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MarylandD.C. co-op ad campaign yields results

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COLUMBIA, Md. (1/30/08)--The Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association (MDDCUA)2007 Cooperative Advertising Campaign exceeded results, according to the MDDCUA. More than 625 radio commercials were broadcast in Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Western Maryland. The ads targeted youth and women, and drove listener traffic to the “What’s in it for me?” website (Focus Jan. 28). As of Jan. 4, the website received 12,143 visits and 10,447 clicks from search engines. Each time the site appeared in Google or Yahoo search queries, the campaign counted it as an impression--with a total of 6,010,229. On average, users spent three minutes and 10 seconds viewing the pages per visit, the association said. The campaign also exceeded its fundraising goal of $160,000. Sixty-one credit unions out of 140--about 40%--donated a total of $165,108.

Treasury Department FCU testifies for fin-lit efforts

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WASHINGTON (1/30/08)--Treasury Department FCU Vice President Lynette Smith testified in favor of the Financial Literacy Council Establishment Act last week before the District of Columbia’s city council. The financial literacy council created by the act would advise Washington, D.C.’s mayor and city council to promote financial education and awareness in the District of Columbia. The legislation also would require public school systems to have mandatory financial literacy education in high schools (Focus Newsletter Jan. 28). The Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association board has voted in to support the legislation. Credit union officials hope to be a part of the financial literacy council if the legislation is approved, the association said. Area credit unions offer financial literacy training to members. One example is the Hope Inside Program, which will launch this week with Operation Hope, Smith said at the hearing.

Suspects charged in Bluetooth Bandits robberies

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (1/30/08)--Two suspects were charged Monday with nine North Carolina credit union and bank robberies the past two years that were tied to the "Bluetooth Bandits." Arrested Monday were Christopher Brian Collins, 34, and Sabrina Lynn Phillips, 26. Each is charged with eight counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, plus robbery counts. A third suspect, Anthony Jermain Payne, 25, was arrested earlier and charged in three of the robberies, including that of a credit union. The Bluetooth Bandits got their name because they wore Bluetooth phone devices in their ears during at least two holdups. They netted more than $500,000 in the combined heists. The North Carolina Credit Union League partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a number of trade groups and organizations to offer a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the robbers. Collins and Phillips are charged in the robberies of seven banks, plus two heists at Piedmont Aviation CU--on Aug. 18, 2006, and Aug. 10, 2007. Payne was charged in the Aug. 10 robbery. The two holdups netted the robbers more than $104,000.

Study Mobile banking success lies in ease security

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NEEDHAM, Mass. (1/30/08)--The most critical driver for the successful evolution of mobile banking and mobile payments will be the ability of financial institutions and mobile operators to balance ease of use with security, according to recent research. During the next five years, mobile banking deployments will develop significantly, says Needham, Mass.-based research firm TowerGroup in its ViewPoint report, "Mobile Banking and Payments Security and Usability: What's in Your Mobile Wallet?" Although initial consumer acceptance has been "surprisingly strong," with nearly one million consumers in the U.S. using mobile banking at the end of 2007, dire consequences may result from security procedures that are either too lax or too stringent, says the report. "If consumers find registration and authentication procedures burdensome, adoption of this channel will slow," warned the report's author George Tubin. "If data security is compromised, negative publicity will quickly sow fears about the safety of banking 'over the air.'" Tubin is research director in TowerGroup's Delivery Channels and Financial Information Security practice. The report warns banks and credit unions to be wary of mobile operators who want to control the emerging mobile payments space and profit from the potential high volume of mobile payments. Consumer banks must be the central player in this burgeoning market because of their deep expertise in payments processing and maintaining trusted consumer relationships, TowerGroup said. Financial institutions will need to align their mobile banking solutions with the expectations and needs of the marketplace and ensure their central role in future deployments.

