ICBA - Advocacy - Credit Unions Unveil 'Wish List' for Future

Credit Unions Unveil 'Wish List' for Future

JULY 13, 2001



A commission appointed by a credit union trade association has unveiled its "blueprint" charting the future course of the credit union industry. While the report calls for bank-like powers, it doesn't volunteer acceptance of banks' obligations, such as taxation.

Appointed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) a little over a year ago, the so-called "Renaissance Commission" released its report containing "vision statements" dealing with four areas-mission, powers and authorities, field of membership, and regulation and insurance.

Its mission statement calls on credit unions to "provide a secure financial alternative for all consumers" while maintaining their tax-exempt status and their own "unique regulatory and share insurance system." The report argues that credit unions' tax-exempt status should be based on its cooperative, not-for-profit status instead of its original mission to serve people of small means with a common bond.

The report advocates an expansion of credit union powers and authorities, and states that "the decision of what specific products and services should be offered must rest with the member/owners of the credit union." This would dilute the power of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the industry's regulator. The Credit Union Membership Act, passed by Congress in 1998, already expanded the authority of credit unions to make member business loans.

The report does everything but abolish the "field of membership" requirement by stressing that credit union membership should be open to all consumers, and that "credit unions through their boards of directors must have the right to determine their own fields of membership. . . ."

Finally, the report limits the role of the credit unions' regulator, the NCUA, to ". . . only those activities that are materially unsafe and unsound." It also says that "a private insurance alternative should be available to all credit unions."

It is important to note that at this point, this report is little more than a "wish list" for the credit union industry, and one that has not yet even been endorsed by its members. Many of the changes would require congressional action.