WASHINGTON (2/23/10)--While the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) recently has focused more on "addressing credit unions’ immediate problems,” NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said that both the NCUA and the credit union movement in general "have stronger reason for long-term optimism" and "can again think of the credit union industry's longer-term potential" as the economy begins to recover. Before she began her formal address, Matz saluted outgoing Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Dan Mica for his years of devotion to credit unions. Matz also thanked CUNA for its role in confronting the myriad challenges faced by credit unions in a difficult economic environment, and, turning to those very difficulties, said that the NCUA will closely monitor credit unions for any potential red flags. Specifically, the NCUA will look "very closely" at credit unions holding too many fixed-rate, long-term mortgages, and take additional actions to avert drains on the credit union system. In spite of a difficult economy, Matz reiterated that credit unions were one of the few parts of the financial system that did not buckle under the stress of the economic crisis, and continued to make loans, provide "advice and reassurance," modify mortgages, and help Americans regain their stability and financial confidence. After addressing the recent past, Matz outlined several areas where credit unions can make headway in the near future. These include expanding their online service offerings, offering low-cost, short-term loans to consumers “that are currently dependent on often harmful payday loan providers,” expanding member business lending by increasing or outright eliminating the current 12.25% of assets cap, and supplemental capital. Specifically, Matz said that increasing online offerings will reduce credit union expense ratios, "overcome physical distance, cost less and serve more members" while appealing to a "new generation of tech-savvy consumers, who expect more than face-to-face transactions at a teller window." Matz said that the NCUA, in conjunction with CUNA's Technology Council, will discuss the potential that increased use of new technology presents at an upcoming webinar this Spring. The NCUA later this year also hopes to release a proposal "that will make it more attractive for credit unions to offer payday-loan alternatives," such as short-term loans, Matz added. In a final note on the future of the credit union system, Matz also challenged credit unions to increase the total number of members nationwide to 100 million by 2015.