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April 17, 2014

As threats grow, Mich. league work for members' data safety gets spotlight

Washington
WASHINGTON (4/16/14)--Even with the U.S. Congress out of session until April 28, credit unions are keeping the focus on what must be done to improve the country's data security.

The Michigan Credit Union League's efforts in support of consumer data security gained coverage on MiBiz.com , with the league suggesting that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau supervise retailer consumer data protection practices and how those retailers investigate consumer data theft.

"We think retailers should have skin in the game, and they ought to be responsible and have a vested interest in protecting customers' information," MCUL Chief Operating Officer Ken Ross told MiBiz.com . While credit unions and banks are subject to strict security requirements, retailers are not held to the same standards. If one part of the larger puzzle doesn't fit correctly, there can be serious downstream implications, he told MiBiz .

The retailers, Ross argued, must make security a priority, as credit unions and others do.

A data breach at Target stores last year resulted in the theft of 40 million debit and credit cards, and encrypted PIN data, and the names, mail and email addresses, and phone numbers of up to 70 million individuals. Credit unions incurred more than $30 million in losses as a result of the breach.

While a recent Newtek Business Services survey showed that 67% of business owners polled were not concerned about credit card security at their businesses, data breaches and other methods of online theft are becoming all too common. (See March 7 News Now : Survey says majority of business owners unconcerned about card security.)

Around 20% of Americans have been affected by a data breach, a January Pew Research Center report showed. According to the Pew report:
  • 18% of online adults have had their Social Security Number, credit card, bank account or other important information stolen; and
  • 21% of online adults have seen their email or social networking accounts compromised.
For the MCUL story and more on the data breach report, use the resource links. ReadMore

CFPB extends remittance rule shield

Washington
WASHINGTON (4/16/14)--The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proposing a five-year extension to an exception that minimizes for some credit unions and other financial institutions certain information reporting requirements of its international remittance transfer rule.

The proposal will be available for comments for thirty days from the date it is published in the Federal Register . The agency is also proposing several clarifications and technical corrections to the final rule and commentary.

Under the CFPB rule, international remittance transfer providers are generally required to give prepayment and receipt disclosures to the consumer-sender that include the exchange rate, certain fees and taxes associated with a transfer, and the amount of money that will be received on the other end of the transfer.

Remittance transfer providers will also be required to investigate disputes and correct errors. The rule has been in effect since Oct. 28.

The bureau in a release noted that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act explicitly allows federally insured financial institutions, like banks and credit unions, to estimate third-party fees and exchange rates when providing remittance transfers to their accountholders for which they cannot determine exact amounts until July 21, 2015. Insured institutions can only use this exception when they cannot determine the exact amounts for reasons beyond their control.

This exception would continue until July 21, 2020, if the proposal is adopted. The CFPB said it moved to extend the exception when institutions reported that current market conditions would make it impossible to know the exact fees and exchange rates associated with a minority of their remittance transfers.

"Without the exemption, these insured institutions report that they would be unable to send some transfers to certain parts of the world that they currently serve," the CFPB noted.

The Credit Union National Association has repeatedly called on the CFPB to use the full authority granted to it in the Dodd-Frank Act to exempt credit unions from the international remittance transfer rule and other regulations.

"When the remittance rule was finalized, several credit unions stopped offering the service to their members," CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney wrote in a February letter to Congress. ReadMore

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'Overwhelming' response to N.J. CUs' 'trust' billboard

CU System

HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (4/16/14)--The New Jersey Credit Union League reported an "overwhelming" response to a recent billboard campaign that supported the "Banking You Can Trust" credit union awareness website.  

