Vice Chairman Metsger: Field-of-membership changes could help credit unions grow

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Jan. 9, 2015) – NCUA Vice Chairman Rick Metsger believes federal credit unions could benefit from changes in regulations and in law to give them greater flexibility in defining their fields of membership.

“I’ve been concerned with field-of-membership issues for some time,” Metsger said, “and this is an area I believe can be improved both in regulation and in law. We can modernize our rules, and Congress could update the Federal Credit Union Act, to help federal credit unions grow and serve more Americans, especially those of modest means, who do not have adequate access to an affordable, insured financial institution.”

Metsger discussed the issue during remarks to credit union officials at a meeting of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Credit Union League. He described a number of changes that would streamline the agency’s regulations and expand access to credit union services for American families, including:

  • Allowing credit unions converting from single or multiple common bonds to community charters to continue serving select employer groups even if they are located outside the new community charter boundaries,
  • Permitting the addition of adjacent areas to community charters without requiring them to be Core-Based Statistical Area,
  • Eliminating the requirement that a community charter be based on a core area of a Core-Based Statistical Area,
  • Revising and simplifying the process for determining that an area is “underserved”, and
  • Allowing active-duty military personnel and their families to automatically qualify as low-income households.

Legislators could take action as well, Metsger said, adding that NCUA has testified to Congress urging statutory changes to modify the Federal Credit Union Act to give the agency authority to streamline field-of-membership regulations and permit credit unions to better serve underserved communities.

“Law and regulation should, to a practical extent, reflect the situation on the ground and respond to change,” Metsger said. “Enacting statutory changes will not be easy, and it will require all of us, the regulator and the regulated, to overcome the current situation.”

The statutory changes Metsger recommends are:

  • Allowing all credit unions, not just multiple common-bond charters, to add underserved areas,
  • Simplify the “facilities” test for determining if an area is underserved, and
  • Giving community-based federal credit unions the option to structure their fields of membership in accordance with law of the state in which they operate.

“Credit unions have a lot to offer members,” Metsger said, “and while keeping safety and soundness always in mind, lawmakers and regulators should look for ways to help them provide affordable financial services to more people.”

NCUA is the independent federal agency created by the U.S. Congress to regulate, charter and supervise federal credit unions. With the backing of the full faith and credit of the United States, NCUA operates and manages the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, insuring the deposits of more than 98 million account holders in all federal credit unions and the overwhelming majority of state-chartered credit unions. At and Pocket Cents, NCUA also educates the public on consumer protection and financial literacy issues.


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