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CUNA to Deliver Extensive On-Site Coverage Of Action-Packed GAC

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WASHINGTON (2/25/13)--Nothing compares to personal attendance at the sessions of the credit union system's premiere conference-the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference, which starts here today--notes CUNA Senior Vice President of Communications Mark Wolff. The program is so power-packed that CUNA helps on-site attendees, as well as those who could not attend, get the most out of all the sessions via electronic news, print media, and a coordinated array of social media uses.

"The CUNA GAC program provides so much value. We recognize that no one can make it to everything we offer, but we are often told by attendees that they sure want to," Wolff acknowledges.

CUNA's free, daily online news service, News Now, provides full coverage of the speakers and key break-out sessions and shares slideshows of the action. And for news junkies, the News Now team shares quick news bites all day long via its Twitter-based NewsNowLiveWire. Get your Twitter account now to follow the best news tweets.

CUNA's Credit Union Magazine team provides the renowned, print-based GAC Daily onsite, and this provides a colorful and photo-filled digest of speakers and events each day.

aSmarterChoice.org, the consumer website developed two years ago by CUNA and the state credit union leagues, will be onsite at the CUNA booth in the grand exhibit hall. It will be sharing printed talking points for the leagues and credit unions to use when talking to the media and that can also be used as a handout at conferences to drive consumers to join credit unions.

aSmarterChoice QR barcode.


Even better, aSmarterChoice has developed a QR barcode--Quick Response Code--so attendees can swipe their phones and get the material electronically.

The site is a growing resource for consumers to learn more about credit unions and find a credit union that they can join and reported nearly 385,000 visits in 2012.

CUNA will not be the only organization trying to keep credit unions abreast of conference events with the #GAC hashtag. CUNA has thought of that too and will again feature a "Twitterfall" at the CUNA exhibit booth to coordinate message delivery and to let conference attendees catch all the buzz in one glance.

There's more. CUNAVerse, CUNA's blog, will be focusing on Twitter for the CUNAVerse platform. CUNAVerse will focus its on-site coverage on the GAC "crashers"--the younger side of the credit union universe--and their experiences at the conference. After the conference, the CUNA blog will share top "take-aways" from the conference and other wrap ups.

CU Charter Enhancement Gets NCBA Support

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WASHINGTON (2/25/13)--The National Cooperative Business Association last week stepped up to back credit union priorities, announcing its support for a trio of bills that would enhance the credit union charter and ease regulatory issues.

NCBA President/CEO Mike Beall wrote U.S. House leaders to support:
  • The Credit Union Small Business Job Creation Act (H.R. 688);
  • The Capital Access for Small Businesses and Jobs Act (H.R. 719); and
  • The Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion Act (H.R. 749).
Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney has noted that H.R. 688 and 719 "represent tools that will give credit unions greater options for serving their growing memberships--including small business owners in search of credit to keep their businesses and their communities thriving."

H.R. 688 would increase the credit union member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets, from the current 12.25%-of-assets level. The bill, if enacted, would help credit unions lend an additional $14.5 billion to small businesses in just the first year after enactment. This money, which would be made available at no expense to taxpayers, would in turn help small businesses create around 158,000 new jobs. The bill was introduced by Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) earlier this month, and has 41 co-sponsors.

H.R. 719, which was also introduced earlier this month by Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), would permit the National Credit Union Administration to allow credit unions to raise capital from sources other than retained earnings. That bill has 14 co-sponsors

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Sherman also teamed with Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) to introduce H.R. 749. CUNA also supports this bill, which would eliminate repetitive privacy notices that are often ignored by consumers. This privacy bill has 18 co-sponsors.

In another development, the NCBA last week announced a new online program to help credit union staff gain financial counselor certifications. The NCBA said the online program will train credit union staff to recognize signs of financial distress and educate them on how to work directly with members to avoid financial catastrophe.

For more on the program, which was created with the help of CU Strategic Planning, use the resource link.

