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  • Writer's pictureJohn San Filippo

EDGE 2024: Straight Talk from Jim Nussle

By John San Filippo


The EDGE 2024 technology conference kicked off in Nashville, Tenn., on May 6, 2024. with Jim Nussle, the CEO of America’s Credit Unions, among the keynote speakers. He updated the audience on the progress of the CUNA (Credit Union National Associated)/NAFCU (National Association of Federal Credit Unions) merger that created America’s Credit Unions and on the industry as a whole.


On the Merger

Jim Nussle pulls no punches

Nussle told attendees, “When you merge an organization with another, one of the most important exercises that you go through is to answer the question: Why?” He added that although the merger was finalized effective Jan. 1, 2024, the two organizations signed the letter of intent to merge almost exactly one year ago, noting that the ensuing year was spent listening to credit unions’ wishes for this new trade association.


“We do not want a 2.0 version,” said Nussle. “We do not want a redo of CUNA or a redo of NAFCU. Let's build for the future. Let's do something new. Let's do it in a different way. Even if it takes time, let's build for the future. Let's not just assume that what we've got right now will work.”


He added that credit unions are looking to the new organization to provide “premier association services,” admonishing the audience, “If you're going to do it, do it well. If you're going to provide a service, don't half-ass it. Do it the right way. Make sure it's premier, because if you can't do it, somebody else can.”


On Advocacy


“The attacks on credit unions have been relentless lately,” observed Nussle. “It seems to be they are coming over the walls at us from every different angle. And it's not just the traditional ones like banks. They're coming from all over the place. From the media. They're coming from government agencies. They're coming from politicians who are using poll-tested information to attack everything.” It’s for this reason that the ACU board adopted the term “relentless advocacy.


“It has been a relentless onslaught of negativity,” he continued. “So, what we decided to do is be relentless back. We need relentless advocacy. Sometimes that's going to be on offense, sometimes it's going to need to be on defense, but it needs to be relentless.” He described credit unions’ willingness to unite and advocate from the ground up as the industry’s “secret sauce.”

On Government Interference


Nussle railed against the pending Durban Marshall Credit Card Competition Act of 2023 legislation, which seeks to further curtail interchange income. “We call it the ‘big box bailout’ because frankly it's being funded by and supported by Home Depot and places like that. They are trying to figure out a way for themselves to make more money. None of this cap interchange is going to go back to the consumers any more than it did the last time Durbin tried this monkey business.” He added that this “assault” on interchange has made unlikely allies of America’s Credit Unions, the American Bankers Association, and the Independent Community Bankers of America.


He went on to characterize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as “a political assault team masquerading as a government agency.”


Nussle continued, “I have never seen the agencies acting and reacting so politically as they have over the last 18 months. Every single one of them is on the same political talking points about junk fees and about reducing costs for consumers.” He noted the irony that this is coming from a government that is seemingly unable to cut its own costs, adding, “They are now borrowing the money it takes to pay the interest on the national debt. It makes no sense whatsoever except that -- wait for it – it polls really well. Junk fees poll really well.”


However, Nussle rejected the term “junk fees.” “They're for value,” he said. “Each one of them is transparent. Each one of them is self-selected by the consumer.”


He then offered another surprising statistic: “Credit union fee income is at the lowest point it has been in 32 years. But what we're providing for that lower fee is greater than it's ever been. The value proposition of joining, being part of, being served by, being a part owner of a credit union has never been more valuable, more cost effective.”


The NCUA didn’t escape Nussle’s scrutiny either. He noted, “Just this past week, if you thought the CFPB was the only animal that was out there doing this, the NCUA, what did they do? They decided to put a new call report out on NSF. Where did that come from? Any hearings? Any notice? No. That is a rogue board deciding to do something without any authority, not giving anybody any opportunity to notice it.”


Nussle summed up the current needs of the credit union industry by borrowing a famous quote. “It's the John F. Kennedy quote of: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do,” he told the audience. “It's the same for credit unions. The same for America's Credit Unions. Ask not only what I can do for you. Please ask what you can do. What can you do at the local level with your league? What can you do at the national level with your national association? What can you do individually at your credit union to move the needle in order for this to be impactful? That's the reason why we exist.”


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