Charter Conversions: What Is the State of Credit Union’s  Dual Chartering System?

One of the extraordinary advantages of a credit union charter is the choice of either a state or federal license.   This choice has been a critical aspect in credit union’s expanding role in the economy and responding to changing market conditions.

So when I recently received a letter from the CEO of Harvard University Employees Credit Union (HUECU) announcing a members’ special meeting to approve a conversion to a federal charter, I was very interested in why the change.

Was this a one-off situation or an indicator of an imbalance in charter choice in Massachusetts?

A Current Study

HUECU reported $1.2 billion in assets and loans of almost $1.1 billion, serving 55,000 members at December 2023.   Most operating ratios are in a stable to strong range:  Net worth 8.5% Delinquency .65%, ROA .28 and operating expenses of 2.74% of average assets.

The loan portfolio continues its healthy growth in three distinct components:  an alumni credit card with $44 million in balances, a $252 million student loan portfolio and $721 million real estate loans.

The CEO’s cover letter included five pages summarizing the pros and cons for the action:


  • Reduces multiple credit union exam and compliance requirements;
  • Potential flexibility with various initiatives, especially branching and CUSO investments;
  • MSIC insurance for all deposits above $250,000 will be continued, but is no longer required;
  • Easier to open branches outside the state;
  • A redefined and broader field of membership with a multiple FCU common bond to seek growth outside Massachusetts:
  • No state sales tax, lower supervisory fees, and elimination of state CRA compliance.


  • The costs of conversion including signage, changes in legal documents, and consultant’s fees totaling as much as $600,000;
  • Loss of local regulator accessibility and responsiveness;
  • Limited ability to influence national regulation and issues;
  • State law offers greater interest rate loan flexibility and longer maturities on other loans.

The special meeting requires a quorum of 18 members and a majority of votes by ballot or in person in favor to approve the conversion.

The CEO’s cover letter states the members will see no operational differences after the conversion.

In addition to my membership in the credit union, the CEO Craig Leonard encouraged members to call in with questions.   I was given his email, and we talked for an hour this past Monday.

He outlined three priorities which he hoped to accelerate with this step.

  • Faster growth,  beyond the Harvard community into other New England states and perhaps Florida;
  • Immediately draw in more savings especially as loan demand has always been plentiful—with an initial focus on the small business market;
  • Retain the Harvard name (Harvard Federal Credit Union), its strong brand and the relationship of its employees to the University and its benefit plans.

Craig said this topic had been raised several times as he perceived a lack of a “level playing field between state and federal” charters in Massachusetts.

The state is home to approximately 135 credit unions that rank it as the 12th largest in total credit union assets.   Of this total, 50 are state charters.

Both regulators have approved the credit union’s business plan forecast.   It is now up to the members.  Craig holds periodic town hall meetings with members because he believes “I work for you.”   This Special  meeting is March 26 at the Harvard Faculty Club.

While this may be a unique event, the balance and perceptions of charter advantages are an important metric on the soundness of the credit union system.

Whenever state or federal regulations become less responsive to their credit unions, charter change is a real option for many. It is one means of keeping regulatory accountability.  It is also a spur to keep the multiple state regulatory systems, individually  much smaller than NCUA. responsive to their local charters.

The State of Dual Chartering

The ability to convert from a state to a federal charter and vice versa remains a uniquely cooperative option.

In 2023 there were twelve charter conversions.  Nine state credit unions (from seven different states) converted to FCU’s, two federal charters went to state and one state chose ASI insurance versus the NCSIF.   The longest serving state charter was Mississippi’s Mutual Credit Union, founded in 1931. Two other Mississippi credit unions also converted to federal.

A choice of share insurance is also permitted in ten states which allow their charters to choose between ASI cooperative insurance or the NCUSIF.  This option remains central to a real choice as well as validating the underlying the 1% deposit design of the NCUSIF.

Dual chartering option creates a check and balance, even positive competition, among regulators.  It provides an opportunity for a credit union program as some states still do not have a charter option. However,  the state system can often change more quickly to meet new market and member needs when response by NCUA may take years or in some situations, never happen.

The dual system is a critical aspect of credit union history. The first credit union charter was in 1909 for St. Mary’s Bank.   Until the federal credit union act was passed in 1934, only state charters were available, and then limited to about two thirds of the states.

These state “startups” created multiple charter variations and operating authority.  As there was no single example, charter details and oversight were sometimes drawn from already operating financial examples.  For example, proxy voting is authorized by nine states, drawn from mutual S&L practice, but not an option for federal charters.

The Turning Point in Dual Chartering: The creation of the NCUSIF

The choice of either a fed or state charter from 1934 onward led to a 30-year period of rapid chartering across America.   The states were often the laboratories for change, innovation and system leadership with local leagues and chapters forming potent political state-wide organizations.  CUNA itself was an organization of state leagues, not individual credit unions.

The introduction of the NCUSIF in 1970 was led by a group of federal charters in the newly formed direct-member organization NAFCU in the late 1960’s. CUNA opposed this mandatory insurance requirement and supported multiple state-chartered alternatives to the federal program.

CUNA’s fundamental concern was that mandating federal  insurance would inevitably create a single regulatory system for all charters.  The diversity and choice created by dual chartering would be negated, if not lost all together.

The NCUSIF Override of State Options

This concern that the insurer could become a single regulator had a very quick example.  Bob Bianchini, who was simultaneously President of the Rhode Island League and a member of the state legislature, encountered  such an issue in the mid 1970’s.

