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IBloomberg RadioI interviews CUNA on U.S. debt

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WASHINGTON (2/1/11)--Credit Union National Association Chief Economist Bill Hampel lent his insight on the economy in an interview Monday on Bloomberg Radio's "The Hays Advantage" show, hosted by Kathleen Hays. The show discussed U.S. debt and deleveraging. Hampel and Hays talked about the outlook for the economy based on the condition of U.S. consumers. Consumer spending likely would strengthen this year because the household balance sheet, though still damaged, had improved considerably the past year, Hampel said in the interview. They also discussed the importance of the growth of exports to take up some of the slack from what until 2007 was a booming consumer sector. The Hays Advantage is a weekday program that brings indepth insight and analysis to important economic, market and policy issues.Hays has covered the U.S. economy and Federal Reserve for more than 20 years for various media outlets.

Southwest Bridge Corp. votes to merge with Ga. Corp.

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PLANO, Texas (2/1/11)--Members of Southwest Bridge Corporate followed the recommendation of its Member Advisory Council and voted last week to merge with Georgia Corporate FCU. Southwest Bridge announced 540 votes, or 39.1% of membership, were cast. Of those, 493, or 91.3% of members, voted in favor of the merger. Another 28 or 5.2% voted not to approve, and 19, or 3.5%, cast "undecided" votes. The results include both mail ballots and electronic ballots cast during a special member meeting held Jan. 20. More than 230 member credit unions attended the meeting via webinar. The vote as recommended by the Member Advisory Council was "not a commitment to recapitalization or continued use of Southwest Bridge Corporate's services," said an update from Southwest Bridge Corporate on its website. "The vote was an indication of support for the proposed business model." The Jan. 20 meeting presented the consolidation model and provided information about alternative models considered as well as the pros and cons of each model. The Business and Capital Plan for the merger is being reviewed by the National Credit Union Administration's Office of Corporate Credit Unions. The consolidated corporates' business plan requires perpetual contributed capital (PCC) to support the plan. Town Halls have been scheduled during March in 22 cities in eight states--Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Oklahoma and Florida--to provide credit unions another venue to obtain information about the consolidation proposal, including the investment in PCC. The schedule is available at the link.

CUs loan volume drops--1st time since early 1980

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MADISON, Wis. (2/1/11)--Credit union loan portfolios nationwide collectively declined by 1% in 2010--the first time in roughly 30 years that their loans declined, according to a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist’s analysis of December’s monthly estimates of credit unions. “Full-year 2010 operating results at credit unions were a mixed bag,” Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economics and statistics, told News Now. “The 2010 results reflect some substantial operational improvements, but also reveal that credit unions have not fully recovered from the effects of the economic downturn.”
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Used-auto loans (4%), fixed-rate first mortgages (2%) and credit cards (2%) all showed increases in the year, but most other areas of loan portfolios eked out marginal gains or reflected outright declines, Schenk said. “Indeed, in the aggregate, credit union loan portfolios declined by 1% during 2010--the first year since 1980 that the portfolio shrunk,” he added. “This is a clear reflection of weak labor markets, a general nervousness on the part of many consumers and, as a consequence, members who are focused on paying down debt to manageable levels.” Credit union loans outstanding decreased 0.2% during December, the same decline as in November. Credit card loans led loan growth, increasing 1.5%, followed by fixed-rate mortgages, unsecured personal loans, and used-auto loans, which rose 1.0%, 0.7% and 0.3%, respectively. Meanwhile, home equity loans declined 0.1%, adjustable-rate mortgages dropped 1% and new-auto loans fell 1.8%. Credit union loans in December totaled $579.1 billion, compared with $587.4 billion in December 2009. Credit union savings balances grew 0.6% in December 2010, compared to a 0.5% decrease during November. Share drafts led savings growth, increasing 2.8%, followed by regular shares (0.9%) and money market accounts (0.3%). Individual retirement accounts rose 0.3%, while one-year certificates decreased by 0.3%. Credit union savings in December totaled $804 billion--or $34.6 billion more than the $769.4 billion in December 2009.
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“Credit union savings balances increased by a modest 4.5% in 2010, led by an 11% increase in regular shares and a 10% jump in money market accounts,” Schenk said. “Share drafts and individual retirement accounts grew by 6% and 4% respectively, but certificates--which account for one-third of total credit union savings--declined by 5% in the year. Members have clearly decided that with market interest rates stuck near 0% it makes more sense to pay down debt than to build savings balances.” The combination of declining loans and growth in savings account balances pushed the movement-wide loan-to-savings ratio down to 72% at the end of 2010--a significant decline from readings of 76% at year-end 2009 and 83% at the end of 2008, Schenk said. While a steep yield curve undoubtedly helped to buoy credit union earnings low loan growth and the resulting relatively fast growth in investment portfolios put pressure on credit union earnings during the year, he added. The liquidity ratio--the ratio of surplus funds maturing in less than one year to borrowings plus other liabilities--remained constant at 19%. Credit unions’ 60-plus-day loan delinquencies, which started the year at 1.9% and drifted down to 1.8% during most of the rest of the year, decreased slightly to 1.7% at the end of December. The trend in asset quality is positive, but the speed of the return to normalcy is reflecting the speed of the economic and labor market recoveries--essentially long, drawn-out affairs, Schenk said. The movement’s overall capital-to-asset ratio remained at 10% in December 2010. The total dollar amount of capital is $93 billion. The combination of more modest increases in savings balances, higher asset quality and firming earnings helped to keep the movement’s overall capital-to-asset ratio at 10%, Schenk said. “Looking forward, results will be greatly influenced by labor market improvements,” Schenk said. “The economy is likely to grow at a decent rate in 2011--3% or a bit more--but the big dislocations in labor markets and continued softness in real estate will virtually guarantee that our members’ cautious behavior seen in 2010 will be a defining characteristic of the recovery in 2011 as well. “That will mean that the Federal Reserve will be apt to stay on the sidelines in 2011. And while we expect loan growth to pick up during the year, the increase will be modest, will lag the increase in savings, and will moderate the beneficial effects of a steep yield curve,” he concluded.

NASCUS board changes announced

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ARLINGTON, Va. (2/1/11)--National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS) Chairman Tom Candon (Vt.) has announced changes to the NASCUS Board of Directors. Howard Pitkin, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Banking, has been appointed to the board. Pitkin previously served on the board from 2003 to 2005 when he was the agency’s administrator of depository institutions. He has more than 30 years of experience as a state regulator. Pitkin is filling an unexpired one-year term, which will end in September. Also, the board elected Mary Hughes, Idaho Department of Finance’s Financial Institutions bureau chief, to serve as the group’s secretary/treasurer. Hughes follows Sue Cowan, who held the position as a board member when she most recently served as the director of the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions.

Maine league provides first testimony of new session

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PORTLAND, Maine (2/1/11)--The Maine Credit Union League provided its first testimony of the new state legislative session Wednesday before a joint of the state Appropriations and Financial Affairs, and Insurance and Financial Services Committees. Quincy Hentzel, league director of governmental affairs, testified on behalf of Maine's credit unions in support of a portion of L.D. 100, the supplemental budget (Weekly Update Jan. 28). She focused his comment specifically to Part AA, which would eliminate a provision requiring the governor to appoint the Commissioner of Professional and Financial Regulation from among the superintendents of Financial Institutions, Consumer Credit Protection and Insurance or the director of the Office of Licensing and Regulation. "Prior to the change, which was enacted by the Legislature in 2008 to conserve financial resources, our state-chartered credit unions felt the system of appointing an independent commissioner worked well and believe it can work well moving forward," Hentzel testified. "The goal of the league and our state-chartered credit unions is to have a strong and prominent Department of Professional and Financial Regulation in order to foster and promote the industries in which that department oversees," she said. "Allowing the governor to appoint the position of commissioner will give strength not only to the position itself but to the entire department," she said. The league said the committees are expected to have a work session and vote on the bill today.

Michigans new tax plan doesnt affect CUs

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LANSING, Mich. (2/1/11)--Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley told a meeting of credit union executives that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has no plans to change credit unions’ nonprofit status. Calley’s presentation clarified the impact of the governor’s recently released budget plan on credit unions, saying that the changes would not touch nonprofit tax exemptions (Michigan Monitor Jan.31). He spoke at the Michigan Council of Credit Union Executives’ Economic Summit in Ypsilanti. The Snyder administration’s budget seeks to eliminate the Michigan Business Tax and replace it with a 6% Michigan Corporate Income Tax. The only tax credit to remain will be the small-business tax credit. The proposed corporate income tax will function as a tax on profit, and should not affect not-for-profit credit unions, said the Michigan Credit Union League. The event also featured CenCorp President/CEO Bill Walby, Credit Union National Association Vice President of Economic and Statistics Mike Schenk and other presenters on risk management, capital markets and housing trends.

Oregon Senate introduces bill on board governance

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (2/1/11)--The Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) has sponsored a bill going before the Oregon State Senate that would require credit union boards of directors to meet 10 times per year instead of the 12 times currently required by the Oregon State Credit Union Act. The proposal was based in part on a desire to provide flexibility for directors with increased requirements for educations and training, said Pam Leavitt, senior vice president of governmental affairs/public relations for the Northwest Credit Union Association. “With those requirements we want to be able to provide the flexibility to ensure we are able to attract professionals to credit union boards,” Leavitt said. “We think this bill will give credit unions more flexibility in scheduling meetings and having board members attend to their other additional commitments as well.” Senate Bill 177 also includes provisions that:
* Permit credit unions to appoint a chief credit officer in lieu of a credit committee; * Require credit union chief credit officers to approve loans or designate loan officers with authority to approve loans under conditions that chief credit officer prescribes; * Allow credit unions to make loans under certain conditions to their president/CEO or officer that has policymaking or credit approval authority; and * Specify how credit unions may invest funds not used in loans to members.
Leavitt told News Now the provisions are not necessarily related. She said the league reviews the Oregon Credit Union Act about every other year to ensure it meets the needs of its members. “These are changes we deem conceptually important for Oregon credit unions,” Leavitt said. The bill is scheduled to go to committee this week.

