Federal Credit Union Group Opens Membership at State Level

This week the National Association of Federal Credit Unions announced a plan to offer its services to state-chartered credit unions that are federally insured. The change, which the association has mulled for a while, comes at a time when another association in the credit union space is facing questions about its membership structure.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU) is getting a little more inclusive.

The association announced Tuesday that it would expand its membership to include state-chartered credit unions that are federally insured. The decision, approved by the association’s board of directors at its annual meeting in Montreal this week, marks a major shift for the organization, which had previously offered membership only to those state-chartered unions that had changed from federal-chartered status.

The association will now offer an advocacy voice in Washington to credit unions on both the state and federal levels.

Our organization is member-driven, not staff-driven.

“This announcement is a natural evolution of NAFCU’s mission and supports our goal to help all credit unions with federal issues by becoming a stronger, more impactful organization,” said Ed Templeton, chair and director-at-large of the board of directors, in a news release. “This unanimous decision included enthusiastic support from our board because it will further NAFCU’s ability to provide the absolute best in member service and choice to all federally insured credit unions.”

NAFCU has long considered opening up its membership to state-level credit unions, which often grapple with federal-level issues. Discussions about the change go back nearly a decade, Credit Union Journal noted.

“I’ve been contacted by state charters who want to join NAFCU,” the group’s president and CEO, Dan Berger, said in an interview with the publication. “They need our help, especially with compliance, the mortgage rules, [the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)], [the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau], the sheer amount of regulations they are having to deal with is incredible. They also like our position on Capitol Hill, as well. Our organization is member-driven, not staff-driven.”

Creating Competition

The shift, which could open the association up to as many as 2,500 potential new members, puts NAFCU in direct competition with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), which had been the only association to represent both federal credit unions and state-charted ones. (NAFCU emphasizes that they’re making the change largely as a way to better “serve current and new members with the best in advocacy, education and compliance assistance.”)

As both Credit Union Times and Credit Union Journal note, the requirement that credit unions must join CUNA to take advantage of state-league services had been a point of frustration for the State Employees’ Credit Union, the country’s second largest credit union. The North Carolina-based SECU left both a state league and CUNA last lear.

“The current league/CUNA structure is unsustainable in the future,” SECU President and CEO Jim Blaine said in a February 2014 interview. “This leads to some questions about the future structure of CUNA.”

Although CUNA has weighed reforming its membership structure, the association wrote a letter to NCUA earlier this month in which it said that it “remains committed to the dual charter system.”

“If functioning properly, the dual charter system creates incentive for NCUA and state regulators to move in the direction of policies that allow broader operating authority and impose fewer unnecessary constraints on operations,” the association wrote.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!