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In the Field

A Public Trust

Consumers and credit unions are Tanya Otsuka’s forte.

Photograph by Stephen Voss
Pocket Résumé
Tanya F. Otsuka ’11: Board Member, National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Pioneer: First Asian American appointed to NCUA Board. Inspiration: Working for a better government that serves to protect people. Commitment: To help create a financial system that truly serves all communities. Family Time: Weekend trips to Charlottesville, Virginia, to cheer UVA sports teams and visit wineries and apple orchards.

On December 20 2023, Tanya Otsuka was at Washington National Airport on her way to visit family for the holidays, when her phone buzzed with congratulatory text messages. The US Senate had, by voice vote, unanimously confirmed her nomination to serve on the three-member Board of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the independent federal agency that charters and regulates federal credit unions and insures deposits at federally insured credit unions. “It’s an honor to be nominated,” said Otsuka recently in a remote interview from NCUA headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, “and getting unanimously confirmed is a great feeling.”

President Biden nominated Otsuka to the board on September 21, 2023, when she was serving as senior counsel for the majority staff of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee under Chairman Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Brown said in a press release at the time: “As a public servant, Ms. Otsuka has dedicated her entire career to fighting for consumers, credit unions, and other small financial institutions and a strong financial system.” 

Otsuka’s commitment to public service is rooted in family history. She grew up hearing her Japanese American grandparents’ stories of internment and being forcibly deprived of their possessions during World War II. “Even at a young age I realized that there was something inherently unjust about their experience,” she said, “and I think that has certainly shaped my sense of mission and public service.” 

The seismic shock of the 2008 financial crisis struck just before Otsuka entered BC Law. As a 2L she worked as a law clerk at the Boston office of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), an introduction to financial regulation that launched a decade-long stint at FDIC as a regulatory attorney. 

Otsuka’s move to the Senate Banking Committee coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic that started in March 2020. “We had to respond through legislation like the CARES Act and other bills to get relief directly to people, and to help banks and credit unions work with their customers,” she said. Those actions “helped stabilize the financial system and avert an economic crisis.” 

In March 2023, the committee dealt with the fallout from the Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failures, another crisis in which Otsuka saw members “come together and try to find solutions.” 

“Congress is tricky and there’s a lot of partisanship,” she said, “but there were also times when we could get things done for people.”

She said that “those experiences showed me firsthand the importance of safety and soundness and consumer protection, and the vital role that small and community-based financial institutions play in our economy.”

Otsuka sees credit unions as critical to the health of the economy, and to the millions of credit union members who rely on their services. Credit unions “often serve communities that are not served well by other types of institutions,” she said, and she would like to see NCUA focus more on small credit unions that serve historically under-resourced areas. Throughout her six-year term at NCUA, she said, her guiding star will be “a commitment to a safe and sound financial system of cooperative credit that ensures members benefit from fair and affordable products and services.”