Wash. state outlines director emeritus rules

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (2/1/11)--Individuals with director emeritus status are not eligible for expense reimbursement from state-chartered credit unions for travel, training, or insurance benefits, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) ruled. The Washington Credit Union Act did not provide for director emeritus status. The ruling, outlined in a letter from Linda K. Jekel, director of credit unions for the State of Washington, approved the director emeritus title as an honorary, nonvoting position with limited attendance requirements. Jekel explained that a director emeritus is typically an honorary title and may provide experience-based advice to elected officials. Training should be limited to elected officials and regular committee members who have clear responsibilities and standards of care for their duties, Jekel said. Jekel cited an October 2003 opinion letter published by the National Credit Union Association in guiding her ruling. Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) CEO John Annaloro issued the following statement regarding the ruling. “NWCUA appreciates the DFI’s recognition about the importance of keeping open credit unions’ options for recognition of distinguished board members, via the director emeritus title,” Annaloro said. “Additionally, the DFI ruling suggests that such positions should have defined expectations, and once established can sit and serve without the fiduciary liabilities and education expectations for regular members of the board of directors. “That clarification is very beneficial,” he continued. “DFI appears correct that merely bestowing a title on someone, however impressive that title may be, is not in itself sufficient reason to pay compensation or future expenses for the individual. It should also be noted that credit unions still have the option of retaining and compensating advisers and consultants for specific and business purposes, as well as to reimburse for legitimate expenses. In some manner, everyone potentially benefits by this clarification by the Washington State DFI.”

MCUL CEO testifies on foreclosures in state House

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LANSING, Mich. (2/1/11)--Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) CEO David Adams last week called on the state legislature to reform foreclosure laws, improve Michigan's economic development programs and develop policies to encourage state residents to spend more responsibly.
Michigan Credit Union League CEO David Adams testified Wednesday about foreclosures before the Michigan House Banking and Financial Services Committee. (Photo provided by the Michigan Credit Union League)
Speaking before the House Banking and Financial Services Committee Wednesday, Adams suggested extending the 90-day foreclosure workout period and shortening the redemption period on the back end of the process. Currently, the redemption period ranges from six months to a year for occupied property (Michigan Monitor Jan. 31). "Michigan's overly burdensome foreclosure law is in need of reform," Adams said, urging committee members "to consider striking a balance between homeowners' interests and the financial risks borne by depository institutions in this very challenging economic climate." Legislature needs to strengthen the Michigan Economic Development Corp's Capital Access Program (CAP) by providing more funding, he said. CAP uses small amounts of public resources to generate financing and provide small businesses access to capital that might not otherwise be available. "State-endorsed risk mitigation programs can help stimulate increased lending by financial institutions," he added. State and local governments could also "work with the financial industry to use tax policy in a manner that develops incentives for smart financial behavior and penalizes reckless/immoral behavior," Adams told the committee. He cited homeowners who decide on a strategic default. "These homeowners can afford to pay, but walk away from their mortgage obligation, leaving lenders holding the debt," he said. Improving the economic climate begins with helping people learn more about finances, he said, noting that consumers in the nation have "become under-educated on basic finance" and have "borrowed recklessly and saved too little." He suggested moving toward a culture that encourages and rewards increased financial responsibility.

WOCCU golf tournament to aid global CU development

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MADISON, Wis. (2/1/11)--Golfers should plan to take their clubs when they attend this year’s World Credit Union Conference. World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) premier event, July 24-27 in Glasgow, will be immediately followed by a charity golf outing on one of Scotland’s legendary courses. Proceeds from the July 28 Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions outing, a fundraiser presented by CO-OP Financial Services, will benefit the Global Women’s Leadership Network’s outreach efforts on behalf of worldwide credit union development. The proceeds from the Worldwide Foundation Golf Tournament will be used to “help alleviate poverty through the empowerment of women around the world.” said Kimberly Hester, CO-OP executive vice president of network services. The opportunity will pit golfers against the challenges of the Carrick Course on Loch Lomond, which ranks 63rd among the world’s top 100 courses according to www.top100golfcourses.co.uk. Designed by Canadian golf course designer Doug Carrick, the course offers a front nine holes over relatively flat terrain, known as “the lowlands,” with the back nine routed over higher terrain, “the highlands.” The course has views of both Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond from the 10th fairway. The tournament, the second to benefit the network, is not limited to network members and is open to both men and women. The $439 registration fee ($499 after May 20) includes transportation to and from select conference hotels, breakfast, lunch, green fees, prizes, a caddy and tip. All amounts are in U.S. dollars. For more information, use the link. For more information on the Global Women’s Leadership Network, use the link.

CU System briefs (01/28/2011)

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* BRUNSWICK, Maine (1/31/11)--Marsha Richard, a long-time employee of Brunswick, Maine-based Atlantic Regional FCU in the cards department, has been sued in a civil court by the credit union for allegedly embezzling more than $519,000 by siphoning funds from checks returned for insufficient funds. She worked for the credit union for 23 years. The FBI is investigating and the amount is expected to be higher. The incidents allegedly went on for at least six years ( myfoxmaine.com Jan. 27 and Weekly Update Jan 28) … * ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (1/31/11)--Credit union service organization (CUSO) PSCU Financial Service's headquarters was recognized as one of the first Green Business Partners in Pinellas County, Fla. The CUSO completed an assessment documenting its recycling, paper reduction, water conservation and energy conservation measures, and passed an on-site inspection by the University of Florida/Pinellas County Extension Office. Mike Yatros, interim CEO of the CUSO, noted, "we have implemented and documented dozens of ways that we reduce paper consumption, encourage recycling, and conserve energy and water in our headquarters building and its landscaping" … * RALEIGH, N.C. (1/31/11)--State Employees' CU (SECU), based in Raleigh, N.C., will for the fourth year offer the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. It also, for the second year, will offer a low-cost tax preparation option of members who fall outside of the $49,000 VITA household income limit. Last year SECU tax preparers filed more than 36,000 returns through VITA and assisted 2,100 members with low-cost tax preparation services. It is providing the services in all 236 branches statewide. With the two programs, SECU helped members receive $52.8 million in tax refunds while saving them more than $5.4 million in tax preparation fees last year. Those members also claimed more than $26.2 million in tax credits, including $15.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credits … * JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (1/31/11)--Jefferson City, Mo.-based Conservation Employees CU announced its members received an interest rebate of 6.2% of all interest paid on its loans during 2010 and a bonus dividend of 6.2% of all dividends earned during the year. The two rebates totaled nearly $250,000, reported the Missouri Credit Union Association (The Missouri difference Jan. 28) …

Apples new tech could create closed payment system

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NEW YORK (1/31/11)--Credit unions will want to monitor what is happening in the world of mobile phone technology and contactless payment technology. Computer giant Apple is planning new technology that would turn consumers' iPhones and iPads into wallets, with consumers waving the devices at payment terminals or paying for items through their iTunes accounts. If that caught on big time, it could have ramifications for credit card companies, financial institutions, and interchange, said an analyst featured in ComputerWorld article Friday. Various technical publications are reporting that Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., plans to embed near-field communications (NFC) technology into its next generation iPads and iPhones. IBTIMES.com (Jan. 28) reported that Apple has job postings in the field, and consulting firm Envisioneering Group said unnamed engineers working on the project have said Apple will introduce the NFC chip in the devices. Apple has also filed for NFC-related patents, including a device that allows consumers to scan a ticket near their smartphone and get content related to that event. Apple's entry into the fray would disrupt the mobile payment industry, according to Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner research firm. Apple has a huge base of 160 million iTunes users, which gives Apple the ability to act as its own closed payment system, with little need to interface with credit card companies and financial institutions. It could shut out credit card companies in much the same way that PayPal does in its field, Litan told ComputerWorld (Jan. 28). iTunes users still could use credit cards and banking accounts to fill up their iTunes accounts, but that would be the extent of financial institutions' involvement in an Apple mobile payment system, said Litan. In another article, Litan noted that creating a new payment system would cut out middle men like Visa and MasterCard and said credit card associations should be concerned (The Red Tape Chronicles on MSNBC.com Jan. 21). "The thing about Apple is they could do a system like PayPal, but they also have a physical device in people's hands," Litan said. Others are attempting to get a head start on NFC technology. Last year, AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA announced they were working with Discover Financial Services and Barclays on introducing an NFC-based mobile payment system in the U.S. Others working on NFC capabilities include Google and Samsung, and PayPal, the articles said. Visa and Mastercard are working to steer mobile phone transactions through their systems, and Bank of America last year tested an NFC-chip based purchasing system. While some believe a new payment system won't go very far without major changes in payments infrastructure and more security on mobile devices, 160 million consumers are ahead of the game, paying for small purchases on iTunes. And they're getting stronger: In second quarter 2010 alone, 42% of all consumer handsets sold in the U.S. were smart phones.

