James C. Dahl
Chairman of the Board
Organized in 1934, the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) has a long and proud tradition as one of the nation’s most innovative, effective and influential credit union trade associations. The history of the Michigan credit union movement is one of unbroken advance and progress — successes that would not have been possible without a strong statewide trade association.
Through membership in the MCUL, Michigan credit unions receive essential services such as legislative, regulatory and media advocacy; a stream of timely and important news and information; access to key education and training programs; direct assistance with critical operational and planning issues; and a host of other programs, products and services targeted to meet their individual and collective needs.
President and CEO
Throughout its 71-year history, the MCUL has focused solely on serving its members as is concisely expressed in its Mission Statement: “To foster, protect and promote the vitality of credit unions by providing programs and services that will enhance their ability to enrich the lives of credit union members.” That mission continues to be fulfilled today, as the contents of this 2004 Annual Report clearly show.
In the eight decades that have passed since the first Michigan credit union was organized, much has changed in our state — economically, socially, politically and environmentally. The principles of self-help and cooperation that motivated those early credit union pioneers, however, are as valid today as they were in the 1920s.
Credit unions empower ordinary people to pool their savings to offer a safe place to save and a fair place to borrow on a cooperative, not-for-profit basis. From small beginnings, these unique financial cooperatives have grown to include better than two in five Michigan residents, helping millions of Michiganians improve their lives and pursue their dreams.
The year 2004 was another positive chapter in the proud and successful history of Michigan credit unions, the MCUL and its subsidiaries. The power of cooperation, and the vital importance of a strong and effective trade association, were evident throughout the year, both at the state and national levels. Standing together, credit unions achieved notable successes and kept at bay numerous threats to their future.
Working with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the MCUL continued to lay the groundwork in Congress for eventual passage of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvement Act, or CURIA, to address the need for risk-based capital, expanded business loan authority and regulatory relief for federal credit unions. The MCUL worked closely with state regulators in the formulation of appropriate rules associated with the newly modernized Michigan Credit Union Act. And, in a particularly remarkable success, the League effectively lobbied the 17 diverse members of Michigan’s Congressional Delegation — Democrats and Republicans alike — to go on record in support of maintaining the credit union exemption from federal corporate income taxes.
Certainly, the MCUL has no single priority more vital than building and maintaining strong and effective legislative advocacy. Through the efforts of the MCUL, lawmakers are kept informed on key issues of importance to credit unions and legislators friendly to cooperative financial services receive credit union support.
In 2004, a record-breaking $365,492.65 was raised for our federal and state political action committees (PACs), MCULLAF and MCULAF, respectively — funds used to support lawmakers who support credit unions. There is no doubt, however, that attacks by the banking lobby on credit unions, the credit union tax exemption and how credit unions are regulated will continue in the future.
Recognizing this reality, the MCUL began to shift its long-term vision for effective legislative advocacy. Our new focus has three dimensions: traditional advocacy efforts such as lawmaker visits and PAC fund raising; the Community Reinvestment Initiative (CRI), which helps document and expand fulfillment of the credit union social mission, underscoring credit union uniqueness; and a well-funded, professional cooperative advertising campaign to build awareness of credit unions and the many benefits they offer the consumer.
Our commitment to an expanded cooperative advertising program took shape in 2004 as the MCUL Board of Directors pledged up to $1 million in matching funds to local cooperative advertising efforts. Stimulated by this tangible expression of support, credit union cooperative advertising has entered a new and exciting period in its development. Credit unions are enlisting to join this expanded effort to ensure that Michiganians understand how credit unions benefit consumers and what makes them different than for-profit financial institutions.
One measure of the Michigan credit union movement’s commitment to members, consumers and the community is the impressive level of credit union involvement in youth financial literacy programs. Michigan credit unions continue to be the national leader in youth financial education, with some 200 credit union student branches now operating inside the state’s elementary schools, high schools and colleges.
These efforts received well-earned national recognition as Michigan took first place in both the Number of Students Reached and Number of Classroom Presentations categories for the sixth consecutive time during the 2003-04 school year. The MCUL was also recognized with the CUNA Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award for showing exemplary leadership within the national credit union movement on behalf of youth financial literacy.
In 2004, the MCUL also showed effective and prudent leadership on the controversial issue of credit union charter conversions. When one large Michigan credit union launched a highly publicized effort to convert to a mutual savings bank charter, the MCUL worked to ensure appropriate protections for members and consumers. While acknowledging and respecting the right of any credit union to make such a decision, the MCUL will continue to work to strengthen laws and regulations to protect consumer interests and enhance the value of the credit union charter.
Significantly, all of the MCUL’s achievements in 2004 were accomplished while reducing membership dues and maintaining its capital base and status as the strongest and best-funded credit union trade association in the nation.
Throughout its history, the MCUL has been recognized as a leader and innovator among the state leagues. That tradition continues today. By standing together under the banner of a strong and effective trade association, we are continuing to build on the great credit union principles of cooperation, volunteerism, economic progress and “People Helping People.”