A New Vision For Regulatory Leaders

August 2 proved to be a pivotal day for the country, for credit unions, and for NCUA.


Three noteworthy events took place on August 2, all of which have potentially significant consequences for credit unions:

  1. President Obama signed into law a compromise on the debt ceiling that will change the trajectory of government spending and revenue for the next decade.
  2. NCUA announced the cancellation of the voluntary prepaid assessment funding for the Temporary Corporate Credit Union Stabilization Fund after only 800 of 7,300 credit unions pledged to support it.
  3. The term of NCUA Board member Gigi Hyland expired, opening up the position at NCUA.

These seemingly independent events are actually interconnected. In aggregate, they provide the opportunity for credit unions to set a new direction that will benefit the country, credit union members, and the entire cooperative financial system. 

This is the first of several articles that will examine the implications of these events. The change in the federal government’s fiscal priorities means a new possible role for credit unions, but new leadership initiatives are needed — now more than ever — to fully take advantage of the opportunity presented by a change in the macroeconomic  environment. This analysis is intended to encourage dialogue among readers about their leadership expectations. 

First, a few questions to consider. How are the events of August 2 connected? How does the nomination of a new NCUA Board member relate to a macro-change in public fiscal policy? What does the credit union industry's lack of confidence in NCUA, as displayed in the response to the voluntary prepaid assessment, suggest about Board oversight at NCUA?

These events draw into question the cooperative system’s ability to fulfill its public policy role without a significant change in NCUA direction, bringing to light several issues, such as:  

  •  How can NCUA better align its policy initiatives with the Administration’s, whether Republican or Democratic? Throughout the past three years, the actions of NCUA’s leadership have directly contradicted the Administration’s announced priorities. NCUA’s positions have not only undermined economic and regulatory recovery efforts, they’ve also prevented credit unions from fulfilling their public policy, credit-granting role. Two recent examples of misaligned initiatives include 1) the White House’s budget reductions versus NCUA’s budget increases and 2) the Administration’s dictum that federal agencies review and reduce regulation versus NCUA’s continual introduction of rules like those regarding CUSO regulation.
  • How can member credit unions re-create the role of the Central Liquidity Facility so this essential pillar of safety and soundness is available to be a lender of unfailing reliability for credit unions?
  • When will NCUA return the excess reserves in the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund? According to the agency’s own numbers, when using the actual loss experience of the past three years, the NCUSIF’s allowance account has more than $1 billion in unneeded funds.  Returning these reserves would improve the net worth positions of all credit unions.
  • What steps will restore NCUA transparency, which is critical to effective governance, and thereby restore confidence to the credit union system?
  • What actions will make the cooperative charter and its regulatory system more attractive to consumers looking for trusted alternatives?
  • How can the tri-part structure of NCUA better reflect cooperative approaches? Many of NCUA’s solutions are “FDIC-emulation” tactics that are more appropriate to shareholder-owned institutions, not cooperatives. 

These are just some of the issues crystallized by the events of August 2. Seemingly unrelated, they all point to one need: a new leadership vision for NCUA. What skills, experiences, and common sense approaches must a new Board possess to meet your leadership expectation?

The President, with Senate confirmation, makes the final decision, but the cooperative system should articulate the framework for understanding the challenges awaiting a new leader, and it should do so now. One of the oldest principles in politics is: In a democracy, the citizens get the leadership they deserve. What leadership do you deserve? What qualities does your credit union want to see in the person who fills the NCUA Board vacancy?

Share your point of view in the comments below.





Aug. 8, 2011


  • I'd like to think Bucky would be a shoo-in for the nomination! Restore a balanced approach to the agency's handling of regulations -- someone that would tell the staff to piss off when they are dreaming up new schemes to screw credit unions. Where do I buy the bumper sticker?
    NCUA Reformer
  • Amen! To my knowledge, CUNA & NAFCU have been quiet on this publically. This is the time to start flexing our lobbying muscle. While normally in good times that kind of lobbying has been done behind closed doors (for probably good reason), I think the serious crossroads we're at now with our regulator & insurance fund management demands a very public dialogue and show of credit union concern and opportunity that could come with new appeoaches to leadership and perspective on the agency. Do we have an Agency that believes it's only role is to be a cop on the street? Or, do we have leaders that recognize & manage system risk while also enabling future prosperity for our members and communities? We've had that in the past at NCUA. Missing entirely now. Would like to see our trade associations engaging us publically in this critical issue right now! Could be the most important win they can influence in the current environment -- paying dividends to credit unions for years to come as opposed to lobbying on single issues here and there after the Agency and their tenured staff has already set a course.
    Concerned CEO
  • Whoever comes in should seriously look at the actions of the senior staff - those who keep repeating the errors that place our whole system in jeopardy.
  • Frankly, I'm not all that sure that the failure of the voluntary assessment prepayment program is some kind of referendum on the movement's confidence in the NCUA. I think it's just as likely it was a simple statement about the financial circumstances of the nation's credit unions...

    That being said, from my viewpoint over the last 30+ years, with a few minor or short-lived exceptions who the "leadership" of the NCUA is and what they say has been essentially irrelevant to the general nature of what the agency chooses to do, or not do.

