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NerdWallet announces Top 10 Community-oriented CUs for 2011

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NEW YORK (1/11/12)--Alternatives FCU, Ithaca, N.Y., is at the top of the inaugural list of the Top 10 Community-oriented Credit Unions of 2011, presented by NerdWallet.com, a personal finance credit card search website.

Alternatives was No. 1 for its support of small businesses, said the website, which sought to list credit unions who gave gone far above their mandate to provide not-for-profit financial services.

"2011's community-oriented credit unions are outstanding examples of how credit unions enrich the lives of their members and more," said NerdWallet CEO and founder Tim Chen. "Profits are returned to members, so that money stays local; but on top of that, these institutions truly make an investment in their communities," he added.

In addition to Alternatives Federal, the top credit unions on the list were:

  • Cooperative FCU, Woodridge, N.Y., for promoting equality;
  • Hope CU, Clarksburg, W. Va., for its community infrastructure support;
  • ASI FCU, Harahan, La., for its new microloan program;
  • Latino Community CU, Durham, N.C., for its outreach to at-risk populations;
  • Family Trust CU, Rock Hill, S.C., for its personalized financial counseling services;
  • Alliant CU, Dubuque, Iowa, for its loan assistance program;
  • Self-Help CU, Durham, N.C., for its innovative microbranch;
  • Generations FCU, San Antonio, for its online financial literacy resources; and
  • Freedom First, Roanoke, Va., for its work supporting local nonprofits.

CU System briefs (01/10/2012)

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  • ROCKFORD, Ill. (1/11/12)--A former collections supervisor at a Rockford, Ill.-based credit union has pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court to embezzling more than $122,110 from the Rock Valley FCU in Loves Park, Ill. Thomas A. Miles, 42, allegedly embezzled 163 loan checks from members made payable to the credit union from October 2007 through August 2010 and directed tellers to cash the checks and issue money orders for the amounts. He then allegedly deposited the money orders into a personal account at a bank. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million maximum fine. Sentencing has been set for April 18 (Rockford Register Star Jan. 9) …
  • COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/11/12)--Susan Packer, HGTV co-founder and former chief operating officer, will keynote the Ohio Credit Union League's annual conference, the 2012 InVest 48 Conference, which will be held April 24-25 in Columbus, Ohio. She will describe her vision and experiences in taking HGTV from an idea to a business worth more than $7 billion and the lessons she learned …
  • SAN ANTONIO (1/11/12)--The Armed Forces Financial Network (AFFN), in a

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    partnership with on-base financial institutions on Lackland AFB, presented 100 "Thank You" cards of $50 each to the Lackland Fisher House to distribute to military families staying there in 2012.  The cards thank the families for the service and sacrifice made by troops in the armed forces and can be used at any of the 1.3 million locations worldwide accepting AFFN payments. The cards function as a regular debit or ATM card. Representatives from Air Force FCU, Security Service FCU and Broadway Bank made the presentation to Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn, 59th Medical Wing Commander; Capt. Leria Diaz, commander, Financial Analysis Flight 802nd, and Dwayne F. Hopkins, Fisher House executive director, on behalf of the financial institutions on base on Friday. Pictured are, from left, Diaz: Hopkins; Hepburn; Bob Glenn, president/CEO of Air Force FCU; Arnette Willis, banking service representative at Broadway Bank; and Ethel Harris, assistant service center manager, Security Service FCU.  (Photo provided by Air Force FCU) …

Four CUs chalk up nearly 14 M in member dividends

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MADISON, Wis. (1/11/12)--Four credit unions have tallied nearly $14 million in dividend payments to members, they announced this week.

They are:

  • American Airlines FCU in Fort Worth, Texas, which announced it paid a $10 million dividend Dec. 31 to qualifying members. The $5.42 billion asset credit union's board approved the dividend payout at its board meeting Dec. 16. The bonus dividend was based on dividends earned on qualifying share accounts and/or interest paid on applicable loans. The savings portion of the dividend was calculated on share dividends earned through Nov. 30, and the additional portion of the bonus dividend amount was calculated on loan interest paid from Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, 2011.
  • Empower FCU, a $1.02 billion asset, Syracuse, N.Y.-based credit union, which announced a $2.5 million "give-back" for 2011. The credit union is paying $2.5 million in bonus dividends and interest rebates to reward Empower members for a successful year.
  • Mazuma CU in Kansas City, Mo., which paid its members a bonus dividend Dec. 31. The $454.6 million asset credit union's board approved a $930,000 dividend payout. Members received 4% of the interest earned on deposits in 2011 and 4% of the interest paid on loans in 2011.
  • Hanscom FCU, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., returned $567,000 to its members at the end of 201l with a loyalty dividend. The dividend represents a 2% bonus on dividends earned and consumer loan finance charges paid during the year by the $919.5 million asset credit union.

