Kyle Hauptman’s first NCUA board meeting, one week after being sworn in, was a two-day marathon. How could he possibly process the hundreds of pages of budgets and board action memorandum and make a meaningful contribution?
I believe his premiere was positive for several reasons.
Public NCUA board meetings are supposed to enlighten because they are the only authorized occasion that individual members may debate issues with each other. Internal preparation for the board meetings is handled among policy advisors and staff shuffling among the three directors to seek a consensus or positions on agenda items.
Unfortunately, board meetings are rarely enlightened discussions of the core issues. Rather, the board members read prepared statements, staff presenters are provided questions in advance, and answers readily supplied. The meetings are stage-managed public relations exercises. No views are changed or positions further illuminated. The recent virtual meetings, audio only format, has made this approach even more pronounced.
Breaking from tradition
Hauptman’s remarks however sounded as if he was not reading a script. And in so doing, he made some interesting observations.
The first was to call NCUA’s insurance role a “monopoly,” an accurate term, but one I do not recall being uttered by another board member. A monopoly is not a positive characterization in a free market economy. With that description, he cautioned that such authority must be used carefully.
He also noted that all NCUA funding comes from credit union members. The government, he asserted, should not be holding money that the members can use to meet their needs. The fact that all agency expenses are paid by the industry is known, but rarely acknowledged by agency leaders.
Newcomers to NCUA’s board often begin with fresh insights and comments. They have yet to be caught up by the bureaucratic vortex of expertise and self-interest which can overwhelm outsiders’ initial perceptions. But that centrifugal pull may be tempered by his first major decision, the choice of his Senior Advisor, Sarah Canepa Bang.