Callahan Mans the Credit Union Helm through the Seas of Deregulation

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- When Edgar F. Callahan became chairma of the National Credit Union Administration in 1981, one of his first moves was to initiate a battle for deregulation of credit unions.

Many politicians and regulators were skeptical, Mr. Callahan recalled in an interview, in part because of the financial problems of the airline and trucking industries under deregulation. "There are still people saying it [deregulation] is bad," the 55-year-old agency chief added.

But since Mr. Callahan began his six- year term in charge of the agency that charters, supervises, and insures more than 11,000 credit unions, deregulation has occurred. It has come primarily in the form of interest rate ceilings being eliminated from the accounts of federally chartered CUs.

The results? Membership, loans, and savings in CUs are growing, while operating fees charged CUs by the agency are shrinking. Among the specifics:

* In 1983, savings at federal credit unions grew to approximately $75 billion, a 20% increase over 1982.

* In 1983, insured loans were up 15% from 1982.

* Membership in CUs grew by more than one million during that same period.

"We think we're well into deregulation," Mr. Callahan said. "A lot of needless government intervention in business decisions of credit unions is being put back into credit union hands. Credit unions have now broadened their base so that they are better prepared for the economic uncertainties of the future."

One sign of this came when Vice President George Bush's task force on streamlining the financial services industry recently decided that there is "no need to alter or change [credit unions] in any way at this time."

And President Reagan sent the NCUA chairman a letter in 1982 congratulating him and credit unions for solving problems with "self-help solutions."

Not everything has been coming up roses for credit unions and Mr. Callahan, though.

For the past two years, the NCUA has levied extra insurance premiums on credit unions to add liquidity to the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. …