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UK will stop clearing checks by 2018

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LONDON (1/7/10)--Central check clearing in the United Kingdom (UK) may become a thing of the past as of Oct. 31, 2018. The UK's Payments Council Board set the date as a target for ending check clearing, saying that check use is in a "long-term, terminal decline." Check use has declined since 1990, but has dropped 40% during the past five years, said the council, which sets strategy for UK payments. During the next nine years, the council will promote and explain existing alternatives and ensure that any required innovations and new options are in place. It noted there are "still plenty of situations where checks are used extensively," including payments between individuals and to sole traders, small businesses, clubs, charities and schools. The goal is to ensure there is no scenario by 2018 where anyone or any business needs to use a check, the council said. Its next steps are to identify targets it can measure progress against. It plans a review of its progress in 2016. At that time the council will decide whether sufficient change has occurred against agreed published criteria that would eliminate checking altogether in 2018.

Recent media roundup touts Save to Win CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (1/7/10)--Credit union leagues and credit unions did the media rounds this week, but credit unions also came up naturally in discussions on programs such as the "Today" show on MSNBC.com and in articles praising credit unions in theHuffington Post. On the "Today" Show, credit unions came up in a conversation among consumer finance experts Jean Chatzkey, David Bach and Sharon Epperson, who answered listeners' questions. In a discussion of savings account rates, Bach, author of "Finish Rich," noted that many accounts are at 1.65% and suggested getting a credit union account. "Go to Find a CU.com. (Savings) rates are high for credit union members," he said. Find a Credit Union is managed by League InfoSight--a collaborative organization made up of state credit union leagues and the Credit Union National Association. Also, Epperson noted that if one needs liquid cash, "then you want a credit union account." Use the link to watch the video. On FoxBusiness.com Live, Michigan Credit Union League President/CEO David Adams discussed the success of an eight-credit union pilot of the league's "Save to Win" program. The 12,000 participants have set aside more than $ 8 million through the prize-linked savings program, including a $100,000 grand prize, to be awarded Jan. 15, he said. He also discussed a CUcorp survey of the program's participants which found that 55% had not saved money regularly before program. The average saved is $680 per account. He noted the program will expand to 21 credit unions in the state this year. Use the link to watch the video. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) discussed how the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act would impact consumers on
Corinne Sherman, the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association vice president, fee services, was interviewed Tuesday by abc27 Consumer Reporter Dennis Buterbaugh at PCUA headquarters about the Credit CARD Act and how consumers will be affected. The segment aired Tuesday night on the Harrisburg station's news program. (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
abc27, a station in Harrisburg. Corinne Sherman, vice president, fee services, told consumer reporter Dennis Buterbaugh during an interview at PCUA headquarters that the new law prevents interest rate increase on a current balance and a 45-day notice before raising interest rates after the first year. Sherman particularly noted a provision in the Credit CARD Act that should prevent college students from getting too many credit cards. Sherman said the act prevents cards from being given to students under the age of 21, without the consent of a parent. The Huffington Post has published a series of articles that urge consumers to "Move Your Money." While it suggested moving your money to community banks, the site added a note that many readers wrote it to ask that credit unions be included in the effort. In another article, the Post provided "Move Your Money Success Stories," which invited readers to write of their experiences moving their money from big banks. The article said readers criticized big banks for unexplained hikes in interest rates and unruly fees charged, "sometimes, for no apparent reason." "Readers' stories from local banks--and especially local credit unions--contrasted greatly with the complaints of impersonal and unjust treatment at national banks. One reader from Western Massachusetts wrote about a "delightful experience" switching to Greylock CU. "Though not yet included in the Institutional Risk Analytics database, local credit unions received plenty of praise from HuffPost readers for having the best rates and responsiveness," said the article. Another reader transferred $5,000 from a Wells Fargo checking account to Patelco CU, where he had savings account. One reader said, "Ditch your bank for a credit union." Use the link to access the articles.

