March 22, 2017

Stone to Congress: Reg burden hurts CUs, communities

Keith Stone, president and CEO of The Finest Federal Credit Union in New York, N.Y., testified about the constraints of the credit union chartering process and how the overall regulatory burden is hurting credit unions and their communities during a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

Stone, whose credit union serves the state's law enforcement community, testified before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit on the "de novo drought" and why new credit unions and community banks are increasingly rare in the years since the Dodd-Frank Act.

"As we learned, chartering a credit union is not quick or easy," Stone said about the process his credit union completed in 2015.

He said the biggest obstacle for new credit unions is to find the funds to open and to balance the costs of "running day-to-day operations and keeping up with the ever-changing post-Dodd-Frank regulatory environment."

During an exchange with Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., Stone said that although his credit union has not yet been granted the authority to offer mortgages, it offers several insurance and loan products to its law enforcement members that they cannot find anywhere else. He noted his concern that law enforcement officers will go to predatory lenders if his credit union is constrained from offering them the products they need. The regulatory burden is "hurting our community," Stone said.

Stone urged Congress to pass regulatory relief measures to help credit unions, such as H.R. 1244, the "Capital Access for Small Businesses and Jobs Act," which would authorize all credit unions to issue supplemental capital as long as it does not alter a credit union's cooperative ownership structure. He also urged lawmakers to allow credit unions more flexibility to serve underserved communities.

Stone noted that the NCUA's Office of Consumer Protection takes an "active role" in the chartering process, but he suggested that the agency institute timetables for responses and create an advocate position in the OCP office to help de novo credit unions.

Stone discussed remittance compliance with Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., and the importance of small business loans and access to capital with Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., touted the importance of Community Development Financial Institution Fund grants, and Stone noted that the funds would be very meaningful to his credit union, which is CDFI-certified, if they are able to obtain the grant for which they applied.