NCUA refused to insure the NOW/checking accounts authorized for Rhode Island state charters.  In response, the credit unions formed their own state chartered deposit insurance corporation.  In Bob’s words:

The NCUA’s decision refusing to insure Rhode Island credit unions that offered checking account services to its members led to the creation of the private insurer RISDIC .. Seems to me there was never any specific law that would have led to that decision, but rather simply pandering to the commercial banking industry which claimed checking accounts fell strictly under their purview .. 

RISDIC would have never gotten off the ground if Rhode Island credit unions that provided checking accounts to its members, could have obtained NCUA insurance. 

The other RISDIC insured institutions were Loan & Investment companies. privately owned for profit financial institutions and it was one of those organization’s demise that led to RISDIC’s failure.

NCUA’s insurance power has led to other differences in regulatory interpretations. The insuring requirement has also been a major hurdle for groups seeking new charters.

Ultimately the major advantages of state charters continue to be their more accessible local regulatory oversight and the capacity to respond faster to changing market conditions.

The Final Word

The S&L crisis in the mid 1980’s resulted in that system’s failure of its state sponsored insurance options.  It led some credit union leaders to back away from the credit unions’ insurance choice.

In a 1986 speech to the credit union league xecutives (ACULE), former NCUA Chair  Ed Callahan, now  CEO of Callahan and Associates spoke to the group.  He described the importance of choice  saying that “the insurer is the regulator.”  His words are just as true today.  Scroll down to the video.

“The Best Damned System in the Country”





An NCUA Professional and Credit Union Believer Dies

Last Thursday, January 18, 2024 D. Michael Riley a career credit union professional died.  He was 77 years old and is survived by his wife of 41 years, Lori.

After serving in the military, Mike graduated from the University of Alabama joining NCUA as a field examiner in 1972.  A  little more than 13 years later (May 1985) he succeeded me as Director of the Office of Programs.   This responsibility included overseeing the newly capitalized NCUSIF, the CLF and the Agency’s Supervision and Examination programs.

Regional Director Riley speaking at NCUA’s December 1984 National Examiners and Credit Union Conference.

Rising to the Top

His meteoric rise to the highest responsibility in agency reflected his ability to get things done.  In 1982 he was reassigned from NCUA’s Central Office to become Director in Region Six-the Western part of the United States.

California was the epicenter of problem credit unions exacerbated by double digit inflation and unemployment and the number and size of  credit unions.   I believe Mike, at 35,  was the youngest examiner ever promoted to RD at NCUA.

Chairman Callahan believed that effective supervision required the leadership of the six RD’s, not rule-making in Washington.  They were the critical managers of the agency’s most important responsibility—the examination program.  Success was achieved not by cashing out problems with insurance money; but by developing resolution  plans unique to each situation and underwritten by cooperative patience.

Regional Directors Allen Carver, Mike Riley, Lyn Skyles and Executive Director Bucky Sebastian at the December 1984 NCUA Conference.

A Passion for the Movement

Mike’s  progress from new examiner to RD in a decade is a testament to his grasp of credit union operations. Most importantly he bought into the changes Ed Callahan was seeking.  He knew how to get things done, an uncommon trait in a bureaucracy.  He had the ability to work with everyone, but was not a “yes” person.

Last July I wrote a brief article about Ed’s time as a football coach and how that influenced his approach to leadership: The Roots and Legacy of a Credit Union Leader.

Mike responded:  Great article, I know he taught me a lot.  

When Ed left after three years and eight months as NCUA Chair, the small team of five whom he brought from Illinois also left.  Senator Roger Jepsen, the next NCUA Chair, did not have a background in either administration or credit unions.

This is when Mike made his most critical  contribution.  Significant change in a governmental bureaucracy will not last if successors do not believe in the new directions.

It is a bureaucratic reflex that when a Chair leaves, staff reasserts their priorities. This is especially the case when  incoming Board members have little or no prior credit union experience.  Instead Mike insured the fundamental tenets from the Callahan era of deregulation were sustained.

Hitting the Ground Running

When returning to DC in 1985 as Director of the Office of Programs, he testified with Chairman Callahan on the CLF’s annual budget appropriation within his first 30 days.  In September 11 and 12, 1985  he was NCUA’s spokesperson to the House Banking Committee on credit unions’ condition as the new NCUA Chair had yet to take over.

As reported in  NCUA News September 1985, he said “federal credit unions had strong gains and a remarkable track record in an increasingly competitive, deregulated environment.”  He called the capitalization of the NCUIF, “the most significant development since its founding in 1971. It had quadrupled in size solely through the financial support of insured credit unions.

In the wake of the Ohio and Maryland S&L crises, he stated NCUA supports the dual chartering system and the option of private insurance for state charters.  “This arraignment has served the credit union movement well, providing strength and innovation out of competition.

For the next ten years (1985-1995) as Director of Programs Mike continued the critical administrative and policy priorities that Callahan had implemented.  These included an annual exam cycle, total transparency of performance, expense control. the CLF’s expansion to every credit union and promoting the uniqueness of the credit union system.

In the years he led the Office, failures caused the downfall of the FSLIC and the separate S&L industry, the initial bankruptcy and refunding of the FDIC and ongoing economic cycles. However credit unions and the funds NCUA managed continued their steady progress. Growth in credit union service and members expanded across the country.

Continued Interest in the Movement

In May 2023 post I wrote about the dangerous goal of NCUA’s goal of seeking parity with other  regulators.  He commented: Outstanding article. Thanks for laying out so clearly. It’s hard to get into the nuts and bolts but somehow NCUA’s operating costs needs to be reduced, fewer administrators and more hands on folks.

He also had a dry sense of humor with an affable southern temperament.

