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CU System briefs (01/09/2013)

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  • LANHAM, Md., and WASHINGTON (1/9/13)--FedChoice FCU, based in Lanham, Md., and Washington Post Employees FCU (WPEFCU), Washington, D.C., have merged, effect Jan. 1. The merger received near unanimous approval by more than 10% of the $19 million asset WPEFCU's membership voting. FedChoice is the surviving credit union. WPEFCU CEO Patricia Yates noted members will have an extensive offering of products and services and that FedChoice has served the community for more than 75 years. With the merger, the $320 million asset FedChoice will add another branch in Washington. WPEFCU will operate under its current name until account, service and system integration is complete at the end of first quarter. The combined credit union will have about 24,800 members …
  • SEWARD, Neb. (1/9/13)--The former manager of the now defunct HBE CU, Seward, Neb., was sentenced Monday to 45 months in prison for stealing $636,000 from the credit union (WOWT.com Jan. 7). Crystal Lankford pleaded guilty to embezzlement from a federally insured credit union. She was the sole employee, manager and treasurer of the credit union. From at least April 12, 2006, to Sept. 20, 2011, Lankford allegedly wrote checks drawn on the credit union's operating account to herself and her husband, Steve Lankford without authorization and deposited the into her personal checking account. She quit the credit union in October, 2011. At that time the credit union had a near-zero balance. The accounts and funds were insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund …
  • TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (1/9/13)--Heather Marroquin, 30, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., has been sentenced to three years in prison for third-degree robbery and first-degree theft in the holdup of Tuscaloosaa-based Alabama CU on Oct. 18, 2011. Marroquin pleaded guilty on Dec. 22 in Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court (TuscaloosaNews.com Jan. 8). The robbery occurred when a woman entered the credit union, told the manager she had a gun and handed over a note demanding money. She then stuffed $6,000 into her bra and fled. During the getaway, the suspect jumped into a vehicle nearby and told the driver she needed help. The driver took her to her car, where police officers arrested her. Marroquin also was sentenced to five years of supervised probation after her prison term …

IT in 2013: Budgets/investments flat, hiring on hold

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IRVINE, Calif. (1/9/13)--Credit unions can expect information technology (IT) budgets to increase slightly during 2013, according to a new study of IT executives. However, capital investments in new technology will stay flat, and hiring is on hold until the economy is more certain.

That means most IT budget planners expect their operational budgets to grow 2.5%--same as the previous year, said Computer Economics, an Irvine, Calif.-based IT research firm. It surveyed IT organizations during the fourth quarter about their spending and staffing plans for the year ahead. The findings are in its latest report, Outlook for IT Spending and Staffing in2013.

"The forecast is in stark contrast to very positive growth in IT capital budgets and hiring that occurred at the end of last year," said John Longwell, vice president of research for Computer Economics. "That momentum seems to have stalled moving into the New Year."

Among the findings:

  • IT executives plan for a scant 0.3% increase in median (average) IT capital spending. The reason? The U.S. budget deficit negotiations, Europe's recession and uncertainty about the Chinese economy are creating a lack of clarity.
  • IT operational budgets will rise 2.5% at the median (the middle number in a range of numbers). IT executives will continue to examine outsourcing alternatives as a means to improve agility and lower their cost structure. Cloud computing service providers will be the primary beneficiaries, but desktop support and help desk outsourcing could also rise.
  • Many organizations likely will continue to use outsourcing as a strategy to restrain headcount. However, if the economy keeps from stalling, they would revise their capital spending budgets and hire more permanent workers. If the economy weakens, there is room for budget reductions.
  • IT capital budgets will remain flat, showing little or no growth at the median. Most spending will favor software over hardware upgrades.
  • IT staff headcount will remain largely unchanged. While many IT organizations plan to do some hiring, overall job growth will be muted. Most IT workers will receive pay raises in the 2% to 3% range.

Ohio CU Foundation awarded 65 grants in 2012

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/9/13)--The Ohio Credit Union Foundation (OCUF) awarded 65 grants totaling nearly $230,000 in 2012 through donations from credit unions, individuals chapters and business partners. It also established a $200,000 fundraising goal for 2013.

The foundation was able to have a big impact in 2012, said Stan Barnes, CEO of CSE FCU and chair of the OCUF board of trustees. "The success is due to the outstanding support of the foundation's efforts by Ohio credit unions. Our ability to fulfill credit union needs is due solely to support from within the movement."