Barks appointed to St. Louis Fed district council

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CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (1/31/11)--Glenn D. Barks, president/CEO of First Community CU in Chesterfield, Mo., has been selected to serve on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council. The council is composed of 12 executives from financial institutions across the Fed’s Eighth District. The council meets twice a year to advise St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on the credit, banking and economic conditions facing their institutions and their communities. Council members are senior executives of banks, thrift institutions and credit unions, and serve staggered terms. Barks has nearly 40 years of experience in the financial services industry. He was named CEO of First Community in 2001. He joined the credit union 25 years ago as executive vice president, following a 12-year career in the savings and loan industry, where he held various management positions.

Clean slate promo results in 4000 loans

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (1/31/11)--Credit Union 1, a $711 million-asset institution in Anchorage, Alaska, recently offered members the chance to start the year off with a “clean slate” on their loan payments--and saw a corresponding increase of nearly 70% in new-loan volume over the same time last year. During the credit union’s “Clean Slate Giveaway,” members who closed on a loan were automatically entered into a drawing to have all of their loans at the credit union paid off, up to $25,000. The credit union launched the campaign as a way to differentiate itself from the competition, said Rachel Ramsey, vice president of marketing and communications. The $25 gift card drawings were incorporated into the Clean Slate Giveaway to keep motivation and enthusiasm alive throughout the three-month promotion, Ramsey added. She said the key behind any successful promotion is to get employees behind it so they the feel comfortable talking about it with people.

First American saves members 90k in Great Rate Challenge

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BELOIT, Wis. (1/31/11)--First American CU in Beloit, Wis., helped save members $90,698 in loan interest payments during its first Great Rate Challenge, a program developed to create awareness about the unnecessary costs of high-interest rates. On average, members who participated in the challenge were rewarded with $1,445 in interest savings.
Click to view larger image Jody Gearhart, a Janesville, Wis., branch member of First American CU in Beloit, Wis., won the grand prize--loan interest payments for one year--as part of the credit union’s Great Rate Challenge, developed to create awareness about the unnecessary cost of high-interest rates for loans. (Photo provided by First American CU)
Everyone who qualified for the program could expect to see least a 2% reduction of their high- interest-rate vehicle loans, credit cards and other personal loans transferred from other financial institutions, First American said. “We encouraged area residents to bring in their high-interest loans to the credit union for a consolidated and reduced rate,” explained Ariel Bilskey, First American director of market development. Participating members were able to lock in a rate as low as 3.99% annual percentage rate, which translates into thousands of dollars in anticipated interest payments, the credit union said. Jody Gearhart, a Janesville, Wis., branch member of First American CU, won the grand prize--loan interest payments for one year, along with her anticipated interest savings of nearly $1,500. First American CU is a part of First Community FCU, based in Parchment, Mich.

Interchange cap hurts consumers warns league

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (1/31/11)--The proposed cap on interchange fees will ultimately hurt consumers’ pocketbooks, Minnesota Credit Union Network President/CEO Mark D. Cummins warned readers of Finance & Commerce newspaper last week. A regular columnist in the Twin Cities publication, Cummins explained how reducing debit card interchange fees would hurt credit unions’ debit card programs. The Jan. 24 article, “Interchange Cap Will Ultimately Hurt Minnesota Consumers,” outlined the benefits that debit card programs offer to consumers and retailers. Cummins explained that these benefits come at a price to financial institutions, and retailers are asked to pay their “fair share” of this cost through interchange fees. A reduction in these fees would significantly impact the debit card features credit unions will be able to offer. “So what does this mean for your local credit union or bank? Reduced interchange fees will ultimately hurt small, locally based financial institutions and make it harder for them to meet the needs of their members, consumers and communities,” Cummins wrote. “For credit unions, this issue is not about making a profit; rather it’s about protecting the pocketbooks of Minnesota credit union members.” Cummins noted that market forces would likely erode the two-tiered pricing structure proposed by the Federal Reserve Board. He explained that merchants would eventually migrate to debit cards that offer the mandated lower-cost fees, which would ultimately force local financial institutions to reduce their interchange fees to remain competitive. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has estimated that up to 67% of credit unions would lose money on their debit card programs if the interchange regulations reduced interchange-related revenues by 40%. CUNA and credit unions have put out a call to scrap the Federal Reserve Board's plan to implement government restrictions on interchange fees. To read the column, use the link.

CU reissued 3000 cards after third-party breach

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BATH, Maine (1/31/11)--A data breach involving a third-party--not a credit union--has prompted a Bath, Maine-based credit union to reissue about 3,000 debit and credit cards as a precaution, according to local news reports. Five County CU, a $181.4 million asset credit union, issued the cards after electronic security breaches involved an unnamed retailer and a processing center. It is not known whether other financial institutions were affected (Associated Press Newswires and WGME-TV Jan. 28). Several debit cards had suspicious transactions out of Florida, leading the credit union to shut down and reissue about 2,500 debit cards (myfoxmaine.com Jan. 28). Although there was no suspicious activity involving credit cards, the credit union relished about 500 Visa credit cards as a precaution. The credit union told WGME-TV that no personal data or money is at risk. The credit union said the attack is another sign of how aggressive hackers have become and how aggressive credit unions and banks must be to respond to such threats.

Robins FCU Flint Energies to offer energy-efficiency loans

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WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (1/31/11)--Robins FCU has joined with Flint Energies to offer a 4.99% annual percentage rate (APR) on energy efficiency loans to their joint members. The reduced-rate loan can be used to pay for floor/wall/attic insulation, heating and cooling equipment that is Energy Star qualified, Energy Star windows and doors, envelope sealing, duct sealing, duct insulation, the new GE GeoSpring heat pump water heaters and other Energy Star Appliances like dishwashers, clothes washers and refrigerators. The loan is available to residential homeowners who qualify. Members of Flint Energies can start the loan process by calling Flint Energies to schedule a free home-energy audit. The member then decides on home improvements and gets a contractor quote for the upgrades. The member then completes and submits a Robins FCU loan application. Applicants don’t have to be members of the credit union, but can join when they apply. Robins FCU expects to process loan applications within 48 hours. Once the loan is approved and the home improvements have been completed, Flint Energies will inspect the work. The member will sign the loan documents at a Robins FCU office, and the credit union will issue a check, payable to the member and the contractor. Generally, the loan terms will be for a 4.99% APR between $1,000 and $7,500 for five years or less. The interest rate buy-down program is made available through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program and Georgia Environmental Finance Authority in conjunction with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

New Jersey league board officers named

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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (1/31/11)--The New Jersey Credit Union League has named its board officers for 2011. Shawn Gilfedder, president/CEO, McGraw-Hill FCU, East Windsor, remains chairman; Leo Ardine, president/CEO, United Teletech Financial FCU, Tinton Falls, holds his seat as vice chairman; and Lou Vetere, president/CEO, Garden Savings FCU, Parsippany holds his seat as secretary/treasurer. Source (The Daily Exchange Jan. 28)

Trial lawyer is Montanas new banking commissioner

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BILLINGS, Mont. (1/31/11)--The Montana Credit Union Network (MCUN) is welcoming the state's new banking commissioner, Melanie S. Griggs, a trial lawyer from Louisiana. "We welcome Melanie to Big Sky Country and look forward to working with her on the important issues facing today's credit union movement," Tracie Kenyon, MCUN president/CEO, told News Now. Griggs will head a 39-employee division that regulates state-chartered and licensed financial institutions, including state chartered credit unions, banks, licensed mortgage brokers, mortgage lenders and nondepository institutions, according to the Billings Gazette (Jan. 25). Until December, Griggs was an attorney with St. Martin & Bourque of Houma, La. She has a law degree from Tulane Law School and a bachelor's degree in economics from Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Fla. She succeeds Annie Goodwin, the state's long-time banking commission, who retired.

Missouri foundation helps teachers provide fin ed

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (1/28/11)--Missouri teachers will be able to more easily access personal finance resources and materials for students online, thanks to a grant from the Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation (MCUCF). The $5,000 grant will help the Missouri Council on Economic Education (MCEE) convert its resource library electronically. "Improving consumers' personal finance is a primary philosophy of Missouri credit unions," said Mike Beall, Missouri Credit Union Association president/CEO. Beall, who also serves on the MCEE Board of Trustees, noted that the grant will "help cultivate knowledgeable, young consumers." MCEE is a non-profit organization that provides teachers with personal finance resources and materials for classroom use. The new online system will offer teachers an updated curriculum guide, recommended lessons for tracking competency, customizable charts and graphs, and more. The system is expected to be operational by July, and will be revealed at the Missouri Association for Career and Technical Education summer conference in Springfield. MCUCF is funded with contributions from Missouri credit unions.