League advocates and the statehouse 2011 and 2012

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WASHINGTON (1/11/12)--Hundreds of bills impacting credit unions were introduced in state legislatures last year, according to information collected by the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA's) State Government Affairs staff from leagues' governmental affairs staff.  As states begin their legislative sessions for 2012, leagues will have more opportunities to promote and protect credit unions at their statehouses, with CUNA working to support their efforts.

This year most state legislatures will convene new sessions by the end of January, six states start in February and one in March.

Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas do not have a regular legislative session this year. Even though some states won't have a legislative session, league government affairs staff still will work with legislators and legislative staff.  For example, although Texas is not in regular session this year, the Texas House of Representatives is studying and will make recommendations on the business tax structure, including any tax exemptions during the interim.

During 2011 state legislative sessions, leagues actively engaged in promoting and protecting credit unions' interests.  Among the year's highlights:

  • Tight budgets caused many states to consider repealing or suspending certain tax exemptions to raise additional revenue.  State tax exemptions for credit unions were mostly untouched, but leagues indicated they remain vigilant to protect credit unions' tax treatment.
  • Many states considered reforms to their foreclosure process; however, few measures were enacted. Leagues were active in shaping legislation that did pass.
Several states saw favorable changes made to their credit union acts. They include:

  • California, which created parity between federal and state charters regarding loans to credit union officials;
  • New York, which now allows state-chartered banking institutions--including credit unions--to apply for federally permitted powers and expedites the time period that regulators have to consider these applications;
  • North Carolina, which now permits a state-chartered credit union to own and operate an insurance company to benefit its members;
  • Missouri, which saw a number of improvements such as confidentiality provisions to protect information obtained during examinations; and
  • Oregon, which saw a number of changes including ones related to mergers of credit unions.
Other states capped 2011 with these efforts:

  • New Jersey, Oregon and Illinois made progress to enable or expand public deposit authority for credit unions.
  • Prize-linked savings legislation passed in Nebraska, North Carolina and Washington.
  • Financial literacy measures moved forward in California and Virginia.
  • Several states, including Arizona, Hawaii and Oregon, considered legislation establishing a state bank, like the Bank of North Dakota. None succeeded in passing.
  • State interchange bills introduced in a number of states such as Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Oregon were not successful.
  • Although strongly opposed by the Wisconsin Credit Union League, a last-minute addition to the state's budget bill allows Wisconsin credit unions to directly convert to banks.
While 2011 saw changes and progress, the coming year will bring more opportunities to advance credit union interests in state legislatures.  Issues that leagues will address in 2012 include:

  • Foreclosure. As a result of the crisis in foreclosures, several states such as Hawaii, Georgia and Maine will continue to address issues related to changes in mortgage foreclosure laws.
  • State banks. Several states, including Arizona, Hawaii and Maryland, will likely consider further legislation to create a state bank.
  • Tax reform. Leagues will continue to monitor tax reform efforts to ensure proposed legislation does not impact credit unions' exemptions.
  • Credit union Acts. At least two states --Alabama and Illinois--plan to update their credit union act.
  • Public deposits. Alabama and Florida will take up legislation to allow its credit unions to accept public deposits.
  • Prize-linked savings.  After its success in Washington state last year, the Northwest Credit Union Association is set to lobby for prize-linked savings in Oregon.
With the enhanced activity this year on credit union issues in state legislatures nationwide, one of CUNA's priorities is to work with leagues in highlighting their work in advocating for, promoting and defending credit unions at the state level. For more information, use the link to CUNA's State Government Affairs.

Nebraska CUs launch Save to Win program

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OMAHA, Neb. (1/11/12)--The Nebraska Credit Union League and nine Nebraska credit unions will launch the "Save to Win" program Thursday and Friday in several cities in the state to offer credit union members a way to increase their savings.

Three separate launch events will be held in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney.    

By making a $25 deposit, members at one of the participating credit unions will be entered into a drawing to win a $25,000 grand prize. Those same members also are eligible for monthly prizes. 

Members are guaranteed to have more money saved than when they started, because they keep all the money they have saved plus interest, said the league.

"The Save to Win program is yet another way in which our credit unions are promoting thrift to their members by incentivizing them to save for the future," said Scott Sullivan, league president/CEO. "By linking the chance to win great monthly prizes along with a $25,000 grand prize, we believe the Save to Win program will lead some members to begin saving for the first time while helping others to accelerate their habit of saving."