The way the grants assisted credit unions, communities and individuals in Ohio included:

  • Forty-seven professional development grants helped credit union professionals expand their knowledge to better serve members.
  • Six financial education grants helped teach students basic financial education and entrepreneurship, providing knowledge to make good choices and create sound financial futures, said OCUF.
  • Six William A. Herring social responsibility grants helped community development credit unions remain viable and continue serving the members who rely on them.
  • Five college scholarships helped students pursue undergraduate degrees.
  • Three disaster relief grants benefitted members and communities devastated by the aftermath of windstorms, wildfires and a hurricane.
Grants totaling $45,000 funded the opening of three new student-run credit unions.

The foundation also continued its annual contribution to the Emmy Award-winning youth entrepreneurial show Biz Kid$, with a $30,000 grant.

In August, the OCUF Classic, OCUF's largest one-day fundraising event, generated $31,850 in grant dollars for 2013.

The foundation has $208,000 to grant in 2013.

"If the last few years are any indication, we expect the overwhelming need for grants to continue in 2013 and beyond," said Becky Hart, OCUF executive director. "Because the need is great, we will continue to look for new ways to generate funds for the foundation, while supporting the needs of credit unions and the communities they serve."

Ga study: 322% have no plan to pay off holiday debt

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DULUTH, Ga. (1/9/13)--Nearly a third of consumers responding to a survey by the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates said they have no plan in place to pay off their 2012 holiday debt.  

When asked how they plan to pay off their holiday debt, 32.2% of respondents said they have no plan.

On the other side of the ledger, 28.4% of those surveyed said they plan to pay their holiday debt within six months. Another 6.1% would pay off their debt between six months and 12 months.

The 2012 Consumer Federation of America/Credit Union National Association holiday spending survey found that more consumers planned to spend more than they did last year, while fewer planned to curtail their spending this year (News Now Nov. 26).  The percentage of consumers who said they would spend more than last year rose from 8% to 12%. Those who said they would spend less declined from 41% to 38%.

In a report on spending during the first 32 days of the November-December 2012 holiday season, comScore reported $21.4 billion had been spent online, a 14% increase versus the corresponding days last year.

A November 2012 survey by the American Research Group indicated Americans planned to spend an average of $854 for holiday gifts.

CUAD launches site to share good things CUs do

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BISMARCK, N.D. (1/9/13)--The Credit Union Association of the Dakotas (CUAD) has launched a new website--CU Social Good--dedicated to sharing the good things that credit unions do for people and their communities every day.

During CUAD's Awareness Campaign in 2012, which is continuing this year, it became evident that many people outside of the credit union world are uninformed about the credit union difference, and unaware of the nature of credit unions and their "People Helping People" philosophy, CUAD said.

CU Social Good, with the help of credit unions nationwide, is trying to change that, said CUAD. CU Social Good showcases the "good news" stories of credit unions and credit union people being involved in their communities--helping charities, promoting financial literacy, providing scholarships, volunteering their time and supporting people and planet over profit.

CU Social Good encourages credit unions to contribute their stories, telling what they do to help people in their community. The site aims to aggregate and create a forum for all the great things credit unions do.

The website could be used by everyone in the credit union industry for future legislative lobbying efforts, awareness campaigns and community relations--but above all--to help generate a new public awareness that will help credit unions remain successful in their mission well into the future, CUAD said.   

On the league's website homepage, CUAD also prominently features aSmarterChoice.org.--a website developed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the state leagues to help consumers learn about credit unions and find a credit union to join. aSmarterchoice.org also is a forum to collect what credit unions are doing for members.

CUNA and the state leagues launched aSmarterChoice.org March 2011. The site includes basic information about credit unions, member testimonials and recent media coverage about credit unions, and has as its centerpiece an online locator tool--CU Locator--that enables consumers not only to find a credit union close by, but one that they are eligible to join based on its field of membership. All U.S. credit unions are included in the site's database.

In fourth quarter 2012, aSmarerChoice.org saw 55,506 unique visitors, 81,094 total visits and 49,667 searches using CU Locator, Jill Stevenson, the website's manager, told News Now Monday.

To view the websites, use the links.

