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Northern Eagle FCU sees healthy growth in 1st year

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NETT LAKE, Minn. (1/23/15)--Northern Eagle FCU, developed last year to serve members of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa in Minnesota, has accomplished a lot in its first year of operation.

The Nett Lake, Minn.-based credit union has so far amassed more than 350 members and handed out roughly $250,000 in consumer and vehicle loans combined.

Operating out of the Bois Forte Tribal Government Building and Fortune Bay Casino, the new credit union also has served more than 120 people with one-on-one budget, debt-counseling and credit-building services through both its credit builder program and its financial education counseling and workshops.

"Northern Eagle is committed to its mission of helping members of the Bois Forte community achieve their goals of financial independence and security, and we are working towards that goal one member at a time," said Nikki Pieratos, Northern Eagle president/CEO.

This year, Northern Eagle plans to introduce checking accounts and online banking to its line of products and services. The credit union is piloting these services with staff and Northern Eagle's board of directors.

Looking forward to the coming year, Pieratos said: "Our members regularly tell us that we have helped them build their credit score, which allows them access to affordable credit--especially for purchasing vehicles and homes--and that we have provided them hope for the future."

In addition to all Bois Forte Band members and non-tribal members who belong to the immediate households of a band member, Northern Eagle also serves all employees of the tribal government, Fortune Bay Resort Casino, C-Store, Y-Store, the local radio station, and Nett Lake Elementary School employees, students and their families.

The low-income designated credit union was chartered in 2013.

N.Y. league surveys Cuomo's remarks for CU opportunities

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ALBANY, N.Y. (1/23/15)--The New York Credit Union Association closely monitored Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address Monday, paying particularly close attention to his property tax program, which incentivizes local governments to keep property taxes below the proposed cap.
The association believes the program--which would serve as a permanent extension of the temporary program launched in 2011--can tie in with pro-credit union legislation that would authorize municipalities to make deposits at credit unions, as local governments look for ways to maximize their returns (The Point Jan. 22).
Cuomo's $145 billion budget would increase the state minimum wage to $10.50 per hour by 2017. The proposed budget will increase spending by 2.8% to pay for new education initiatives, infrastructure investments and tax relief programs for homeowners.
The budget will be sent to the Legislature for approval prior to the March 31 deadline.

CU System briefs (1/23/15)

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  • CONCORD TOWNSHIP, Ohio (1/23/15)--A restaurant in Concord Township, Ohio, is being auctioned after being forfeited by its owner who has been connected to the 2013 collapse of  Taupa Lithuanian CU, Cleveland (The Plain Dealer Jan. 22). John Struna, 52, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, making false statements and money laundering. As part of his plea, Struna must forfeit the Sunny Street Cafe, a condo and a car--all allegedly purchased with proceeds from the fraud, according to court documents. Alex Spirikaitis, the former CEO of the now-defunct credit union, was sentenced in December to more than 10 years in prison and $15 million in restitution for his role in fraudulent activity at the credit union (News Now Dec. 3). According to court documents, Spirikaitis allegedly embezzled more than $4 million personally from the credit union between 2011 and 2013. Taupa Lithuanian CU had 1,150 members and $24 million in assets at the time it was liquidated by the Ohio Division of Financial Institutions and the National Credit Union Administration in July 2013 ...
  • ST. LOUIS (1/23/15)--Neighbors CU, St. Louis, with $304 million in assets, paid a special dividend equal to 1.15% APY on regular savings accounts in December--1% more than its regular 0.15% APY. Roughly $171,000 was distributed back to members. "We had another great year and would like to thank our members," said President/CEO John Servos ...
  • MADISON, Wis. (1/23/15)--The new year has begun with a number of credit union mergers on the horizon. On Monday, members of $6 million-asset Morrison (Ill.) Community FCU approved a proposed merger with 1st Gateway CU, Camanche, Iowa, with $95 million in assets. The combined First Gateway CU will be headquartered in Camanche with five branches in eastern Iowa and western Illinois (The Quad-City Times Jan. 22). Community CU, La Crosse, Wis., with $117 million in assets, announced its intention to become a division of $402 million-asset CitizensFirst CU, Oshkosh. In 2014, CitizensFirst created a collaborative consolidation model with Lakeview CU, Neenah, and Best Advantage CU, Brillion. Approval from members and regulators is needed before the merger can be complete. The boards of Horizon CU, Spokane Valley, Wash., with $601 million in assets, and United Health Services CU, Spokane, Wash., with $101 million in assets, voted unanimously to pursue a merger. Horizon CU is completing a merger with EdTech FCU, Butte, Mont., with $71 million in assets (Anthem Jan. 20). Technology CU, San Jose, Calif., with $1.8 billion in assets, is merging with Sunnyvale (Calif.) FCU, with $17 million in assets (San Francisco Business Times Jan. 21) ...