 
A New Jersey Credit Union League billboard campaign displayed the $47,589,899 dollar figure that New Jersey credit unions saved New Jersey residents in 2013 and a unique URL tracked back to the Banking You Can Trust site with an explanation of the number. The campaign helped attract a record 6,000 unique visitors and more than 11,000 page views to the Banking You Can Trust website in the first quarter (New Jersey Credit Union League photo)

The "Banking You Can Trust" website attracted a record 6,000 unique visitors and more than 11,000 page views in the first quarter. More than 56% of the traffic can be attributed back to a secretive billboard campaign the league ran through its Banking You Can Trust advertising program.
 
The billboard campaign was simple, displaying just the $47,589,899 figure that New Jersey credit unions saved New Jersey residents in 2013 and a unique URL, www.whyitsimportant.com. The URL tracked back to the "Banking You Can Trust" site with an explanation of the number.
 
During the process of understanding the billboard, 24.5% of visitors searched for a credit union during their visit to the site. Visitors through the campaign also spent significantly longer on the site, over four minutes, compared with visitors from all other advertising outlets.
 
"We kept the billboard campaign a secret so we could analyze the impact and success of the campaign without too many credit union folks visiting the site upon launch," said Candice Nigro, the league's director of marketing and communications ( Daily Exchange April 15). "The campaign began running over Super Bowl weekend and will continue through 2014, but we will change the message throughout."
 
April numbers are already looking strong for the campaign with almost 60% of visitors coming from the billboards.

 

ReadMore

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CUNA site safe from Heartbleed security flaw

CU System
MADISON, Wis. (4/16/14)--The Credit Union National Association's information technology team assures that CUNA's customer-facing websites are not impacted by the Heartbleed security issue that has been reported in News Now and the general press.
 
CUNA Vice President of IT Tom Nohelty said Tuesday that CUNA is applying all Heartbleed patches to applicable systems, even to environments not currently using the Open Secure Socket Layer (OpenSSL) technology at issue with the Heartbleed "bug."
 
"This extra measure will prevent any future problems if we choose to implement OpenSSL at a later time," Nohelty explained.
 
The Heartbleed threat is a flaw in the OpenSSL technology that is used to establish secure links between servers and users. Although CUNA and many credit unions have been able to assure their web users in the face of the security threat, Heartbleed has reportedly exposed millions of usernames, passwords and other information.
 
In general, Nohelty said, CUNA would recommend that all users of its website change their passwords on a routine basis to protect themselves and their personal data as these kinds of security issues will continue to present themselves. ReadMore

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Card, member protection headline Calif. league rally

CU System
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (4/16/14)--The collective voice of California credit unions was heard loud and clear in Sacramento April 7-8, as industry leaders from throughout the state took part in the California Credit Union League's (CCUL) 2014 Government Relations Rally.

More than 75 participants traveled to the state capitol to meet and build relationships with the state's lawmakers ( In the News April 15).

Among other issues, card security and consumer protection headlined discussions between industry leaders and legislators during the event, as, of course, problems with data breaches persist.

"It's important for the credit union industry to come together and be a stronger voice for consumers," said Donna Bland, CEO, The Golden 1 CU, Sacramento, with $8.2 billion in assets. "I would hope that today's issue regarding card security would be common ground for all financial institutions. It's not a political issue, it's about consumer protection."

Several bills, including those concerned with the 2015 Europay-Mastercard-Visa (EMV) chip deadline for card issuers and retailers; personal privacy protection; tax credits; and the California Department of Business Oversight (DBO) loan payments, also received considerable attention.

"If we don't show up, we could face the unintended consequences of bad legislation," said John Cassidy, CEO, Sierra Central CU, Yuba City, with $671 million in assets. "Our capacity of communicating our message to legislators has never been better, but it needs to continue to grow. Engaging with lawmakers is the way to accomplish this."

"It's crucial you are here and tell your story," added Jan Owen, California Department of Business Oversight commissioner, before the event kicked off ( In the News April 14).

Deputy Commissioner of Credit Unions Erick Orellana, in a session co-hosted with Owen, spoke about the financial health of state-licensed credit unions.

