It’s time for NAFCU to merge into CUNA. NAFCU as a stand-alone trade association fulfilled its mission long ago and its presence as an independent organization is presenting more debits than credits. Let it fold its operations into the older and more encompassing organization.
Let’s run through some reasons why this makes sense. For one, retaining NAFCU as an independent trade association is expensive. Most credit unions are members of CUNA; if they are also members of NAFCU they are paying twice for representation in the halls of Congress and the NCUA. The money spent on supporting NAFCU would be better used returning to members’ pocketbooks, or even better, never coming out of those pocketbooks at all.
NAFCU’s presence is divisive. NAFCU never claimed to represent all credit unions, but only a segment. It often worked to promote the interests of that segment over the interests of the other segment. Thus it worked against a portion of the credit union movement. As it worked against that other segment and as it tended to devalue those credit unions that did not have federal charters or federal insurance, it tended to devalue the worth of the whole movement. This may be difficult for many people to see, but this devaluation was real enough and most keenly felt, of course, by those outside NAFCU’s orbit.
Moreover, NAFCU’s presence has been stimulating the wrong kind of competition. In order to justify its existence, NAFCU has had to keep differentiating itself both to the credit union community and the nation at large. Thus it was often working at cross purposes with CUNA.
NAFCU’s actions have also been duplicative, the more so lately. NAFCU prided itself in a strong presence in Washington, D. C. But years ago, when Dan Mica – a former Congressman – was taking over CUNA, the consensus on CUNA from its members was that CUNA should work less at business-type operations and league building than it should becoming a strong voice in legislatures and regulatory bodies. Now Dan Mica is working out of CUNA’s Washington office. CUNA has as much presence down the street from the U. S. Capitol as it does in Wisconsin.
NAFCU’s presence creates confusion in the halls of state and federal regulators and legislatures. Legislators and regulators confronted with the lobbyists of two organizations from a single industry are apt to throw their hands up and say “Come back when you agree on what should be done.”
The Importance of a Single Focus
This last point can hardly be exaggerated. The U. S. Congress especially is simply not going to work on legislation unless the affected industry comes to it with a consensus view. The story of H. R. 1151 is the prime case in point.
When the Supreme Court case and then the Congressional bill confronted decision-makers in Washington, NAFCU was going to rent new space, hire PR and lobbying firms and raise money independent of CUNA. It was only when a meaningful group of credit union executives got NAFCU and CUNA leaders in a room and told them that if they couldn’t act in unison on this one, the executives would quit both organizations and not come back. It was only then that NAFCU and CUNA reluctantly agreed to work together – to devote their combined personal, financial and professional resources -- to pass H. R. 1151.
Those credit union leaders understood what NAFCU and CUNA leaders were reluctant to face, that Congress is not going to care about passing legislation in support of an industry pressing divided agendas. Congress says, in effect, don’t come to us until you have your act together, have a single message, can speak in one voice and make a convincing case -- then we can get something passed.
If some group is wriggling through the back door with whispers or going to the states and trying to stir dissension there, Congress is going to move on to less onerous challenges.
Let the view of the federally chartered credit unions be taken up, debated and settled within CUNA and before presentation of position and legislative points to regulators and Congress. Let a consensus reach these people rather than two views.
No Time Like the Present
If having two major trade associations is wasteful, divisive, duplicative, and confusing to legislators, then the sooner NAFCU merges into CUNA the sooner we get our act together, the more seriously we will be taken, the more focused, influential and powerful we will be, and the more money we will save.
The time to do this is now.