The merger of CUNA and NAFCU proceeds apace. The 60-day voting period by members began yesterday. Already scheduled NAFCU educational and network meetings continue. CUNA President Nussle will attend NAFCU’s Congressional Caucus in September to show a united Washington effort.
Joint transition committees have been appointed. One initial product was a proposed dues structure. As I read the announcement, members of both organizations are expected to continue paying the same dues to the new organization until 2027 (three more years) following the same fee structure in place at December 2023. It seems illogical to pay dues for a nonexistant organization three years past its demise.
If credit unions are members of both trade groups, “Dual members are encouraged to pay membership dues for both organizations” even though NAFCU nor longer exists. Apparently, economic efficiency is not a current goal of the merger.
An Immediate Opportunity for a Unified Effort
The merger process has been focused on the political steps necessary for member approval and less the potential offered from a “unified voice” in DC. Even though the political agenda may emerge down the road, there is one immediate opportunity that could demonstrate the possibilities of a combined lobbying capability.
An NCUA board position is now open as Rodney Hood’s term expired this month. This new member’s six-year tenure should outlast the two current members. It could extend over two presidential election-administration cycles.
For many recent appointments the expectations, even needs, of the credit union community have not been seen as a factor in the Administration’s choices. The result is that new board members are strangers to both the Agency and the credit union system. Think Metsger, McWatters and Hauptman. Having prior NCUA experience as a staff or board member (Harper and Hood) may be useful, but it still does not bring an industry or coop perspective.
One longtime, now retired, CUSO CEO Randy Karnes (CU*Answers) commented during an earlier appointment cycle: “Cooperative principles make us different. When the NCUA believes that and Washington believes that, we have a stronger system. But when nobody believes that, then it’s simply about banking regulations. I think our system’s position is weaker, and NCUA is not even thinking about their own brand.”
“Congress didn’t create the credit union charter because the nation needed “nice banks.”
In that same appointment cycle, there was a public White House petition, CO-OPS 4 Change, asking that the administration, “choose NCUA leaders who understand cooperatives.” And, “who recognize the shared economic value for people and communities created by the Cooperative model from the seven cooperative principles.”
Jobs for the “Boys” or for Cooperative Leadership
All NCUA appointments result from political ambitions and relationships. That need not be inconsistent with cooperative leadership. Earlier NCUA appointments included candidates with credit union experience such as retired and active CEO’s, state coop regulators, CUSO executives and even some with trade association connections.
Knowledge of the evolution of the credit union system and its current status can make regulatory decisions more informed and relevant. The unique structure of the NCUSIF, the potential for a fully engaged CLF, the self-interested trends in mergers, the paucity of new charters, and the continuing use of members’ savings to pay off bank shareholders are critical industry topics.
Even with experienced senior advisors, appointees without credit union knowledge easily default to Agency staff perspectives.
As the combined America’s Credit Union marches forward under a single banner, this appointment is an immediate test of its potential role. Will the promise of enhanced influence bring forth potential nominees who have cooperative experience? Or will the person be another unknown to credit unions? Can the industry hope members’ needs will be paramount in a proposed board member’s regulatory views?
The appointment, whenever announced, could provide vital insight about potential benefits of a united credit union voice in DC.