect these letters to give to members of Congress, the media and other stakeholders to demonstrate why they should care about the rule,” Cheney said, “as we put more pressure on NCUA in ways we might not typically do in rulemaking proceedings.”

Today in D.C.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair answers questions after his keynote address Monday at the Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

Here’s what’s happening on Monday, Feb. 24 — the first full day of the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference:

  • Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will deliver the opening keynote address. Blair continues to work for peace in the Middle East and on a variety of initiatives to bridge cultural and religious divides.
  • Attendees will hear from Bill Cheney, president and CEO of CUNA; Pat Wesenberg, CUNA’s chairman; and Debbie Matz, chair of the National Credit Union Administration.
  • Nationally known journalists will talk about the political climate in Washington, D.C, as part of a panel discussion. On the dais: Tucker Carlson of FOX News, Lauren French of Politico and Ylan Mui of the Washington Post.
  • CUNA’s economics and statistics department will present Membership Benefit Awards, which recognize credit unions across the country that best demonstrate the credit union difference by saving members money through lower loan rates, higher dividends, and fewer and lower fees.
  • Denise Gabel, the NWCUA’s chief operating officer, will emcee the National Credit Union Foundation’s Herb Wegner Memorial Awards gala. This year’s event will have decidedly Northwest feel; in addition to Gabel, two of the four Wegner awards will go to Northwesterners. Former BECU CEO Gary Oakland will receive a Lifetime Achievement award; Sarah Canepa Bang, president and COO of CO-OP Shared Branching-FSCC, chief strategy officer of CO-OP Shared Branching and a longtime champion of Credit Unions for Kids, will be honored with an Individual Achievement award. 

Make sure to check back throughout the week for more coverage of the Governmental Affairs Conference in Anthem, and watch the NWCUA’s Facebook page every day for highlights, photos and more from Washington, D.C.

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

Posted in Advocacy News, Awards, CUNA.