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Innovation team creates competitive edge for Florida CU

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (4/24/15)--Innovation is a core value at Community First CU, Jacksonville, Fla. To turn that value into a competitive advantage the credit union has launched an innovation team that fulfills the needs of consumers.

Formed in 2013, Community First CU's innovations team met with Ignite, a local incubation lab, to learn the process of turning ideas into solutions ( Jacksonville Business Journal April 21).

The seven-member team is inspired and driven by the millennial generation, according to Community First President/CEO John Hirabayshi.

It includes members from a cross-section of the credit union. The team talks to consumers and develops strategies to better serve the credit union's membership.

The key to the team's success is its ability to think like consumers, Hirabayshi told the Jacksonville Business Journal .

Team member Jairo Lobusta said the team identifies problems and tries to make the financial lives of members easier.

As a result, the credit union has launched several new products and services, such as a mobile banking app that includes a personal budgeting function, and new loan options, including a fast growth line of credit aimed at young professionals looking to build up credit quickly. That initiative alone has netted the credit union 100 new members in the last two months, the Jacksonville Business Journal reported.

Most recently, the team has launched a campaign targeted to serve the needs of University of North Florida students.

Clearview FCU says 'Thanks a Million' with gifts, cash

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MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (4/24/15)--Clearview FCU wanted to make its members feel special in celebrating the 10th anniversary of its community charter. So not only did the Moon Township, Pa.-based credit union return $1 million to its membership, it used some of the money to surprise individual members with gifts.

Part of the $1 million went toward a "thank you" patronage dividend to members. The remainder went toward gifts that in some cases made members' dreams come true.

For example, member Lisa Zoller received a trip to Paris. "I can't believe Clearview would do this!" Zoller said. "I've always wanted to go to Paris, but I never imagined it would finally happen."

"We recognize that our members have a choice when it comes to selecting their financial institution, and we appreciate that they have chosen Clearview," said Mark Brennan, Clearview president/CEO. "This is one small way we can show them our appreciation and thank them for their membership and loyalty."

Some of the gift highlights include:
  • Jairus Moore was presented with a donation to the New Brighton Fire Station, where Moore is a volunteer fighter. Moore, a country music fan, was also given tickets to 11 country music concerts this summer, along with a $1,000 gift card to Best Buy;
  • Ed Ames, a Korean War veteran and lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan, will get to throw out the first pitch at a Pirates game this summer. Clearview has also reserved a suite at PNC Park for Ames, his family and friends;
  • Shannon Taylor, a 33-year-old who is fighting multiple sclerosis (MS), was presented a donation for her MS walk. A loyal Pittsburgh Steelers fan, Taylor was also given tickets to training camp and an upcoming Steelers game;
  • More than 600 members were surprised with envelopes containing $50 cash; and
  • Clearview presented 20 different members with a $2,500 loan payment.
Other gifts included a $1,000 gift card for home improvements, big-screen TVs, a guitar, $500 Amazon gift cards, iPads, and $250 and $500 Barnes & Noble gift cards.

Clearview also is planning to treat 40 members and their guests to a Pittsburgh Pirates game this summer.

CU System briefs (4/24/15)