CU System briefs (01/27/2011)

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* WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (1/28/11)--This is the official legal notice to all members of the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) 77th Annual General Meeting (AGM), scheduled for Monday, Feb. 28, 2011, at 10:30 a.m. at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. It will be held in conjunction with the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference. The AGM will update member credit unions and leagues on the actions of their association over the past year … * RAHWAY, N.J. (1/28/11)--Merck Employees FCU's board voted to pledge its 2011 dues rebate from the New Jersey Credit Union League to the league's financial literacy partnership with the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education, says the league (The Daily Exchange Jan. 26). The league announced last week a one-time 10% rebate for 2011. Credit unions are given the option to pledge their rebate to the league's Advertising Cooperative. Since Merck already supports the ad co-op, it decided to earmark its funds for financial literacy. "Merck Employees FCU has always been focused on giving back to our members, and we believe financial literacy is part of that. Anything we can do to support the collective effort of New Jersey's credit unions helps all credit union members," said Herman Johnson, board chairman of the $1.5 billion Rahway-based credit union …

ICU TimesI parent co. files for Ch.11 bankruptcy

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NEW YORK (1/28/11)--Summit Business Media, the parent company of trade newspaper Credit Union Times and 12 other business-to-business publications, announced Wednesday it was filing for a Chapter 11 reorganization in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. The plan has approval from 83% of its creditors and will cut outstanding debts by more than half, or roughly $135 million, which will "enhance the company's financial position," said Summit in a press release Wednesday. It expects to emerge from the restructuring during the first half of this year. The plan provides for Summit's continued normal operations during the reorganization. Subject to court approval, Summit will use its more than $10 million in cash and cash flow from its operations to meet its working capital needs during reorganization. The company said its pre-filing advertising, subscription and event contracts "will be honored in full. Summit will pay all vendors for goods and services received during the reorganization process, and Summit employees will receive uninterrupted wages and benefits." Also, its lenders agreed to provide a debtor-in-possession credit facility of $5 million to support its additional working capital needs, if any, during the process. Andrew L. Goodenough, president/CEO of Summit, noted Summit is "fundamentally sound and profitable" and "well-positioned to take advantage of economic growth coming out of this unusually deep downturn as the industries we serve rebound." Although Summit has "emerged from the downturn as a smaller but healthier company, we have too much debt to support our current business operations, left over from when Summit was a larger, acquisition-oriented company," he said. "We view this reorganization process as the last step in a two-year strategic refocusing of Summit on our core markets." Many publications' revenue come from subscription and advertising sales. Ad sales in particular took a hit for most publications during the financial downturn. Summit Business Media's 13 publications had a total of 4,109.84 ad pages from January through September in 2010--down 7.61% from 2009's 4,525.81 pages. Credit Union Times' ads were down 24.45%, the second highest drop after Senior Marketing Advisor's 33.4% decline in ad pages, according to boxscores from IMS/The Auditor data. News Now contacted Credit Union Times for a statement about the impact of the reorganization and was referred to Summit's press release.

CU CEO named to Fed Cleveland Council

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/28/11)--Gary Soukenik, CEO of Seven Seventeen CU, Warren, Ohio, has been chosen to join the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s district council to represent the Fourth Federal District. The board of governors of the Federal Reserve System has created a national Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council to broaden the scope of input on economic credit conditions. To complement the national effort with regional perspectives, each Federal Reserve Bank is establishing a District Council comprised of representatives from community banks, thrifts and credit unions. “Gary will do an outstanding job representing credit union and providing perspective on the economic and credit conditions facing all financial institutions and consumers,” said Paul Mercer, president of the Ohio Credit Union League.

Canadian merger with three CUs called off

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MADISON, Wis. (1/28/11)--A proposal to merge three credit unions in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan into one province-wide credit union has been scuttled because members failed to approve the merger in a vote Wednesday. The opportunity to merge Conexus, Innovation and Synergy credit unions was missed because all three credit unions require 75% approval of their membership to pass the merger. When the votes were counted, they were sufficient at Conexus (95%) and Innovation (76%), but came up short at Synergy (60%) (Newstalk980.com Jan. 27). “Obviously we’re disappointed,” Synergy board president Wayne White, told the news outlet. “It was the right move to position us for the future.” A merger of the three credit unions would have created a new entity comprising 84 branches, 194,000 members and $7 billion in assets (The Canadian Press Nov. 23). “We did due diligence for the merger and there aren’t any negatives that I can see. It’s just a way for our credit union to grow and prosper into the future,” Gord Lightfoot, board president of Innovation CU, said after a Nov. 23 meeting. “And through the credit union doing well, our members will be better served, and I just see it as an entirely positive thing for our community” (The Southwest Booster Nov. 24).

Ohio appoints new regulator CU council member

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/28/11)--The Ohio Division of Financial Institutions appointed a new regulator, and also appointed a credit union CEO to the state’s Credit Union Council. The Ohio Division of Financial Institutions selected Charles Dolezal to take over as superintendent this week from Carolyn Bradford, who departed last Friday. Dolezal, who was appointed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, will oversee state-chartered credit unions, banks, savings and loans/savings banks, and consumer finance and money transmitters (eLumination Newsletter Jan. 26). A letter of congratulations from Ohio Credit Union League President Paul Mercer was sent Monday to Dolezal, and league staff is trying to schedule an introductory meeting to get the new superintendent in front of credit unions. Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Greg Kidwell, CEO of Members First CU in Columbus, to the state’s Credit Union Council to serve a three-year term, the league said. The council is part of the Ohio Division of Financial Institutions and is made up of seven members who provide advice and recommendations on issues of importance to credit unions to the regulatory agency and governor. Chaired by the Deputy Superintendent for Credit Unions, the council meets quarterly. Rita Haynes of Faith Community United CU, Cleveland; Vidya Iyengar of Marion (Ohio) Community CU; Gary Soukenik of Seven Seventeen CU, Warren, Ohio; Matthew Studer of Toledo (Ohio) Postal ECU; and Robin Thomas of Taleris CU, Cleveland, also serve on the council.

Uzbekistan CUs adopt new development strategy

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MADISON, Wis. (1/28/11)--The Credit Union Association (CUA) of Uzbekistan adopted a new development strategy for 2011 Saturday at its annual general meeting. The new strategy is mostly based on the requirements and tasks set out in an Uzbekistan President’s Resolution of Nov. 26, said Nizomiddin Muradov, CEO of World Council of Credit Union’s (WOCCU) member organization in Uzbekistan. CUA is member of WOCCU and a fast-growing system, said Dave Grace, WOCCU vice president of association services. It was started as a WOCCU development program and today serves more than 150,000 citizens. “This is a success story for WOCCU and exactly what we like to see,” Grace said in August, when 12 members of the Central Bank the Republic of Uzbekistan arrived at WOCCU’s Madison headquarters to explore best practices and strategies. “Despite being only an eight-year-old movement, Uzbekistan’s credit unions have excellent capital, very little delinquency and an extremely strong structure. They’re helping bring a solid middle-class tier to the country’s economy” (woccu.org/newsroom Aug. 25). In regard to credit unions, the resolution outlines significant roles of credit unions to be played along with other nonbanking financial institutions in the country’s financial sector from 2011 to 2015. The resolution describes how priorities should be given to:
* Maintaining stability and effectiveness of their activities in accordance with international norms and standards; * Expanding scope of products and services provided by credit unions; and * Institutionalizing the financial market infrastructure.
The resolution also stipulates the necessity to improve regulatory and supervisory functions over the performance of nonbanking credit organizations--including credit unions--by developing and introducing obligatory economic measures and norms. Together with the Uzbekistan Central Bank and other organizations and agencies, CUA will be involved in:
* Reviewing the law on credit unions and making appropriate changes to improve credit unions’ activities and supervisory functions; * Developing a national rating system for evaluating credit unions; * Reviewing and improving interest-rate policy used by credit unions and microcredit organizations that should increase availability of services offered, and maintaining adequate rates of return; * Developing the Central Bank’s regulations: on corporate governance in credit unions, on basic requirements of operational policies and procedures for credit unions, on requirements of liquidity management, on proper management of loan portfolio by credit unions, on classification of assets by risks in credit unions, on defining and determining criteria for unsound and unsafe activities of credit unions, and on external auditing requirements; * Improving accounting and financial reporting in credit unions; and * Developing and improving the inspection procedures and methods of analysis of credit unions’ activities.

Person-to-person payments gaining steam in CUs

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MADISON, Wis (1/28/11)--Consumers appear willing to embrace person-to-person payments (P2P), but the market still needs a nudge, probably in the form of educational and marketing efforts, said representatives from credit unions who have tested the P2P waters. “It is coming,” said Donna Bland, president/CEO of The Golden 1 CU, Sacramento, Calif. “People don’t carry cash anymore. They carry debit cards. But they can’t make payments to friends with a debit card. This is the alternative.” The Golden 1, a $7 billion asset credit union, has been offering P2P payments since last summer. The credit union uses the ZashPay P2P system from FiServ. Members are automatically enrolled when they sign up for online bill payments. Senders enter the recipients’ e-mail address or mobile phone number to forward payment. Bland said P2P is “picking up steam” with her membership. She said the biggest obstacle to wide-scale adoption is a lack of understanding on how the system works. Most consumers don’t understand it yet,” Bland said. “They ask, ‘How do I send money though an e-mail?” P2P payments were an instant success at $9 billion BECU in Tukwila, Wash.--roughly 4,000 members signed up in the first month the credit union offered P2P payments last spring and BECU now processes $8 million in payments a month. Howie Wu, vice president of virtual banking at BECU, agrees with Bland that the mainstream marketplace needs to become familiar with the logistics of P2P payments. “I think general public is ready for this once they learn about it,” Wu said. “There’s a learning curve to any new technology. From my standpoint if you educate the member on it, promote the product, and they give it a try, they’re hooked.” Wu said BECU call center and branch staff are trained to help members get started with P2P payments. BECU employs Popmoney from CashEdge for its P2P payments. Members who use P2P find creative ways make payments more convenient. For example, Wu said making payments to day-care providers via P2P is popular among BECU members. “Daycare providers love it,” Wu said. “Dealing with [automated clearinghouse] is a lot cleaner than managing cash or check on a monthly basis.” Anthony Vitale, vice president of information technology at Patelco CU, San Francisco, said his members also use P2P to expand their payment options. The average P2P payment at Patelco, which also employs Popmoney, is about $550. Vitale said members are using P2P to pay rent. P2P payments use the ACH system; most bill pay systems still complete their payments by check, Vitale said. The market would be more likely to reach a tipping point with a marketing push from a big national financial institution, like Chase or Bank of America, Vitale believes. Like Wu, Vitale said the general public has yet to learn about P2P payments. He estimates between 300 and 500 financial institutions offer P2P. Among the financial institutions that do offer P2P payments, The Golden 1’s Bland said the key is getting members to try it once. “That’s why education is the real key. If they try it once, they realize how simple and convenient it is,” she added.