While the state-licensed credit unions carry a bit more risk than the average California credit union, Orellana said, they continue to be stable and strong. Financial data keeps improving as well, he said. ReadMore

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Have Bankziety? Minn. league prescribes a cure

CU System
ST. PAUL, Minn. (4/16/14)--Wedding season is around the corner, and if your wallet has the wedding bell blues, it may need a visit to the Minnesota Credit Union Network's (MnCUN) Bankziety website.
 
The average wedding budget skirted a record-high $30,000 in 2013, according to wedding website TheKnot.com , which surveyed 13,000 brides and grooms married last year, and MnCUN's consumer education website has tips for this year's newlyweds in waiting.
 
Bankziety's "wedding planning woes" section offers tips to get off on the right foot while walking down the aisle:
  • Make a list of short- and long-term needs and wants. Is there a new car or house in the future? Set a savings goal to cover a down payment.
  • Build an emergency fund, pronto.
  • Develop and stick to a budget that includes financial goals. Make sure to revisit it to reassess the goals' status.
Consumers can check their symptoms of house-buying headaches, baby budget blues and retirement restlessness--all of which can be cured with a helpful credit union that Bankziety can help locate.
 
MnCUN's website defines Bankziety as "uneasiness, distress or mental apprehension, usually over an impending interaction with a bank; anticipated financial stress; concern over banking fees and rates."
 
The refreshed site, which was launched two years ago, also features stories from members who have been "cured" of using banks.
 
"Today's uncertain economic times have left many consumers confused about who they can trust when it comes to their money, but Minnesota credit unions have the cure for their Bankziety," said league president/CEO Mark Cummins. ReadMore

Mobile payments to jump 40% globally: Juniper

CU System
HAMPSHIRE, U.K. (4/16/14)--The value of payments completed through mobile devices worldwide will reach around $507 billion this year, a rise of nearly 40% year-over-year, according to a new report from Juniper Research.
 
The growth will be driven by purchases of physical goods, according to the report, "Mobile Payment Strategies: Remote, Contactless and Money Transfer 2014-2018." Average transaction sizes made with tablets are already exceeding those via desktop PCs in many markets. While spending on smartphones is increasing sharply, their primary function in retail lies search-and-discovery devices, with the final purchase being made on the tablet.
 
Meanwhile, the scale of digital transactions received a boost through mobile ticketing applications, with metro and transit authorities in Europe and North America that have already deployed services experiencing high levels of adoption.
 
However, the report observed that progress in contactless mobile payments had been slow, with few commercial launches. Nevertheless, it argued that the prognosis for the medium term was brighter, following the emergence of cloud-based solutions which offer the opportunity for reduced time to market for near-field communication solutions. ReadMore

CUNA compliance audios are back and even better

Washington
WASHINGTON (4/16/14)--Back by popular demand, Credit Union National Association compliance staff are posting new audio updates on the hottest compliance topics.

The new audio posts are broken into smaller chunks, down from their former 60 to 90 minutes, and will be posted more frequently than before when they were offered on a quarterly basis. The new format allows users to pick and choose the topics they listen to.
 
"We have heard from many in the credit union system over the past year requesting that CUNA's compliance staff bring back the quarterly 'Pressing Issues' conference calls, and we are really happy to do that," CUNA Federal Compliance Counsel Colleen Kelly said.

"However," she added, "many have also told us that as the unprecedented deluge of regulations continues, they rarely have 90 minutes to spare to participate on a scheduled conference call. So, in response, we are rolling out a new format."

The first editions of CUNA's newly formatted audio conference cover:
  • Mortgage lending;
  • The latest National Credit Union Administration developments;
  • The Bank Secrecy Act and the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control; and
  • Other federal regulatory issues.
Printable handouts will also be provided as part of the CUNA programs. Short recordings on other topics will be posted in the coming months.

