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CU System briefs (01/25/2010)

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* FARMINGTON, N.M. (1/26/10)--Two Farmington, N.M., credit unions have merged, effective Dec. 31. Totah CU, with $5.7 million assets, merged into Animas CU, which has $94 million in assets (The Daily Times Jan. 25). Animas CEO Gary Sterton told the local newspaper it is getting difficult for small credit unions to compete. Totah served members tied to educational institutions and school districts, but it needed to provide more services, which Animas CU offers ... * FARMINGTON, N.M. (1/26/10)--Animas CU's main street branch was evacuated Friday after an employee spotted a suspicious package in the parking lot. Since no wires were protruding, the bomb squad X-rayed it and determined it contained foam wrapped in duct tape and was harmless. The $94 million asset credit union's employees returned to work (The Daily Times Jan. 23) ... * CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (1/26/10)--Commemorating more than 25 years of services to employees at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard University Employees CU (HUECU) has donated $100,000 to the MGH Fund. The check presentation was Jan. 12. The fund offers unrestricted support in patient care, research, global and community health, and education. With the donation HUECU was given the opportunity to dedicate staff lounges on floors six through nine in the Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care, which HUECU specified in honor of MGH employees (Targeted News Service Jan. 15) HUECU has $302 million in assets and is based in Cambridge, Mass. ... * LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (1/26/10)--Gwinnett FCU has established an annual scholarship fund for Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) students majoring in early childhood education, special education or another major leading to teacher certification. It is the first scholarship established at GGC that specifically benefits School of Education students, said Dean Cathy Moore. It also is the first scholarship at the college established by a business in the financial services sector. Marshall Boutwell, president/CEO of the $146 million asset credit union, said the credit union currently funds $58,500 in student and adult career scholarships in local school systems. The new scholarship will cover full tuition and fees and is renewable up to four years ... * HOUSTON (1/26/10)--Betty L. Bukowski, board chair of People's Trust CU, Houston, has died, according to the Texas Credit Union League (LoneStar Leaguer Jan. 25). Bukowski was in the midst of attending the first Volunteer Certification School and becoming a certified credit union volunteer because "being a board member is serious business," she said. She had been with the credit union at least 38 years, when it gave her a car loan when "banks would not talk to me," she told the league. Services were Thursday in Darien, Ill. ...

445106 and still climbing--raised for Haiti CUs

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MADISON, Wis. and WASHINGTON (1/26/10)--Credit unions around the world have contributed $445,106 to the disaster relief efforts for Haiti's credit unions and their members, and the totals are "still climbing," said Valerie Breunig, executive director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions.
Click to view larger image Staff at Cardinal Community CU, Mentor, Ohio, hosted a bake sale Friday and raised $500 to benefit Haiti earthquake victims. Employees donated baked goods and their time, and the credit union said there was an incredible response from members who purchased the treats to support a great cause. The proceeds will be donated to the National Credit Union Foundation's disaster relief fund, CUAid, for disaster relief in Haiti. From left are Jean Turner, loan officer, and Magen Corbett, marketing coordinator.(Photo provided by Cardinal Community CU)
The foundation--the charitable arm of the World Council of Credit Unions, collected $239,410 as of Monday afternoon for the earthquake victims, said Breunig. U.S. credit unions chipped in another $205,696 via the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) online disaster relief fund system, www.CUAid.coop, and wire transfers, said Jill Stevenson, marketing and communications coordinator for NCUF. The Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions sent $36,000 late Friday, Breunig told News Now. Credit unions were collecting funds from employees and members in a variety of ways --including bake sales, casual days, and jars by the teller stations--to send to USAid.coop. The funds credit unions contribute through the two credit union foundations will go to assisting some of Haiti's 175 credit unions and 404,000 credit union members. At the time of the earthquake, World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) had 16 project team members working on a three-year project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Haiti. All are safe, but their building was heavily damaged. Last week WOCCU sent two staffers with supplies and met project leader Greta Greathouse at the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic with supplies for staff (News Now Jan. 20). Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12 that flattened its capital, Port au Prince, a city of two million people, and damaged its port. It has endured several strong aftershocks. The government says it has buried at least 150,000 quake victims and many others are still in rubble or have been buried by family. Roughly two million people are homeless, and there are not enough tents for many in the tent cities that have developed. The disaster is being billed as one of the most horrific disasters for children (USA Today Jan. 25). Many are parentless and ill or injured. To support WOCCU's relief efforts on behalf of Haiti's credit unions and their members, credit unions can give these ways:
* Donate via check, credit card or wire to:

Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc.

