Credit Unions Fight Regulations

Next to utility cooperatives, credit union cooperatives hold the greatest number of members in the state.

Credit unions are essentially cooperative versions of banks. Union members use them for loans and savings programs, with some unions serving as full financial service institutions.

Reta Kahley, president of the Arkansas Credit Union League, a trade association that represents the state's credit unions, said there were 62 in the state and 330,000 members.

There are fewer credit unions than in the past. Total members have increased, but Kahley said about 15 unions had disappeared during the past decade.

"There's a variety of reasons," she said. "Some are regulatory. As the government has gotten more and more interested in regulating everything, the smaller credit unions have difficulties keeping up with all the regulations."

Currently, Kahley said, Arkansas credit unions are working to spread their visibility in the state to fight the lack of unions in certain areas.

"We're starting a campaign among credit unions to make us more of a household name among Arkansans," Kahley said. "We have large portions of the state where we don't have credit unions. But credit unions are capable of online banking, debit, credit cards, loans on the phone and other ways of serving members without having to actually live in the town where the credit union is."