NEW: Cheney Calls On CUs To 'Unite For Good'

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WASHINGTON (2/25/13, UPDATED 10:45 a.m. ET)--Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney today presented a bold new, overarching strategic vision for the credit union movement: A vision in which "Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner."

Outlining this strategic vision, and how credit unions can "Unite for Good" to achieve it, was the focus of the CUNA leader's remarks this morning to the 4,200 participants at the opening general session of CUNA's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference.

Cheney stressed that developing a vision where Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner stemmed from more than one year of discussions with credit union and league leaders, credit union system partners, and CUNA's own leadership.

All agreed a new vision must be rooted in credit unions' shared values, including collaboration, a focus on members, community involvement, and a dedication to financial well-being. Cheney told a packed GAC audience that he is presenting a broad vision for the movement now because the time for credit unions has never been better.

Cheney explained that a cultural shift is happening in America that aligns perfectly with the credit union movement. "People want to do business with people who have their best interests at heart...This cultural shift is right in our wheelhouse." People are interested in more values-based decision-making and there is a move away from big corporations and big banks, he said.

The CUNA CEO cited Nationwide Insurance, which now touts "doing what's right for our members" in ads, as one prominent example of this cultural shift toward values-based businesses. Bank Transfer Day in late 2011 was another example, one that grew out of consumer frustration with new fees from big banks and prompted consumers by the thousands to discover credit unions through aSmarterChoice.org, the new CUNA/league consumer web site.

"Our advantage is a values-based business model of credit unions…People over profit, banking with a conscience, focusing on members, an organization that's built around your needs," Cheney added.

To realize a vision where Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner, the credit union system will need to work collaboratively to advance three broad goals:

  • Remove barriers: This will requireactively participating in credit union grassroots activities and the political process. The CUNA/League "Plan to Win," which offers detailed involvement prescriptions and accountability measures for credit unions, leagues and CUNA, can help provide a roadmap for success.
  • Raise awareness: Credit unions can achieve this by expanding their outreach and image in their community, taking greater advantage of social media, becoming a trusted resource with their local media, and participating in state and regional co-operative advertising campaigns. These avenues can lead to success. Credit unions can use tools, programs and channels that already exist to share their stories in local communities.
  • Foster service excellence: Cheney stressed that the system must work together so that credit unions across the board can offer a complete set of forward-looking and constantly improving financial services to members of all backgrounds and life stages.

Cheney said these efforts can create a major accomplishment for the credit union system over the next decade.

Two key measures of success, he offered would be to:

  • Increase PFIs: He suggests the movement aim for raising the number of members who consider their credit union to be their primary financial institution (PFI) from today's 40 million up to 50 million by 2023. Another 10 million in 10 years is achievable, and would be clear evidence that more Americans are choosing credit unions as their best financial partner, Cheney explained. The credit union movement will gain immeasurably from all the attendant benefits-in advocacy, growth, and  strength-that emanate from PFI relationships, he noted.
  • Provide more member value: He offered a goal for member value-what consumers save in better rates and lower fees by using credit unions rather than banks-of $20 billion annually by 2023. Today, that figure is about $6 billion. But Cheney noted the second goal compliments the first: The more PFI members we have, the more value we return. And the more value they see, the more people are attracted to credit unions, he said.

CUNA will be working with leagues and credit unions in the coming weeks and months to advance this common vision. And Cheney announced that a new web page, uniteforgood.org, has already been launched with an overview of the initiative and a video on why the time is so right for credit unions to unite for good, with more resources and key information still to come.

"We need to unite for good. We need to unite for the good that credit unions do. Unite for good, so that Americans will choose credit unions as their best financial partner," Cheney told the GAC audience.

For the new web site, use the resource link.

NEW: Matz Tells GAC: A 'New' NCUA Is Coming

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WASHINGTON (2/25/13, UPDATED 10:30 a.m. ET)--National Credit Union Administration Chairman Debbie Matz Monday announced her plan for a "new" NCUA, one that will be more responsive to emerging risks, industry challenges and credit unions' needs. She delivered her message in a keynote address today at the Credit Union National Association's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference.

