We stand on
the end of one era and on the threshold of another. The leadership
at NCUA is going to change. The new era will host challenges we
have not even imagined. Who in 1990 was contemplating 24/7 delivery
of services and a thriving e-commerce? Who knows what might lie
ahead? Accordingly, we should choose a new chairman (read
as well "chairwoman") with great care. Much lies in the balance.
I recommend selection after consideration of the following six points:
new chairman should be a person who truly understands the credit
union difference. Credit unions are not banks
of a different flavor. They are instead not-for-profit financial
cooperatives. They are meant to serve people, not create profits.
new chairman should be a person who truly understands the business
world and what it takes to succeed in the competitive business
environment. The climate in which credit unions exist
is highly competitive and credit unions have to struggle in the
marketplace against formidable and wealthy rivals in order to
new chairman should not arrive with a political agenda. A
background in politics is not a particularly fertile field for
effective chairmanship at NCUA. A person with a political agenda
is all too likely to entangle it with NCUA's mission, which is
to foster the development and advancement of credit unions.
The new chairman should command the respect of the financial
When Alan Greenspan speaks, the world hangs on the
pauses between his words. We don't need that kind of attention,
but owing to the benefits credit unions have bestowed on the country
and the number of credit union members, the chairman should attract
the same respect as the leaders of the OCC and the FDIC.
new chairman should have the managerial skills to adequately draw
on the talents and resources of the agency.
There are vast capabilities at NCUA but they are not always fully
utilized. The agency would function better if its subordinate
members were heard. To this end, the new chairman should embody
integrity. A new chairman with good will and integrity will be
better for the agency than one with pizzazz.
new chairman need not see the future clearly -- who can? But
he or she must have the wisdom to remain open-minded to it, to
remain flexible enough to allow for the conditions -- whatever
they might be -- that in turn allow credit unions to prosper.
Those conditions extend to flexibility of charter. The credit
union movement has to serve and follow the members. If changing
charters is the means, then so be it.
Let us hope
that those who nominate have the wisdom to do so wisely. Credit
unions remain under attack and in an increasingly volatile financial
services environment. In order to continue the mission of serving
the nation's ordinary men and women with reasonably priced financial
services, the regulatory agency requires -- and the nation deserves
-- a man or woman who as much as possible embodies the meritorious
qualities discussed above.