    The career bureaucrats in the agency have a warped perspective of the movement and their role in it. They apparently lack the willingness (and perhaps the basic ability) to apply the informed and insightful analysis required to develop sophisticated responses to the constantly changing consumer finance landscape and credit union's evolving role in it.

    Is depleting whatever political capitol the movement might have accumulated in an attempt to get a particular person (or type of person) appointed to the NCUA Board an effective use of that resource? I'm not sure it is.

    I wish I wasn't as skeptical as I am of the value of working to achieve an NCUA Board with some sense of the true nature of the movement's needs (or at least one familiar with the announced imperatives of the Administration for whom they supposedly work) and the ability to effectively direct the agency's actions from that viewpoint.

    But I am.
    CU Pres
  • After a federal judge dismissed NCUA's civil suit against WesCorp directors, a soon to fail action against RBC, rejection of the voluntary prepaid assessment, and a host of other failures of leadership, I don't know how the NCUA board keeps their trousers or pant suits up....they sure got their butts handed to them.
    Tom Randle
  • Jody, don't see any comments on Chip's article.  Just your comments on the comments and general dislike of Chip's point of view that the NCUA leadership has been harming more than helping in their controversial actions taken these past couple of years.  

    From my own corresponding with industry leaders and CU manager peers I wouldn't say Chip is in the minority.  It is true that most of us are resigned to the authority NCUA has over our organizations and we typically just go along with it in hopes they know what they are doing.  I don't think many of us have much faith in that this time around and the current results and future system capabilities resulting from the dismantling of the corporates and crushing industry assessments make that pretty clear.  

    I don't agree with every idea that Chip or anyone else puts out but I believe the system benefits from a range of ideas and well articulated and data-based points of view.  It is clear in all his articles that Chip believes passionately in credit unions and the power of what we can do for members and our country.  We need more leaders like Chip to vocalize from the industry or system perspective.  And, yes, we need to challenge our regulator when they aren't doing what is in the best interest of the system and members.  And if they keep chugging along dismantling and over-regulating, we need to do what we can to influence change in that Leadership -- they stewards of our own money.

    Keep sharing your thoughts and ideas Chip, keep pushing us forward, keep challenging.
  • comments on the latest Filson Rambling

    To Concerned CEO: flexing lobbying muscle? Cuna and NAFCU have none. Where have you been? That is where you need new leadership.

    To NCUA Reformer: Bucky? Here is a man who as Archie Bunker would say, put his credit union in the toilet. Then he "retired" before he was fired and being part of the good old boys network, landing another Credit Union job. To CS: System in jeopardy? Where do you live? In a glass house? The system is it's own worst enemy! To Tom Randle: Dismissal of a lawsuit? It's called the legal system. The court is the final decision maker. Prepaid assessment? That was Cuna's idea. Are you a Member? Failure of leadership? Credit Union people created the corporates and ran them. Without NCUA your C.U. may have gone bye, bye. To CU pres. Career beaucrates? I agree. The decision makers of the past. No anymore, and if you don't see that, you are missing it. Really people, can't you see Mr. Filson's views are in the minority? He has lost the respect of industry leaders and CU managers who see that what NCUA did needed to be done. He loves to stir the pot, but the only ingredients he ever adds just sours the soup. If he was on the food network, he would hae been chopped a long time ago!
    Jody Major
  • The filling of this position is of the utmost critical nature to the future direction of Credit Unions. Create your own independant search for the best candidate then use your combined power to implement.
    Barry V. Pavlina
  • I believe the vote against the prepayment was that it did not make economic sense. The idea goes against rational economic theory and violates the free rider principle. If there had been some tangible benefit to pre-payers, credit union's would have fully supported it. Giving up capital and the income from that capital today so another organization that may or may not need the relief does not have to give up capital….There was a viable idea in there somewhere but it sure got squished out.

    The failure of the vote was confirmation that credit unions are coming of age and are confident and able to make good judgments that are not in line with its parent regulator.

  • There have been so many changes over the last many years yet all futurists have predicted the changes would occur faster and with sometimes as much as tenfold in numbers compared to previous years. These changes affect all aspects of everyone's life. Technology/social/communications changes probably affect us more than all the others. Management as well as regulators are under a constant barrage of communications inputs, (many negative), from happenings in our industry but also throughout the financial marketplace and the world in general. It helps you to feel less confident in decisions even with well studied plans. Long story short, concerning the Prepaid Assessment Program, I feel our overall industry was "fed up" with expense, regardless of who was at fault, and did react negatively to a positive program for the overall industry.

    With such low rate interest environments and most credit unions with ample liquidity, I think that many credit unions as a whole would have benefited from a lower Corporate Credit Union fund assessment this year. There would have been some lost future investment income for credit unions yet the benefit provided to the overall industry to help stabilize incomes as well as help overcome a 2-4 year curve of the high unexpected corporate credit union expenses being "swallowed" into current budgets could have been very beneficial, especially to those with lower capital strength.

    I think the vote against the Prepaid Corporate Assessment program was more a vote against all that caused the debacle beginning in 2008 or before. One feeling that was probably with all in our industry, we, the natural person credit unions, did not cause the problems yet are certainly paying for them, along with many other industries. We are a strong industry and need to continue to remember to pull together as we morph into the 21st century.