Credit unions to urge lawmakers to address data security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Data security and promoting awareness of credit unions were priorities for industry executives as they head to the Capitol on Wednesday to lobby their congressmen. Overall, 5,000 advocates for the industry from across the U.S. were slated to participate in more than 600 meetings with regulators and elected officials during the event, which concludes the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference.

The Credit Union Journal asked attendees what they were planning to focus on during these meetings. Here are some of their answers.

Joanne Todd, CEO and president of Northeast Family FCU
“I think it’s most important for lawmakers to know who we are, the place we have in our towns and communities and that we offer services to working class people. Most of the lawmakers don’t know the difference between banks and credit unions as well as they should and I think it’s important [that they know about us] because inclusive financial services are important for the success of their constituency. They’re interested in seeing the folks in their district succeed and I think they’re seeing the community banks consolidating, so there’s fewer places for people to go where it’s a local institution. And if it's not a local institution, there's a few implications there such as profits are drawn to the stockholders and it’s not like those profits get reinvested in the community. It’s not top of mind. "
Drema Isaac, president and CEO of Freestar Financial CU
"The one thing that’s we're really passionate about is the data breach problem and really attempting to make sure that there’s fair legislation so that all member data is secure. [We're looking for] a standard legislation that relates to data security since credit unions and banks are highly regulated with standards, and we want to see merchants held to that standard too. Data security is something we need to be diligent on because members will start losing confidence not only in credit unions, but financial institutions. We don’t want our members thinking they have to use cash because their card will be breached every time.”
Vickie Schmitzer, CEO of Frankenmuth CU
“I think there are so many new players out there that have been elected and we have to start from scratch and tell them the credit union story and have them understand that it’s not about us not paying taxes, it’s about the reason that we’re founded. Size doesn’t matter; it’s our structure. It’s important they understand us and that they know that there’s no stockholders. Our members are our owners.”
Jeff Wells, member of the supervisory board at Kinecta FCU
“We want to primarily get our message across to our local congressman about data security, which is the No. 1 issue. Keeping an eye on regulatory changes and reforms and giving our input on those topics. [We plan on focusing on] holding the merchants to the same level security requirements on data that the financial institutions have because merchants are a weak link in the thread that need to be addressed."
Dana Reif, manager of operations at Frankenmuth CU
“We’re planning on focusing on data breaches. We want to get the point across that there has to be something done and there’s got to be more accountability because we’re harboring all the legalities — all the losses are on us, especially with our reputation because members still think it’s the credit union's card that is doing this.”
Rich Miller, board director at Service One CU
"I think the major issue is orienting our representatives of what's going on in their home areas. I'm from Kentucky, so I'll meet with [Sens.] Rand Paul [and] Mitch McConnell and Rep. Guthrie and in our case. It's about explaining what our membership is facing of concern, [which includes] everything from the mortgage concern to security issues. With some of the junior people less embedded [in Congress], you can get more interaction. Legal aides and representatives are the most important people we have."