5710 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI 53705

* Make donations online with a credit card at www.woccu.org/give. * For wire transfer information, contact: Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 608-395-2055 or e-mail vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate that your donation is for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. * U.S. credit unions can also support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the National Credit Union Foundation's CUAid system at www.CUAid.coop.

Gunman flees CU after standoff with police

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CENTRALIA, Wash. (1/26/10)--A gunman at the Centralia branch of TwinStar CU, Olympia, Wash., fled the scene after a standoff with police Monday. The gunman had entered the credit union earlier that morning and held a gun to an employee’s head. The gunman entered the credit union in a failed robbery attempt--by crawling through a window--on Monday morning around 7 a.m. PST as employees were arriving to work. The individual confronted an employee, who was on the phone with another employee. The other employee called the police (Seattle Times Jan. 25). When police arrived at the credit union, a woman was being held hostage with a gun to her head and a knife to her throat. The woman mouthed to the officer, “He has a gun.” The officer fired two shots at the gunman and missed. The gunman, however, let go of the employee. The officer pulled the employee out of the credit union. The employee saved the officer’s life by telling him the gunman was armed. The officer then saved her life, said Centralia police officer John Panco. No other employees or members were inside at the time. The police called in other units and a SWAT team cornered the area. Later that morning, police broke a window and threw a microphone device in the credit union. They realized the gunman was listening to the radio, so they sent him a message through the airwaves and asked him to pick up the phone (Seattle Times Jan. 25). The gunman did not make contact with police at the time of the message. Finally, the SWAT team stormed the credit union branch using flash bang devices, but found nobody inside. As of press time, police considered the individual to be armed and dangerous. Police dispatched search teams to search for the individual, the newspaper said. TwinStar sent updates about the standoff through Facebook and Twitter. Several of TwinStar’s friends posted comments on Facebook saying they hoped that everyone from the credit union was safe, and thanked TwinStar for keeping them updated on the situation. TwinStar also posted a message on its website notifying members that its Centralia branch was closed until further notice. TwinStar’s Chehalis branch, normally closed on Mondays, opened for business at 2:30 p.m. PST to accommodate for Centralia’s closing.

Herb Wegner awards dinner ticket sales extended

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WASHINGTON (1/26/10)--The deadline has been extended until Feb. 5 for purchasing tickets to the 22nd Annual Herb Wegner Memorial Awards Dinner presented by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). The event will begin with a reception at 6 p.m. EST Feb. 22 in Washington D.C., during the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). The dinner will be at 6:30 p.m., followed by the awards program at 7:45 p.m. The evening will honor four 2010 Wegner Award winners who will receive the credit union movement's highest honors:
* Lifetime Achievement: Dick Heins, retired president/CEO, CUNA Mutual Group; * Individual Achievement: Dick Ensweiler, president/CEO, Texas Credit Union League; * Outstanding Program: Biz Kid$, National Financial Literacy program; and * Outstanding Organization: HarborOne CU, Brockton, Mass., MultiCultural Banking Center.
Use the links for more information or to register. CUNA's GAC will be Feb. 21-25 in Washington, D.C.

International body wants CUs fair value comments

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MADISON, Wis. (1/26/10)--The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) is seeking clarification from credit unions and other financial services providers in emerging and transition economies on fair value measurement issues as described in the current International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) draft. The move is in response to issues raised by global financial organizations, including the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). WOCCU is asking its member organizations to share examples of situations in which the requirement to use fair value accounting may be impractical for credit unions. Last September, WOCCU submitted a comment letter to IASB supporting the board’s reassessment of fair value measurement in light of the ongoing global economic recession. WOCCU specifically raised issues on the unintended consequences the standards may have had on some financial cooperatives and their restrictive influence on institutional mergers. IASB last week contacted WOCCU and other organizations and asked for input, specifically “examples and case studies of transactions or situations ... that would make the fair value measurement guidance as proposed in the exposure draft impractical.” “We're pleased IASB is reconsidering its position and has come back to WOCCU requesting information to help it craft a better standard,” said Dave Grace, WOCCU vice president of association services and author of September's letter. “I am asking our entire membership for examples in which fair value standards have proven impractical for credit unions.” In its response to WOCCU, IASB cited concerns that:
* The proposed fair value measurement guidance is not detailed enough to allow IASB to develop fair value estimates on a consistent basis; * There is limited availability of practitioners with sufficient skills to apply necessary guidance, resulting in difficulties in applying critical judgments to affected entities; * There is limited access to market data to develop fair value measurements because there are few deep and active markets, few willing buyers and sellers and prices often fluctuate considerably; and * Developing fair value estimates and preparing the resulting disclosures can be expensive.
Final comments are due to IASB Sunday, after which the board will evaluate and consider amending inadequate proposals in the exposure draft and issuing educational materials covering application of the fair value measurement principles. All WOCCU member input should be submitted to Grace by e-mailing dgrace@woccu.org by Thursday. IFRS does not apply to U.S. credit unions, which use the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). For IFRS to apply to U.S. credit unions, it would take a statutory change to the Federal Credit Union Act, said the Credit Union National Association.