For the new CUNA resource, use the links (members only). ReadMore

CUs, league win reg relief as Wis. gov. signs CU bill

CU System
MADISON, Wis. (4/17/14)--Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a package of credit union regulatory reforms into law Wednesday--action that will ease regulatory burden for the state's credit unions and remove barriers they face when serving their memberships.

Senate Bill 520 will modify a dozen credit union regulations, including those concerning permitted investments and incidental powers.

"We applaud the Legislature for passing and the governor for signing these common-sense reforms that let credit unions spend less time unraveling regulatory requirements and more time providing consumers and communities with services that have consistently earned them recognition for their social responsibility," said Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League (WCUL).

The bill, developed by credit union leaders and lawmakers in the state, including lead authors in the Assembly Rep. Dave Craig (R-Big Bend) and Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), unanimously passed in both the Senate and Assembly.

The law also was crafted with the help of both the director of the Office of Credit Unions and staff from the WCUL.

"Wisconsin's lawmakers and the governor have again shown that they understand, appreciate and support credit unions across the state by adopting reforms that facilitate credit unions' continued service to their 2.4 million member-owners," said Tom Liebe, league vice president of governmental affairs.

The legislation was initiated through dialogue held in the State Assembly Financial Institutions Committee's "Right to Rules" review process.

State credit union leaders have called development of the law a case-study in good-faith public/private collaboration, according to a WCUL press release. ReadMore

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Small Ark. CU offers loan growth advice

CU System

FORT SMITH, Ark. (4/17/14)--With economic activity starting to sizzle, at least one small Arkansas-based credit union has been leveraging the upward trend into gains in loan growth, while also sharing its secrets for success.  

With consumer borrowing up $16.5 billion in February, and auto and student loans gaining $18.9 billion as well--the largest one-month leap since February of last year--River Town FCU, Fort Smith, Ark., with $14 million in assets, is trying to capitalize on the recent economic surge ( Leaguer April 16).

It appears to be succeeding.

"Since the economic recession, consumers have felt a little uneasy about taking on more debt," said Tim Bowers, River Town loan manager. "But it seems they are feeling more secure in their ability to manage new debt. Since January of this year, we've seen steady loan growth."

River Town offers several loan products, such as credit cards, signature loans, home equity, recreational vehicle and motorcycle loans.

For mortgage lending, the Arkansas-based credit union uses CU Members Mortgage, a business partner of Credit Union Resources.

But of all loan products, Bowers told Leaguer , the member-owned institution has seen the strongest improvements in auto lending.

"People have been driving their cars for longer because they haven't wanted to take on new debt," Bowers said. "However, that's starting to change as people are biting the bullet and trading in their aged and high-mileage vehicles for new or pre-owned vehicles with less mileage. As a result we're seeing a greater demand for auto loans."

Meanwhile, not only has Bowers pushed River Town to take advantage of the healing economy, he's also offering up ways other credit unions can cash in.

To maximize products and services, Bowers advises credit unions:

  • Offer competitive loan rates, particularly for high credit-score members, as "even loyal members are rate shoppers," Bowers said.
     
  • Cross-sell products. "We identify the needs of our membership and take advantage of opportunities to educate them on the appropriate products and services to meet their financial needs," Bowers told Leaguer.
     
  • Step up loan promotion and marketing efforts.
     
  • Recapture auto loans. "Even if you didn't get the loan the first time around, that doesn't mean you can't get their business," Bowers said. "I might be working with the member on another loan product, and if while reviewing their credit report I learn they have an auto loan elsewhere, I'm going to try and compete for that loan."
ReadMore

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Rewards accounts attractive to Gen Y, says Kasasa

CU System
AUSTIN, Texas (4/17/14)--So-called "Gen Y" adults search for mobile tools, rewards programs and cash-back options more than older generations when selecting a financial institution, a Kasasa study released Wednesday found.

Nearly 80% of 18- to 34-year-olds polled said mobile banking is at least "somewhat important" when choosing a bank, according to the survey ( MarketWired.com April 16).

