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NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper Opening Remarks for the NCUA Briefing for the National Bank of Ukraine and Deposit Guarantee Fund

June 2022
NCUA Chairman Todd M. Harper Opening Remarks for the NCUA Briefing for the National Bank of Ukraine and Deposit Guarantee Fund

As Prepared for Delivery on June 22, 2022

Thank you, Ivan and Alisa. And, welcome to all who are joining us today. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be here with you.

Let me first express my heartfelt support for the people of Ukraine during this most troubling time.

I was saddened to read that since Russia launched its unjust war, approximately 5 million people have fled the country and another eight million people are displaced within Ukraine.

That Russian aggression has elicited near-unanimous condemnation from the global community. And, the magnitude of that number is the bitter legacy of the malice and brutality of the invasion.

The NCUA stands in support of Ukraine in its fight for independence and self-determination; for it is nothing short of a fight for peace, dignity, and justice, and a fight for Ukraine’s survival as a sovereign nation.

And, we cannot forget the Ukrainian people living in the U.S. who fear for the welfare of loved ones and the future of their homeland.

We stand in support for these citizens as well.

I commend the National Bank of Ukraine for its ongoing supervision and steadfast support of credit unions, which began before the invasion.

I hope the presentations last week and today by members of the NCUA team will help you better understand the unique needs and challenges of credit unions.

Credit unions operate under a different business model than banks when providing financial products and services to consumers.

As a result, credit unions require a specialized regulatory framework, one that differs in several ways from the banking model, to ensure that they can continue to fulfill their “people helping people” cooperative mission.

This is especially true for the smallest of credit unions.

As member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative financial institutions, credit unions provide their members with access to safe, fair, and affordable financial products and services, that allow them to participate in their institutions’ governance. As such, a credit union’s first commitment is to the financial well-being of its members.

And, a credit union’s mission is to meet the credit and savings needs of those members, especially those of modest means.

That last part, “those of modest means,” is important for members striving not only to survive and make ends meet, but ultimately to rebuild their homes, lives, and financial well-being.

Last month, I had the honor of hearing presentations by Ukrainian American and Polish American credit unions detailing their efforts to raise millions of dollars for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

Their outpouring of generosity embodies the credit union industry’s cooperative spirit.

As a person of Polish heritage who began his career at the U.S. Department of Labor 32 years ago by coordinating assistance programs in Central and Eastern Europe after the end of the Cold War, I was moved and humbled by those presentations.

But, I was also moved because of the journey of my Great Grandmother, Amalia Geschefske Hauch, who I knew as a child.

Her life’s journey began in Ukraine, where she was oppressed by the Russian people.

Orphaned at the age of 8, she came to North America two years later with her aunt and uncle, who obtained their passports from the German Counsel in Kiev.

So, in some ways, the lives and experiences of my family are tied up in your history, lives, and experiences.

As you listen today, I ask that you remember that small credit unions epitomize the principle of cooperative credit.

They are the heart of the credit union movement in the United States, and they need to remain viable in every country for the system to continue to achieve its full potential.

Therefore, the NCUA actively assists well-managed, small credit unions through regular technical support and grant assistance.

We have also created a streamlined examination program for well-run small credit unions.

And, we seek, where possible and practical, to minimize regulatory requirements for this sector of the credit union industry.

Creating a regulatory environment that allows small and newly chartered credit unions to provide much-needed services to members, especially those in underserved and rural areas, is a priority for the NCUA.

We consider the size, complexity, and financial condition of credit unions in our governance system.

In doing so, the NCUA can appropriately tailor regulations to ensure the safe and effective operations of federally insured credit unions, to protect credit union members, and to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Implementing a similar flexible governance model in Ukraine would allow credit unions to best serve the hardest-hit members in wartime.

And, that role will take on added significance in the aftermath of this national tragedy when Ukraine begins its reconstruction.

There’s a centuries-old proverb that reads, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

The rest of the free world hopes that the dawn is on the horizon for the people of Ukraine.

And, that this new dawn ushers in a future where Ukraine, once again free of the yoke of foreign oppression, enjoys true independence, prosperity, equity, and peace.

Thank you again for inviting me to speak with you today.

Slava Ukraini!

Back over to you, Ivan.

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