Ga. CU advises how to beat fake check scams

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WARRENVILLE, S.C. (1/23/15)--Love hurts. Though in the case of one South Carolina resident, it can also hurt financially.

Health Center CU, Augusta, Ga., with $49 million in assets, was recently tapped by a local news station to give expertise about fake checks after a woman was tricked into wiring money overseas.

Tina Stephens, a resident of Warrenville, S.C., had recently struck up an online romance with someone from Nigeria who claimed to be a member of the military (WRDW-TV Jan. 21).

One day, Stephens received a message from this individual saying he had the opportunity to come home, but could not pay for the trip because he had lost his debit card.

Stephens then gave him her routing and checking account information, and soon after a check for $5,200 appeared in her account, which she then wired overseas to this individual.

But the check the individual had deposited into her account was fake and, with her legitimate money gone, it left Stephens on the hook for the full amount.

"If you deposit a bad check into your account and your financial institution receives that check back, you have to make good on it," Stacy Tallent, Health Center CU president/CEO, told WRDW-TV.

Tallent also said that it can be difficult to spot fake checks, however, even for tellers.

"The quality of these checks are getting to be so good," he said.

Tallent listed the following clues for consumers who are suspicious of a check's validity:
  • The check is printed on poor quality paper;
  • The check lacks a watermark; and
  • The check does not have an address for the bank it has been drawn on.
Health Center CU also offers additional information on how to avoid being scammed online or with fake checks on its website.

3Q membership growth outpaces Pa. population rate

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/23/15)--Pennsylvania credit unions reported stronger membership and loan growth in the third quarter as well as solid earnings, high asset quality and increased capital ratios, according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA).
Membership in Pennsylvania credit unions increased by 1.1% in the third quarter, up from a 0.9% advance in the second quarter, and a 0.8% increase in the year-prior, based on National Credit Union Administration data, the PCUA reported (Life is a Highway Jan. 22). Total membership at all 463 Pennsylvania credit unions finished the period at 3.83 million. The 1.6% 12-month growth in membership is more than two times higher than the state's population growth rate.
Lower unemployment and pent-up demand boosted credit union loan portfolios in the third quarter. The 2.7% quarterly jump was higher than the 2.2% second-quarter increase. New vehicle lending again led the way reflected by a 7.2% quarterly increase--eclipsing both the 5.9% second-quarter and 2.4% year-prior growth rates.
Used-auto portfolios grew by 4% in the third quarter, followed closely by unsecured personal loans increased at 3.5%. Pennsylvania credit union member business loan portfolios and first-mortgage portfolios each increased at roughly a 3% pace in the quarter, while credit cards were up 2.1%.
Earnings were healthy with an annualized return on assets (ROA) totaling 0.56%, a marginal decline over the second quarter's 0.60% ROA, but well above the 0.44% level recorded in the third quarter of 2013.
Strong earnings and modest asset growth pushed the Pennsylvania credit union aggregate capital ratio to 11.4% at the end of the third quarter--up from 11.2% at the end of the previous quarter. The state's aggregate ratio now stands at its highest level since 2008.