I recall his moderating a GAC panel of two former NCUA Chairs, Ed Callahan and Senator Jepsen.  He led a revealing conversation with charm and wit. If someone has a cassette tape of this session, it would be illuminating to hear how Mike navigated the discussion of these two leaders.

People liked Mike.  His colleagues were family.  Lori and he would hold an open house every Christmas inviting both NCUA and credit union friends.

After leaving NCUA in the mid 1990’s, Mike worked with Callahan and Associates and then on his own as a consultant.  He was a Trustee of the TCU mutual funds family.

His Views on Today’s Trends

Mike wrote about current credit union events  in this  complete post in April 2023. He was concerned about  worrisome trends in credit unions leading to their “creative destruction.”  He draws from his early years as an examiner overseeing 30-40 credit  unions.  He closes with this observation on mergers:

This ongoing march continues. The merger of two sound credit unions without some legitimate reason doesn’t seem to be member oriented. I still think of the members of those small credit unions who received services such as buying a washer that no one else would do.

Bigger is not better if the member does not benefit.  How many of these mergers produce lower loan rates , higher dividends, or distinctly better products at a lower price? Carried to the extreme we will be left with 20 credit unions that are no different than large banks. 

(and on NCUA’s role)

Schumpeter opined “If someone wants to commit suicide, it is a good thing if a doctor is present.”

Memorial Service Details

A service of celebration and resurrection will be held on Saturday, February 10, 2024, at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church (UMC) at 304 South Talbot Street, St. Michaels, MD.

The family will welcome friends and relatives at St. Luke’s UMC from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM, which will be one hour prior to the service at 12:00 PM.In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Habitat for Humanity Choptank, Salvation Army, St. Luke’s UMC, or Talbot Humane.


January 1985: An Historic Turning Point for Credit Unions

For forty years, the NCUSIF has maintained  not only its own financial integrity but more importantly, the trust and confidence of the credit union system’s members. This record of stability began in 1985 and continues unabated through 2023.

Over the same four decades the FSLIC, the separate S&L fund, failed and merged into the FDIC.  The FDIC has had negative net equity on several occasions requiring an explicit government guarantee.  It has constantly modified  its premium model to accommodate numerous industry crisis.  These  include multiple premium levels, risk based pricing, an expanded assessment base for premiums, differential pricing according to institution size and other financial or accounting maneuvers. It’s equity to insured deposits has fluctuated from negative to 1.1% at June 30, 2023.

During this same period of national economic and interest rate cycles, the NCUSIF’s unique cooperative design allowed it to remain strong. The fund’s yearend equity level  of 1.2-1.3% of insured shares has always been met.  Premiums have been necessary only four times in this four decades.

“D” For Deposit Day

This fundamental  redesign was a two-year industry wide effort.

This priority came to fruition in January 1985 when the first 1% credit union deposit underwritings for the new insurance model were delivered to NCUA.  The event was pictured in NCUA’s 1985 Annual Report (pg 21):

(caption:  NCUA Staff Member Wayne Robb accepts a hand-delivered capitalization deposit in the unheated Washington lobby of the NCUA.)

The Chicago Tribune described this historic change in an article later that year:

“The solitary messenger clutched a plain brown envelope as he picked his way carefully across a deserted, icy sidewalk near the White House.  In- side was a check for $13 million.

“It was inauguration Day, 1985, a morning most memorable for the raw cold that forced cancellation of a parade and drove President Reagan inside to take his second oath of office.

“But for the messenger, and for the trio huddled around an electric space heater waiting for the check, it was also the deadline for credit unions to deliver payments to the new-look federal insurance fund that backs the deposits of 51 million credit union members.

“The $13 million check, the largest single payment, was from the huge Navy Federal Credit Union in Washington.

“The little-noticed transaction–one of more than 7,000 totaling $480 million that frosty January weekend–illustrates how the nation’s 15,000 federally insured credit unions have quietly put their house in order.

“Edgar  F. Callahan Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration said credit union’s willingness to embrace a new approach to shoring up their insurance fund was just one example of how the industry has recovered from the hard times of 1981.  

The challenge for his successor, Callahan said, is to keep Congress and other policy-makers aware that credit unions are unique.

“You’re in an industry this often grouped with banks and S&L’s and there’s a tendency to get painted with the same brush,” he said.  

“There is a danger to getting sucked into that atmosphere.  My successor will need to maintain that credit unions have been ahead of the problem curve and need not be grouped with other financial institutions.”

The Workup for Change

The NCUSIF was created in 1970, with no government-provided startup capital.  The Fund’s design mimicked the premium base of both the FDIC and FSLIC each which had a 35-year head start accumulating retained earnings.  But from 1979 onward the premium approach, even with doubling assessments,  did not prevent the Fund’s equity ratio from decline.

In April 1983 the NCUA presented a Report to Congress on the Credit Union Insurance Fund.  The Report was over 130 pages in seven chapters responding to specific Congressional questions and making four recommendations:

  1. All credit unions, federal or state, should have a choice of insurer;
  2. Capitalize the NCUSIF with a 1% deposit of insured shares;
  3. Authorized at least one uninsured share per member as capital;
  4. Keep the  insurance fund independent from FDIC/FSLIC due to the unique nature and role of credit unions.

The Report included direct quotes from leagues, private cooperative insurers, credit unions along with a history of credit union stabilization options prior to NCUA insurance.

Following the publication of this Report, NCUA and credit unions working in partnership developed an alternative to the traditional premium model describing it as, A Better Way.  It drew upon the two decade experiences of private insurer alternatives.  It rested on the fundamental cooperative concept that members should own their own fund.