To participate in Save To Win, members open a share certificate and for each deposit of $25 or more they earn an entry into a drawing of up to 10 prize entries per month. Prizes totaling $1,500 will be awarded to members who made savings deposits during the month and whose names are drawn. The prize entries also will be entered into a grand prize drawing of $25,000 in January 2013.  Members must be 18 years old and have a traditional share/savings account with a participating credit union. 

Credit unions participating are:

  • Family Focus FCU, Omaha;
  • Gallup FCU, Omaha;
  • Kearney (Neb.) FCU;
  • KEE FCU, Kearney and Lexington;
  • Liberty First CU, Lincoln;
  • MembersOwn CU, Lincoln and Beatrice;
  • Mutual 1st FCU, Omaha;
  • Omaha Police FCU, Omaha and LaVista; and
  • SAC FCU, Omaha and Bellevue.
Save to Win was first offered in Michigan in 2009. Across Michigan, more than 16,400 members at 43 participating credit unions have saved more than $30 million as of December, according to the Michigan Credit Union League.

International Year of Co-ops launches around the world Thursday

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MADISON, Wis. (1/11/12)--Cooperatives around the world will partner with other countries Thursday to launch the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives (IYC).

The Global News Hub for co-operatives (www.thenews.coop) will bring together live webcasts, with a stream of photographs and articles from the various country launches.

In Canada, a national launch (www.canada2012.coop) organized by the Canadian Cooperative Association and the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité will take place in Ottawa, together with more than 12 other simultaneous regional events across the country.

All locations will be linked by a live webcast.

In the United Kingdom, Cooperatives UK will host a live broadcast with national newspaper the Guardian, which will be simulcast through the Global News Hub.

Cooperatives Europe will coordinate launches across continental Europe, which will include France, Italy and Portugal.

In the U.S., the IYC movement is sponsored by the nation's cooperatives, credit unions and the National Cooperative Business Association. They are urging cooperatives to tell their story on www.stories.coop.

Designated by the United Nations, IYC highlights the contributions cooperatives have made to help reduce poverty, create jobs and promote socio-economic development worldwide (News Now Jan. 4).

Crash Network now Cooperative Trust with CUNA Mutual support

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MADISON, Wis. (1/11/12)--A three-year title sponsorship commitment from CUNA Mutual Group is allowing the Crash Network--which has sent young credit union professionals to "crash" CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference and state league conventions nationwide--to evolve into a more permanent network that encourages growth for, and change by, young credit union professionals.

The Cooperative Trust is the new incarnation of the Crash Network, which grew out of the Filene Research Institute's goal to help more young adult professionals get involved in the Credit Union System. The new Cooperative Trust network and website will formally launch Jan 25.

"Supporting and mentoring young professionals is key not only to their success but the credit union movement's success as well," said Bob Trunzo, CUNA Mutual Group chief operating officer. "The Cooperative Trust has the potential to make a real difference in the credit union communities it touches."

The Cooperative Trust will carry out four primary activities:

  • Connect with Cooperative Trust members through the online channel. With 294 active members, The Cooperative Trust aims to mobilize more than 1,000 members by the end of 2014.
  • Build mentorships between Cooperative Trust members and experienced credit union professionals.
  • Develop industry projects.
  • Hold national, regional and local meet-ups.
"This sponsorship comes at the perfect time," said Brent Dixon, founder of The Crash Network and an applied research adviser at the Filene Research Institute. "Not only does it allow us to keep the lights on, but it will help us keep the community together and hammer their ideas into projects that rejuvenate the Credit Union System."

In addition to the sponsorship, CUNA Mutual employees will mentor community members, speak at meet-ups, help evaluate community-member projects, and be active in the online community. The Cooperative Trust community will also help to advise the company on products and market development topics.

Edwards to fill new WOCCU global advocacy position

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MADISON, Wis. (1/11/12)--Michael Edwards has been named chief counsel and vice president for advocacy and governmental affairs for World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), Madison, Wis.

The newly created position is designed to more effectively address the growing global advocacy needs of World Council's member organizations.

"A key purpose of World Council is to advocate on behalf of its members," said WOCCU President/CEO Brian Branch. "Michael Edwards brings significant experience and a high level of capabilities to this position, which will help us better serve our members' advocacy needs."

Prior to the WOCCU appointment, Edwards was senior assistant general counsel for the Credit Union National Association in Washington, D.C., and served as a volunteer on a number of World Council assignments. He was also editor of the American Bar Association's Administrative Law Review.

Edwards earned his juris doctor from the American University Washington College of Law, a master's degree in international development from the School of International Service at American University and a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

He joins WOCCU's Washington, D.C., staff.