Supervisors move to improve CU oversight in Caribbean

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ST. KITTS, West Indies (1/9/13)--A project has begun to strengthen the capacity of the regulators responsible for the credit union sector in the six territories of the West Indies, allowing credit unions to further their economic impact in communities.

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), with financial support from the World Bank, on Nov. 14 engaged the international consultancy firm of Dave Grace & Associates. Together, they aided the individual regulatory units in each territory of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in building the capacity of credit union supervisors.

The engagement will run through April.

"Credit unions are important financial intermediaries in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union," said Grace and ECCB. "They hold deposits of up to 30% of gross domestic product in some member states and serve as the primary financial institution for many communities. The responsibility for the regulation and supervision of credit unions resides with local regulatory authorities in the respective territories."

The project will include developing:

  • A harmonized on-site supervisory manual;
  • Improving the reporting mechanisms for credit unions;
  • Training supervisors during a week-long workshop; and
  • Conducting joint inspections with national supervisors.

MnCUN to monitor state's revamp of banking regs

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (1/9/13)--A Minnesota state lawmaker's plan to clean up the state's banking regulations will be closely monitored by the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN).

State Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights), who wants to rewrite rules governing banks and credit unions in the state, has said he aims to simplify the rules, not make them more restrictive than current regulations (Finance & Commerce Jan. 8).  Atkins chairs the Minnesota House Commerce and Consumer Protection and Finance Committee.

At a meeting in December with MnCUN, Atkins mentioned the initiative and stressed that its purpose was to make regulations easier to understand, not to add work to credit unions' plates, said the network.

Still, "the network plans to closely monitor this initiative to ensure that more regulations aren't added," said MnCUN.

The network will discuss the initiative in an article Friday about the start of the legislative session in its member publication, The Pulse, and "reassure credit unions that we have a close relationship with Rep. Atkins and will closely monitor this initiative."

Several banking associations in the state were skeptical of the plan, cautioning it could bring unintended consequences, said the article.

Utah CUs grant $58K to schools

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SALT LAKE CITY (1/9/13)--A credit union foundation here awarded Utah schools with more than $58,000 in grants last year.

Click to view larger image Utah's Two Rivers Alternative High School teacher Cassie Cox (right) accepts a grant check from 100% for Kids/America First CU representative Nicole Cypers (left). (Photo provided by The 100% For Kids Utah Credit Union Education Foundation)
Named "The 100% for Kids Utah Credit Union Education Foundation," it provided 21 districts and 36 schools funding in 2012 for things ranging from motivational speakers to greenhouses. The foundation's help has reached more than two million students since its inception.

With 28 credit unions donating to the cause the past 10 years, 100% for Kids relies on support from local credit unions. The foundation looks for grant applications that will impact the greatest number of students in the greatest way.

"At Two Rivers Alternative High School we are the last hope for students," said teacher Cassie Cox. "The last step between graduating and dropping out of high school."

Cox arranged to bring award-winning young adult authors to the school. By the end of the school year, two Rivers students will have met a Rwandan genocide survivor, featured in a television documentary "Lost Boys of Sudan," and Simeon Wright, a figure in the Civil Rights movement. After meeting these authors of living history, her students will be motivated to read and write more than ever, and those experiences will prove to be life-changing opportunities, she said. The foundation provided $1,500 to purchase books by the two authors.  

In the rural town of Morgan, Utah, teacher Megan Haslem used funds she received from the foundation to start a teaching greenhouse at the school. More than 730 students have access to the greenhouse through course projects.

The greenhouse means students can implement the scientific method in team-based inquiry labs. Inquiry labs promote innovative thinking to ask and answer problems. Students also get the opportunity to explore careers in horticulture. They help decide what to plant, they propagate plants and sell them to the community. Greenhouse students learn horticultural skills plus basic skills needed for future employment, Haslem said. "Responsibility, teamwork, problem solving, record keeping, goal setting and time management," she added.

The teaching greenhouse project eventually will be self-sustaining, selling items the students produce.

"Our board was very intrigued with this grant request because it covers multiple subject areas and grade levels," said foundation Director Liz White. "The self-sustaining business aspect was such a unique feature that we rarely see."

The 100% For Kids Utah Credit Union Education Foundation's mission is to improve education in Utah by enhancing and expanding classroom level resources and programs. It has donated more than $5 million since its inception in 2002, contributing to all of Utah's 40 school districts. All donated funds go directly to teachers for their classroom.