WASHINGTON - The chairman of the National Credit Union Administration is saying that volunteers must take greater control of the industry, lest it become too much like banks.
In recent speeches, NCUA Chairman Norman E. D'Amours has warned the industry's volunteer boards against giving professional managers too much control. The industry risks losing congressional support and its tax exemption, according to Mr. D'Amours, if it strays from its legislated mission of providing credit to small borrowers.
"If professionals take charge of the movement they will make it a competitive, banklike movement that will lose its cooperative spirit," the NCUA chief told the National Association of Federal Credit Unions' annual legislative convention last week.
"By the numbers, credit unions are doing very well, but the credit union movement is more than about numbers, and that's something we have to focus on more," he said.
Mr. D'Amours conceded that professionals are critical to the industry, but that "they should not be leading, they should not be directing this movement."
Bankers have been saying for years that credit unions are bank clones. Mr. D'Amours said this hasn't happened yet, but there are signs that situation isn't far off.
"Are we keeping our purpose constant if half our members don't know the difference between a bank and a credit union?" he asked.