"We're modernizing and revitalizing NCUA for an industry that is newly vibrant, increasingly complex and rapidly changing," Matz said. "NCUA is reassessing and retooling our business model. The rules of the road that guided credit unions in earlier decades may not meet your needs or your members' needs today. We must stay ahead of the curve."

Regulators, she said, have both a responsibility to protect the industry and to help it grow.

Matz told the audience of more than 4,200 credit union representatives some of the emerging challenges for credit unions include:
  • Interest-rate risk from long-term, fixed-rate loans;
  • Interest-sensitive deposits;
  • New technologies like mobile banking; and
  • Concentration of assets in the largest credit unions.
 

She vowed to continue her Regulatory Modernization Initiative and reviewed several major accomplishments, supported by CUNA, in the past year, including:

  • Addressing the agency's Troubled Debt Restructuring rule to keep more credit union members in their homes and ease credit union reporting burdens;
  • Removing red tape from the process of designating a low-income credit union, which she said has added more than 800 designations and encouraged more small business lending; and
  • Exempting more than two-thirds of all credit unions from certain NCUA rules by raising the asset threshold for small credit unions from $10 million to $50 million.
 Watch News Now Tuesday for more.

CUNA Exam Survey Nets Impressive Turnout

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WASHINGTON (2/25/13)--The Credit Union National Association received an impressive 1,500 responses to its recent examination issues survey. The majority of respondents said the examination process is working reasonably well, but credit union CEOs also overwhelmingly reported that regulatory and exam requirements are putting increasing pressure on credit unions.

"These findings will be very useful to CUNA and the leagues advocating on your behalf. This survey isn't to point fingers, it's to have quantifiable data we can use to work constructively with regulators," CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said when he released the results.

"The strong response from credit unions will make this survey a powerful tool in national and state credit union advocacy efforts," said CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel.  "We also believe the responses are very candid, because we ensured respondents anonymity," he added

The CUNA survey asked credit unions to detail their experiences with on-site National Credit Union Administration and state regulatory examinations, and to describe their satisfaction level with both the federal and state examinations process. Credit unions also described the strengths and weaknesses of the examination system.

NCUA examiners scored high marks in several areas, including being well-informed about safety and soundness issues and regulations. Respondents credited NCUA regional offices and state supervisory offices with being responsive when issues arose. More often than not, CEOs said that overall the exam was helpful to the credit union.

"There were a lot of good results to build on, but we also have a lot of work to do to improve the exam process," Cheney said.

Exam concerns cited by survey respondents included:
  • Examiners applying "best practices" and general guidance as if they were enforceable regulations;
  • Overuse of  Documents of Resolution; and
  • Generally lower ratings for joint NCUA/state regulatory exams when compared to independent exams by either of those regulators.
Overall, 25% of survey respondents said they were not satisfied with their examinations. "That's too high and we'll be discussing this with NCUA," Cheney said.

CUNA has shared the summary survey results with NCUA and NASCUS officials. CUNA plans to repeat the survey next year.

For the complete survey results, use the resource link.

CUs Merit Release From Rule Burden, CUNA Tells CFPB

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WASHINGTON (2/25/13)-As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) considers exempting some lenders from its newly adopted ability-to-repay mortgage rule, the Credit Union National Association encouraged the bureau to exempt all credit unions.

The CFPB is considering amendments for two final actions it took recently; something the bureau has done before, but highly unusual for a federal agency.

In addition to looking at ability-to-pay rule exemptions, the bureau is considering a change to the associated Qualified Mortgage (QM) definition to permit more loans, under certain conditions, to qualify as QMs.

The CFPB is studying the amendments to its new rules hoping to ensure the continued flow of available housing credit, while minimizing some of the compliance burdens, for certain institutions, created by the ability-to-repay standards.

"Given the mission and nature of credit unions, their distinctions from other institutions as financial cooperatives, their history of serving their members, their low mortgage delinquency and default rates, their focus on financial education and their traditional efforts to ensure mortgage loans granted to consumers can be repaid, we urge the CFPB to allow many more, if not all, credit union mortgage lenders to be exempt from the ability- to-repay provisions," wrote CUNA Deputy General Counsel Mary Dunn in a comment letter due today.

