Tag Archives: Robert D. Ramirez

redTape

Credit unions seek relief from red tape og financial reform

Dan Berger

Dan Berger

Robert D. Ramirez

Robert D. Ramirez

Mark Robey

Mark Robey

July marked the four-year anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was meant to reform and stabilize our financial system.
So, has it?

“Since the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act and establishment of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), more than 800 credit unions have closed their doors,” said Dan Berger, president and CEO of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU). “Compliance costs have taken a serious toll on credit unions that do not have the resources that big banks do — and the regulations keep coming.”

According to Mark Robey, senior vice president of regulatory affairs for the Mountain West Credit Union Association, credit unions in Arizona want to work with consumers and small businesses to provide affordable credit and attractive savings to help stabilize the economy.

“But the mortgage requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act and the rules issued by the (CFPB) make it more costly for creditors to make loans,” Robey said. “Moreover, the ‘Ability to Repay Rule’ required by Dodd-Frank and issued by the CFPB encourages creditors to make mortgage loans only to borrowers with a debt-to-income ratio of no higher than 43 percent. That can cut borrowers out of a home purchase if they don’t meet that threshold, even if the borrower can actually afford to repay the loan.”

Since its enactment, the 849-page Dodd-Frank has imposed $21.8 billion in compliance costs while producing regulations that require nearly 60 million hours of paperwork with which to comply, according to estimates by the American Action Forum. These compliance costs can be devastating to small community banks and credit unions.

“In order to help credit unions avoid being susceptible to penalties and compliance violations, it will be necessary to add additional staff, training, hardware, software etc.,” said Robert D. Ramirez, president and CEO of Vantage West Credit Union. “All of that further impacts the bottom line. This could hit smaller credit unions particularly hard or possibly force them to limit or exclude mortgage options.”

To help ease the regulatory burden on credit unions, the NAFCU has issued its “Five-Point Plan for Regulatory Relief,” which includes administrative improvements to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), capital reforms, structural improvements, operational improvements and data security reforms. To see NAFCU’s complete Five-Point Plan, visit nafcu.org.
Ramirez stressed that while financial institutions should have learned lessons from the financial crisis, consumers should take responsibility, too.

“The (Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act) calls for a provision to create an Office of Financial Education,” Ramirez said. “However, the regulation does not do enough to require or even encourage consumers to share the burden of responsibility of gaining full understanding of the loan requirements prior to entering into the loan agreement. It would be helpful if there were a reduction in the number of regulations that impact our ability to serve our membership, and instead did more to encourage members to be proactive in taking advantage of financial literacy opportunities to ensure they were fully informed about the risks and benefits of entering into a loan agreement.”

Now that even lawmakers from President Barack Obama’s own party see the financial reform legislation as a destabilizing force, credit union officials say it’s time to re-examine Dodd-Frank.
“Lawmakers and regulators agree that credit unions were not responsible for the financial crisis,” Berger said. “It’s time to say ‘enough is enough’ and end the rampant overregulation of credit unions.”

Credit Union CEOs

Profiles Of ACULA Members And Credit Union CEOs

Pat Bodnar

Senior Vice President
Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates

Pat Bodnar has never worked at a credit union. Yet, as senior vice president of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates, she certainly works for them.

In the 24 years that Bodnar has been at the league, her colleagues say she has reached out to the business community more than anyone else on the staff.

Bodnar started out as an administrative assistant before moving on to director of administration and finance. She then became vice president of governmental affairs, and in 2004 was promoted to her current position of senior vice president.

“I didn’t know anything about credit unions when I started,” Bodnar says. “It’s been great fun to have a job that you love.”

Prior to joining the league, Bodnar handled constituent services for then-Gov. Bruce Babbitt. When Babbitt left office, the credit union opportunity came up.

“I fell in love with credit unions and their philosophy,” she says.

No doubt her tenure in the Babbitt Administration boosted her interest in political activity.

“I’ve always been interested in politics and politicians,” Bodnar says.

