The President's Perspective
by Jeff Olson

Greetings and Happy Monday!

Whenever I run into an acquaintance and am asked, “How are you?” I often reply, “I’m rested and ready – and living the dream!” It’s a brand new year, which means a fresh outlook and a packed agenda at the association. Its full steam ahead, and that’s the living the dream part.  

Last week, Governor Burgum opened the 66th Legislative Session in Bismarck. This week, it’s Governor Noem’s turn to kick off South Dakota’s 94th Legislative Session with her first State of the State address tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon. Over the weekend, Noem was sworn in as the state’s first female governor and in her inauguration speech, she referred to the "historic nature" of the occasion. Her election in November came 100 years and one day after women's suffrage passed in South Dakota. But, it’s right down to business for us as hearings begin, and CUAD advocates are expecting to testify on three bills this week.

Photos below: Noem is sworn in, and Cramer is signed in. 

Last week, we broke the news that Senator Kevin Cramer (ND) would join Senator Rounds (SD) on the Senate Banking committee. This is significant for our Dakota credit unions and banks. Cramer’s assignment means that North Dakota will continue to have a key seat at the table and a continued voice for our financial services stakeholders. This is extremely important with the loss of Senator Heitkamp, who had been a key Democratic vote on the committee since 2012.

While serving in the U.S. House, Senator Cramer was very supportive of “Common Sense” regulatory oversight and has a 100 percent voting record on backing financial regulatory relief. We are looking forward to working with both of our senators on the committee as we continue to press lawmakers to pass legislation that strengthens and enhances the financial cooperative operating environment.


We have had the good fortune of having a member of our delegation serve on the Senate financial oversight committee for many years. One-size-fits-all regulatory burdens have had a negative impact on our smaller financial institutions here in the Dakotas and have affected our ability to properly serve our members. Still, Dakota financial institutions will have a strong, unified voice on financial service matters and regulatory oversight for several years to come. This certainly enhances the relevancy of our local financial institutions and stresses the importance our on-going advocacy efforts and engagement with our Dakota delegation.


In addition, last week, Congressman Dustin (Dusty) Johnson, SD, and Congressman Kelly Armstrong, ND, were sworn in and are ready to get to work as the 117th Congress convened in Washington. Photos below. 



What does all this mean for credit unions moving forward?

We're continuing our 360-degree advocacy strategy that brought us some significant wins last year. Our objectives are clear: We will help promote the work you do at your credit union to both lawmakers and regulators in Washington and in right here in our two states.

This includes:

  • Continuing to advance CUNA’s vision for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau;
  • Working to fix burdensome rules and slow the pace of new rules, and pushing the bureau to use its exemption authority;
  • Continuing to work with Congress to modernize the Bank Secrecy Act so that credit unions’ burdens are reduced without jeopardizing the important national security and law enforcement functions of anti-money laundering laws;
  • Standing with credit unions facing predatory, advocacy related litigation;
  • Pursuing Federal Credit Union Act Modernization legislation;
  • Continuing to defend NCUA’s field-of-membership rule in court;
  • Working to reduce the number of data breaches, by continuing to press Congress and the courts to hold the merchants that accepts payment cards to the same security standards as the credit unions that issue the cards;
  • Protecting credit unions against overly restrictive privacy regulations that impede the delivery of safe and affordable financial services to credit union members; and
  • Working to preserve the credit union income tax status at both the federal and the state level.

Dakota CUs continue to rally support for the "Open Your Eyes" campaign. 

I’m sure you have seen the stories we have been featuring in the Memo about each individual credit union that has signed on to the awareness initiative. Last week, we shared that we are half way to achieving our three-year financial goal of $1.5 million dollars for our regional investment. For many of us, this is a new frontier for the credit union industry. We are continuing to solicit our members to support this new, big, bold initiative as we work together to overcome our historically immoveable percentage of market share. It is our desire to help open the eyes of 100 million new consumers to the benefits of credit unions! Here’s what you should know.

  • We are 100% committed to the Awareness Initiative and Fundraising continues. The initial round of fundraising for our 3-year national goal of $100 million is off to a great start with over $30 million already committed. CUAD is continuing to educate our stakeholders and is soliciting financial support.
  • The membership opportunity and challenge are crystal clear! Research shows consumers don’t consider credit unions because of two key myths: 1) “I can’t join” and 2) “credit unions are too local and therefore not big enough to serve my needs.”
  • The creative content is ready. The creative content CUNA has produced over the last 6 months with the advice and counsel of a superb advisory committee of credit union marketing experts to combat these myths is amazingly effective. If you haven’t already, visit and feel free to share your feedback!
  • Our media plan is targeted and robust. The media plan is ready to go, and we anticipate content to hit in February with targeted and efficient messages aimed at non-credit union consumers, opening their eyes to the benefits of credit unions.

Finally, I want to invite you to join us in Pierre and in Bismarck for our Legislative events. South Dakota Credit Union Legislative Day/CEO Dialogue is Wednesday, January 23 and North Dakota Legislative “Late Night”/CEO Dialogue is Tuesday, February 19th, Bismarck. Use those links to sign up today! The events are free, but we would like to have the number of attendees so we can plan accordingly.

Have a great week.



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