By Chad Adams
Equal profit share, enriched communities, and dedication to members. These are just a few of the many traits that define the credit union difference. And as more and more consumers decide to leave their bank and join a credit union, our industry will continue to see its share of challenges – from the big banks, to the bad actors, and beyond.
That is why NAFCU prioritizes doubling down on its advocacy, compliance, and education offerings. As the industry's Washington Watchdog, we are increasingly trusted by our members to help them grow and to help make sure the good work they are doing for American consumers is seen by regulators and legislators. Advancing credit union issues to the highest levels of government and safeguarding the industry against unwarranted attempts at mudslinging is our bread and butter.
Bankers are revamping their baseless attacks on credit unions, becoming more aggressive with each onslaught. Just take a look at some of their studies, which are rooted in falsehoods, and frivolous litigation attempts to undermine the industry beginning with the NCUA.
In seeking to discredit credit unions, bank lobbyists are working to eliminate market competition so their shareholders can continue to make wild profits while their customers suffer from high rates and worse customer service. Bank lobbyists may have mastered the art of deflection, but credit unions are known for their honest practices and for doing the right thing. Credit unions give consumers a seat at the table and provide for their local communities.
That is why 118 million Americans, and growing, trust credit unions. The more lawmakers and Americans take notice, the more important it is that we work together to stay engaged in grassroots efforts and make the time to connect with legislators who have the power to impact laws that touch us.
Earlier this year, we were given an immense advocacy advantage to fortify old relationships and create new ones when the 116th Congress kicked off. It welcomed 10 new senators and 101 new elected representatives. That’s 111 new chances to share your story, to educate, and to inform lawmakers of the credit union difference – your difference. At NAFCU, we know well the value of building personal relationships. It’s seen in our effectiveness on the hill, and we hear it directly from you – our members.
While this year may only have a few months left on the legislative calendar, a new session is waiting just around the corner. NAFCU is vigilant – educating lawmakers, regulators, and the public every day about the valuable work you do and the positive impacts you have on the lives of millions and on the U.S. economy. We may see progress, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Here are just a few issues we are tracking and encourage you to keep up to speed on.
With the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, California soon implementing the nation's most comprehensive data privacy law, and other states contemplating similar measures, Congress is poised to evaluate potential steps to protect consumers' data. NAFCU supports a national data privacy standard so credit unions will not have to comply with a patchwork of state laws.
Consumers want to know that when they put their trust in an institution, their financial data will not be at risk. NAFCU supports such consumer protections and a fair playing field for those parties providing financial services that are not subject to the same level of regulatory oversight as credit unions. It is time for all entities that handle consumer data to be held accountable.
NAFCU worked to have a bipartisan bill introduced in the House this year that would give the NCUA the flexibility needed to expand the current 15-year limit on certain loans under the Federal Credit Union Act. The limit not only has adverse effects on credit unions, but their members as well.
It's simple – credit unions need additional tools to grow and serve their members and lawmakers have the power to give the NCUA the autonomy it needs to ensure that consumers have increased access to affordable loans with more flexible payment options.
We live in a world where new technologies are launched daily. Consumers are used to increased speed and convenience. More and more credit unions are collaborating with fintech companies to provide enhanced products and services to their members, but with new opportunities come new risks.
Although fintech is revolutionizing the financial services sector, we must ensure that an inclusive, safe, and strong financial system remains. A space where tested regulations and consumer protections apply to all actors – resulting in a level playing field for all. There is no reason why flexible regulatory framework promotes innovation instead of impedes is not attainable.
The 2020 Elections
Looking towards the 2020 elections, Washington, D.C., will undoubtedly welcome new policymakers into the city. NAFCU stands ready to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure an environment in which credit unions can thrive.
We could not do it without our members, whether it be through their partnership in grassroots advocacy, or their good work in supporting local communities. Change is inevitable in Washington, but credit unions have strong support and many allies.
That’s the result of NAFCU’s bold approach to advocacy.
Chad Adams is NAFCU's director of political affairs.