Hello, and thank you for joining us for the November 2017 edition of Priority Report.

Every year around this time, the Michigan Credit Union League and CU Solutions Group take stock of the current year, and begin laying a foundation for the year ahead. As we’re sure is true for many of you, we’re in the process of updating our plans and budgets for next year. As you do your budgeting, we hope you’ll plan for affiliation with MCUL and CUNA, support for the CU Link cooperative advertising campaign, participation in many of the great education events hosted by MCUL and CUNA, and consideration of CUSG’s new LifeSteps Wallet mobile app.

As you know, for MCUL and CUNA, effective advocacy is our highest priority. And while we have been working through legislative and regulatory channels to achieve meaningful regulatory relief for credit unions, broad-based tax reform legislation is now one of Congress’ top priorities. Republicans are posturing to score a legislative victory by quickly passing tax-cut legislation by year end. So, MCUL’s advocacy efforts in this area are critically important.

Over the past several months, the Michigan Credit Union League, along with member credit unions from across the state, have worked to meet with Michigan’s entire congressional delegation to secure statements of support for credit unions. Among other important topics, we’ve been holding in-depth discussions about our top legislative priority: preserving the credit union not-for-profit tax status.

Our current tax status provides an important incentive for credit unions to operate with the not-for-profit charter as opposed to converting to a bank charter. This tax exemption is simply good public policy for our nation as thousands of credit unions help middle-class families and small businesses gain access to affordable financial services. Without the credit union model, many of these needs would simply not be met. And without the tax-exempt status, credit unions would find it difficult, if not impossible to offer the same value and focus on their not-for-profit status. As we met with U.S. senators and representatives, this was the message we communicated in a clear and resounding voice.

Today, we’re pleased to report the overwhelming support we’ve heard in response ... All 16 members of Michigan’s congressional delegation have expressed their support for maintaining credit unions’ not-for-profit tax status to the Michigan Credit Union League.

Senator Gary Peters, Representative David Trott, who is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, and Representative Brenda Lawrence all referenced “The American Dream” in their statements of support. To some, that may mean purchasing a home — to some, buying a car — to others, starting a small business. In any case, our Congressional leaders recognize that credit unions are a driving force ... that the credit union model and social mission help to drive the American Dream in a way that also breeds economic stability and financial inclusion.

Speaking of credit union financial progress, the most recent data from NCUA and CUNA shows us that Michigan credit unions are experiencing the fastest loan growth since 1994, and leading that accelerated growth is member business loans, which have grown more than 23 percent over the past year. That translates into more small businesses, more jobs, lower unemployment and a stronger, more vibrant economy.

While you can find complete statements from all 16 members of the Michigan delegation in the fourth quarter issue of MCUL’s Contact magazine, I’d like to take a quick moment to call out several of the stronger statements of support that we’ve received.

First, U.S. Representative David Trott, who serves on the House Committee on Financial Services, said, “Credit unions play an important role in ensuring all Michiganders have access to the financial resources they need to invest, buy a home, build a stable future for their family – to live out the American Dream. As we overhaul our nation’s broken tax code, we must be cognizant of factors, such as credit unions’ not-for-profit tax status, that allow these member-owned institutions to continue to be a mainstay of Southeast Michigan.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow, a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, said, “Credit unions are member-owned, community organizations that are vital to small businesses and families across Michigan. That is why I have been a strong supporter of maintaining their tax-exempt status in any tax reform legislation.”

And Congressman Sander Levin, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and a former chairman of that committee said, “As a credit union member for many years, I have long supported credit unions and the critical role they play in our communities. Credit unions provide essential access to financing and other important services to individuals and small businesses in Michigan. I am committed to preserving credit unions’ traditional status as tax-exempt, not-for-profit, community-based organizations.”

You can see that our Congressional leaders understand that the credit union tax-exemption not only makes sense for the cooperative structure of credit unions, but that it also translates into stronger communities and increased economic prosperity in Michigan.

To have this unanimous support as tax reform becomes a priority in Congress, is not only a positive sign that Michigan’s congressional delegation understands how beneficial credit unions are to communities and the economy, but it’s also a sign of our strong, ongoing relationships with these lawmakers.