CU support helps drive Va. prize-linked savings bill

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RICHMOND, Va. (1/23/14)--With the support of state credit unions, a prize-linked savings (PLS) bill passed the Virginia House of Delegates Wednesday by 97-0 vote.
In addition, a state Senate version of the bill is expected to pass as early as today, the Virginia Credit Union League reported.
"Our credit unions have done a wonderful job in Richmond lobbying for our legislation," said Rick Pillow, league president/CEO. "This week, 80 representatives from credit unions all across the commonwealth met with their respective delegates and senators, not only on our credit union bills, but on dozens of other bills that affect our operations."

Credit unions that participated in this week's Credit Union Days at the General Assembly include:
  • 1st Advantage FCU, Yorktown, with $606 million in assets;
  • ABNB FCU, Chesapeake, with $438 million in assets;
  • BayPort CU, Newport News, with $1.3 billion in assets;     
  • Beach Municipal FCU, Virginia Beach, with $110 million in assets;
  • Beacon CU, Lynchburg, with $120 million in assets;
  • Belvoir FCU, Woodbridge, with $313 million in assets;
  • Bronco FCU, Franklin, with $182 million in assets;
  • Commonwealth One FCU, Alexandria, with $323 million assets;
  • Fairfax (Va.) County FCU, with $293 million in assets;
  • Freedom First FCU, Roanoke, with $355 million in assets
  • Hampton Roads Educators' CU, Hampton, with $29 million in assets;
  • NARFE Premier FCU, Alexandria, with $151 million in assets;
  • NSWC FCU, Dahlgren, with $315 million in assets;
  • Member One FCU, Roanoke, with $665 million in assets;
  • Piedmont CU, Danville, with $53 million in assets;
  • PortAlliance FCU, Norfolk, with $89 million in assets; and
  • ValleyStar CU, Martinsville, with $273 million in assets.
Next week, credit unions from the Richmond, Charlottesville and Waynesboro areas travel to Richmond for their lobbying days.
The league is also tracking progress on a parity bill for state-chartered credit unions and banks, which would eliminate the need for state-chartered institutions to seek permission from the state Bureau of Financial Institutions to place or relocate ATMs. The league asked that the measure be introduced and state-chartered banks have since joined credit unions on the legislation.
"We view this bill as elimination of red tape for state-chartered credit unions, which could have found themselves at a competitive disadvantage in placing ATMs in prime locations," said Pillow.
Prize-linked savings programs are intended to boost the country's annual savings rate--around 4.1% (News Now Dec. 12). Through these products, credit union members and others can receive entries into a cash prize sweepstakes for depositing a certain amount of money into their savings accounts.  The programs have appealed to unbanked and under-banked consumers who were not previously inclined to save money.

In December, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would allow credit unions and other financial institutions nationwide to offer PLS accounts.

President Barack Obama signed the American Savings Promotion Act into law Dec. 18.

Ten states allow prize-linked savings programs: Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington.

Savings more attractive to consumers in 2015, says America Saves

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WASHINGTON (1/23/15)--Consumers are more committed--and capable--of putting money into savings this year, according to America Saves' Personal Savings Index (PSI).
Consumers' interest in savings stands at 70% compared with 65% a year ago, according to the group's triannual survey.
Savings effort came in at 61% this year compared with 58% last year, and savings effectiveness also edged higher at 59% compared with 56% a year prior.
"Last year at this time, we suggested that a post-holiday financial hangover helped explain the decline in savings interest, effort and effectiveness from September 2013 to January 2014," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of Consumer Federation of America and founder of America Saves. "But the fact that the decline did not occur between September 2014 and January 2015 suggests that Americans are now feeling better about their financial condition."
Substantial increases in the savings interest, effort and effectiveness of low- and middle-income households account for almost all of the overall PSI increases.
"Our new data suggest that low- and middle-class Americans are feeling more optimistic about their financial situation now than a year ago," Brobeck noted. "Instead of being distracted by heavy holiday spending and debts, they are nearly as interested and active saving today as they were this past September."
After learning that the survey dealt with "personal saving for goals ranging from a rainy day fund to retirement," respondents were asked to rate their personal savings interest, effort and effectiveness on a 10-point scale.
This year's theme for America Saves and Military Saves weeks is "Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically." The Credit Union National Association is among the organizations promoting good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status during the annual campaign, set for Feb. 23-28.