Northwest Credit Unions Celebrate the Year, Look Ahead

Northwest credit unions celebrated a historic year Tuesday — a year that marked 80 years since the signing of the Federal Credit Union Act and the welcoming of the 100 millionth credit union membership in the U.S. — and looked ahead to the future of the movement in the Northwest.

NWCUA President and CEO Troy Stang addressed Northwest credit union leaders at the Association’s annual Amplify Convention in Spokane, reflecting on the momentous milestones and congratulating the region’s credit unions on their contributions.

“Think about this,” Stang said, “there are 10.7 million people living in Oregon and Washington, and 4.5 million credit union members. You signed up nearly 200,000 new memberships last year.”

This market share, Stang noted, together with credit unions’ cooperative structure, generates tremendous economic value. He referenced a forthcoming study by prominent Northwest economic research group ECONorthwest that will reveal the true economic impact of credit unions in the Northwest.

“What we are saying here,” said Stang, “is that the Northwest credit union movement, collectively, is one of the region’s most impactful employers, charitable contributors, and political influencers.”

“Market share matters,” said Stang. The Association’s priorities of advocacy, public engagement, and collective action, he said, will pave the way for greater market share growth in the Northwest.

Electing Champions

Stang also congratulated the crowd of Northwest credit unions on their advocacy efforts. “Here’s some evidence of the power you have through relationships with elected leaders,” said Stang. “We preserved our tax status in round one of comprehensive tax reform. In the Northwest, credit union advocates’ voices were heard loud and clear during this battle and our messages remain on the ready for when they might be needed again.”

Stang highlighted the movement’s advocacy success with regulators. “With your support we’re able to lessen or even remove policy barriers,” he said. “Credit unions have influence at every regulatory level. More often, regulators are asking for our input before they propose new rules. More often, regulators understand how proposed rules might affect member service. What regulators and the industry they regulate have in common is what’s in the best interests of the members,” said Stang.

Nearly a third of Northwest credit unions weighed in on the risk-based capital rule proposed by the NCUA, said Stang. “From all indications, it is working. The NCUA announced last week it will release a new rule with an additional comment period.”

Stang said that the Northwest movement is uniquely positioned to improve those state charters every year, due to solid relationships with elected officials and their recognition of the charter’s value as a balance to the credit structure in our nation. “Because of the effort we all put into that process,” said Stang, “consumers will have relevant credit union services to choose from in generations to come.”

“The Northwest credit union movement will advance public policy again in 2015,” he said.

Strategic Philanthropy and Collective Action

Stang also highlighted the work of the Northwest Credit Union Foundation and Strategic Link (SLI), the Association’s for-profit subsidiary. “Your Strategic Link brings Northwest credit unions a platform for scale and collaboration,” said Stang. He called the audience’s attention to CUNA Mutual Group as one of the industry’s best examples of collaboration. Their support of Northwest credit unions and the NWCUA helps the movement accomplish its progressive agenda, said Stang.

“About 90 percent of you are experiencing the value of Strategic Link,” he said. Stang shared some examples of Strategic Link’s impact. From the partnership with Sprint to that with the Northwest Benefits Trust, Strategic Link has afforded credit unions the buying power to reduce healthcare costs for their employees. And Stang teased a new SLI program called betaSpace, slated for launch later in the week.

Stang also mentioned a new Association partnership. “In the spirit of collaboration we have just signed a partnership with the League of Southeast Credit Unions,” said Stang, “which will be bring Northwest credit unions of all sizes, additional resources in HR management and consulting, as well as strategic planning and management consulting services.

The Foundation, said Stang, awarded grants to improve communities last year, supporting programs like Biz Kid$, Financial Beginnings, and Junior Achievement in Oregon and Southwest Washington. It also granted a number of professional development scholarships to grow credit union talent. Stang emphasized the Foundation’s three areas of focus: economic empowerment, asset building, and cooperative development.

“This year, in a powerful demonstration of the ‘people helping people’ philosophy,” said Stang, “your foundation, Northwest credit unions, and others in the national movement stood with us to help the victims of the horrific Oso mudslide. With your help the credit union community raised $108,000 in only one week.”

The Whole Picture

Stang closed his speech with gratitude and an eye to the future of the Northwest credit union movement. “If I can leave you with one thought today, it’s gratitude for all you do, and especially for your engagement. And it’s with a promise to work with you to drive the future through collective action, strategic philanthropy, growing market share, and advancing public policy.”

“When those missions are accomplished, credit unions are stronger, our communities are stronger, and members’ households are financially stronger.”

Stang’s speech set the tone for the Association’s annual Amplify Convention, which kicked off Tuesday evening in Spokane. Amplify is one of the largest gatherings of credit union leaders in the western half of the United States.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News, MAXX Annual Convention, NWCUA.