Craigs List ad targeting CUs is pulled

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/7/10)--Craig's List has pulled an advertisement that sought to recruit current credit union members to solicit others to join the credit union through them. According to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA), the advertiser offered $75 to current members who answered the ad and allowed ineligible people to join credit unions through a current member (Life is a Highway Jan. 6). The ad listed specific credit unions across the country. However, the wording indicated the ad would take anyone, said PCUA. The ad appeared to be from California. PCUA alerted the California Credit Union League, which investigated the posting. When News Now went to check the link, Craig's List had posted a notice that it had pulled the ad.

CU System briefs (01/06/2010)

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* BILOXI, Miss. (1/7/10)--Three individuals were arrested Wednesday morning after breaking into a deaf man’s house and forcing him at gunpoint to visit his credit union to withdraw money (WLOX Jan. 6). Two men and a woman were arrested at Keesler FCU, Biloxi, Miss., after the victim to alerted an employee who knew sign language. Investigators said the man had a conflict with the suspects before ... * PORTERVILLE, Calif., and DURHAM, N.C. (1/7/09)--El Futuro CU, based in Porterville, Calif., and Self-Help FCU announced a merger to strengthen their ability to serve the unbanked and working families in California. El Futuro CU will become part of Self-Help and will do business as Community Trust CU, a division of Self-Help. The merger--the third for the Durham, N.C.-based Self-Help in California-- expands its ability to serve the Bay area and Central Valley. Self-Help has $5.5 billion in assets. El Futuro has more than $8 million in assets ... * TIGARD, Ore. (1/7/10)--NW Preferred FCU has appointed Steve Canfield as its new president/CEO, after the retirement of former President/CEO Tom Edwards. Canfield served as the credit union's executive vice president since 1995. Prior to joining NW Preferred, Canfield worked for six years with the National Credit Union Administration as an examiner for the Western Region. Throughout his more than 20-year career, Canfield has held volunteer positions within the credit union industry. He is a current member of the board of the Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO) and CUAO's CU Services. He previously served on the Supervisory Committee of Northwest Corporate CU ...

Velocity CU members OK switch to private insurance

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AUSTIN, Texas (1/7/10)--Velocity CU members voted Dec. 29 to switch from federally backed deposit insurance to private deposit insurance offered by American Share Insurance Corp. (ASI). The $499 million Austin, Texas-based credit union’s board of directors last month said the credit union wanted to avoid an assessment imposed by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to strengthen its deposit insurance fund (Statesman.com Jan. 5). For the change to occur, Velocity first needed more than 20% of its 75,000 members to vote on the matter, with the majority approving the switch, the newspaper said. NCUA is now reviewing the certification to determine if it will approve the change, John McKechnie, NCUA director of public and congressional relations, told the paper. In a statement sent to News Now, Debbie Mitchell, Velocity president/CEO, said: “The membership vote is complete and it was in favor of the board of directors’ resolution to convert to the private insurer. I feel this shows good faith from our membership and we appreciate their support of this proposal. Now we will await NCUA’s final approval.”