Chicago CDCU launches venture with community center

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (1/28/11)--The North Side Community FCU (NSCFCU) Monday kicked off a new joint venture with the Howard Area Community Center (HACC) to add affordable banking to the list of social services available to the residents of Rogers Park, a low-income neighborhood on Chicago's far North side.
Click to view larger image Helping kick off North Side Community FCU's joint venture with Chicago's Howard Area Community Center are, from left: Shannon Callahan, director, Howard Area Employment Resource Center; Illinois State Sen. Heather Steans (D-7); and Jennifer Sierecki, manager of North Side Community FCU. (Photo provided by the Illinois Credit Union League)
More than 30 individuals, including representatives from the credit union's select employee groups (SEGs), community leaders, Illinois State Sen. Heather Steans (D-7) and the Illinois Credit Union League, attended the launch luncheon. The credit union's satellite banking branch opened for operation Thursday in a back office of HACC's employment resource center. It will be open every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT. The credit union has a long-standing relationship with the HACC, one of its SEGs, and as a financial partner to its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site for the past three years. Rogers Park contains pockets of severe poverty, with more than 21% of all households reporting annual incomes of less than $15,000. Many adults there have low educational achievement and need job skills. The low-income-designated, $10 million asset credit union offers services such as pre-paid debit cards, low-cost checking and savings accounts, and financial education, including homeownership education, credit counseling and budgeting assistance. It also offers a Payday Alternative Loan (PAC), which has saved its members more than $5 million since 2002, with 5,600 loans totaling $2.8 million. HACC operates a network of programs that respond to short- and long-term issues of poverty at several neighborhood sites. It helps adults acquire academic, employability, and life skills needed for self-sufficiency. NSCFCU CEO Jennifer Sierecki pointed out that each organization's programs will complement each other. "We will begin to offer financial classes on site in order to make it easier for participants in HACC's training and classes to take advantage of our products and services," she said. "In addition, as community members actively take part in citizenship classes within HACC's English as a Second Language program, the credit union's New American Loan product will become a resource once an individual is eligible and ready to pay for the cost of citizenship," Sierecki said, adding the partnership is "a win-win for both organizations."

Survey Affluent consumers dip into nest eggs

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NEW YORK (1/27/11)--Affluent consumers lack confidence in their financial future, with 63% of those surveyed believing that preparing for long term goals such as retirement and college education will get harder. However, 75% of the mass affluent were "highly satisfied" with the advice they receive from their credit unions and banks, according to a report released Tuesday by Bank of America. The Merrill Edge Report reviews the financial concerns and priorities of "mass affluent" consumers with $50,000 to $250,000 in investable assets. The report was timed to release with the bank's announcement that it was launching an initiative targeting "mass affluent" consumers (The Associated Press via Bloomberg (Jan. 25). Of the 1,000 mass affluent consumers surveyed, 52% sought trusted financial advice from their credit union or bank, and 53% from financial professionals, while 36% sought trusted advice from family and friends. (Plus News Pakistan Jan. 25). Nearly two in five (36%) say they are low-risk investors, with 45% indicating that their investment decisions today are more conservative than they were a year ago. Nearly half (45%) believe they will never be wealthy, even though 75% of respondents have a six-figure household income, the survey said. Balancing short- and long-term financial needs is a priority for 63% of mass affluent, but they struggle to accomplish this, the study indicated. In the past year, 28% tapped into their long-term investments such as college savings accounts and retirement to meet their monthly living expenses. Those who dipped into their nest eggs did so for monthly bills or groceries (29%) or to make a mortgage or car loan payment (14% ). Half (51%) of the respondents do not currently have a formal or written plan. Of those who had a plan in the past, nearly 60% met the goals they set. Among the concerns of the mass affluent are:
* Rising cost of healthcare, 72%; * Ensuring retirement assets last throughout their lifetime, 67%; * Being able to live the lifestyle they want in retirement, 58%; * Worrying about tax reform, 62% and the economy, 60%, on their finances; and * Retiring later than expected, with 41% saying they will retire later than they expected a year ago.
What should a credit union or other institution focus on in attracting the mass affluent member? The report noted this group would like to:
* Know more about federal and local regulations affecting finances and investments (58%); * Have access to a complete picture of finances and investments in one place (58%); * Know how to appropriately allocate assets across investment options (57%), more about financial markets (55%); and how to better manage cash flow (50%); and * Receive professional financial advice (56%).

Altura turns corner with best quarter since 06

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (1/27/11)--Altura CU Tuesday, located in California's Inland Empire area hard hit by the recession, reported a net income of $2.9 million for fourth quarter 2010--its best results since third quarter of 2006, said Altura CEO Mark Hawkins. The Riverside, Calif.-based credit union also improved its net worth ratio to 6.18% for the year ended Dec. 31, up from 2009's net worth of 5.61% and first quarter 2010, and first quarter 2010's net worth of 4.96%. Federal regulators consider 7% to be well-capitalized. As of Dec. 31, Altura had $726.8 million in total assets and a loss of $2.8 million, unaudited. This compared to $860.1 million in assets and a net loss of $20.1 million (revised) for 2009. Also, the net loss for 2009 was revised downward from $10.4 million after an independent audit and more funds allocated to allowance for loan and lease losses. "Clearly, there are no quick fixes in a marketplace that still is troubled," Hawkins said in a press release. "However, we are seeing conditions stabilize. We aren't seeing job losses at the same pace as last year, and home values aren't declining at the same pace as last year, which is a relative improvement, he said. He noted that in the current economic conditions, loan demand remains low, resulting in a reduced emphasis on growing assets. "We just don't need the addition of shares right now with loan demand remaining at historic lows," he said. During the past three years, the credit union focused on reducing operating expenses. Operating costs for December were down about $600,000 compared with December 2009. Year over year, its costs of operation are down more than $2 million. "We have closed underperforming branch locations, reduced staff and renegotiated various contracts to significantly lower our operating costs while still focusing on delivering the products and services our members need," Hawkins said. This month, the efforts continued with the merger of Altura's two Hemet branches. "This last quarter was very strong for us, and December was above our projections," he said, adding that throughout 2011 Altura will remain focused on members' needs and take steps "to ensure Altura is well-positioned meet those needs now and in the future."

Little green visitors from Redwood invade area

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NAPA, Calif. (1/27/11)--Redwood CU (RCU) took to the streets to get the message out that as a non-for-profit financial cooperative, it is committed to helping people learn how to better manage their money.
Click to view larger image Cherie Knox, left, Redwood CU's Napa (Calif.) Branch manager, and her team prepare piggy banks for delivery to the doorsteps of Napa residents to encourage financial wellness. (Photo provided by Redwood CU) CAPTION GOES HERE
Hundreds of Napa, Calif., residents found green piggy banks on their doorsteps with an invitation to receive $5 by visiting RCU's Napa branch. Also, anyone visiting the branch at 1705 First Street between Jan. 28 and Feb. 28 may be entered in a drawing to win an iPad. The credit union is "committed to helping people find financial wellness, and if there's one thing we've learned over the past couple of years, it's that people want and need help managing their money," said Cherie Knox, manager of the Napa branch. "Not only do credit unions provide affordable banking services, but because we are cooperatives, we have a unique focus on financial education in our communities," she said. "When people know how to make the most of their money, they help to strengthen the cooperative as well as their local economy, and most importantly, can enjoy peace of mind about their daily life and their future," she added. The credit union will focus on spreading the message of financial wellness throughout 2011, including its year-long Amazing Savers Contest, which will follow five contestants as they work to improve their financial situation over several months of competition for a $10,000 prize.