The financial logic and analysis was summarized in a video sent to all credit unions and interested parties on the NCUA’s Video Network.  The following is an excerpt from this longer analysis,  A Better Way:


This redesign was achieved by challenging long time conventional governmental practice.  The alternative was drawn from cooperative experience and principles.

Trust in the Fund was not due to more regulation or open ended premium assessments.  It was constructed on mutual commitments including frequent and audited financial transparency, accountability for expenses and legislative guardrails.

This capacity to “imagine differently” resulted from collaboration and open communication at every step.  The historical financial analysis (above) and future forecasts were public, for all to review and refine.

The effort was not a sudden epiphany. Rather it resulted from hard work, shared viewpoints, a desire to create something better and courage to change.

The First Year’s Bottom Line

At the end of fiscal 1985, the fund held $883 million in 1% deposits.  Earlier in the year each credit union received a pro-rata equity distribution (in excess of the Fund’s .3% equity) of $80 million to meet the January 1% funding obligation followed by a $30 million cash dividend at yearend.

This 12.5% return on the 1% capital deposits was on top of fact that this was the first year since the Fund opened in 1970 that no premium was charged. (page 5, 1985 NCUSIF Annual Report)

In future blogs I will present how the fund  navigated specific economic and industry challenges.

Continued success does not rest on design alone.  Credit unions must also exercise continuous oversight of NCUA’s vital  responsibilities for fund management and supervisory oversight.


Wisdom: On Regulation


Share Insurance & Regulatory Choice

“The fact that there is an insurance option-private insurance for state-chartered credit unions-assures that the NCUSIF will be different from the premium based FDIC fund, that it will be funded with deposits from credit unions, and can be counted as an asset on the books of credit unions.  The fact that there is an insurance option guarantees there will be a charter option, and thus a regulatory option.

This is to the good for everyone.  A single regulator is sooner or later bound to become a lazy or an arrogant regulator.  The best ideas will not bubble up; the regulated will not flourish to their maximum potential.  But with two regulatory options, competition is going to allow the best ideas to come to the fore and allow the dynamic credit unions to expand.”  (pgs 46-47)


Note: From the Coach’s Playbook,  a collection of  Ed Callahan’s observations.  These are a summary of operating values for the credit union system. Ed began his professional career as a high school math teacher and football coach.  His thirty years in credit unions included Chairman of NCUA (1981-1985), co-founder of Callahan & Associates, and CEO of Patelco from 1987 through 2002.

A Milestone, or Turning Point, from the Past

The Lead: Almost all CU savings are now insured

“More than 99% of the total savings at CUs are now insured by either NCUA or a state share insurance fund, according to the 1983 State Share Insurance Yearbook.  That translates into about $75.5 billion.

“By mid-1983, the yearbook says, only about 200 CU’s in the entire U.S. will be without share insurance.  Only 319 of the almost 20,000 CUs in operation at the end of last year were not insured.  That number will decline this year as share insurance becomes mandatory in Indiana, Nebraska, and New Jersey.   Insurance  is now required of state CUs in 44 states and Puerto Rico. 

“NCUA insurance covered  all FCUs in 1982 (11,631 active charters)  and 5,036 state CUs, while 17 state insurance plans were provided for 3,121 state CUs  in 21 states and Puerto Rico.(Total all insured credit unions 19,788)

Source:  Credit Union Magazine, June 1983, pg. 18.

An advertisement for one of the 17 state-chartered insurance funds.

Milestone or Turning Point?

Today, the NCUSIF is an insurance monopoly for all but a few state chartered credit unions.

The  insurer has become the regulator.   NCUA leaders routinely pronounce  their number one priority-“North Star”- is to protect the fund.

The NCUSIF approval is now the biggest entry barrier for new charters.

This prioritization of insurance  has changed the focus of many credit union leaders.   Instead of a social movement designing alternatives for members’ financial needs, credit unions have become me-too financial providers.

Credit unions are now fully entitled members of America’s financial system with access to governmental and market options similar to most banks.

Some continue to prioritize member well-being and their challenges of financial equity.   Others embrace the open-ended opportunities to pursue the market ambitions of their competitors.

A number of credit union leaders and academics have interpreted the insurance requirement (primarily NCUA) as the most important factor in the evolution of the cooperative financial system-for good or otherwise.

I will look at these assessments in later blogs.

A Disturbing Slide in May’s NCUA Board Meeting

If the CFO came to your May board  with a forecast that the credit union’s retained earnings margin would fall by 50% in the first six months of this year, it would get your attention.

That is what CFO Schied presented in the slide below showing a decline in the NOL from December’s 1.3% to 1.25% by the end of this June.  That would be halfway to the 1.20 NOL floor at which the NCUA must come up with a restoration plan.

As summarized in my earlier report, all of the actual credit union CAMELS data, the NCUSIF financial position and other accompanying information was good news.  Especially in the context of the first quarter banking failures and the continuing risk in interest rates.

Board members acknowledged the actual resilience of the cooperative system but then picked up the forecasted alarm.

Chairman Harper suggested the actual data was just “the calm before the storm.”

Vice Chair Hauptman opened his comments stating his objective was to protect “the taxpayers” from NCUSIF failure.

Only board member Hood attempted to get behind the numbers.  He asked how the $12 million  loss reserves expense was determined and the status of proper presentation of the 1% true up.  The answers were a polite stonewall.

Similar to a credit union’s net worth, the NCUSIF’s reserve ratio is an easy shorthand for its financial position.  The calculation is straight forward.   The ratio is simply retained earnings divided by the insured shares at the same date.

