Sometime this month the number of Americans within the fields of membership (FOM) of federally insured credit unions is expected to hit the 600 million mark.
Over the past four years, since passage of the landmark credit union law known as HR 1151 or the CU Membership Access Act, the number of potential members within FOMs has more than doubled from 262 million.
I know, you say, there are only 285 million or so Americans. But, of course, the FOM figure counts many people two or three or four times.
What does this numbers game mean? It means from a practical standpoint, credit unions should no longer be concerned with the ability to expand their FOMs and should focus now on cultivating and penetrating the FOMs they have. It's hard to believe that most credit unions do not have the ability to reach the potential membership they need or want. And NCUA's approval of the new FOM rules will go a longer way toward ensuring that.
But from a political standpoint, credit unions probably ought to stop asking for greater membership powers. It only serves to incense the bankers and their political constituency. And if you have the FOM powers you need or want, why ask for more?
Credit union lobbyists concede that virtually every single American has the ability to join at least one credit union. But they also believe that every American should be able to join the credit union of their choice. That might be a nice idea, but it will only serve to inflame the antagonisms of the bankers even more, not to mention increase the competition within the credit union movement, hastening the demise of the smaller credit unions.
When is enough, enough?