It's Time to Double Down on Collaboration, Cooperation

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Credit unions were built upon a cooperative foundation. Our cooperative framework has served us well over the years as we have faced challenge after challenge.

Now, more than ever, the credit union industry must collaborate and coordinate for the good of the movement. In our current regulatory and economic climate, threats to credit unions have grown exponentially.

This critical time in our industry brings to mind the age-old Aesop's fable about the four oxen and a lion. At first, the four oxen stood with their backs to each other so that they could each keep an eye on the lion. After a while, the oxen lost their resolve and each went their separate ways. One by one, the lion attacked them. The moral of the story, "united we stand, divided we fall" has become a familiar metaphor whose lesson endures today and crystallizes the value of cooperation.

Our industry has a rich history of working together to not only help credit unions survive but thrive. One need only recall the industry's landmark victory - H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act in 1998.

More recently, we have seen success with NCUA's efforts in finalizing rules on member business lending and field of membership. All of these measures will go a long way to help credit unions maintain a competitive position in the constantly evolving financial services landscape.

But as we have seen, these regulatory and legislative victories are not easily won. Our detractors capitalize on every opportunity to raise their voices against us. Case in point: Any time credit unions host an industry meeting in Washington, the bankers and retailers take to the pages of the political press and the airwaves to challenge our very existence in splashy ads with their unique brand of propaganda.

We may not be able to counter their deep pockets with radio or print ads, but the strength of our convictions and commitment to credit unions can speak volumes if we raise our voices together.

NAFCU has always been committed to maintaining open lines of communication with everyone, supporters and critics, to promote an open exchange and welcome discussion and development of new ideas. We welcome the opportunity to strengthen that communication with our fellow stakeholders. Against the backdrop of a challenging political landscape, a strong, unified credit union voice will resonate all the more.

The fact is, to win our next legislative or regulatory battle we must strengthen our resolve to advance our case and demonstrate it in our unwavering dedication to our cause. We are proud that NAFCU continues to be a leader in advocacy, education and compliance assistance, and we will not stray from that focus.

The NAFCU Board, made up entirely of credit union CEOs, not only sets the strategic direction for the association, it demands that NAFCU staff act in the best interest of NAFCU-member credit unions and our industry, every single day. An example of our commitment to our industry is the fact that our meetings are open to members and non-members. NAFCU has sharpened its continued focus on being frugal, efficient and effective.

We have grown in new members as well as strategic partnerships. Building on this strength and efficacy with our stakeholders can make credit unions even better.

Let's work together, roll up our sleeves and get to work. We're a powerful industry, with a powerful voice.

B. Dan Berger is president and CEO of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

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