This ratio was 29.1 basis points or .291% of insured shares at December 2022.  As of March 2023 the ratio was 28.8 basis points. This .3 of one basis point minimal decline in the first 90 days is a far cry from the 5 basis points projected above.

The projected ratio in slide 8 is a made-up number. Its relevance depends on the assumptions used.  The estimated growth of insured shares to $1.75 trillion is a 7.2% twelve month increase from 2022.  The actual rate of increase as of March 2023 from the year earlier was 2.2%.

The addition to retained earnings for the quarter ending June is just $6 million versus a net income of $41.7 million in the NCUSIF’s just reported March quarter.

The final number in the numerator is the 1% deposit.  The calculation above reverts back to the six-month-old December 31, 2022 total deposits. By using this out-of-date number this invented ratio understates the actual 1% deposit total due from credit unions.  Including this six-month-old deposit liability misstates  the actual ratio and cash due.

The slide’s 1.25%  manufactured outcome became the lead in several press reports. It misinforms about the trend in the NCUSIF’s financial position. The ratio’s assumptions were not explained even though they were significantly different from actual trends through March.

Monitoring an accurate Fund equity ratio matters.

Per stature, the actual NOL is calculated at yearend to determine whether a dividend must be paid should the fund’s reserves exceed the NOL cap. The number is also the floor from which a potential premium could be assessed to increase the NOL to a maximum of 1.3% of insured shares.  Getting this NOL right is vital for every credit union.

More critically the use of a number from an earlier accounting period to compare with a current period’s insured risk total does not align with standard GAAP accounting practice.

Two Accounting Examples

There are direct accounting precedents with GAAP for how the 1% true up should be reported.  They show that the concurrent presentation of insured risk and the legally required true up of the capital deposit base is standard industry practice.

The first example is Deloitt & Touche’s audit of  ASI’s required deposit an identical structure to the NCUSIF.  From the December 2022 ASI audited financials:

In our opinion, the accompanying financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Company as of

December 31, 2022 and 2021, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the years then ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.   Deloitte & Touche, LLP April 11, 2023

And regarding the deposit requirement:

Participants’ capital contributions that are receivable or payable as of December 31, 2022 and 2021, are presented on a gross basis in the accompanying consolidated financial statements. Included in participants’ equity at December 31, 2022, is a receivable for capital contributions of Primary-insureds of $2,530,000 (no payable). The receivable and payable balances result from annual growth or shrinkage in participating credit union shares and the receivables were substantially collected subsequent to December 31, 2022.

Included in participants’ equity at December31, 2021, is a receivable for net capital contributions of Primary-insureds of $25,200,000. The receivable and payable balances result from annual growth or shrinkage in participating credit union shares and the receivables were substantially collected subsequent to December 31, 2021.  (page 13, Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements)

The second example is the recognition in the NCUA’s Operating Fund of an “account receivable,” on the balance sheet and the income statement in its monthly statements postings.

From the January 30, 2023 NCUA Operating Funds monthly financial statements:

The cash position is considered sufficient to cover current and future budgetary obligations of the Fund through April 2023, at which time the Fund will collect the 2023 operating fees from its credit union members. . . Operating fee revenue reflects one twelfth of the 2023 Operating Fees.

A longer explanation of this accounting presentation for the expense receivable in the January 2022 statement:

Other accounts receivable, net had a month-end balance of approximately $10.5 million. Its balance increased by approximately $10.2 million from prior month primarily due to the unbilled receivable for the 2022 Operating Fee. The Operating Fee will be invoiced in March and collected in April.

In other words the Operating Fund recognizes a net receivable and records one twelfth of the total operating fee as income each month even though the fee is not invoiced till March and collected in April.

In these instances the amounts legally due are presented as receivables in ASI and NCUA’s    respective audited financial statements and monthly financial presentations.

The 1% True Up Topic Raised Again

Board member Hood asked again about the status of the external assessment of accounting options the NCUA board requested in 2021. CFO’s Schied characterized this external memo saying:  “Each option was “non-optimal.”  An unusual accounting conclusion.

NCUA has refused to publicly release this expert review under FOIA.  What options were reviewed, what data or precedents referenced, and how were the pros and cons presented?

The current practice leads users of the information astray. It potentially shortchanges credit unions’ dividends. NCUA self-interest is keeping the status quo.  The memo should be published for all to evaluate.

The credibility of NCA’s oversight of the insurance fund is a function of the legitimacy of the numbers and explanations it provides. If NCUA is not able to present the Fund’s position accurately, at a minimum it leads to misleading conversations.

How an Inaccurate Number Distorts Discussion

The fabricated 1.25 NOL ratio forecast as of the end of next month led to several illusory discussions and unfortunate public headlines.

One board member commented how the Fund’s “margin was narrowing” before “taxpayers will have to pay.”  That unfortunate characterization shows the importance of knowing real numbers.  In the first 90 days of 2023 the ratio had changed by just .03 of one basis point.

Moreover the only “taxpayers” who are legally bound to support the NCUSIF are members of credit unions. Each sends 1 cent of every savings dollar in their credit union’s 1% deposit in the Fund.

The board member’s observation that “there is not a lot of room between 1.2 to 1.3 equity” unfortunately mischaracterizes the fund’s actual operating performance since 1984.  The long term insured loss rate for the fund is just over 1 basis point.   Even in the 2008-2010 the net cash losses from natural person credit unions were 3.5, 2.0 and 3.0 basis points of insured shares.  The highest cash losses in the three years was $228 million, nowhere close to the “billions” response in the meeting.

