Letters to the Editor

Credit unions serve those banks won’t

In his May 19 opinion column, Banks, credit unions should compete on level playing field, Alex Sanchez, president of the Florida Bankers Association, distorted the credit-union tax exemption.

Mr. Sanchez says that banks and credit unions aren’t on level playing fields. His argument is true, except that the playing field is heavily weighted toward banks.

Florida bankers aren’t happy with a 92-percent market share of financial-institution deposits. They want the whole market. Sanchez says that it’s “exceedingly tough” for America’s hometown banks to compete.

However, since 1992, the 100 largest banks have raised their market share from 41 percent to 75 percent, while the smaller banking institutions have gone from 53 percent to nearly 19 percent of market share.

Credit unions, in that same time frame, have gone from 5.6 percent of the market share to just under 7 percent. So who exactly is making it tough on America’s hometown banks?

Since 2011, Florida banks have amassed $51.2 billion in deposits for a three-year total that’s 20 percent more than all Florida credit unions have grown since their inception in 1934.

Here’s another fact: The top 25 banks operating in Florida control 75.3 percent of all deposits in the state.

Out-of-state banks operating in Florida control 75.7 percent of total bank deposits in the state — a share that has increased by more than 30 over the past two decades.

Again, who is making it tough on America’s hometown banks?

Having a not-for-profit structure means that credit unions do not have stockholders — they pass earnings through to their members — saving average Florida consumers $365 million in 2014 and $3.6 billion during the past eight years.

For-profit banks, in contrast, pass earnings out to stockholders — mostly consisting of big out-of-state corporations and wealthy individuals. Florida banks paid a total of $3.1 billion in stockholder dividends over the past 10 years.

Sanchez chastises credit unions for not being subject to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Why are banks subject to the CRA while credit unions are not? It is because banks earned their way under CRA through discriminatory practices and redlining poorer communities while credit unions have continued to invest in their members without having to be told to do so by Congress.

Suncoast Credit Union, MID FLORIDA Credit Union, and Navy Federal Credit Union are mentioned because of their size or marketing practices.

Sanchez believes that a credit union’s size dictates that they should spend their money in ways that are acceptable to him.

Navy FCU should be commended for what they do for our heroes and for being one of the top employers in Pensacola.

Suncoast and MIDFLORIDA have awarded more than $2 million in college scholarships, while also consistently providing local schools with supplies and money to provide children with the best education possible.

While Sanchez continues to fight a battle against the credit-union tax exemption, credit unions are looking for opportunities to work with the banking community to gain regulatory change. If Sanchez truly wants to help the 250 members of his organization, regulatory reform is where I suggest he start.

Patrick La Pine, president and CEO, LSCU & Affiliates, Tallahassee

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