Since its formation in 1933, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has had twenty-one presidentially appointed and Senate approved chairmen as well as nine different acting chairmen. Of those twenty-one appointed chairmen, all but three have had backgrounds as bankers, bank lawyers, bank lobbyists, or prior congressional staff positions with the Senate and House Banking Committees. Let it never be said that banks would leave to chance the administration of their deposit insurer to anybody but a former banker or lawyer with strong ties to the banking industry or congressional leadership responsible for bank oversight. Bankers make sure that they use any and all of their political power and capital to get one of their own in the FDIC Chair.
What about credit union influence over the leadership of NCUA since the share insurance program began in 1970? Not quite up to par. In the last 50 years, there has been only one NCUA board member who has ever opened the door to greet members as a credit union professional prior to their appointment: Dennis Dollar. This is not to say that some of our prior NCUA leaders didn’t play an important role in the advancement of our cooperatives regardless of their prior resumes; certainly, General Nickerson and Ed Callahan come to mind.
But do any of us really know how one gets to be appointed to the NCUA Board? Why is a public position of such great importance in our 1.6 trillion-dollar business so hidden from us and insignificant to our executive branch that we end up with so many unknown bureaucrats looking for their next big leap up the federal agency ladder? Why is it that the first we ever hear of our next board member is after he or she is appointed? What role do CUNA and NAFCU play, if any? Why aren’t we playing a role in agency governance more similar to what we see in the banking sector?
Credit unions and CUSOs need to establish a much more influential position in the process. The fate of the CUSO business model and our innovative abilities to expand the collaborative and cooperative philosophies into new financial processes, products, and delivery cannot be left to chance. We cannot risk our future to an NCUA Board who barely knows who we are and what we do differently from the other for-profit financial institutions.
A college athletic director once told me that he always has a list of the top five names he would consider in the event that he needed to replace his current football coach. We as an industry should have a similar list and learn how to properly advocate for those names when the time comes.