In the most recent four years (2019- 2022) which includes the Covid crisis, the economy’s total shutdown and a rising rate cycle, the highest loss from “old school failures” was .3 of one basis point.  In 2021 the Fund reported actual net cash recoveries.

An accurate presentation of past and current NCUSIF performance is important in understanding the unique design and resilience of the NCUSIF.  Because of this collaborative resource, the credit union cooperative system is much more stable than FDIC insured bank premiums.

The Fund’s relative size to insured risks remains stable in all circumstances.   The 10 basis point guardrails (the 1.20-1.30 operating ratio range) today equates to almost $1.8 billion. For comparison, the NCUSIF’s entire total insured losses from 2008 through 2022 were $1.9 billion.   The operating expenses in this same period were over $2.4 billion.

The legislative guardrails were put in for a reason.  Credit unions feared that open ended funding would just lead to unchecked spending by NCUA.  This is what has occurred through increasing the Overhead Transfer Rate allocation to shore up the agency’s ever increasing budgets.

Constantly rising expenses, not insured losses, are the Fund’s largest drain on reserves.

Everyone Can Project NCUSIF Yearend Outcome

Forecasting the NCUSIF’s yearend NOL ratio is simple.  Here is the link to a spreadsheet anyone can use. If any difficulty using, please email.

The inputs are portfolio yield, share growth, NCUSIF net income, insured loss and whatever assumptions a user believes are consistent with present trends.  The current numbers include the latest actual NCUSIF updates through March 2023. It projects a yearend NOL of 1.2917.

Tomorrow I will review one other slide that is vital to understanding the Fund’s management.

Today’s NCUA Board Meeting: an Opportunity for Insight into the NCUSIF

With only one agenda item, the NCUSIF’s March quarterly update, today’s NCUA board meeting presents an in-depth learning opportunity about the fund’s management.

With almost $22 billion in assets, the NCUSIF is the largest investment under NCUA’s control.

Because NCUA publishes monthly updates on its three major funds, credit unions are able to monitor how their members’ funds are being used.

The public board discussion is a vital part of this process for credit unions and board oversight.

What I Am Listening For

  1. There is much confusion caused by the NCUSIF’s use of Federal GAAP versus private GAAP accounting, the standard credit unions must follow. The Federal accounting terms, presentation and practice are different from private GAAP.

This is because Federal GAAP was intended for use by entities which rely on government appropriations.

Some examples.  Cumulative results of operations: Following SFFAS No 7 the NCUSIF recognizes interest on investments as “non-exchange revenue” which in turn means unrealized holding gains and losses are reported as part of revenue.

In contrast, credit union “available for sale” securities are reported at book value with unrealized gains or losses recorded in a valuation account, not as an income or expense.  This  account is not included when computing the net worth ratio.

Credit unions report retained earnings.  Federal accounting has no comparable account. This and other differences mean that NCUA staff transform NCUSIF Federal presentation into a private format, but then do not follow private accounting practice.

For example the 1% deposit true up (or refund) is treated as revenue in the NCUSIF; however credit unions record this adjustment as an investment asset on their books.

Will this confusion be addressed?   How will this affect the calculation of the 1% true up when presenting the NOL ratio for the fund?  Private GAAP recognizes the true up as a receivable or payable on the insurer’s books when the insured risk is reported triggering the required deposit adjustments.

  1. How has the NCUSIF investment committee responded to the rising interest rate environment? The market value of the NCUSIF’s investments may have fallen by as much as $1.5 billion from the peak in 2021.   What changes have been made in response?  How will the below market income stream from the fixed rate, lower earning. long-term bonds, affect the income of the fund and projections of the NOL in 2022?
  2. Credit union’s first quarter results have been summarized in Callahan’s Trendwatch. How does the first quarter’s 9.3% actual share growth compare with NCUA’s projections for the year? What impact, if any, will the rise in interest rates have on CAMELS ratings?
  3. What changes in NCUSIF investment policy and accounting presentation/practice is staff proposing? Or will be requested by the board?

Over the past 16 months, I have written several blogs about NCUSIF investing and accounting anomalies.   Here are selected observations and additional background for the questions that may be raised in today’s meeting:

I’ll follow up next week on the board’s dialogue.  Hopefully this will be a fresh start for improving the fund’s financial practices.


A Critical CEO Change

Today American Share Insurance (ASI) announced that Theresa Mason will be the new President and CEO.  She succeeds the retiring Dennis Adams who has served in that capacity for over three decades.

According to the release:

“Theresa is a highly accomplished Executive within the Insurance industry, having spent the past 16 years in the Columbus Market with Grange Insurance and the Kansas City Life Insurance Company where she served as President of Grange Life Insurance and directed highly effective finance, operations, sales andIT teams.

A Certified Public Accountant that began her career with Ernst & Young in Cleveland, Theresa also carries her CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant) and holds affiliations with theAmerican Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Ohio Society of CPA’s.”

Why This Matters

In ten states ASI is the share insurance option for state chartered credit unions instead of NCUSIF.

Today state charters hold approximately 50% of all credit union assets. The choice of share insurance is critical to a viable dual chartering system.  It allows state chartering authority to be the primary regulator.   Credit unions are closer to the legislatures and policy makers who create the laws governing their actions.

As a result, state charters have traditionally been the incubators of change for the entire credit union system.

In his final Annual Report message outgoing CEO Adams stated:

Without the option of private share insurance, I can attest that there are credit unions in America that would not be operating today. ASI has never been simply another vendor. To the contrary, we have always promoted our core value proposition as a true business partner to all of our member/owner credit unions, and our commitment to that has worked, and worked successfully, and that will never change. 