Financial Plus CU offers free e-check recovery service

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SWARTZ CREEK, Mich. (1/26/10)--Financial Plus CU, Flint, Mich., is among three area financial institutions offering free electronic-check recovery services to local businesses. The service experienced a 50% success rate recovering 100% of the full face value of bad checks at the credit union, Financial Plus CU said (Saginaw News Jan. 24). If a business deposits a check and it is returned for nonsufficient funds, the institution can forward the check to Infinity Business Group, which converts the check to an automated clearing house payment. This allows for electronic transfers and provides one more chance to deposit the check. Checks can be presented for deposit twice, the newspaper said. Infinity calls the check writer’s financial institution daily for 60 days until there are sufficient funds in the account to cash the check. After 60 days, it can pursue the funds, but the business won’t receive the full amount. The recovery service is free. Infinity earns profits through a fee--$25 in Michigan--charged to the person writing the bad check, the newspaper added. Financial Plus FCU has $339 million in assets.

IDetroit Free PressI CUs in spotlight amid bank bust

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DETROIT (1/26/10)--In the aftermath of the financial crisis, credit unions are being viewed in a favorable light unlike anything before, the Detroit Free Press said Sunday. “The perception of credit unions is more positive than the banking industry,” David Adams, president of the Michigan Credit Union League, told the newspaper. “People are reassessing their banking relationship more than ever.” However, credit unions’ biggest shortcoming is “they don’t promote themselves enough,” Adams added. Credit unions nationwide are being buoyed by a backlash against big banks, wrote Katherine Yung, a business writer for the paper, in an article titled, “Credit unions branching out amid bank bust.” “Though year-end figures are not available, the number of credit union members in the state was expected to hit a record in 2009, surpassing the 4.4--million peak set in 2003,” Yung added. For the first nine months of 2009, lending at Michigan credit unions rose 4.6% and deposits jumped nearly 9%, the league told the paper. Michigan First CU, Lathrup Village, added nearly 15,000 new members in 2009 and loans grew by 10%. “I expect the same level of growth to continue in 2010,” CEO Michael Poulos told the paper. “People are looking for the best value.” The article also was picked up internationally by Global Banking News. See the link. In a separate article, the paper told the story of a Michigan man who was rejected by four banks for a mortgage loan because of home-appraisal problems. He then tried a credit union, which ordered a new appraisal and gave him a loan, allowing him to close on the house within three weeks. See the link.

CUNA discusses howwhy of switching on IMSNI blog

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MADISON, Wis. (1/26/10)--Since the 2008 U.S. banking collapse and bailout, frustration has led consumers to turn to credit unions, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) told an MSN blog called “The Red Tape Chronicles.” “It has been developing for the last several months,” Bill Hampel, CUNA chief economist, told the blog. “Annual growth in credit union members had been very weak for the past several years ... but during the first 11 months of 2009, our growth rate doubled.” Credit unions added two million new consumers during that time, Hampel added. The article focused on the hows and whys of switching financial institutions. The costs of switching to a credit union from a bank engender costs associated with direct deposit of payroll checks, automated online bill payment of mortgages and auto loans, recurring debit card transactions, automatic savings plan deductions, and credit card bill payment, the blog said. Ending all these transactions, and starting the payments anew, is such a hassle that “inertia” often takes over, Hampel told the blog. “Changing where you have your checking account can be a royal pain in the neck,” he said. “It's like if you lose a credit card and have to inform all those people you have a new one, only much worse than that.” However, credit unions provide clear benefits--in the form of better interest rates on loans and deposits, Hampel added. According to Datatrac Corp., average credit union credit card rates are currently more than one full interest point lower, car loans are 1.5% lower, and one-year CD rates are 0.30% higher, the blog said. The blog article generated several positive comments from consumers about credit unions. See the link.