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  • WAKEFIELD, R.I. (4/24/15)-- Chartway FCU's We Promise Foundation is sponsoring this week's spring vacation for children with epilepsy and their families at Camp Matty, Wakefield, R.I. The camp includes therapeutic horseback riding, which improves riders' strength and coordination. Camp Matty also offers an opportunity for parents and caregivers to connect with others who have similar experiences of living with epilepsy. This is the fourth year the foundation has supported The Matty Fund, which has received a total of $40,000 from the charitable arm of the Virginia Beach, Va.-based credit union (Chartway FCU) ...
  • MOLINE, Ill. (4/24/15)-- Dennis Hall, president/CEO, IH Mississippi Valley CU, announced he will retire from the Moline, Ill.-based credit union at the end of the year . Hall has been with the credit union for 28 years, including 18 years as the president/CEO. He recently was inducted into the Illinois Credit Union League Hall of Fame. During Hall's tenure, the credit union grew to more than 110,000 members and 17 locations. The board selected Brian Laufenberg as the new CEO, who will continue in the positions of executive vice president of support/chief operating officer in the interim, according to the credit union's blog ...
  • PHILADELPHIA (4/24/15)-- American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia, transformed its campus into a medieval wonderland for its recent employee appreciation day . The management team--decked out in costumes evoking the Renaissance era--welcomed employees with gifts of credit union shirts and Renaissance-themed trinkets. The team of jesters, knights, lords and ladies also cooked and served the employees a Renaissance-themed feast, including roasted chicken legs and dragon-charred beef (American Heritage FCU Photo) ...

Cornerstone foundation awards $71K in grants

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (4/24/15)--The Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation's Grants Committee approved 35 grants totaling more than $71,000 to support credit unions in community outreach, financial literacy and professional development, the Cornerstone Credit Union League reported ( Leaguer April 23).

Twenty-four of the grants awarded were for professional development. Another 11 were community outreach grants to support activities such as Junior Achievement, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites and financial education partnerships, according to Emily Moreno, foundation grants manager.

The foundation also supports the Cornerstone Credit Union League's REAL Solutions initiatives.

REAL Solutions is a National Credit Union Foundation program that works with state credit union leagues to provide credit unions the tools to make a difference in the financial lives of members, families and communities.

REAL Solutions builds member and consumer financial capability through product development, credit union financial counseling certification, experiential learning programs, planning, coaching, speaking and training.

"Financial literacy is so important today, with approximately 38 million Americans living paycheck to paycheck," said Paula Upchurch, Cornerstone Credit Union League REAL Solutions director. "For many families, the lack of financial education is a key contributor to their financial problems. That's where grants from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation have made an enormous impact through the REAL Solutions initiative."

Upchurch said a grant from the foundation has allowed the Cornerstone's REAL Solutions program to partner with credit unions across the region to build programs for low- to moderate-income families.

The Pineywoods Chapter of Credit Unions also received a grant this quarter.

Fin. Lit. Month gets 'real' with fin. ed. fairs

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STRATFORD, Conn. (4/24/15)--Nothing says financial literacy like a credit union-run reality fair.

Students from Bunnell High School in Stratford, Conn., receive a dose of reality during a recent reality fair put on by Sikorsky CU. (Sikorsky CU Photo)
Credit unions nationwide are taking advantage of the increased awareness of financial education during National Financial Literacy Month by putting on scores of reality fairs.

Through these fairs, students assume different livelihoods that they must consider when making various mock-financial decisions. The result is a taste of what life can be like in the real world.

"Child care is hitting me hard, plus having to buy two vehicles," said a participant of a reality fair led by Coastal FCU, Raleigh, N.C., earlier this month. The student had picked the role of a low-income worker. "(Expenses) add up on a low income."

Sikorsky Financial CU, Stratford, Conn., added its own wrinkle to its reality fair by incorporating a "Wheel of Reality" that can alter a participant's cash flow to simulate the unexpected events and expenses that occur in everyday life.

"I have seen what happens when people aren't prepared for their financial present or future," said Mike D'Orlando, Sikorsky operations manager. "This event gives young people something to think about many years before they might experience it, and hopefully they will be ready when the time comes."

People First FCU, Allentown, Pa., hosted the Lehigh Valley Chapter of Credit Unions' reality fair at DeSales University earlier this week, the third event of its kind organized by the chapter in the last three years ( Life is a Highway April 23).

Nearly 300 students from nine schools participated in the event, which was operated by 50 volunteers from credit unions throughout Pennsylvania.

The reality fair also was attended by the offices of Rep. Michael Scholssberg (D-Lehigh) and Rep. Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh).