Series Award honors Rogue CU foreclosure plan

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MEDFORD, Ore. (1/7/10)--Using “out-of-the-box” thinking and innovative programming, Rogue FCU in Medford, Ore., is helping its members and communities overcome the economic and emotional obstacles of foreclosure. Rogue FCU won first place for the Dora Maxwell Award for Social Responsibility in the $200 million to $500 million asset category for its Building Hope Foreclosure Prevention and Assistance Plan, which became a statewide project to help individual communities. This story is the first in a series News Now will publish on credit unions that received the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Dora Maxwell and Louise Herring awards. The series aims to take an in-depth look at credit unions’ programs and their impact on communities. Rogue’s Building Hope plan was created in January 2009 after an individual with the Home Builders Association of Jackson County approached the credit union and said families in the area were emotionally disintegrating because of foreclosures. He wanted the credit union to help. Rogue FCU began offering emotional counseling through Home Builders to affected families. Home Builders received a $6,000 grant to cover the costs. Rogue also created a manual describing the modification process and three free classes on foreclosure. “We named [the program] Building Hope, with the vision of building relationships for life,” said Kerrie Davis, Rogue FCU community and education outreach coordinator, who helped create the program. The classes--open to anyone in the community--focus on crisis budgeting, loan modifications and consumer rights during the foreclosure process. The third class, consumer rights, is taught by attorneys. The attorneys are not paid for the classes, but are passionate about their work, Davis said. “One stayed for an hour after class just helping people,” Davis added. The classes began in March in Jackson County. By May, they expanded to Josephine and Klamath counties. Rogue also created a Hispanic version of the course and translated its documents to Spanish. In July, the credit union created a turnkey program to offer the information statewide by partnering with local TV station KDRV and the home builders association. Anyone can partner with the home builders association and offer the program, Davis said. More than 700 families have attended classes, and more than 50 have sought emotional counseling at Rogue. Davis emphasized the importance of emotional counseling. When foreclosures happen, they also affect families as a whole--even children, she said. When people have financial difficulties, other problems follow--depression, substance abuse, crime and suicide. Foreclosures can split up families. “The goal is to get families stable,” Davis said. “It’s terrible to lose a home, but it’s tragic to lose a family.” More classes are set to start next week--and 40 people have already signed up. Some classes have been “standing room only,” Davis said. Many who attend also seek private financial counseling from the credit union. Rogue’s Hispanic version of the program is taught by bilingual staff to local parent groups. The groups, organized by schools or Boys and Girls Clubs, have 25 to 60 members apiece. In addition to Hope, Rogue offers Rogue Solution Loans--which received CUNA’s 2009 Excellence in Lending Award--to help members with rising interest rates, loss of jobs, reduction in hours and restructuring of debt. Rogue Solution Loans help people who are living paycheck-to-paycheck and were created after lenders began hiking rates on credit cards. Consumers were receiving negative responses from national lenders when they asked for help, and the hikes “rocked people from their budgets,” Davis said. Rogue creates personal plans--from restructuring loans to deferring payments. When Rogue can’t help, it refers individuals to community resources--like food or power assistance. Middle-class and upper middle-class families are most affected by the program, Davis said. “These people are paralyzed [by debt],” she said. “[The program] has helped tremendously.” Rogue also has reached out to small businesses. It has met with employer groups to tell them about the available programs and classes. When small businesses suffer, so does everyone else, Davis noted. “It’s like being on a hamster wheel where you can’t get off,” she said. Rogue’s impact in the community has grown as a result of its programs--and its membership has increased by about 4.65%. About 174 loans have been worked out and restructured, and 195 temporary alternate payment loans have been granted. Delinquencies decreased to 1.08% from 1.55%. “People in the community are talking about Rogue--they know we’re here to help,” Davis said. “It differentiates us from other financial institutions.” Credit unions wanting to help their communities through programs like Rogue’s need to get a pulse on their community, because national averages may not indicate how bad a problem really is. It’s also a good time to partner with other organizations--for instance, the partnership with Oregon’s local TV station, KDRV, and the Home Builders has been great, Davis said. “We’re here for our community, to keep it stable and healthy,” Davis said. “There’s nothing better than to hear back from someone that the loan modification worked out.” Rogue FCU has $446 million in assets.

Acquisition of Canadas CUMIS Group completed

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BURLINGTON, Ontario (1/7/10)--Cooperators Life Insurance Company and Central 1 CU of Vancouver, B.C., announced the acquisition of The CUMIS Group Limited Co-operators Life Insurance Company was completed Dec. 31. Prior to the transaction, the majority shareholder of CUMIS was CUNA Mutual Group of Madison, Wis. (Market News Publishing Jan. 4). CUMIS provides personal insurance, including credit and mortgage protection; life; disability and critical illness; home; auto; travel and employee benefits. It also provides business, liability and property insurance to credit unions, and wealth management services and products, including credit union group retirement plans. The pre-dividend purchase price was $254.4 million, subject to post-closing adjustments. Cooperators will own about 73%, and Central 1 will own about 27% of CUMIS. “This acquisition will provide growth opportunities by building on our relationships with credit unions,” said Don Rolfe, president/CEO of Central 1. “We believe this is a strategic investment that offers the potential to improve our members' experience and create value for them.” All existing CUMIS insurance policies remain in effect with no changes, CUMIS said.