ASI’s board of directors is composed of credit unions and outside professionals elected by the credit union members.

ASI’s annual report shows the total primary insured shares of $20.4 billion with the program available in ten states.  It has received an outside audit by Deloitte and Touche and unqualified opinion following GAAP accounting standards.

The NCUSIF is A Better Way– IF Properly Managed

The NCUSIF’s redesign culminating in the October 1984 NCUA board implementation was revolutionary.   This two-minute excerpt is from NCUA’s Video Network of that historical vote:

NCUA Bd Mtg Approves NCUSIF Redesign: A Better Way .

A Partnership

Board member PA Mack summarizes his approval saying:   I’m ready to support this and think it is an outstanding product as a partnership among government and credit unions.”

NCUA wanted credit unions as partners, with mutual give and take, and together the cooperative system created the most successful federal insurance program ever. 

Can Work Beautifully

When approved by a 3-0 vote, Chairman Ed Callahan congratulated everyone for their efforts and commented:  “This is a very significant thing for credit unions.  This system can work beautifully for credit unions in the future. I think the real challenge goes to you people in NCUA now.  The real secret is in the operations.” 

Callahan believed the power of NCSIF’s redesign was that it clearly invites credit unions into “cooperation” now and as long as the system’s integrity is preserved though proper management.

A Three-Year Process

This redesign did not happen overnight.  It emerged due to the failure of the premium based approach modeled after the FDIC and FSLIC funds founded four decades earlier.  This reassessment was documented in a 120 page report NCUA sent to Congress in April 1983. It featured  comments from all segments of the credit union system. Legislation was drafted with credit unions and sent to Congress in 1984.

NCUA actively encouraged credit unions to support the legislative change.  An NCUA video outlined the plan including the NCUSIF’s financial history since 1971-1984.  This analysis was the foundation for creating A Better Way.

In the 1985, NCUA reported the outcome for credit unions following the first year of this new design:

Dividend of 5%: Because of the fund’s performance . . . for the first time ever the NCUSIF paid a dividend which represents about $30 million in equity distribution. . . The NCUSIF has returned in some form almost $270 million to credit unions: the $84 million equity distribution (when calculating the 1% deposit), the insurance premium waiver for last year, the $30 million dividend and leading into the next year, a $90 million premium waiver.  (Source:  Page 5 NCUSIF 1985 Annual Report)

The partnership approach based on transparent communication with credit unions and immediate return created another system benefit. The radical restructuring proved to be the way to something more– an action  that renewed the entire system’s hope during deregulation and that credit unions still benefit from  today.

The Operations of the Fund

The critical aspect of the NCUSIF’s cooperative design, as noted by Chairman Callahan, is how he fund is managed by NCUA staff.  These four primary responsibilities include:

  • The regular, timely and accurate reporting of the fund’s financial position.
  • Prudent oversight of  NCUA’s operating expenses charged to the fund.
  • The careful management of fund losses to ensure the least possible cost resolution for problems.
  • Intelligent and professional management of the fund’s primary revenue source- the yield on its investment portfolio.

In the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis a material change occurred in NCUA’s management of each of these responsibilities—all contributing to an increasingly confusing and misleading presentation of the fund’s financial status.

Today I will focus on the 2010 change from private GAAP accounting to Federal GAAP. Future posts will discuss the remaining three responsibilities.

The Ill-suited Change to Federal GAAP Presentation

From 1982 through 2009, the NCUSIF financials were audited and presented following private GAAP accounting standards.  This was a critical part of the NCUA commitment to follow the same reporting and presentation standards it required credit unions to implement.

Credit unions had agreed to the perpetual 1% underwriting of their NCUSIF deposit. In return the NCUA guaranteed the information to properly monitor the agency’s management of these ever- growing 1% deposit assets.

This private accounting standards in 1982 was a departure from the NCUA’s initial practice of relying on a GAO audit which was often late in completion and did not follow GAAP accounting practices.

Why Reliance on Federal GAAP is Inappropriate and Misleads Credit Union Owners and the General Public.

Federal GAAP reporting was intended for use by entities that receive appropriations from the government.   The NCUSIF receives no government funding.  The  unique cooperatively designed fund relies on withdraw-able member deposits as the principal underwriting  source, not an insurance premium expense levied on credit unions.

In Federal presentation the normal balance sheet categories are divided into Intra-governmental accounts and Public accounts, a confusing description at best.  Liabilities have the same misleading divisions.  The Net Position contains a federally  defined Cumulative Results of Operations, sometimes mischaracterized  as retained earnings.  However in federal GAAP this account includes changes in the net unrealized gains and losses on the NCUSIF’s investment portfolio during the year.

Private GAAP does not include this.  As a result the monthly income and yearly audited statements present a completely misleading number from a retained earnings or equity perspective.

The traditional income and expense information is  renamed as Statement of Net Cost.” This presentation is similarly as confusing and misleading as the balance sheet categories. The presentation begins with Gross Costs , followed by Less Exchange Revenues, with a so called bottom line labelled,  Net Cost of Operations.

In 2020, Federal GAAP reported an NCUSIF  bottom line of a $239 million gain; however private GAAP net income was only $32.9 million.  The outcome is that actual retained earnings do not correspond to cumulative results of operations, thus misstating the true NOL when the 1% deposits are added. This annual over or under presentation of “fund equity ” is shown in the following chart.

Federal government accounting  reporting does not appropriately present the fund’s “equity” at yearend

This confusing presentation continues in the other required financial statements. These include the federally prescribed Changes in Net Position and the Statements of Budgetary Resources.   Neither portrays the data needed to understand traditional financial concepts of changes in cash flows, retained earnings or total equity.  These concepts were created for federally appropriated entities.

