National Award-Winning Regulator Mary Hughes on What’s to Come for Credit Unions
The 2019 Pierre Jay Award-winning regulator talks with Anthem about credit unions’ advancements and opportunities.
For nearly 30 years, Mary Hughes has been an integral leader at the Idaho Department of Finance, an agency that today regulates 15 industries, including banks and credit unions. Her roles in the agency included serving as a Deputy Attorney General, Bureau Chief of the Consumer Finance Bureau and the Financial Institutions Bureau, Deputy Director, and currently, Acting Director.
From her front row seat, Hughes has seen credit unions in the Gem State successfully weather the Great Recession, advance the services they offer to consumers, and consistently rank among the national credit union system’s top financial performers.
Anthem asked Hughes to reflect on credit unions’ accomplishments, challenges, and opportunities to come.
ANTHEM: What are the best advancements for credit unions you’ve seen?
HUGHES: The best advancements have been, and likely will continue to be, information–technology related. Among other benefits, these advancements have allowed credit unions the opportunity to offer greater services to rural customers who were underserved. They include remote deposit capture, online banking, mobile banking, and small footprint ATM/facilities.
ANTHEM: Moving forward, what is the ideal credit union of the future; what are credit unions’ best opportunities?
HUGHES: The ideal credit union will be one that successfully adopts technology while maintaining strong member relationships. The best opportunities available may be somewhat dictated by the size of the credit union. Some small and mid-sized credit unions are exploring modest expansions of fields of membership; others are offering new services to gain better penetration of the markets they are already in. Some of the larger credit unions are exploring interstate activity and more advanced technology integration.
ANTHEM: What are the challenges credit unions must address to be successful?
HUGHES: Cybersecurity likely remains the number one challenge for all depository institutions. There is increased competition for deposits and increased competition generally from larger out-of-state credit unions and banks. Competition from non-bank lenders across multiple product lines and, competition for talent and succession planning are other challenges.
ANTHEM: When the quarterly financial performance reports come out, Idaho consistently ranks among the top performing states. Any thoughts on why that is happening?
HUGHES: I believe it’s a reflection of Idaho’s strong economy. We are one of the fastest–growing states in terms of population, with low unemployment, rising wages, and job growth. Performance is generally high for all of our depository institutions.
ANTHEM: You’ve served as interim Director of Finance in Idaho since Gavin Gee’s retirement earlier this year. What direction would you like to see the department take?
HUGHES: Gavin is a tough act to follow and I doubt there will be another Director as good as he was. His legacy is reasonable regulation and we need to keep that in mind in making day-to-day decisions. A new direction for us will be to address money services businesses, including fintech companies, in a comprehensive manner. A priority is to develop creative ideas to encourage new Idaho credit union and bank charters. As a public policy matter, I believe it is important for Idaho to have financial institutions with local management, who make decisions locally that benefit Idaho communities.
Editor’s note: Idaho Governor Brad Little is currently vetting candidates for the position of Director, Idaho Department of Finance.