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CUs remember lessons of terrorist attack
MADISON, Wis. (9/9/11)--As the nation marks the 10th year since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on American soil, credit unions--some directly affected, others indirectly--will be among those reflecting on the impact that day made on American history as well as how they operate. For one credit union--Xcel CU--the events of that day literally transformed the way it does business, according to Xcel President/CEO Linda McFadden. After its main branch in the World Trade Center's Tower One in New York City was destroyed in the terrorist attack, Xcel decided not to open another facility in the city. Instead, it moved its headquarters to Bloomfield, N.J. Before its office in the World Trade Center was destroyed, Xcel’s member service was driven primarily by in-branch transactions, McFadden told News Now. Today, she estimates members do 90% of their transactions electronically. Because the events also forced the Xcel to temporarily close its branch at 26 Federal Plaza, the credit union had to get creative in how it served its members, McFadden said. “First, we let members know we were alive and well through our website,” she said. “We let them know they could reach us and conduct transactions over the telephone, online or through ATMs.” The credit union had already moved its phone and information technology systems to New Jersey after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. “We were able to make payroll that Friday (after Sept. 11), which most financial institutions weren’t able to do,” McFadden said. In the weeks following the credit union operated out of two crowded offices and joined New York State Shared Service Centers. McFadden recalled how one member service representative met a member at a subway station to personally deliver a cash withdrawal. The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has not created a noticeable emotional response from employees, McFadden said “Most of our staff we had at that time either moved on or relocated,” she said. The events also forced Municipal CU out of its 22 Cortlandt St. headquarters, across the street from Ground Zero. The credit union’s employees operated from temporary spaces in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and, in some cases, their homes, until the credit union returned to its Cortlandt St. site in May 2002 (News Now May 24, 2002). The credit union, which serves firefighters, police officers, and other municipal and governmental employees, lost 129 members in the attacks. CUNA Mutual Group estimated damage costs to credit unions at about $6 million--$4 million in life insurance and $2 million in property and casualty claims (News Now Oct. 12, 2001). Despite the events, credit unions rebounded and proved that the cooperative experience can get people through the worst of events. They learned the nation's financial system could survive when institutions take measures to back up their data and processes. Credit unions met members' needs because they had business continuity plans in place. Defense credit unions assisted members in preparing for deployment to war. The attacks also turned the Web and cell phones into significant, instantaneous channels of communication that eventually changed the way credit unions get their news and communicate with each other. Credit unions learned that communications were important and vulnerable, and they beefed up their computer security. Credit unions saw more laws--such as passage of the Bank Secrecy Act's anti-money-laundering and other provisions--and became familiar with compliance requirements over a range of laws such as the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act. For a full range of lessons credit unions learned, use the resource link. Credit unions across the nation are conducting observances and ceremonies to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks. A few examples of the kinds of activities that are taking place are:
* Andrews FCU, Clinton, Md., began events Friday and Saturday with a display of flags, and employees wearing remembrance pins. Donations are being made to several organizations to provide supplies to service members in transition from Iraq and Afghanistan back to hospitals close to their home or duty stations. Also, the credit union is sponsoring commemorative races, including The New Jersey Run for the Fallen and the Beast of the East McGuire Mud Run (credit unionsonline Sept. 6). * Bay Area CU, Oregon, Ohio, remembered the anniversary by raising money and awareness for Honor Flight Northwest Ohio. Along with accepting donations at one of its branches, the credit union will offer members and the community a chance to purchase commemorative coins, stamps and memorabilia. One hundred percent of the profits from the sales will go to Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, so local veterans can travel to Washington, D.C., to see the monuments dedicated to their honor. The “Always Remember September 11” event will run through Sept. 23 and precedes this year’s final fly day of Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, Sept. 28. * Global CU, Spokane, Wash., began its 2011 fundraising drive Sunday for Operation Spokane Heroes--an outreach program to support members of the uniformed services and their families--to sell “Hero Cards.” The cards were sold at the entrance gate to the Spokane Interstate Fair on Military Appreciation Day, kicking off a six-week long initiative going into October. The cards are displayed with a hero’s name, helping to raise money and awareness for the program. Last year’s program raised $976. * First Northern CU, Chicago, and a local auto dealer held a live radio broadcast at Lou Bachrodt Auto Mall to support the troops. They asked the community to bring a decorated hand and a dollar to benefit Operation Homefront Illinois. They displayed two steel beams from the World Trade Center that were part of the Winnebago County 9/11 Emergency Responders Memorial being built in Rockford, Ill. The donation drive was held Aug. 6 (credit unionsonline Sept. 6). * LGE Community CU, Marietta, Ga., joined the local Kiwanis Club for a “Field of Flags" to show solidary with the community. A flag will be placed in Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park for each life lost in the attacks. The flags will fly through Sept. 16. Citizens can sponsor and carry a flag. The credit union has helped promote the event by sending an e-mail to its membership and placing information on its website and Facebook page (creditunionsonline Sept. 6).


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