A team of New Hampshire-based credit unions partnered to put on a joint reality fair earlier this month at Manchester (N.H.) Community College ( Daily CU Scan April 17).

More than 500 students participated in the "CU4 Reality" event, organized by Northeast CU, Portsmouth; Bellwether Community CU, Manchester; and Granite State CU, Manchester.

Victoria Reishus, Northeast CU assistant vice president of marketing, counsels students on their budgeting decisions. (Cooperative Credit Union Association Photo)
"The financial fair is a great way for students to learn about budgets and their expenses vs. their spending money," said Victoria Reishus, Northeast vice president of marketing. "Some of the students were very responsible with their fictitious budgets, while for others it was a great opportunity to educate them on the benefits of saving their money."  

Hanscom FCU, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., also put on a reality fair recently for students from the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Lowell and Bedford high schools ( Daily CU Scan April 16).

"Having airmen and civilians from the base here helped the students see that everyone needs to watch their spending and create a savings plan," said Paul Marotta, Hanscom board chair.

Calif. league monitoring online payday lending proposal

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (4/24/15)--California regulators recently introduced a proposal aimed to curb the use of Internet-based payday lending services by prohibiting lenders from accessing their customers' online bank accounts.

Customers often secure payday loans from online lenders by handing over access to their bank accounts, a measure the lenders require because they worry their customers may blow off the loans ( American Banker April 20).

But the proposed changes by the California Department of Business Oversight would ban the practice, and require that loans only be secured through a paper check.

"It may not necessarily be a bad thing to reduce the amount of payday lending business that's conducted online," said Thomas Dresslar, spokesperson for the business oversight department, adding, "The more the scope of payment instruments expands beyond paper, the more dangerous the market becomes for consumers."

The proposal could cripple the online payday lending industry in California, American Banker reported, while posing less of a threat to traditional financial institutions such as credit unions and banks.

Still, the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues plans to monitor the proposed changes as the process moves forward.

"This proposal applies to payday lenders and is on our watch list right now," Sharon Lindeman, league vice president of regulatory advocacy, told News Now . "We will be studying the proposal as it evolves."

Added Rodney Wilson, league senior legislative advocate: "We are monitoring all state issues that impact credit unions and the financial services marketplace, including this issue. California credit unions offer healthy competition in the financial services marketplace to ensure consumers have access to alternatives that are affordable, sustainable and that comply with state laws and regulations."

'Your Money, Your Goals' fin. lit. campaign growing in Minn.

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BRAINERD, Minn., and COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. (4/24/15)--The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) and MidMinnesota FCU, Baxter, welcomed a special guest during a recent "Your Money, Your Goals" training session.

Deputy Commerce Commissioner Shane Deal (left) works with Bridges of Hope case workers during a training session at MidMinnesota FCU. (Minnesota Credit Union Network Photo)
Shane Deal, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, joined the session held at Bridges of Hope--a local nonprofit--to learn about the program, which allows credit unions to help low-income consumers set goals and choose financial products that build strong financial habits.

Credit unions also use "Your Money, Your Goals," a toolkit developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to train local nonprofits such as Bridges of Hope to serve low-income consumers.  

"Personal finances can be a tough topic for families to discuss," Deal said. "The training MidMinnesota provides to nonprofits like Bridges of Hope helps start the conversation and gives Minnesotans of all ages a stronger foundation of financial skills."

Following the training session, Deal and Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Higher Education, joined MnCUN on a visit to a student-run credit union branch started by Collegeville Community CU in Sexton.

The branch, which is the first student-run branch to open on a college campus in Minnesota, was founded with financial support from the Minnesota Credit Union Network Foundation.

"Financial education is a lifelong learning experience," Pogemiller said. "Collegeville Community Credit Union's student-run branch provides students with opportunities to share the financial knowledge they gain on the job with their classmates and to develop experience that can help them in their future careers."

Both events were held in celebration of National Financial Literacy Month, and to demonstrate the commitment credit unions throughout the state have made to financial education.