Until April 15, 2010, credit unions have an opportunity to comment on NCUA’s “Field of Membership” rule. The agency hopes to streamline its admittedly cumbersome, ambiguous rule for obtaining a community charter. Some of the ambiguity can be traced back to 1998, when Congress passed H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act, which included a requirement that community credit unions be “local.”
While you’re considering whether to weigh in during this comment period, I would challenge you to also consider what it takes for a credit union to truly benefit from being granted a community charter. Whether you’re one of the many shops that have made this move in the last decade or you’re just now taking the plunge, a few concepts ring true:
- It’s an opportunity, not a gold rush: Since the start of the financial crisis in 2007, 205 banks and 33 credit unions have failed. Much has been said about what this shake-up will mean for the survivors. While it’s true that the flurry of bank closures has damaged consumers’ trust level for banks, competition for a share of their financial services wallet remains fierce. Especially in densely-populated metropolitan areas, it takes a sound strategy to thrive.
- Access and convenience rule: Financial guru Suze Orman has had some great things to say about credit unions lately, but she cites the smaller size of credit unions’ ATM networks as a downside (check out Suze Orman on Credit Unions). Of course, as a reader of CO-OP Financial Services’ Insight Vault, you’re savvier than that. You know that you can serve a community well by tapping into CO-OP Network, the nationwide network of 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs, many of them deposit taking, and 4,000 CO-OP Shared Branching locations.
Regardless of what happens with the NCUA rule on the field of membership issue, one thing is certain: Credit unions play an important role in providing affordable financial services to more than 90 million Americans, and CO-OP Financial Services is proud to be a part of this ongoing success story.