To see the full 2020 audit report following Federal GAAP presentation, click here.  Pages 13 and 14 are completely unintelligible versus private GAAP presentation.

The standard Federal GAAP presentation is so confusing that when staff updates the NCUSIF financial results to the board, the income statement and balance sheet are converted  to the standard GAAP income and balance sheet formats.

However even this monthly “translated” accounting practice is a mash up of private and federal GAAP concepts.  For example the most recent NCUSIF update showed  a quarterly net income at September 30 of $58.6 million.  The balance sheet account which would include this gain is called the Cumulative Results of Operations.  That account instead shows a quarterly  “loss” for the September quarter of $16 million.   This $75 million total difference is due to the net decline in market valuation of the investment portfolio.

Two Different NOL Calculations in the Audit

These distortions continue even when NCUA calculates the formal audited NOL ratio at yearend.  In the 2020 audit footnote 13  states the NOL is 1.26%.  This number is calculated by dividing the total Net Position of $18.9 billion by yearend insured shares of $1.5 trillion.

However in the same audited statement NCUA presents a different way to calculate the NOL and whether a dividend is due credit unions:

The NCUSIF equity ratio is calculated as the ratio of contributed capital plus cumulative results of operations, excluding the net cumulative unrealized gains and losses on investments, to the aggregate amount of the insured shares of all insured credit unions.  (pg 134 NCUA annual audit for NCUSIF, emphasis added)

Subtracting the net gain of $511 million NCUSIF net investments  at 12/20 from cumulative results of operations gives and NOL, per the above paragraph,  of 1.228 or 1.23%.   Which number are credit unions to believe?  Which NOL calculation determines the dividend?

Why Readopting Private GAAP is Critical

The confusions and misleading calculations shown above are just some of deviations from private GAAP accounting financial presentation and audit scope.

Moreover the misrepresentation even extends to how the 1% required credit union deposit true-up is included in the yearend NOL calculation.

The recognition of the 1% required capital true up was a settled financial practice until the board chose to change this in 2001.  Today that change continues to distort the true NOL.

For example the traditional method for NOL calculation followed from 1984 through 2000 would result in an NOL of 1.32% at 2020 yearend. ( a retained earnings ratio of .32 plus 1%) This is much higher than either of NCUA’s two reported calculation methods in the NCUSIF audit.

This underreporting misrepresents the NCUSIF’s actual financial strength and would deny credit unions a dividend if the historical NOL cap of 1.3% had been in place.

For users of the NCUSIF financial statements, Federal GAAP is confusing and misleading.  The NCUA in fact continues to use private GAAP in all three of its other fund annual audits and monthly presentations.

“Fairly presenting” the NCUSIF results for credit unions requires a return to an accounting system which credit unions can understand so they  can monitor their investment in the fund.

Tomorrow I will look at how NCUA has changed the way it charges the NCUSIF for its operating expenses.  And the consequences on the fund’s financial performance.






GAO’s NCUSIF Study Omits the Most Important Data Point

The GAO  released a report in October analyzing the causes of credit union failures from 2010-2020.   The news stories and report lead with two facts:  145 credit unions caused $1.55 billion in losses to the NCUSIF in these eleven years.

The full report  took 16 months to complete and contains appendices full  of math correlations and sophisticated looking analysis.

However it omits the most important fact about these losses.  That is the NCUSIF’s 1.30 Normal Operating Level (NOL) is 93 times larger than the rate of insured losses for this period.  That is a critical actuarial finding.

The GAO failed to put its analysis in any context or perspective.  Any loss is too much.  All credit unions operate in a competitive market.  As noted by Ed Callahan when Chair of NCUA discussing deregulation, “Some credit unions will do better than others.”

The most important issue is the financial impact of losses on the NCUSIF and credit unions.   Using the GAO’s $1.55 bn total, this results in a loss rate on insured savings in this eleven-year period of 1.4 basis points.

The loss  trend is also declining as noted in the study.  Of this total, the report (page 13) says $831.7 million was from the failure of three taxi medallion credit unions in 2018.   That means the 142 remaining credit unions lost $718 million for a loss rate of only .65 of 1 basis point.

In the context of a $20 billion insured fund with total capital equal to 1.3% of insured savings, the fund is 200 times larger than the insured losses if the disruptive event of the taxi medallions is not included.  If counted, the fund as noted, is 93 times larger than the eleven-year  insured loss rate.

Reasons for Failures

Figure 7 on page 19 is a table labelled: Top Material Loss Review Causes or Contributors to Failure by Number of Times Mentioned.

This is the list of the six causes from most to less frequently cited:

  1. Credit Union Board or Committee Oversight
  2. Failure by NCUA examiners
  3. Weak or missing NCUA Guidance
  4. Fraud
  5. Management integrity
  6. Lack of timely and aggressive NCUA action

All of these six areas are why there is an examination of every insured credit union.  These “causes of failure” should be covered in every exam.

The report does not cite economic circumstances or external disruptive events, as in the taxi medallion credit unions, as reasons for losses.  The report began after the Great Recession with losses in 2010 when the economic recovery was well underway.

What the report makes clear is that NCUA’s exam program has much room for improvement.

At yesterday’s November board meeting, the CFO commented that the positive NCUSIF AME recoveries from prior loss estimates has continued into November.   So the net loss reserving expense for 2021 is, in effect, negative.   This means the two most recent NCUSIF loss ratios cited above should be even lower when this year’s results are added to this study’s total.