The ability-to-repay rule, with its associated QM definition, were ordered by the Dodd-Frank Act and are intended to curb abusive lending practices, like those that lead to the nation's housing market crash, and to allow responsible lending practices to "flourish."

Arguing for the all-out exemption of credit unions, CUNA highlighted that "there is no demonstrated history of abuse in terms of credit unions making mortgages without appropriate analyses of the borrower's ability to repay."

"As a result, there is no demonstrated pattern of abuse to correct regarding credit unions as there is in other sectors of the financial services industry. In fact, credit union lower default and delinquency rates regarding mortgages provide a strong indication that credit unions have historically underwritten loans with the long-term interest of the member and consumer in mind," the CUNA letter reminded.

If not a total exemption for credit unions, CUNA recommends these other burden-reducing changes:

  • All credit union that are either Community Development Financial Institutuions or Low-Income credit unions should qualify for the exemption; and
  • If the agency concludes it cannot expand the exemptions to include all credit union mortgage lenders, then it should fully consider exempting credit unions and similarly situated mortgage lenders from a 43% debt-to-income ratio provision and the requirements that points and fees include mortgage loan originator compensation.
Additionally, CUNA urged the agency to establish a process under which all not-for-profit institutions, including credit unions, could be considered on a case-by-case basis for additional time beyond the January 2014 deadline to comply.

NCUA Releases MBL Waiver Guidance

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (2/25/13)--The National Credit Union Administration has clarified the what, when and how of member business loan (MBL) waivers in a new letter to credit unions (13-CU-02), an attached supervisory letter, and supervisory guidance.

The guidance will help credit unions understand the MBL waiver process, and aid them as they work to maintain safe and sound MBL portfolios, NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said.

This is the first time the agency has released these types of MBL waiver documents. Matz noted that the release of the documents was prompted in part by discussions at agency listening sessions held throughout the country.

The agency guidance details what must be included in a waiver application and how the agency reviews that application.

The guidance also addresses:
  • What types of MBL waivers are available;
  • When and how credit unions can obtain MBL "blanket" waivers;
  • When waivers are not needed for actions related to maintaining existing loans;
  • Which of the borrower's principals are required to provide a personal guarantee and the type of guarantee required based on different business ownership structures;
  • What constitutes an associated borrower;
  • Waiver documentation requirements; and
  • New NCUA procedures meant to streamline the process for obtaining waiver for credit unions buying a participation interest in an MBL.
For the NCUA MBL waiver documents, use the resource links.

CUNA Launches GAC, CU 'Vision' Today

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WASHINGTON (2/25/13)--The Credit Union National Association's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference officially kicks off today and more than 4,200 credit union representatives in attendance will hear CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney unveil a new strategic vision for the credit union movement this morning.

For more than a year, CUNA has been reaching out to credit unions, leagues, system partners and its leadership to develop and present a strategic vision to guide and inspire the movement's advocacy, communications and planning.

Presentation of this new initiative and what it will mean for CUNA, leagues and credit unions going forward will be the thrust of Cheney's remarks to the GAC audience this morning.

Also during the 2013 GAC, credit union representatives from across the nation will hear presentations by high-profile, Washington, D.C., policymakers and get the latest information on top credit union issues.

GAC speakers this year include House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Financial Service Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), National Credit Union Administration Chairman Debbie Matz, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and many more.

The three-day lineup also features addresses by Jean Chatzky, the Today Show personal finance editor, and award-winning NBC News journalist Tom Brokaw. There will be a political point-counterpoint with Haley Barbour, former Republican National Committee chairman, and Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who is currently in the race for governor of Virginia.

Also sure to attract a lot of attention this year: CUNA's conference will feature breakout sessions on state- and federal-level tax discussions, hot exam issues for 2013, building powerful alliances across co-op sectors, managing changes in lending rules, and many other sessions taken from the front pages of credit union news.

