The Source for Credit Unions’ Greatest Peril

When concerns are raised about risks to credit unions’ future, the most common threats  are perceived to be “out there.”   The potential for recession,  a continuing rise in rates, cyber threats, technology innovations, or other external marketplace disruptions.

However the greatest challenges may not be external, but closer to home.   In a speech to a major credit union conference, a former NCUA Chairman described his five greatest concerns as:

  1. The combining of the deposit insurance funds;
  2. The possibility of merging the federal regulatory agencies;
  3. Doing away with credit union’s tax exemption;
  4. Abolishing the CLF and having credit unions go into the Federal Reserve bank;
  5. The FFIEC requiring expanding its regulatory disclosures for credit unions comparable to banks.

The concerns are from a speech by Chairman Ed Callahan to the 49th Annual Meeting of CUNA in 1983.  (Source Credit Union Magazine, June 1983, pg 10)

Two lessons.   What Ed describes is exactly the sequence of events that led to the demise of the S&L industry as an independent  financial system.  While the tax exemption was ended in the early 1950’s, the later changes occurred in just ten years beginning in the mid 1980’s due to the system’s inability to transform when facing deregulation.

Secondly,  the five  concerns were being considered  by  entities in Washington D.C.   These included commissions on governmental efficiency and reform,  congressional proposals following deregulation, and both Treasury and opponent’s questioning cooperative’s tax exemption.

These winds are still blowing in DC.   They blow harder every time  terms such as “level playing field” and “parity” are used.

Credit unions can continue to excel in members’ eyes. However, they could  lose in the  political marketplace if their primary goal is to have the same regulatory options as their banking competitors.

Why some in Washington will ask, do we need a separate agency to oversee the same activities?



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