CUNA Brokerage awards 18 Women of Distinction

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MADISON, Wis. (1/27/11)--CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. is honoring 18 financial advisers with Women of Distinction awards in recognition of their superior performance, value to their programs, exceptional client service and overall contribution to the financial services industry and CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. Women of Distinction is an award recognizing the top performing female financial advisors within their broker/dealer operation nationally. Candidates are nominated by industry peers, and selections are based on the nominee’s annual performance and outlined contribution to their clientele, the credit unions they service, and the financial services industry. Recipients will participate in a national mentoring program for female advisers who are new to the industry or who wish to grow in their profession. A select group of award recipients will receive the President’s Select Women of Distinction honor--recognizing their leadership of and significant contributions to the Women of Distinction program, and its growing success, throughout 2010. 2010 President’s Select Award recipients are:
* Jane Brockway, University of Illinois Employees CU, Champaign, Ill.; * Wendy Cundari, North County CU, San Diego; * Ruby Evans, Chartway Investments & Ins., Virginia Beach, Va.; * Marcella Evans, Genisys CU, Pontiac, Mich.; and * Sophia Spencer, Red Canoe CU, Longview, Wash.
2010 Women of Distinction recipients are:
* Catherine Barnes, VyStar CU , Orange Park, Fla.; * Emmor Boslet, Belco Community CU, Camp Hill, Pa.; * Carol Diest, First Community FCU, Kalamazoo, Mich.; * Mary Finnegan-Ongaro, Members Cooperative CU, Duluth, Minn.; * Leigh Glover, Southeast Financial CU, Brentwood, Tenn.; * Anna Kamp, Anheuser-Busch Employees’ CU, St. Louis; * Jane Kilby, VyStar CU, Orange Park, Fla.; * Wendy Miletich, Wings Financial CU, Eagan, Minn.; * Stephanie Morales, Arizona Central CU, Phoenix; * Swan Shen, RTN FCU, Waltham, Mass.; * Cynthia Sforza, Schools First FCU, Huntington Beach, Calif.; * Suzi Williams, Yakima Valley CU, Yakima, Wash.; and * Gale Zumpano, Alabama CU, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

League to bring Filenes Debt-in-Focus to N.J. CUs

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HIGHTSTOWN, N. J. (1/27/11)--The New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) has partnered with Filene Research Institute to provide Debt-in-Focus free to NJCUL member credit unions. Debt-in-Focus was created by the Madison, Wis.-based Filene Research Institute’s i3 program to break down barriers preventing consumers from seeking traditional financial guidance. The anonymous financial assessment tool requires no self-identifying information, is available around the clock, and provides easy-to-follow action steps free from industry jargon and sales pitches. “In New Jersey we have been taking steps toward helping our credit unions provide financial education to their members, like our recent partnership with the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education and our work with REAL Solutions,” said Paul Gentile, NJCUL president/CEO. “With the economy the way it is, Debt-in-Focus seemed like the right tool to provide our member credit unions to help get some of their members back on the right financial path.” In addition to the basic features, credit unions offering Debt-in-Focus also obtain:
* Exclusive marketing/implementation support network; * Customizable, pre-designed marketing campaigns; * Usage analytics; * A lead-generation tool through opt-in “Follow-Up” function; and * SAS70 compliant hosting and SSL encryption.
“Consumers need help,” said Mark Meyer, CEO of Filene Research Institute. “At a time when many organizations are retrenching in response to their own financial unease, we’re thrilled that NJCUL sees this as an opportunity to both prove value to their member credit unions and get timely financial guidance to the people they serve.”

Its tax season CUs prep to help members

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MADISON, Wis. (1/27/11)--It’s tax season, and credit unions are doing their part to ease the burden of tax return preparation for their members. The programs credit unions offer are affordable alternatives to income tax filing companies and high-interest refund anticipation loans, which often charge excessive fees. Some of the efforts credit unions are making nationwide are:
* For the third consecutive year, Belco Community CU, Harrisburg, Pa., will provide free tax preparation services. Belco Community has partnered with the Internal Revenue Service and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to help prepare basic tax returns for qualifying individuals and families. Roughly eight Belco employees and nine non-Belco employees have volunteered to become certified tax preparers. The VITA Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally $49,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. * To help Michigan families and individuals access state and federal tax credits, the Michigan credit union community has launched “Just file it! We’ll help”: Free tax preparation resources for those in need. More than 50 credit unions in Michigan are participating in the Just file it! program. Filers visit a participating credit union’s website to complete their tax forms online. The technology backbone of Just File It! is I-CAN! E-File, a Web-based tax-filing solution created by the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, Santa Ana, Calif., as a tool to help those eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits file their taxes without being charged excessive fees. * Pacific Service CU, Fresno, Calif., will again partner with the United Way of Fresno County to host the VITA program for a fourth year. “Each year the refunds processed through the VITA program increase,” said Steve Punch, president of Pacific Service CU. “For 2009, the dollars returned to families in our community surpassed $10 million from the 5,700 returns filed, an increase of over 1,000 returns from the prior year.” * The El Paso (Texas) Affordable Housing credit union service organization CUSO manages a coalition with 16 VITA sites in partnership with eight local credit unions. VITA services are offered at three credit union sites and offer savings accounts to unbanked VITA clients. Also, this year the IRS and El Paso Affordable Housing CUSO are piloting a Schedule-C free tax preparation site targeting taxpayers with very small businesses that normally file a Schedule C.

Executive base pay grew 4.35 in 2010

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COVINA, Calif. (1/27/11)--U.S. credit unions’ executive base pay increased by 4.35% in 2010--only slightly higher than what was reported in 2009, and significantly lower than the increases seen in the earlier part of the decade. However, there are signs of the recession lifting, with executives accepting bonuses they voluntarily gave up last year, said Executive Compensation Solutions (ECS) seventh annual Employees and Executive Compensation Benefits Survey for the Credit Union Movement. ECS is a credit union compensation and benefits provider. Two notable executive compensation trends since the inception of the survey in 2004 are the increase in the prevalence of pay plans and performance-linked long-term incentive plans, the survey said. The use of severance pay plans has grown to nearly 60% from roughly 20%. In a time of uncertainty, this requires more sophistication in plan design and greater protection for credit union executives, ECS said. The use of performance-linked long-term incentive plans addresses a concern raised by credit union board members and senior management--how to ensure that all elements of executive compensation adhere to a stated compensation philosophy that results in the overall betterment of the credit union. ECS said it anticipates a continuation of many of the 2010 trends. “Credit unions were not exempt from the uncertainties the economy presented in 2010,” said Don Curristan, ESC principal. “The past 12 months have seen an increase in mergers, consolidations and National Credit Union Administration involvement that only heighten the importance of attracting and retaining the best executive talent needed to take credit unions to the next level. “A comprehensive executive compensation and benefit philosophy is necessary to achieve this objective,” he concluded. The Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) most recent “CEO Total Compensation Survey” showed that in 2009 total compensation for credit union CEOs nationwide declined, with CEOs experiencing a median net income change of -5%. For more information, use the link. CUNA’s survey for CEO compensation data in 2010 will be out this fall.

WOCCU launches PEARLS Web-based system

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MADISON, Wis. (1/27/11)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has released a Web-based version of PEARLS, its relational financial database designed to monitor financial trends and help credit unions improve their performance. The program, first developed in the 1980s, has been streamlined for easier access through a Web-based version available as a benefit of membership to WOCCU member organizations. PEARLS is an acronym for Protection, Effective financial structure, Asset quality, Rates of return and costs, Liquidity and Signs of growth. The system is used by thousands of credit unions worldwide. Designed to complement but not replace existing accounting and monitoring programs, PEARLS produces reports, trend information, comparisons and rankings to help identify financial weaknesses and assist in the development of improvement strategies, pricing and strategic and businesses planning. “The new version of PEARLS represents technological delivery improvements without compromising the program’s solid financial standards,” said Dave Grace, WOCCU senior vice president of association services. “The financial ratios that WOCCU defines as standards of excellence that have given the program a role in statutory oversight in some countries remain the same.” The new version of PEARLS, under development for three years, replicates the software-driven program used in developed and developing countries. Credit union regulators in countries such as Ireland, Peru and Poland follow aspects of PEARLS when evaluating credit union performance. The current interface, which runs on virtually any Internet browser, is more easily accessible to WOCCU’s global audience. WOCCU this week is holding a series of free webinars for it member organizations covering basic aspects of PEARLS through train-the-trainer sessions in English, Spanish and Russian. Those organizations will then have license to share the information with member credit unions in their countries. Each webinar is being recorded and will be available for later viewing online. After the webinars, participants will receive PowerPoint presentations and other materials, allowing them to conduct their own training. WOCCU retains all ownership rights to PEARLS and will issue updates to the system as needed. A personal computer with Internet access and audio and PowerPoint capabilities is necessary to participate in the webinars.

CU System briefs (01/25/2011)

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* DOVER, Del.(1/26/11)--Dion Williams has been selected as the new president/CEO of Del-One (Delaware FCU), announced the Dover, Del.-based credit union's board. Williams has more than 18 years credit union experience, including senior management positions with the Raleigh, N.C.-based Local Government FCU as vice president of financial services, and most recently as president/CEO of Central Sunbelt FCU, Laurel, Miss. Del-One has seven branches throughout Delaware serving more than 40,000 members … * GREENVILLE, S.C. (1/26/11)--LaFonzo J. Burnside, 17, was charged Friday in the armed robberies of a credit union and a bank within two hours of each other. The robbery of North Charleston, S.C.-based CPM FCU occurred Friday at about 4:45 p.m. when a man wearing a wig and sunglasses demanded money and fled. However, he tossed the cash after a dye pack activated. Later, at about 6 p.m. a man wearing a toboggan and a bandana covering his face robbed Palmetto Bank. Burnside was arrested Friday night. Authorities recovered a hat, red bandanna and a BBgun hidden in a vent over his bed (Greenville News Jan. 23) … * SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. (1/26/11)--Numerica CU is offering mobile banking. Members enrolled in the Spokane Valley, Wash.-based credit union's Home Banking can access their accounts from their Web-enabled phone, smart phone, BlackBerry, Android, iPhone or iPad. The free service allows members to access account information, view transaction history, transfer funds, and find a branch location or ATM from their mobile device. Members can register up to five mobile devices with Numerica's mobile banking service. The service has SSL encryption and members go through a multi-factor authentication process when logging into the Home Banking for the first time through their mobile device … * WICHITA, Kan. (1/26/11)--Two Wichita, Kan., men pleaded guilty Monday to charges stemming from the Nov. 8, 2010 robbery of Kansas City, Mo.-based Catholic Family FCU (Associated Press Newswires Jan. 25). Deshane Gantt, 21, and Christopher Crabtree, 20, were arrested after their getaway car ran a red light in front of a police car. According to U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, Gantt robbed the credit union and Crabtree was the driver. Police stopped the car and recovered money from the robbery. They will be sentenced April 11 …

