The credit union industry is in an introspective mood.
The National Credit Union Administration is organizing a conference for the fall of 1996 that will focus on how to reach and extend services to poor people.
Meanwhile, the Credit Union National Association has invited credit unions to participate in a review of its structure.
Although the agendas of the two programs are quite different, they both show an industry at a crossroads.
The regulator's proposal reflects a principal goal of its chairman, Norman E. D'Amours: to make sure that credit unions serve people of small means.
It is also a way to parry bankers' efforts to strip away the industry's exemption from the Community Reinvestment Act. Congress held unprecedented hearings on that topic last year.
Industry sources said the meeting, which would involve the big trade group, the smaller National Association of Federal Credit Unions, and other trade groups, would be good public relations for Mr. D'Amours, who has fought several battles with the groups.
Among the topic planned are increasing services to all sectors of credit union membership, reaching out to low-income communities, and creating new credit unions.
Meanwhile, the trade group's review of its structure is rolling right along. A 22-member steering committee was appointed last month, and last week's issue of the trade group's newsletter encouraged credit unions to call or write in with suggestions.
A key question the review will address is whether the trade group should stick with its current two-tier structure.
Now, credit unions belong to state leagues, which in turn belong to the national association. But some credit unions have complained that the organization is too cumbersome and mutes their voices.
Several large institutions quit after the big trade group sued the regulator for passing a rule to eliminate sharing of management between trade associations and corporate credit unions.