CUNA will also hold its 79th Annual General Meeting, the association's yearly business meeting, on Monday.

The 2013 GAC runs Feb. 24-28 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. A key feature of the CUNA conference is Hill visits, when thousands of credit union representatives flood Capitol Hill and regulatory offices to advocate for credit union issues.

As lawmakers move toward March 1 federal debt and tax discussion deadlines, CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney has said he can't "think of a better time for credit union supporters to be in Washington, in force." Preserving the tax status of credit unions is a top CUNA priority and will be a key discussion item during the GAC.

This year's GAC theme, "Powerful Cause, Positive Effect," reflects the credit union commitment to the 95 million working Americans who rely on credit unions every day.

Use the resource link below for more GAC information.

Exam Survey, NCUA Results Covered In Cheney Report

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WASHINGTON (2/25/13)--The results of a comprehensive Credit Union National Association examination survey, recent regulatory actions, and what lies ahead at this week's CUNA 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference are all covered in the latest edition of The Cheney Report.

The exam results are also covered in more detail in today's edition of News Now. (See News Now story: CUNA Exam Survey Nets Impressive, Useful Results)

The Cheney Report delivers CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney's latest thoughts on three to four key events and policy developments affecting credit unions into the email inboxes of credit union CEOs each Friday.

The report also provides a valuable window into CUNA's actions on behalf of member credit unions, and reinforces the value of CUNA membership, CUNA Executive Vice President of Strategic Communications and Engagement Paul Gentile notes.

Other topics tackled in this week's edition of The Cheney Report include:
  • Recent NCUA/National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors work to streamline the application process for state-chartered credit unions considering low-income credit union status; and
  • The NCUA's February board meeting actions.
The report also previews CUNA's new, overarching strategic vision for the credit union movement. That vision will be unveiled today at the GAC.

Past issues of The Cheney Report are archived on cuna.org.

CU Reps At the GAC: What's the Best Thing You Do For Members?

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Click for slide showWillie Best

Board Vice Chairman

Local Government FCU

Raleigh, N.C.Local government employees is our field of membership, and government employees, at least on the local level, don't make a lot of money. The best thing probably about our credit union is they are able to access, I don't want to say easy money, but based on their salary and the jobs they perform, like public works, trash collector, police officers, that kind of thing…we offer them the same services, probably more service than other financial institutions, at better rates. No matter whether you're a CEO or the guy that's pushing the broom, the rates are the same.
WASHINGTON (2/25/13)--"What is the best thing you do for your members?  What is the best reason for someone to belong to your credit union?"  The questions were posed by News Now to credit union representatives as they registered Sunday for the Credit Union National Association's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference. Their answers gave a clear picture of the credit union difference, and the difference credit unions make in people's lives. (Click through the slideshow to read what people say about the credit union they represent.)

Consumers point out in survey after survey that credit unions are the most trustworthy of financial institutions. In 2012 alone, more than half a dozen surveys about customer satisfaction and trustworthiness all gave credit unions higher marks for both than they did banks, especially big ones. The surveys include those conducted by Prudential, ath Power Consulting, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Prime Performance's reputation study, Temkin Group's customer service ratings, CUNA's National Voter Survey and others.

Also, credit unions have the best savings account interest rates in the nation. In 2012, according to a study of savings accounts at more than 4,000 credit unions and banks, eight of the top 10 U.S. savings account rates were held by credit unions. As Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economics and statistics, said of these results: "Credit unions are owned by their member-depositors so credit union profits go directly back to those members in the form of higher deposit yields, lower loan interest rates, and fewer and lower fees."

And as National Credit Union Administration Chairman Debbie Matz said earlier this year in a LEADERS magazine interview, Americans are becoming more aware of how critical credit unions are, and this increased interest "explains why credit unions have added nearly three million members since 2010."

"Members know that they can usually get a better deal at a credit union," Matz said. She noted with the average business loan only $220,000, credit unions often make loans that banks turn away. In fact, while other institutions cut back lending during the financial crisis, credit unions gained further recognition as the only insured institutions to increase lending,  she said.