Matz Tells CUs You Got To Know When To Hold 'Em, When To Fold 'Em

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NCUA Board Member Debbie Matz told delegates at NAFCU's annual convention here she is "extremely proud" of the work CUs have done, but urged them to do more to combat threats to the movement.

Matz, whose term expires this month, said "high-powered players" in Washington, D.C., are calling for CUs to be taxed, and for the provisions of the Community Redevelopment Act to be imposed on credit unions.

"For credit unions, the stakes could not be much higher," she declared. "Credit unions have two choices: fold their hand and get out of the game, or up the ante and go all in. But why would you fold when you are holding the winning hand?"

"Put your cards on the table," she continued. "Do everything you can to demonstrate your credit union is earning its tax exemption and investing in your community."

Matz offered four methods for CUs to stand out and draw positive attention to themselves:

First, "Share your largesse. Every day, credit unions close their doors forever." She advised CUs to reach out to underrepresented groups, especially Latino and Asian neighborhoods whose growth rates are soaring.

Second, "Many lawmakers think community-chartered credit unions are no different from banks. We know this is not true," she argued. Matz said many single mothers, displaced workers, minorities, young people and others are trapped in the "vicious cycle" of predatory lending and non-guaranteed banking. "Compete with payday lenders by offering small loans without outrageous fees."

Third, while sub-prime lenders are building mortgage market share, Matz said CUs should offer mortgage loans to African Americans, Latinos and young people, who represent "millions" of opportunities. "What better way for credit unions to demonstrate they are earning their tax exemption and investing in their communities?"

Fourth, she emphasized the importance of providing financial education to the field of membership. "Help members make their monthly payments."

Matz told NAFCU attendees she has learned many things about the movement since she became an NCUA board member. One of the most important realizations was that size is not relevant, because "credit unions of all sizes do wonderful things to support their local communities." Matz said this helped her understand the field of membership regulations needed to change to allow CUs to serve a wider base.

"I realized easing restrictions on community charters for federal credit unions helped more people obtain affordable financial services. Three hundred forty federal credit unions have converted to a community charter during my time on the board, and I'm extremely proud of that."

Matz said listening to CUs' concerns was instrumental in a number of changes she voted for during her tenure on the board, inluding changes to the member business lending rule and investments, as well as others.

"Conversations with you have made me a better regulator-more in touch with your needs," she offered. "I have tried to draft policies to help credit unions perform best well into the future."

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