The state’s credit unions fill a need and are a checks and balances on banks, according to the Mississippi Credit Unions Association’s president Charles Elliott.
“We’re financial cooperatives,” he says. “Credit unions are very safe and are sound financial institutions. The average bank has $400 million assets and the average credit union has $30 million. They’re small and that’s part of their niche. Credit unions provide competition that keep banks’ rates lower.”
The MCUA fills numerous roles for its 99 member credit unions. Those members represent 532,000 people and $3.2 billion in assets. The association facilitates cooperation among the credit unions, provides education and training, acts as a legislative advocate and assists with regulatory compliance paperwork.
A shared branching network is one of the ways members cooperate. It’s a venture Elliott says has been a huge success. Four more members and eight additional branches have recently been added to those credit unions participating.
“It’s just been tremendous,” he said. “One role we play is to facilitate cooperation among credit unions and that cooperation is their strength.”
Education and training is another key component of MCUA’s service to members. Classes are taught by certified staff at various locations and online, and are offered at cost. Some programs are done collectively with other associations within the southeast region.
Specialized training for the credit union employees involved with the aspects or regulatory compliance and examinations is offered. There are also leadership development conferences designed for upper management and board members, certification programs and chapter planning.
Financial assistance is available to credit unions with less then $10 million in assets through the John McHenry Memorial Fund. There are also other sources of scholarships for all types of training.
On top of changes
The annual convention is an excellent opportunity for members to network, exchange ideas and hear professional speakers. It’s a three-day event filled with educational seminars that address developments in technology, industry trends, regulatory updates and vendors from around the country exhibiting their latest products.
“The topics members ask for most are bankruptcy, lending, collections, the bank secrecy act, better member service and compliance,” Elliott says. “Credit unions are more regulated than banks as far as lending and things in which we can invest.”
National regulations are constantly issued for all financial institutions. To help explain the regulations to members, the MCUA publishes approximately 10 bulletins every month.
“The regulations burden is the biggest challenge facing members,” Elliott says. “It’s unbelievable and will put the small ones that have one or two people on staff out of business. There are too many reports to prepare. It takes someone on staff just to do that and it’s never ending. We try to help members with that.”
The MCUA supports a national bill before Congress that will change certain provisions in the Federal Credit Union Act, which has not been changed since 1998. The past nine years have provided an opportunity to identify what the national association says are unnecessary and outdated provisions.
“This is the first bill we’ve had that is more proactive. Nothing was done against us to cause us to do it,” he says. “It has a number of provisions and some will come out. It may not pass both houses, but we hope it does.”
The credit union national association’s position is that regulatory relief for credit unions will help improve productivity and efficiency in a competitive and dynamic marketplace, and will translate into better and lower-cost service to credit union members. Of particular interest for credit unions is raising the cap on member business lending and implementing a risk-based capital approach.
Elliott says the bill will also allow credit unions to go into under served areas as designated by income levels. “We’re trying to come up with a way to serve people who pay check cashers,” he adds.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.