Fall Is Here: Start Preparing for Winter and the New Year

Autumn is here. Days are shorter and cooler. Leaves will soon start falling. Fall is a time when we all go back to work and redouble our efforts to finish projects and prepare for the New Year.

At NCUA, this means our staff is reviewing the record-breaking number of comments we received on our new field-of-membership proposal and drafting a final rule. At the same time, we continue to make progress on my Continual Quality Improvement initiative, receiving and reviewing stakeholder comments on both our exam flexibility and Call Report modernization initiatives. Thank you for your valuable public input into these processes.

As credit union volunteers and managers know well, this is also a time for tracking annual goal measurements, beginning strategic planning and preparing new budgets. And so it is at NCUA.

At its last meeting, the NCUA Board unanimously passed a new five-year strategic plan. In June, I announced that just as NCUA has returned to the two-year budget cycle that was the norm for many decades in non-crisis times, so too, we will now return to the practice of holding a public briefing on our staff’s proposed budget. This briefing will be far more expansive and thorough than briefings conducted in the past.

In early October, roughly six weeks before we actually vote on the budget, we will—for the first time ever—release pre-decisional budget information for public review. This material will be more detailed than the information released at past budget briefings. It will include budget breakdowns by category and by office or region. My goal is to provide enhanced transparency by allowing stakeholders time to review and analyze this information before they participate in our public budget briefing, so they can be more constructive in their comments.

Much of what you see in October will probably be familiar because under NCUA’s two-year, rolling-budget process a full 2017 budget was released and approved last November. The new 2017–2018 budget proposal will build from the existing 2016–2017 budget. Thus, anyone who wants to get a head start on his or her budget analysis can review the existing 2017 budget.

After the staff’s draft budget is released, individuals who wish to comment on it will have two ways to do so. First, about a week after the draft is released they will be able to sign-up to comment in-person at the open budget briefing which will be held in our Alexandria, Va., office at 2 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 27 (the afternoon of our October Board meeting). NCUA is the first and only federal financial services regulator to hold this kind of a pre-decisional public briefing.

NCUA’s Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer will brief the NCUA Board and public on the staff’s 2017–2018 proposed budget. The amount of time each person will have to comment will depend on the number of people who sign-up. This event will also be live streamed for individuals who are unable to attend in person. Second, people who cannot participate in person will also be able to submit comments through NCUA’s website.

If you are interested in NCUA budget practices or past budgets, we have nearly 100 documents available for you to review, including breakdowns of current and past year budgets by expense category, and within each individual office and region. In preparing comments, please be specific and explain why the change you desire is necessary.

My sincere hope is that this budget briefing will not become a political exercise, where trade groups try to out-posture one another on “who is tougher on NCUA.” Instead, this should be a constructive exercise—the beginning of a dialogue where stakeholders provide the agency with reasoned and thoughtful ways to improve the efficacy of its operations and maximize efficiencies from limited resources.

The agency welcomes input and advice from stakeholders, but also asks them to respect that it is an independent government agency and, thus, this is not a referendum. Ultimately, the NCUA Board has a statutory obligation and a fiduciary duty to set the budget at the level necessary to preserve and protect both the credit union system and the Share Insurance Fund. I believe it will also be an opportunity for the regulated community to see firsthand the diligence and scrutiny agency staff apply over many months to virtually every budget item to ensure its necessity and efficacy to meeting the statutory responsibilities of NCUA.

Constructive comments are always welcome. I look forward to hearing various perspectives and suggestions as to how we can continue to improve upon our mission.

— Rick Metsger