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Cheney reflects on tenure as CUNA CEO
WASHINGTON (6/10/14)--Today marks the last day that Bill Cheney will walk through the doors of 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW as president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association.
 
Cheney is returning to California, where he served as president of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and was president of Xceed Financial CU, El Segundo, with $851 million in assets. He takes the helm of SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana., Calif., from Rudy Hanley who is retiring after more than 30 years at the $10 billion-plus-asset credit union.
 
Cheney joined CUNA in July 2010, following the retirement of Dan Mica, a former U.S. representative from Florida, who headed the trade association for 14 years.
 
News Now posed five questions to Cheney about his time at CUNA and the credit union movement.
 
Q: Why is SchoolsFirst a "dream job?"
 
A: It is a credit union that has done a great job of identifying the needs of its members and creatively meeting them. This only happens with a strong team and visionary leadership and SchoolsFirst has all of the above.
 
For almost 80 years, SchoolsFirst FCU has worked for the educational community in Southern California, first in Orange County and now throughout the region. Its products and services are uniquely designed to address school employees' pay schedules. Members can turn to SchoolsFirst FCU for loans for classroom supplies or furthering their education, in addition to more traditional uses. 
 
It has long been known for having an active voice in the political arena. I know it takes commitment, knowledge, perseverance, action and time to influence political leaders, and SchoolsFirst is committed to that ideal.
 
It is a profound honor to follow Rudy Hanley as SchoolsFirst FCU's CEO after his 31 years of unsurpassed leadership and success. I look forward to working with the amazing team of more than 1,300 professionals and volunteers to build on that success.
 
CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney discussed the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign during a 2013 appearance on the Fox Business Network. (CUNA photo).
Q: In February, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) submitted a tax reform package that left the credit union tax status untouched. Of course the victory in this first stage of maintaining the credit union tax status didn't just "happen," but what specifically do you think was most effective?
 
A: CUNA prepared the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign well in advance of when Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that tax reform was going to be approached with a "blank slate" in June 2013.
 
The success of "Don't Tax My Credit Union" should be credited to the members who responded in a strong and positive manner to the campaign. CUNA, leagues and credit unions generated more than 1.4 million contacts with Capitol Hill in less than nine months as part of our "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign.
 
Some might say credit unions never were on the list to lose their tax exemption, but we know for certain that we were at risk. CUNA and the leagues could not sit back and take that risk. That's why "Don't Tax My Credit Union" was--and still is--important to getting the message out.
 
At the 2013 America's Credit Union Conference, Cheney emphasized the "Unite for Good" campaign, which seeks to have the whole credit union industry speak with one unified voice to remove barriers, increase awareness and foster service excellence for credit unions in reaching the strategic vision in which "Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner." (CUNA photo)
Q: Outside of legislative and regulatory successes in D.C., what other feathers did CUNA add to its cap while you were president/CEO?
 
I'm delighted that the shared, strategic vision initiative--"Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner"--is receiving traction within the credit union movement. I strongly believe that if credit unions are all headed in the same direction, in terms of where we want to be by 2023, there is very little that can stop us from getting there.
 
The vision's "shared agenda" of removing barriers, creating awareness and fostering service excellence is the pathway for achieving the vision and getting us to our overall goal. And we'll know we've achieved success by the numbers we reach: At least 55 million "primary financial institution" members, and $20 billion returned annually in financial benefits. I look forward to the day we reach our goals--which I hope will be sooner than later.
  
Q: How do you think the National Credit Union Administration's risk-based capital proposal will turn out?
 
A:  The record 2,050 comment letters submitted to the regulator shows that credit unions are concerned, as are the hundreds of members of Congress who have weighed in. There will be some type of risk-based capital--and CUNA agrees with that--but the proposal by the NCUA is untenable. I believe the chairman and other board members when they say they will make substantive changes, and I know CUNA will be tracking this closely, as will leagues and credit unions. 
 
Q: What words of wisdom do you have for your successor?
 
A: Be tenacious. It is difficult to win grand successes with a Congress that is gridlocked and regulators that are under ever increasing pressure to prevent the last crisis, but CUNA, leagues, credit unions and members should make sure their voices are always being heard. And while Washington and Madison are both key to the success of the credit union movement, make sure you take the time to visit with credit union professionals and volunteers from throughout the country. We have an amazing group of passionate leaders from all walks of life.
 
On top of that: I know CUNA is in good hands with Bill Hampel guiding the organization in this interim between permanent CEOs, ably assisted by the tremendously talented senior management team and the entire staff at our national trade association. Together, they won't miss a beat in advocacy, representation and service for credit unions.
 


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