ACH thieves embed job apps with malware

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WASHINGTON (1/26/11)--A new variant on automated clearinghouse (ACH)/wire transfer fraud is targeting businesses by responding via e-mail to job openings posted online and embedding malicious software, or malware, warned the FBI. Cyber criminals often target small businesses that use smaller financial institutions such as credit unions and regional banks (cio.co.ke.com.com Jan. 20). In ACH fraud, cyber criminals install malware on a small business' computer and use it to log into the business's online banking account. There, they set up fake fund transfers, add bogus employees or payees, and move the money offshore, sometimes several hundred thousand dollars in a matter of hours. Recently more than $150,000 was stolen from a U.S. business through unauthorized wire transfer as a result of a so-called job applicant's e-mail that contained malware, said the FBI (Internet Crime Complaint Center Jan. 19). The malware was embedded in an e-mail response to a job posting the business placed on an employment website. As a result, the criminal obtained the online banking credentials of a person authorized to conduct financial transactions within the company. The criminal changed the account settings to allow wire transfers--one to the Ukraine and the other two to domestic accounts in the U.S. The FBI identified the malware as a Bredolab variant, svrwsc.exe., which was connected to the ZeuS/Zbot Trojan commonly used by cyber criminals to defraud U.S. businesses. Potential employers should remain vigilant in opening e-mails of prospective employees, said the FBI. Run a virus scan before opening an e-mail attachment to provide an extra layer of security against this type of attack. Also , use separate computer systems to conduct financial transactions, said the FBI.

CDCU appeals for help to avoid merger

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SAN FRANCISCO (1/26/11)--Mission SF FCU, a community development credit union (CDCU) in San Francisco, is appealing for help to avoid a merger, according to a press release. The credit union, one of two independent CDCUs remaining in California serving a predominately Latino community, was hit hard by the economic downturn and it must raise $200,000. Half of that is due Feb. 15, and the second $100,000 is due March 15. "Mission SF is determined to avoid a merger and continue to offer the vital and unique services it has provided to its members and the community for over 40 years," said the credit union in a press release. Formed in the Mission District by Latino immigrants in 1971, Mission SF served as an entry point to the mainstream financial services for new immigrants with financial education, basic financial services and loans. It now serves the children and grandchildren of many of its founders. "Mission SF has a critical role to play in the Mission District's recovery from the hardest and longest economic downturn in our lifetimes," said board Chairman Leslie Chard. "Through credit-building loans, financial counseling, youth services, microloans for business, personal loans and auto loans, Mission SF offers a menu of services that can help bring new hope and opportunities for prosperity and cooperation," Chard said, adding the credit union "needs an angel, someone who believes in what we are doing and can offer us the hand we have offered so many families." In recent years, The $6.7 million asset Mission SF expanded its reach to include additional underserved and unbanked members. It responded to an increase in predatory fringe payday lender/check casher outlets during the 1990s by securing an Innovation Grant from the National Credit Union Foundation to launch a payday alternative loan program. Mission SF's program served as a blueprint for the city's PaydayPlusSF product, which received national attention. Its youth and child program provided young people with financial education and its youth model is a finalist in the Center for Financial Services Innovation's national Innovation Fund grant program. A grant would support its initiative to expand services to the Mayor's Youth Employment and Education Program and partner with researcher and field leader Michael Sherraden, who is interested in studying the youth model for its innovation and scalability to low-income youth across the country. For more information, contact Margaret Libby, executive director of the Mission SF Community Financial Center, a non-profit partner of the credit union, at 415-984-1799.

Sixteen 2011 GAC crashers named

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MADISON, Wis. (1/26/11)--Sixteen up-and-coming credit union professionals will become the second annual young-adult group to participate in the credit union system’s biggest event--the Government Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27-March 2. There were more than 50 applicants to “Crash the GAC.” Last year, a group of about 20 credit union professionals from the under-30 age group received special scholarships from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) to attend its 2010 GAC. The group called itself “Crash the GAC,” but intended to work cooperatively with CUNA to accommodate the interest younger professionals had in attending major credit union movement meetings such as the GAC. The group was organized by Brent Dixon, a young-adult adviser at the Filene Research Institute and a consultant with REAL Solutions. PSCU Financial Services and CUNA’s Center for Personal Development helped make the event happen. This year’s crashers are:
* Brandon Michaels, chief financial officer, Mazuma CU, Kansas City; * Kelly Griego, executive benefits sales and service representative, CUNA Mutual Group; * Amber Renick, member service officer, First Capital FCU, York, Pa.; * Amanda Thomas, marketing and business development manager, Members First CU, Columbus, Ohio; * Robert Lefkowicz, service center manager II, Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla.; * Shannon Maloney, director of marketing, Seasons FCU, Middletown, Conn.; * Ronaldo Hardy, branch coordinator, La Capitol FCU, Baton Rouge, La.; * Sasha Kemble, trainer and silver-lining specialist, Verity CU, Seattle; * Whitney Thompson, member service officer, American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia; * Melissa Polley, member communications specialist, Wisconsin Credit Union League; * Lisa Totaro, marketing associate, Sunmark FCU, Latham, N.Y.; * Chris Wolgamott, community development liaison, Meritrust CU, Wichita, Kan.; * Sean Caploff-Jones, manager of member outreach, UMassFive College FCU, Hadley, Mass.; * Alexia Mavrakes, senior marketing associate, Aspire FCU, Clark, N.J.; * Michael Langhorst, assistant vice president/branch manager, CFE FCU, Lake Mary, Fla.; and * Jennifer Jenkins, lead marketing manager, PSECU, Harrisburg, Pa.

Neb. Fin. Ed Coalition lists CUNA league for free help

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MADISON, Wis. (1/26/11)--The president of the Nebraska Financial Education Coalition recently recommended the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the Iowa Credit Union League as resources for free financial literacy education. Jennifer Clark, who is also public affairs manager for a seven-state region of the Federal Reserve Bank, said consumers should learn about money management when there isn’t a crisis, so they’re better prepared when one hits (Omaha World-Herald Jan. 24). Jim Niederhauser, director of credit union growth at the Iowa Credit Union League, told the newspaper 41% of Iowa’s credit union members are baby boomers whose top concerns are current economic conditions and income and health care during retirement. Among Iowa’s 13 largest credit unions--those with assets of more than $100 million--at least half offer some kind of financial planning services. Those services may be someone on staff, a third-party relationship or even a virtual financial planner. The league’s website also offers a Financial Resource Center that takes consumers to a site sponsored by CUNA, which contains information on topics such as insurance, retirement, credit and saving/investing, the article said.

WesCorp directors file response in NCUA amended complaint

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LOS ANGELES (1/26/11)--Former directors of Western Corporate FCU (WesCorp) Monday filed a response arguing that the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) amended complaint in its lawsuit against them "raises nothing new" to the case and fails to meet a key standard set by the court. The directors filed the response Monday to the amended complaint filed earlier this month in NCUA's $6.8 billion lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. In addition to raising "nothing new," the response said, NCUA's amended offer fails to meet the standards for overcoming the business judgment rule articulated by U.S. District Judge George Wu in his temporary decision in December, which favored the directors. That decision dismissed NCUA's complaints of breach of fiduciary duty and gross negligence against the directors as "glaringly absent" from NCUA's allegations. However, it was not final because Wu also allowed NCUA one more chance to amend its complaint and proffer what it would argue, if given the chance to do so (News Now Dec. 28). In the tentative decision, Wu said the directors fall under the Business Judgment Rule in decisions that do not involve fraud or breach of trust. The rule provides directors "broad discretion in making corporate decisions and [allows] these decisions to be made without judicial second-guessing in hindsight," he wrote. NCUA's amended offer, filed Jan. 10, proposed allegations in three categories related to WesCorp's budget and interest-rate spreads; concentration limits and Option Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs); and damages. "None [of the allegations] adds any substance," said the directors' response. "The offer's legal discussion is a (barely) disguised motion for reconsideration that fails to comply with the local rules. It raises nothing new, and the points it makes remain demonstrably wrong," the court document said. "The court has been liberal with the NCUA by giving it this opportunity to make a written offer of proposed allegations. But that policy has its limits," said the directors' response. "It is one thing to treat liberally a private plaintiff who has been forced to plead a claim against corporations or their directors without any access to the corporation's records. But it is another thing to extend the same liberality to a government agency that has controlled WesCorp for the last year and a half, with complete access to all its books and records." The directors are seeking dismissal of the case without leave to amend. The next hearing in the case is Jan. 31.

Fitch withdraws 3 corporate commercial paper ratings

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CHICAGO (1/26/11)--Fitch Ratings has withdrawn the commercial paper ratings of Central Corporate CU (Cencorp), Eastern Corporate FCU (EasCorp) and Southeast Corporate FCU (Southeast). The withdrawal of the commercial paper ratings are due to the elimination, suspension or lack of activity under the corporate credit unions’ respective commercial paper programs (BusinessWire Jan. 24). Although the rating on the commercial paper programs have been withdrawn, Fitch still maintains its short-term Issuer Default Rating of “F1+” on all three institutions. Fitch has withdrawn the following ratings:
* Central Corporate CU, Southfield, Mich.,--Commercial paper “F1+”; * Eastern Corporate FCU, Burlington, Mass.,--Commercial paper “F1+”; and * Southeast Corporate FCU, Tallahassee, Fla.,--Commercial paper “F1+”.
For more information on Fitch Ratings, use the link.