Previously, in 2013, MCUL worked with U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, as well as Michigan’s 14 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, to secure statements of support for our tax status. We also obtained statements of support from every member of the delegation in 2005, when the makeup of Michigan’s delegation was much different than it is today. In fact, only three members of the House who were in office that year are currently serving.

This is the third time in 12 years that we’ve garnered unanimous support on this issue from our delegation. Despite significant turnover over the years, support for the credit union not-for-profit tax status has remained rock solid.

While our ongoing efforts have generated strong support here in Michigan, it’s important to remember that we have a strong partner in CUNA. Many of you likely saw CUNA President and CEO Jim Nussle’s recent email. Jim reports that he and his team have gone through the House version of the tax reform bill, and while the legislation is the first step in a long process, it’s an important marker of where Congress is right now. Ultimately, the last time we saw a tax code overhaul of this size was in ’86, so while there's opportunity for improvements, there's also room and time for Congress to consider everything in the tax code, including credit unions. Early indications suggest that our tax-exempt status will remain, but it’s critical that we stay vigilant on this issue.

Of course, communicating the importance of the credit union not-for-profit tax status reaches beyond the political arena. It’s important for credit unions to communicate the value that we provide as an industry to the public at large. That’s exactly what we do with the CU Link cooperative advertising campaign. Once again, as Michigan credit unions receive affiliation packets over the next few days and weeks, we hope you consider the value that this campaign provides in terms of messaging to consumers. Regardless of theme or flavor of the campaign, the core of CU Link has always been about the community value of credit unions. The higher savings returns, lower loan rates and fewer fees that you offer your members is made possible by our tax status. Should the time come, we need to be ready to communicate that message in a clear and engaging way to the public.

A few final items before closing, the MCUL Education and Events Department has released its calendar of events for 2018. The MCUL Compliance Conference is the first big event of the year – it’ll be held in East Lansing Feb. 21 and 22. That’s followed by the Lending and Marketing Conference March 20 and 21 in Grand Rapids. That’ll take us into the CUNA GAC Feb. 25 through March 1, followed by the MCUL GAC April 18 and 19. You can find the entire list of 2018 events on MCUL.org.

Finally, as we covered in our third quarter Priority Report update last month, CU Solutions Group has several exciting announcements for November. First, CUSG has several Sprint campaigns running through the remainder of the year. The first is Sprint’s annual holiday campaign. Themed for the holiday season and the busiest shopping time of the year, it reminds members that they receive an extra $100 for every new Sprint line activated. This is running alongside the CUSG’s Sprint Snap, Share, Win Sweepstakes. This is a social media campaign, that encourages consumers to post a photo of how they would spend their cash rewards via Twitter or Instagram. Running now through Dec. 16, three winners will be selected each week to win up to a $1,500 Love My Credit Union Rewards Visa gift card.

And of course, CUSG’s big announcement for November was the launch of LifeSteps Wallet on Nov. 1. As you know, LifeSteps Wallet offers a wraparound container app that integrates with your credit union's brand and services. It’s designed to enhance your credit union's mobile offerings while matching important solutions with your members' major life events and everyday choices.

All the efforts behind LifeSteps Wallet are geared toward making sure that your credit union is top of wallet and top of mind at the exact moment members are making the decision to purchase. Credit unions will be able to customize and brand this wraparound container app to incorporate mobile banking services, but it goes far beyond the typical credit union mobile app. The entire platform is built to help credit unions fulfill their mission of simplifying their members lives while saving them time and money. All of this integrates seamlessly and affordably with any credit union’s mobile banking app, regardless of provider.

MCUL CEO Dave Adams sat down with Mike Lawson from CU Broadcast for an interview just last week, to provide an overview and demo of product. You can view that on CU Broadcast or CUSolutionsGroup.com – or, of course, schedule a live demonstration with your MCUL League Rep.

That’s it for the November edition of the MCUL & Affiliates Priority Report. Thank you once again for joining us. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with comments, questions or concerns. See you next month.

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