CU System briefs (01/29/2008)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/30/08)--Sasha Zuro, 26, a member service representative with Valley lst Community FCU, Monessan, Pa., was killed, along with a friend, early Sunday in a condominium fire at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Zuro was employed with the $59 million asset credit union for five years. A memorial service is being held today at 11 a.m. EST (Life is a Highway Jan. 29) … * OREM, Utah(1/30/08)--Family First FCU increased its assets by 24.56% during the past 24 months, the $165 million asset credit union announced. Net loans to members rose 25.93%, membership increased 2.69%, the credit union opened three new branches in Utah County and it celebrated its 60th anniversary. Although the credit union is "pleased with our phenomenal growth," President/CEO Dick Chappell said, "we are not satisfied, and will not allow ourselves to become passive in our success. We believe in the philosophy of putting our members first." (Business Wire Jan. 24) … * HUNTINGTON, W. Va. (1/30/08)--The former manager of the Huntington branch of Charleston-based, $129 million asset Star USA FCU pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $81,000 from the credit union (Charleston Gazette Jan. 29). Susan Kelly, 58, of Barboursville, was employed at the credit union, formerly called the Huntington Veterans Affairs CU, from 1998 to 2006. If convicted, she faces up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a $1 million fine and restitution. Sentencing is scheduled for April 28 … * TALLAHASSEE, Fla.(1/30/08)--A credit union branch inside a Wal-Mart Store in Tallahassee was robbed Monday morning. While shoppers were in the aisles, the armed man entered the branch of Envision CU at 10:45 a.m., jumped the counter separating employees from members and pulled a gun. He fled with an undetermined amount of money. Both Wal-Mart and the credit union have surveillance cameras, which police are examining (Tallashassee Democrat (Jan. 29) … * DES MOINES, Iowa (1/30/08)--A Des Moines man was convicted of the robberies of two credit unions and a bank during December 2006, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Iowa. Michael Carlos Cooper Wiest, 19, was found guilty by a jury of robbing the Affinity CU on Dec. 18, Liberty Bank on Dec. 20 and Financial Plus CU on Dec. 22. He also was convicted on three firearm charges. The charges each carry a penalty of up to 20 years incarceration. The firearm charges carry a minimum prison sentence of seven years for the first firearm conviction and 25 years each for the additional convictions. A sentencing conference was set for March 13 (States News Service Jan. 27) …

California CUs grow amid financial industrys woes

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (1/30/08)--The California credit union industry continues to experience sound growth, even amid the turmoil in the broader financial services sector, according to a recently released report by the California Credit Union League (CCUL). The CCUL’s Westscan Update--its 2007 third-quarter economic activity report for the state’s 518 credit unions--is authored by Terrin Mendivil and Daniel Penrod, industry analysts in the league’s Research and Information Department. Though the state’s credit unions are maintaining their solid financial footing, they are not completely insulated from the overall economy, which continues to feel the heavy drag from the housing and credit crunch, the report said. Among the report’s major findings:
* Total asset growth continued for California’s credit unions with a year-to-date gain of 3.28%, for an annualized 4.39% increase; * Investment growth increased with California credit unions growing their portfolio by 2.96% year-to-date, for an annualized gain of 3.97%; and * California credit unions reversed a four-year trend of declining membership growth, signing up 150,225 new members through the end of September 2007.
The league is monitoring national economic situations that will affect credit unions. The report predicts:
* Credit unions will experience more loan losses, but the recent easing by the Federal Reserve should take some pressure off borrowers with home equity lines and credit card debt. They will still realize losses from foreclosure or job loss; * With lending standards tighter in the marketplace, credit unions are well-positioned to attract new members. Competition for shares, though, should remain fierce. Visibility will be critical in 2008. * Economic activity is on track to decelerate in 2008 and pick up modestly in 2009; * Modest job gains are anticipated in some sectors, but housing-related industries along with the manufacturing, finance and retail sectors, will shed even more employees; and * Long-term interest rates should decline in 2008 as short-term rates move lower. The league anticipates the return of a steeper yield curve, which should help earnings. The weakness in the dollar could generate inflationary concern.

