‘Powerful Cause and Positive Effect’ was the theme for this year’s Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). USAgencies very own Kathy Scholes, Vice President/CFO; Kasey Rockwell, Director of CU Relations; and Jeff Griese, Board of Directors 1st Vice-Chair, all attended the conference late February in our nation’s capital, along with over 5,000 credit union professionals and advocates from around the U.S.
Every year credit union proponents descend upon Washington D.C. to connect with peers, glean best practices, trade stories, and gain insights of the political landscape for credit unions and the financial industry. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from great speakers such as the Honorable Colin L. Powell; Kat Cole, Group President of Focus Brands; CUNA President, Jim Nussle; and a lineup of Congressional lawmakers and regulators from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
Scholes, Rockwell and Griese met with Oregon credit union peers to ensure the message was consistent for lawmakers before they climbed the steps of Capitol Hill. They met with Congressman Blumenauer’s (D-OR-3) Deputy Chief of Staff and Counsel, David Skillman. There were about 30 constituents in the meeting, representing nine credit unions from the Portland area. Later in the afternoon Oregon credit unions also met with Senator Ron Wyden and staff from Senator Merkley’s office to share the same message. Some of the information shared with legislators included:
- Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives and are inherently accountable to their members, not to Wall Street stockholders.
- Members own their cooperative credit unions. This means financial dividends, lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on savings are delivered to member-owners as direct benefits.
- The Northwest Credit Union Association recently commissioned economists at ECONorthwest to perform their second independent analysis on credit unions’ impact in our Northwest economy. They found that Oregon credit unions delivered $159 million in direct financial benefit to their 2 million member-owners. That’s $81 per credit union member and $156 financial benefit per member household, delivered through lower fees and better rates as a result of that cooperative structure.
- The importance of Common-Sense Regulatory Reform and how one-size-fits-all regulations don’t work for small credit unions.
- The costs of merchant data breaches and how costs should ultimately be borne by the entity that occurs the breach.
They ended the day with a reception on the Hill with credit unions from Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It was a long, but productive day!
Rockwell summed up her experience at this year’s GAC, “Sharing our credit union stories with elected officials is a great honor. Being in D.C. allows you to feel like you are a part of something bigger than your credit union. You can feel the energy of all of us working together to make a difference. Twenty years ago, was my first GAC and I still have the same excitement and feeling of honor to be a part of the Credit Union Movement. We are doing great things to help improve our member’s financial lives and are staying true to the foundational credit union philosophy of ‘People Helping People’.”
Griese left feeling inspired, saying “My testimony of the credit union movement has grown tremendously and seeing so many hard-working folks gathered together in an effort to improve people’s lives was inspiring and something I will not soon forget!”
Scholes shared her thoughts, saying “Attending the 2017 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference was an amazing experience! Being one of 5,000 credit union professionals converging on the Capital to meet with elected officials to tell our story and fight for credit union interests was moving. I returned to Portland with a renewed interest to advocate for the credit union movement. Credit unions are good for consumers, our member-owners. We need to work to protect our unique structure and improve awareness to our members and potential members of who and what we are that makes us different from other financial service providers. ‘People Helping People’ by looking out for the financial well-being of our members and communities – what’s not to love!”