Dollar Sets Membership Goal For '05

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NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar said that by 2005 he would like to see credit union membership be made available to all 90-million Americans who live in low-income neighborhoods.

Dollar set the goal in remarks before the American Association of Credit Union Leagues' (AACUL) annual meeting, during which he also pointed to accomplishments at NCUA during 2003, such as expansion of the Partnering And Leadership Successes (PALS) workshops, as well as updates to the agency's chartering and field of membership rules and the overseas branching regs.

"Access Across America set another record in 2003 with credit unions adopting 269 low-income areas with a total of 25.2 million residents, bringing the total number (since the outreach program began) to...558 credit unions that have adopted 975 low-income areas with 64.7 million residents," Dollar said, lauding the program he developed to help credit unions reach out to the underserved.

The chairman was careful to note that those population numbers represent the total number of potential members in those areas, not actual members signed up in those areas, as that data is not being tracked. Dollar added that such tracking would be an onerous process both in terms of time and cost.

But the agency has begun tracking and comparing the growth rates at credit unions that have opted to add low-income fields of membership to those that have not. "Credit unions that have adopted low-income areas have a growth rate that is 92.6% higher than those who have note," Dollar observed. "We can't say that those growth rates all came from those underserved markets, but the numbers are significant and speak for themselves."

A Dent & A Crease

While Dollar suggested that making 64.7-million low-income residents eligible for credit union membership is something to crow about, he said he'd like to see even more growth in this area. "There are 90-million Americans living in CDFI investment areas as identified by the Treasury. Credit union in the last three years have made a dent, a crease and perhaps a chasm in the number of residents in these areas who no longer are dependent on the pawn shops and payday lenders," he offered. "My goal is that by the end of 2005 credit unions will have reached out to all 90 million [low-income residents]."

Among the other goals Dollar listed:

* Finalize a regulation strengthening disclosure provisions when a CU seeks to convert to a bank charter.

* Promote a more risk-based approach to implementing PCA-an initiative that will require some changes to the current law.

* Continue efforts to increase efficiency and hold down costs at NCUA.

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