About 85% of the same demographic said customizable rewards are at least somewhat important as well, compared with 73% of those between the ages of 35 and 54.

Further, 88% said cash-back programs were at least somewhat important, compared with 74% in the 35-to-54 category and 67% in the 55-and-up category.

Commissioned by BancVue, the Consumer Banking Insights Study surveyed more than 1,000 adults ages 18 and up.

"Attracting younger customers with rewards checking accounts and mobile offerings can help community banks and credit unions increase profits ... by way of heightened, non-interest income and increased account holder engagement and retention," said BancVue CEO Gabe Krajicek.

Also important to Gen Y adults seems to be a recognizable brand name, with 81% of respondents saying that a brand name is at least somewhat important, compared with 68% of those ages 35 to 54.

"Gen Y adults are more likely to respond to brand-name offerings," Krajicek said. "With social media, endless searchable options and new non-bank players entering the banking space, the notion that the customer is king has never been more true than it is now."

Despite 72% of Gen Y adults responding that banking locally is at least somewhat important, about 25% who have checking accounts say they don't use a "community financial institution" because they don't believe a community bank or credit union will offer the same benefits they're getting at their current bank.

And 30% said they don't manage their funds at a credit union or community bank because they've never thought about it, suggesting that community financial institutions need to improve at least their marketing efforts to attract the next generation of consumers ( BancVue.com April 16). ReadMore

NCUA: CUs can help consumers avoid predatory payday loans

Washington

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (4/17/14)--The basics of credit union payday alternative loans (PALs) and advice for credit unions looking to start up their own programs were addressed during a Wednesday National Credit Union Administration webinar.
 
NCUA representatives included Tom Penna Jr., Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives economic development specialist; Lucinda Johnson, Office of Examination and Insurance program officer; and Kerri Donald, NCUA Region III examiner. Also participating in the webinar were Katia Marini-Nunez, CEO of $7.5 million-asset St. Francis FCU, Greenville, S.C.; Jennifer Lovett, CEO of  $7.3 million-asset Mississippi DHS FCU, Jackson, Miss.; and Vickie Hastings, CEO of  $34.9 million-asset Greenwood (S.C.) Municipal FCU. 
 
The presenters stressed that NCUA PALs can serve as a viable option to predatory payday loans for many credit union members, as well as non-members. The loans, they said, give credit unions a chance to transition borrowers to more traditional products offered by credit unions.


The NCUA's short-term, small-amount loan program permits federal credit unions to charge an interest rate that is a maximum of 10 percentage points above the established usury ceiling at that time. Currently, this amounts to an interest rate ceiling of 28%. 
 
Most credit unions offering payday loan alternatives also limit fees, provide member financial counseling and encourage members to open savings accounts. 
 
Nearly two-thirds of webinar participants said they did not offer PALs or other short-term small-amount loans. Twenty-seven percent of attendees said they offer the loans. 
 
Direct deposit payments can be a useful tool to help credit unions limit the risk presented by these loans, but is not a requirement for PALs. Payroll deduction can also be used for PAL payments but cannot be a condition of extending credit. However, credit unions may offer lower rates or other incentives for members who choose to pay off their PALs using payroll deductions. 
 
The webinar also covered other types of small-dollar loans provided by credit unions, which do not have the same requirements as PALs and are limited to an APR of 18% or less. Credit unions must ensure these other loan programs are in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. Standard safety and soundness guidelines must also be applied, the presenters said. 
 
When they examine a credit union's small-dollar and payday-alternative loan programs, NCUA staff said they will look to ensure adequate policies and procedures and sufficient documentation of loan files. NCUA examiners will also check for verified application fees as well as established and well-monitored lending limits.

 
Click to view larger image An NCUA analysis presented during the webinar showed that the 28% APR charged by many credit unions is well below the 661.80% APR reportedly charged in some payday loan situations. Monthly payments, fees and total payments on a $250 loan were also lower. (Source: NCUA)
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