She was instrumental in developing a governmental affairs department at the league, and continues to oversee legal and legislative affairs and regulatory issues that affect state and federal credit unions. Bodnar is also responsible for public awareness campaigns, communications, community involvement, international partnerships and member service issues.

She credits her development of a government affairs program with helping to advance her credit union career.
“We’re turning credit union members into political activists,” Bodnar says. “Things like getting out the vote turn them on.”

When credit unions wanted to expand by making loans available to the business community, Bodnar was instrumental in forming a business lending council. The group assists business members in obtaining Small Business Administration loans and shares best practices among credit unions interested in making business loans.

“Small businesses need more options, not fewer,” she says. “Small business is the engine that drives economic growth.”

For her efforts, Bodnar was named SBA Advocate of the Year in 2007. She also serves as treasurer of Arizona Saves, an organization that strives to help Arizonans become financially self-sufficient through debt reduction and asset building. Bodnar also is a founding member of ArizonaFirst, a coalition of financial institutions dedicated to a public/private partnership aimed at preparing for any disaster or crisis in Arizona.

Robert D. Ramirez

President and CEO
Vantage West Credit Union

Not many people get promoted after 30 minutes on the job, but that’s exactly what happened to Robert D. Ramirez, president and CEO of Vantage West Credit Union in Tucson.

Born in Nogales, Ramirez received a degree in accounting from the University of Arizona in 1976. He worked for Sundt Corporation and Capin Mercantile Corporation before joining the Davis Monthan Federal Credit Union (which later became Vantage West) as assistant controller in 1985.

“I always tell my employees, watch for the keys that drop at your desk,” Ramirez says. “On my first day, my supervisor, the chief financial officer, resigned. I became acting CFO a half hour after I started.”

Six months later, examiners gave the credit union what Ramirez calls “a pretty bad rating.”

“I promised my boss, the president, that if he would give me three months I would get us back to a No. 1 rating,” Ramirez says. “If I did, he said he would double my salary and make me chief financial officer.”

Ramirez and his boss both made good on their promises. Ramirez moved up the ranks to executive vice president in 1996, and has served as president and CEO of Vantage West since April 2000. In addition, he holds the title of vice chair of the Arizona Credit Union League & Affiliates board of directors.

When Ramirez came onboard, the credit union had $99 million in assets with 36,000 members. It has grown to more than $1 billion in assets with 105,000 members.

“We’re consistent in providing overall value for the member,” he says. “Our goal is to be consistent, to meet their needs whenever we can.”

That became a little more challenging since the national economy took a nosedive. In the past year, Vantage West modified more than 3,000 loans totaling in excess of $55 million.

Mary Marshall

Retired CEO
Alhambra Credit Union

Early on, Mary Marshall experienced the value of credit unions. While living in the state of Washington, a local credit union provided needed assistance to her family.

“That’s when I knew I wanted to work there,” Marshall says. “I convinced them they needed to hire me.”

She started as a loan officer, and after five years enrolled in the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Management School in Madison, Wis. Attending the CUNA Management School, Marshall says, “opened my eyes to the possibility of running my own credit union.”

When her family relocated to Arizona in 1984, Marshall figured it was time to pursue her career goal.

“I felt that I was schooled in credit unions and was prepared to see what I could do with another small credit union,” she says.

At the time she joined the Alhambra Credit Union, currently located at 35th and Northern avenues, it was what she referred to as “a sleepy little shop” that was serving the Alhambra School District, and was housed in the district.

“It wasn’t growing,” Marshall recalls.

It had 700 members and assets of less than $2 million. Twenty-two years later, when Marshall retired in December 2007 as Alhambra’s CEO, the credit union had 3,700 members and close to $20 million in assets.

So it’s not surprising that Marshall was the 2009 recipient of the Arizona Credit Union League and Affiliates Very Outstanding Credit Union Person award. For more than 35 years, the league has given the award to a special individual, recognizing that person’s level of service to the credit union community.