Council seeks marketing biz development awards nominees

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MADISON, Wis. (1/7/10)--Credit union marketing and business development professionals celebrating a “career year” or a lifetime of achievement may be nominated for three awards sponsored by the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council for outstanding service to credit unions. Recipients of the Hall of Fame, Marketing Professional of the Year, and Business Development Professional of the Year Awards will be announced at the council’s 17th annual conference, March 21-24 in Washington, D.C. The Hall of Fame Award honors a lifetime of achievement in marketing and business development for credit union professionals. Nominations are being accepted until Jan. 15. Nominees may be current or former credit union professionals in these fields, may be alive or deceased, and will be evaluated based on these criteria:
* Number of years in the profession; * Contributions to the profession; * Contributions to the success of the candidate’s credit union; * Continuing education; * Credit union movement contributions, and * Involvement in outside organizations.
The Marketing Professional of the Year Award recognizes an industry professional in credit union marketing who consistently excels for the benefit of his or her employer, while advancing the founding principles of the movement. Nominations are being accepted until Jan. 29. Judges base this award on:
* Marketing as a factor in the credit union’s success; * Marketing as a management function; * Fostering the success of the credit union movement, and * Enhancing the community through organizational involvement/activism.
The Business Development Professional of the Year Award will be presented to an individual exemplifing excellence in credit union business development, including the growth of credit union membership and expansion of services, while maintaining the ideals of the credit union movement. Nominations are being accepted until Jan. 29. Award selection will be based on nominees’ mastery of:
* Business development as a factor in the credit union’s success; * Fostering the success of the credit union movement, and * Enhancing the community through organizational involvement/activism.
For award descriptions and entry forms, use the links. For more information on entry procedures, contact Bobbi Bischke, CUNA council administration, at 800-356-9655, ext. 4018, or by e-mail at bbischke@cuna.coop.

CUNA Coopera launch Spanish personal finance site

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MADISON, Wis. (1/7/10)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and Coopera Consulting, a subsidiary of the Iowa Credit Union League, have launched a Spanish personal finance website for credit unions. The site, El Poder es Tuyo--The Power is Yours--offers credit unions personal finance information that is timely, and culturally relevant, and promotes the use of credit union services to the Hispanic market. The annual subscription includes expert advice in the form of articles, videos, interactive coaches, and calculators--all in Spanish--with content updated weekly. Credit unions can customize the site to drive traffic, and business, back to their websites. “Credit unions targeting the fastest-growing demographic group in the country or operating in states with a high concentration of Hispanic people should take a look at this product,” said Warren Morrow, founder and CEO of Coopera Consulting, and part of a task force from Coopera and CUNA charged with developing El Poder es Tuyo. “The use of the Internet by the Latino market has grown from 28% of households to more than 68% of households over the past five years so going after this market online makes perfect sense,” Morrow said. “It allows credit unions to provide financial education and drive business through their websites.” “This product gives credit unions an excellent resource to build membership and reduce the average age of their membership,” said Mark Condon, senior vice president of CUNA's business and consumer publishing operation. “Hispanics tend to be young--nearly 70% of Hispanic non members are between the ages of 25 and 44--and they account for about half the U.S. population growth since 2000. The fit between credit unions with their member/ownership and the strong familial bond of the Hispanic culture seems to be a perfect fit.” With El Poder es Tuyo, credit unions will have access to an outreach tool that, according to CUNA, will:
* Attract new members; * Introduce credit union products and services to Hispanic members and potential members; * Maintain a long-term relationship with Hispanic families, who will establish a credit union’s website as their “financial dashboard”; * Teach the credit union difference to underserved populations; * Improve the financial literacy of the Hispanic community; and * Position the credit union as a trusted financial partner in Spanish-dominant and bilingual markets.
For a limited time, El Poder Es Tuyo is available at half price. To learn more, use the links.

