Dollar Says NCUA To Review FOM Manual; Urges Entry Into MBLs

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NCUA is planning a review of its field of membership regulations, in part to see what new opportunities the regulator can open up for credit unions.

"Since the passage of HR 1151 we have had the opportunity to rewrite every single regulation. This has been a great time to be on the NCUA board if you really want to make a difference," NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar told attendees of CUNA's Symposeum. "We're going to take another look at the field of membership manual. The challenge isn't simply to get the field of membership that you want, but to be able to offer the services that your members want and need."

Dollar didn't expand on what sorts of changes the agency may be considering, but he made it clear that the federal regulator will be reviewing the FOM Manual in the near future.

Another opportunity worth exploring, Dollar suggested, is member business lending, which was a common theme during Symposeum.

As the economy drives more of the recently unemployed to start up their own businesses, Americans need more credit unions to offer MBL services, Dollar counseled. "Member business lending is not for every credit union; that is a business decision that each individual credit union must make," Dollar advised. "But if you believe this is an area you can get into, I encourage you to do so."

Despite what appears to be a new interest in offering business services, Dollar noted that the numbers tell a different story. He said that in the most recent call reports, 1,539 credit unions indicated they are offering MBLs. That's down from 1,556 in 1997 and 1,573 in 1994.

While Dollar recognized that some may point to the 12.25% of assets cap on MBLs that was put in place by the Credit Union Membership Access Act (HR 1151) as a deterrent, he pointed out that the cap wasn't in place between 1994 and 1997, yet there was a decrease in CUs offering MBLs in those years, as well.

Nevertheless, Dollar said the agency is more open to and supportive of MBL services than ever before, but that credit unions will need to take the initiative in expanding such services.

While NCUA is looking for ways to open up new opportunities for credit unions, it is also going through a difficult time of change itself, Dollar observed, particularly as CU leaders continue to call for a greater say in the agency's budget and oversight.

"We cannot remain staffed up for 18,000 credit unions when we only have 10,000," he commented. "We have had to make some difficult decisions in our efforts to become more efficient."

And speaking of the decreasing number of credit unions-shrinking mostly due to the number of small credit unions that are being merged out of existence-Dollar offered his take on the fate of small credit unions.

"The credit unions that get left behind will not because of their size. It will not be because a credit union is small in size but small in vision," he stated. "I challenge you all to be large in your vision, regardless of your size."

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