Sarah Bang is a successful business woman in the world of credit unions, but is also known to friends for her creative and artistic talents in the local community. In early December, Kyle Hauptman was confirmed by the Senate to a seat on the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board, and was subsequently chosen as vice chairman. Earlier this month he picked Bang to be his policy advisor.
“I am thrilled to have Sarah in this critical role,” Hauptman said. “Her experience managing credit union service organizations at the highest level, along with her knowledge of the credit union industry, regulations, and policy administration will be of immense value to me, the Board, and the NCUA.”
Bang commented about the opportunity to work for Hauptman. “I honestly think this guy is fantastic. He’s going to do great things.”
“I think both of us want to do the right things, not only for credit unions, but for America,” she said. “That means having a safe and sound credit union system, but one that’s vibrant and healthy and growing. Because there are plenty of people out there who don’t have access to financial services.”
Bang spoke of people’s lives being extremely busy. Both parents are often working, so they don’t have time to stop in a branch to do their banking. They prefer the speed and ease of online banking. “I was always an advocate for the technology that makes financial services easier for people,” she said. “It was important to me to create access for people.”
“Credit Unions actually were the very first institutions to have call centers that did transactions,” she said. They were the first institutions to do digital transactions according to Bang. “There were three credit unions in Oregon that actually were the first to do a digital transaction on the web.”
Bang grew up in Baraboo, Wisconsin. As a child her parents drove by “the building with all the flags” which was the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in Madison. They flew the flags of every nation that had a credit union. Bang got her first job at CUNA, and holds a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Over the years, she has worked at every level of the industry, in Oregon, Boston, and California. That includes serving as executive vice president of industry relations, and as president, chief strategy officer at CO-OP Financial Services. Previously, she was chief executive officer at Financial Service Centers Cooperative, Inc. and executive vice president of Oregon Credit Union League and Affiliates.
“Did you know that the very first, the largest provider of debit cards was a credit union in Portland, Oregon,” she said. “When our friends in the banking world realized the time savings and the value of debit cards, it went gangbusters. But it was credit unions that embraced it first.”
“I ran a company called automated item management,” she said. “It was the very first credit union owned, item processing center that processed checks. Up until then we had been relying on the banks to do our check processing. I thought we should do it ourselves.”
“Obviously I think credit unions are a vital part of the economy,” she said. “And that’s why I want to make sure they’re safe and sound and healthy.”
Bang mentioned that over 200,000 people in Clark County belong to a credit union. There are 14 credit unions that have offices in Clark County, and five have their headquarters here. “It’s a credit union rich county and a lot of people have already figured it out,” she said.
Columbia Credit Union is the county’s largest with their HQ here, with over 100,000 members. The Longshoremen’s Local 4 Credit Union is the smallest, with just over 1,000 members.
Bang retired in 2017 after nearly 40 years in the business. She’s been known for her creative talents as a painter, as a lover of music, and for her passion for the Children’s Miracle Network. Over the years she’s helped to raise millions for these kids. One highlight was working with Marie Osmond several times at fundraiser events.
“But I completely failed at retirement,” she said. Her passion to serve the industry remained. When Hauptman was nominated to be on the Board of the NCUA, she sought out those who supported him. She let them know she would love to serve him and the board.
“This is where I can do the most good for the industry and for the regulator, for the agency, and for the safety and soundness of credit unions,” she said. Hauptman’s background is banking and finance. He needed someone with extensive experience in credit unions, and chose Bang.
“Our goal is to make it safe and sound and to create an environment where the credit unions can thrive,” she said. “Part of our goal is to cut through the unnecessary regulation that slows down any business, without reducing the safety and soundness of the business.”
Bang pointed out an important difference between credit unions and banks. Credit unions do not have shareholders; they have members who own the credit union. “They don’t have stockholders, so they don’t have a stock price to protect. So when the economy goes south, banks pull back from lending. But credit unions can continue to loan to people who need loans, because they don’t have to protect that stock price.”
At the time of his confirmation, Hauptman said: “I am committed to the NCUA Board’s obligation to protect America’s $1.79 trillion credit union system, which is dedicated to serving those of modest means, and ensuring the safety and soundness of the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.”
The NCUA is the independent federal agency created by the U.S. Congress to regulate, charter and supervise federal credit unions. With the backing of the full faith and credit of the United States, NCUA operates and manages the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, insuring the deposits of account holders in all federal credit unions and the overwhelming majority of state-chartered credit unions. At MyCreditUnion.gov, the NCUA also educates the public on consumer protection and financial literacy issues.
“Protecting credit unions and the consumers who own them through effective regulation.” is how Hauptman describes the NCUA. And Camas’ own Sarah Bang is proud to join Hauptman in that effort.
Bang and her husband Steve moved to Camas in 1999.