CU testifies fin ed outreach in Maine

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AUGUSTA, Maine (1/26/10)--Donna Steckino, president/CEO of Community CU in Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, testified on behalf of Maine’s credit unions and the Maine Credit Union League before the state Insurance and Financial Services committee in Augusta. She testified in support of Legislative Document 1649, Resolve to Increase the Financial Stability of Low-Income Families in Maine. The bill would create a working group, which would include a credit union representative, and focus on:
* Developing and marketing starter accounts with features to benefit low-income families; * Educate families without accounts about the benefits of account ownership and encourage those families to open accounts; * Educate and assist families with basic money management skills; * Create coalitions of financial institutions, regulators, municipal officials and nonprofits to market the accounts to families.
The committee voted to pass the bill. Maine’s legislature will vote on it in the coming weeks, the league said. “Financial difficulties impact such a big part of our lives so anything we can do to help make the situation better for people can make a big difference, not just financially but psychologically as well,” Steckino said. “Part of our outreach has included providing opportunities to people who have little or no understanding of how to handle public finances,” she added. “Maine credit unions provide ongoing, free learning opportunities to our members and the public on topics such as how to manage a checking account, preparing a budget and the concept and importance of saving.” The committee said it was impressed by Maine credit unions’ efforts to expose high school students to financial education and praised the 15 Financial Fitness--A Money Management Experience--fairs that Maine credit unions coordinate annually, the league said. Steckino also outlined special programs offered by Maine credit unions to help low-income members. Some credit unions offer special checking accounts that require no minimum balance, assess no monthly fees, have no limitations on the number or amount of transactions, no per check fees and no cost to open the account. Lloyd LaFountain, superintendent of the Bureau of Financial Institutions--who would lead the working group the bill creates--also praised Maine’s credit unions. “Through the shared branching network, members have the ability to access and conduct financial transactions at locations across the state, which eliminates some of the access barriers that low-income families face,” he said.

CU to announce name change in Super Bowl preshow ads

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LENEXA, Kan. (1/26/10)--A Kansas credit union that is expanding and changing its name will make its first public announcement about the change in ads airing during the Super Bowl XLIV preshow on Feb. 7. Credit Union of Johnson County, a $235 million asset credit union with locations in Lenexa, Olathe and Mission, Kan., has new locations in Lawrence and Leavenworth, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. Its new name, Mainstreet CU, reflects the broadening of its membership base throughout metropolitan Kansas City, said the credit union. "We're the same, sound credit union we've always been, committed to serving people throughout Kansas City," said John Beverlin, president/CEO. "We are well-capitalized, have a strong bottom line, and we make sure our products and services keep pace with members' needs." But with its reach extending beyond Johnson County, Beverlin said it was time to change the name to represent its growing community. In addition to the Super Bowl ads, the new brand will debut in newspapers and on billboards, busses, television and radio. The new name symbolizes "the values our credit union stands for, such as trust, respect, honesty--key values of the heartland," said Beverlin. "And it reinforces to the community that we're not 'Wall Street, we're Mainstreet.'" The credit union will implement its new brand over several months, changing signage, print materials and advertising. Everything else will remain the same. "Bottom line, we're changing our name, not our culture," Berlin said.

ACCUs Brad Miller named CEO of Southeast Corporate

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (1/26/10)--Brad Miller has been named president/CEO of Tallahassee, Fla.-based Southeast Corporate FCU, announced the corporate's board Monday. Current President/CEO Bill Birdwell will retire on Feb. 28, and Miller's position will be effective March 1. Miller has been executive director the past three years of the Association of Corporate Credit Unions (ACCU), representing the association on Capitol Hill and with the National Credit Union Administration. "Southeast's Board of Directors feels strongly that Brad Miller is the right person at a critical time in the evolution of our corporate system," said board Chairman Tim McMurry. "He has broad industry experience and was chosen from among a field of very qualified candidates." Miller told News Now that he will be transition between ACCU and the corporate during February "to ensure an efficient and successful transition for both ACCU and Southeast Corporate, with my official capacity at Southeast Corporate beginning March 1." ACCU's "board and existing committee structure will continue to manage the strategic issues for the association," Miller said. "ACCU members will be meeting during the [Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference] GAC in February to further discuss the evolution of the ACCU, he said. Prior to his position at ACCU, Miller spent four years as CEO/President at Treasure State Corporate CU in Montana. He also has served as a principal with Carreker Corp., specializing in payments consulting, check payment technology, and other cash and logistics management service. Miller also worked more than 12 years with the Federal Reserve System, and held management positions in business development, payment systems, and planning and analysis. He received a master's of business administration degree from the University of Montana and a bachelor of technology in business degree from Montana State University. He also has held various investment securities licenses and attended the Sales Management Executive Program at the University of Minnesota.