WOCCUs 2.1M project expands technology in Kenya

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MADISON, Wis. (1/7/10)--The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided $2.1 million to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) to help establish and test new financial data processing and product development capabilities for savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs)--or credit unions--in Kenya.
Click to view larger image Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Union (WOCCU) executive vice president and chief operating officer, greets a group of Kenyan children. WOCCU is helping establish and test new financial data processing and product development capabilities for savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs)--or credit unions--in Kenya.
Click to view larger image Many merchants in Tala, Kenya’s open-air marketplace, are now members of their local credit union. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The new two-year grant for the Kenya Data Services Bureau Project follows a November 2006 foundation grant of $6.6 million awarded to WOCCU to implement a three-year credit union growth program designed to reach the unbanked and rural poor in Kenya, Rwanda and Colombia. Technology development supported by the new funding will help WOCCU expand its reach to credit unions and communities in rural areas, to serve an increasing number of poor Kenyans with financial services to help support their economic growth and survival. “This funding from the Gates Foundation reflects favorably on the technological innovations we believe will be effective in Kenya,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Increased technical capabilities enable us to reach the rural poor in areas where no credit union branches exist. Technology enables us to increase credit union membership and provide more services to those members.” The new program focuses on technology development and deployment only in Kenya, where more than 59% of credit union members live on less than $1 per day. Grant dollars will support the development of a central data processing service bureau in WOCCU's Nairobi office so small and medium-sized rural SACCOs can reach beyond their normal service areas and meet the needs of more people. The back-office program was designed with the help of Synergent, a subsidiary of the Maine Credit Union League. Participating SACCOs will have access to back-office accounting and operations, credit and savings administration, and management information system services. Access to those services will require participating SACCOs to adopt more stringent accounting disciplines, internal controls and risk management methods to improve the transparency and overall safety and soundness of SACCO operations. The new program differs from the previous Gates foundation-funded program, which ended in October, in its primary emphasis on technology and its single-country focus. The initial program, known as the Credit Union Growth Program, was designed to grow membership and more effectively serve the poor in Rwanda, Colombia and Kenya. The program reached nearly one million new credit union members across the three countries. “The goal of our original program was to create a credit union growth toolkit to help participating institutions expand their outreach through innovative marketing plans, product designs and branding procedures,” Branch said. “Thanks to this second round of Gates Foundation funding, we are able to further explore portable technology options in Kenya that have proven so effective in reaching the rural poor elsewhere in the world.” The grant to WOCCU is part of the Gates Foundation's Financial Services for the Poor initiative. It works with public and private partners to harness technology and innovation to bring quality, affordable savings accounts and other financial services to the poor. The foundation believes that setting aside small sums in a safe place allows people to guard against risks, build assets and provide opportunities for the next generation.

N.Y. foundation elects board officers for 2010

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ALBANY, N.Y. (1/7/10)--The New York Credit Union Foundation--the charitable arm of the Credit Union Association of New York--announced its slate of board officers for 2010.
Vicki O’Neill, president of ACMG FCU, Solvay, was elected chair. Bruno Sementilli, president/CEO of Quorum FCU, Purchase, is vice chair. Brian Clarke, chief financial officer of Bethpage (N.Y.) FCU will serve as secretary/treasurer. Nancy Kasprzak-Whitmore, president/CEO of Niagara County’s FCU, Lockport, is stepping down from the board after eight years. She also served as chair in 2008. Other board members include:
* Kevin A. Brauer, senior vice president, Members United Corporate FCU/Northeast Region, Warrenville, Ill.; * Linda Bourgeois, CEO, UFirst FCU, Plattsburgh; * Alfred Frosolone, CEO, Niagara’s Choice FCU; * John C. Gibardi, president/CEO, Entertainment Industries FCU, New York City; * Chris Guild, account consultant manager, CUNA Mutual Group, Madison, Wis.; * Gerard Herrling, community volunteer; * Shirley Jenkins, secretary/board of directors, Municipal CU, New York City; * Michael Lotz, general manager/CEO, British Airways Employees FCU, East Elumhurst, N.Y.; * James L. Mack, business development executive, Sunmark FCU, Latham; * William J. Mellin, president/CEO, Credit Union Association of New York; * Christine Peters, CEO, Family First of NY FCU, Rochester; * John Prumo, president/CEO, GPO FCU, New Hartford; and * Mike Vadala, president/CEO, The Summit FCU, Rochester.