CUSO study Consumers ready to adopt mobile banking

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., and BOSTON (1/30/08)--U.S. consumers are looking for broader uses of mobile commerce applications, according to new research from Dove Consulting. And mobile banking is at the top of their list. The research, sponsored by PSCU Financial Services, a credit union service organization (CUSO), based in St. Petersburg, Fla., was conducted with focus groups in multiple cities (BusinessWire Jan. 29). The research measured consumer interest in, and predicted future use of, three major applications:
* Mobile banking--using a mobile device to access banking information; * Mobile payment at the point-of-sale--using a mobile device to make purchases; and * Mobile person-to-person payments--using a mobile device to send money to another mobile device.
Almost two-thirds of study participants chose mobile banking when asked which of the applications they were the most excited about using. About 30% chose mobile payment at the point-of-sale. Few participants said they were excited about mobile person-to- person payments. Research results indicate that consumers are ready for mobile financial services, with convenience being the compelling feature, said Kent Potterton, director of credit services and new product development at PSCU Financial Services.

Louisiana CUs partner with REAL Solutions

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HARAHAN, La. (1/30/08)--Louisiana credit unions have signed on to a REAL Solutions program to help low-income consumers who have not been able to save or own assets. The program is funded by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). The NCUF and the Louisiana Credit Union League will train credit unions to provide services that low-wealth families can afford. “We are seeing credit unions across the country rescue borrowers who had fallen into the trap of revolving debt at payday lenders who they could not pay off,” said REAL Solutions National Program Director Lois Kitsch. The program also aims to help low-wealth consumers become credit union members, grow savings and accumulate assets. “REAL Solutions is designed to help credit unions effectively reach low-wealth families and make each person a loyal, long-term member,” said NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin. “This is important because low-wealth families, while at the bottom of the economic pyramid, represent future savers, future car buyers, future homeowners and future generations of credit union members.” The partner credit unions held their first meeting in Baton Rouge and decided to work on three products: a payday loan alternative, services for young adults and a reloadable value debit card. “We will follow the same format that has worked so well in other states when rolling out REAL Solutions,” said Vicki Joyal, field coach and liaison between NCUF and the credit unions. “By combining our resources with the league, Louisiana credit unions and their members will benefit from our shared experiences across the country.”

Biz Kid webinar promotes CUs national TV series

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (1/30/08)--The Washington Credit Union Foundation (WCUF) and the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) have posted a Biz Kid$ webinar and toolkit to assist in watching, promoting and supporting the first national public television series sponsored by America’s Credit Unions.
Five of the Biz Kid$ hosts take a break in the futuristic studio set for the first national public television series sponsored by America’s Credit Unions. The series focuses on youth financial education. (Photo provided by the National Credit Union Foundation)
“We decided to make the Biz Kid$ materials available to all credit unions, state credit unions foundations and leagues,” said Biz Kid$ Project Manager and WCUF Executive Director Roxanne Kruger. “Our partners throughout the Credit Union System can help this financial series reach millions of credit union members, as well as students.” More than 86 million households, including nearly 200 million people over the age of two, can watch Biz Kid$ on 279 PBS stations in 43 states (News Now Jan. 8). The stations airing Biz Kid$ represent over 80% of PBS stations nationwide. In February, Kruger expects more stations to commit to broadcast the 26-episode series. In the meantime, “the webinar answers credit unions’ most commonly asked questions, and the toolkit offers options to promote the show in credit unions lobbies, via mail and e-mail,” Kruger explained. Topics addressed on the webinar include:
* What is Biz Kid$?; * National PBS carriage; * National underwriting status; * Local underwriting opportunities; and * Biz Kid$ marketing materials.
Every piece in the marketing toolkit can be customized by credit union organizations to promote Biz Kid$ to their members. The files can be downloaded from NCUF or WCUF websites, with space available to add the specific channel and air time for Biz Kid$ in each viewing market. Underwriting sponsors also can add a line, announcing that they are a national and/or local sponsor of Biz Kid$.