The Big Theme In 1999: Getting Ready For The Year To Follow

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Credit unions didn't really join the rest of the world in partying like it was 1999. That's because credit unions, like businesses around the world, were worried about bugs. In this case, the Y2K bug. Many were predicting if not a widescale meltdown of every system operated by a computer when the clock hit 2000, then certainly enough problems that some credit union members and bank customers would see their balances wiped out. Here's a look at our Top 10 stories from 1999:

ONE: Preparation for Y2K. CUNA, CUNA Mutual host a special Y2K broadcast, and 2,000 tune in. An April survey of members found 75% expressing confidence their CU would have no Y2K problems. See artwork, page 1, 6.30 NCUA makes Y2K assistance grants available. At some meetings, cans of "Y2K Bug Spray" were distributed. On Dec. 31, at 5 p.m. CST, American CUs held a conference call with Australia's CUs, which had already experienced Y2K.

TWO: The fallout from NCUA's implementation of the Credit Union Membership Access Act (see related story, above left).

THREE: CUNA forms a Small CU Task Force. When presenting its findings, Chairman Chuck Nagel observes, "Some of these issues are going to have to be dealt with by the small credit unions themselves. They're going to have to take the initiative." One finding from small CU focus groups: FOM overlap not seen as a big issue. NCUA creates small CU program and permits each of its six regions to hire two economic development specialists.

FOUR: Tensions in Utah remain strong, including a bank-sponsored TV ad in which a spokesperson says, "All banks and cooperatives pay income taxes just like the rest of us, but last year America First Credit Union kept $16 million in tax-free profit to fund their aggressive expansion. They didn't pay a dime in income taxes. Is this the fair, honest competition Utahans value?" Utah's CUs sponsor their own spot in which consumers are urged to support the Credit Union Act.

FIVE: Selective ATM surcharging begins to take hold as both consumers and CUs get more comfortable with the fees. Corporate One's Alliance One signs up 200 CUs.

SIX: Members of Surrey Metro Savings reject (by a 76%-24% margin) the attempted sale to a bank. Members lead revolt to oust management and board.

SEVEN: Outgoing NCUA Chairman Norm D'Amours proposes regulations requiring FCUs to include in their business plans provisions for serving low- income portions of their FOM. Sen. Phil Gramm says he will hold hearings and call D'Amours to testify if the plan ever makes it out of NCUA's board. Plan is rejected when board members Dennis Dollar and Yolanda Wheat vote against it.

EIGHT: Booming stock market has CUs exploring alternatives, including brokerages.

NINE: The Internet keeps growing, and three CUs enroll in pilot with AOL for banner advertising. GAO singles out NCUA for not having designed and implemented a program to Internet banking services. CUshopper.com debuts with 50 CUs offering an online shopping service aimed at boosting loans. Behind it was Members Computer Source, a venture in which 400 CUs were offering PCs to their members.

TEN: NCUA Board Member Dennis Dollar proposes a rollback in regulations for well-capitalized CUs, the first mention of what would become "Reg Flex" after he is named chairman.

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