Consumers Union Move money to CU

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MADISON, Wis. (1/26/11)--Two recent articles steered consumers to credit unions for free checking as big banks looked for more ways to add fees. Kirk Kordeleski, CEO of $3.8 billion Bethpage (N.Y.) Credit Union, Bethpage, N.Y., said he expects credit unions to benefit from large banks restricting free checking in an article from ConsumersUnion(via NewsdayJan 25). Kordeleski, who noted credit unions have always offered free checking while banks didn’t until about 10 years ago, said Bethpage CU will aggressively promote its free checking. Consumers were advised to “take the money and run” to a credit union as one way to dodge bank fees in a recent Houston Chronicle article (Jan. 23). The article said credit unions typically offer more favorable terms and a more intimate level of service than big banks.

Guadalupes Rivera wins best member story

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MADISON, Wis. (1/26/11)--Oscar Rivera, who shared his story of becoming a homeowner and small business owner with help from Guadalupe CU in Santa Fe, N.M., is the grand prize winner in the National Credit Union Foundation’s (NCUF) REAL Member Solutions Video Contest. More than 2,700 votes for the five finalists were cast over a two-week period. Rivera, along with one representative from the credit union and state league, won a free trip to Washington, D.C. As guests of NCUF, Rivera will share the stage at a VIP event held prior to the Wegner Awards Dinner, which will be held during the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference, Feb. 27 to March 3. Rivera also will receive a savings account deposit of $500. The members featured in the four remaining videos will each receive a savings account deposit of $250. After a call for entries late last year, NCUF narrowed the field from 30 video entries to 10 of the most compelling examples of credit unions in action. Then an external committee representing credit unions and credit union organizations narrowed the field to five. The four additional finalists were:
* Tamika Anderson, who shared how her spending habits, especially relating to her car and home, got back on track thanks to financial consultations and budgeting help from ELGA CU, Burton, Mich.; * Andrew Gaines, who talked about how Lakeside CU in Milwaukee saved him from buying a home he couldn’t afford; * Robin Pharo, who explained how Summit CU in Madison, Wis., put people before profit and granted her a small business loan; and * Saundra Marie Ramirez, who discussed how SchoolsFirst CU in Santa Ana, Calif., has helped her repeatedly with honest financial advice and support.

CU System briefs (01/24/2011)

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* SAN FRANCISCO (1/25/11)--Patelco CU will move its headquarters this month from San Francisco to Pleasanton, Calif., and expand its staff to reflect a shift in focus to member service and sales, according to the San Francisco Business Times (Jan. 21). The credit union has 24 job openings, mostly for member services at the $3.65 billion asset credit union's 40 branches. During the recession, the credit union halted recruiting and closed several branches. Business is improving, and Patelco plans to increase staff in 2011 … * MIDLAND, Mich. (1/25/11--Dow Chemical Employees CU, based in Midland, Mich., recently returned $5.7 million to its members in the form of rebates and rewards, according to the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor Jan. 24). Members in good standing received a 15% loan interest rebate on their total interest paid on all eligible loans; a 15% Member Saver Reward for a portion of the dividends/interest earned on all share/deposits and a Visa Check Card rebate of 0.125% of all signature-based transactions and one cent per each PIN-based transaction during 2010. DCECU has $1.4 billion in assets … * FORT WORTH, Texas (1/25/11)--American Airlines CU (AA CU) paid a $10 million dividend to members on Dec. 31. The bonus dividend was based on dividends earned on qualifying share accounts and/or interest paid on applicable loans. Savings dividends for the period between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2010, was paid at an annual rate of 4.72%. The additional portion of the bonus dividend was calculated at an annual rate of 4.72% of interest paid Jan. 1-Nov. 30 on applicable loans. AA CU, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has more than $5.2 billion in assets …

Nebraska bill would let CUs offer savings raffles

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OMAHA and LINCOLN, Neb. (1/25/11)--A bill has been introduced in the Nebraska legislature that would enable credit unions in the state to offer savings promotion raffles or lottery as a measure to help boost state consumers' savings. State Sen. Amanda McGill introduced L.B. 524 on Jan. 18. She and the Nebraska Credit Union League intended for the product to boost savings among all Nebraskans, specifically those who are most financially vulnerable. The bill defines "savings promotion raffle" as "a contest conducted by a credit union chartered under state or federal law or any agent or employee thereof in which a chance of winning a designated prize is obtained by the deposit of a specified amount of money in a savings account or other savings program if each entry has an equal chance of winning." This legislation is important because it encourages and incentivizes Nebraskans to save for their future in a way that is not only fun but builds a habit of savings for those who participate, according to League President/CEO Scott Sullivan. McGill said the average American family spends $540 a year on lottery tickets "when they should arguably be saving some of that money in case of an emergency. Savings raffles are a financially safe way to promote savings among Nebraska families while allowing them a chance to win." If the legislation passes, Nebraska would be the third state to offer the savings promotion raffle. Doorways to Doors, a national non-profit specializing in expanding asset-building opportunities for American families, completed a pilot savings promotion raffle in 2009 in Michigan in which state consumers saved more than $8.5 million through the program. Many had no savings account before the promotion. Participating credit unions offered entries for monthly prizes and a large grand prize each time members deposited $25 to the prize-linked savings account. Prizes are taken from the part of the interest that otherwise would have been earned on the savings accounts.

Hit by Katrina CU continues giving back

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MADISON, Wis. (1/25/11)--Often in the credit union community, good works and deeds are not forgotten. The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) recently received a donation of more than $2,300 from a Gulfport, Miss.-credit union, the result of its employees’ ongoing effort to thank the credit union community for help received post-Hurricane Katrina. The donation from Gulf Coast Community FCU to NCUF is the most recent since employees there initiated a payroll deduction plan in 2006 as a way to show their appreciation for support they received from credit union employees across the country in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Including this most recent donation, Gulf Coast Community has raised more than $16,000 for NCUF. “It is incredibly humbling to receive support like this from Gulf Coast Community FCU,” said Bucky Sebastian, NCUF executive director. “Both the support from credit unions after Katrina and Gulf Coast’s kindness make me proud to work in the credit union movement.” “Many of our staff lost their homes during the storm and were incredibly thankful for the outpouring of support,” added Debbie Pidek, executive vice president, communications/chief communications officer at Gulf Coast Community FCU, in a release. “We will be forever grateful for the generosity shown by so many credit union employees through the National Credit Union Foundation.” Soon after Katrina made landfall in 2005, the NCUF activated its Disaster Relief Fund. Donations from the credit union community helped hundreds of credit union employees and volunteers pay for emergency shelter, food, water, and other essentials needed for daily survival. Donations through NCUF also helped credit unions get up and running more quickly. Within days after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, credit unions were able to reopen from makeshift offices and serve members who needed emergency assistance. In less than a year, the credit union community donated more than $3.3 million to the NCUF Disaster Relief Fund--a record for the credit union movement, according to the NCUF.

Supreme Court rules Chase was OK to hike interest rate

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WASHINGTON (1/25/11)--The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that consumers could not proceed with a lawsuit against Chase Bank USA for not providing written notice when it raised credit-card interest rates for cardholders who were late on paying creditors. The unanimous opinion said Chase's actions were consistent with the Federal Reserve Board's Regulation Z stemming from the U.S. Truth in Lending Act when the bank raised plaintiff James A. McCoy's interest rate for delinquency or default without providing written notification (The Wall Street Journal and PaymentsSource Jan. 24). Chase's cardholder agreement stipulated the bank could increase McCoy's interest rates in the event of a default. The federal law at the time the lawsuit was filed in 2006 did not require banks to give such notice for raising cardholders' rates, said the opinion, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The Fed changed the regulation in 2009 and now requires banks to provide advance notice of at least 45 days before making any change in interest rate because of default, even if the default rate was specified already in the original contract. The court, relying on a brief filed by the Fed in the case, said that because the Fed's interpretation is consistent with the regulatory text, "we need look no further in deciding this case." The old version of the rule was not clear on whether bank notification of rate increases was required, said the opinion. The opinion clears up for consumers, credit unions and other financial institutions a split in the interpretation of Regulation Z. Lower courts were split on the issue. Some appeals courts ruled against Chase, prompting the filing of several class-action cases in California against Chase and other banks.

Texas league in Top 20 lobbyists for sixth year

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AUSTIN, Texas (1/25/11)--For the sixth year consecutive year, the Texas Credit Union League was among the top 20 lobbyists in the state--out of 1,200 eligible state trade associations--as rated by the Texas-based Capitol Inside political website. The league was the only financial services group ranked in the top 20 Texas Lobby Power list. At the top of the list are some of the largest political action committees (PACs) in the state. While the league’s PAC is more modest, it is among the top 60 PACs in Texas and has broken fundraising records nationally among credit union state trade associations. Capitol Inside ranks the relative lobby power of different groups in the Texas politics. Using a combination of Texas Ethics Commission records, research, institutional knowledge and conversations with lobbyists, lawmakers, consultants and others within the State Capitol community, the group releases the results each year. With the league’s lobby team of Chief Advocacy Officer Buddy Gill, Vice President of Government Relations Jeff Huffman, and three state contract lobbyists, the TCUL lobby team has more than 75 years of combined direct lobbying experience in Texas.

SECU piloting estate-planning program

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RALEIGH, N.C. (1/25/11)--State Employees’ CU (SECU) in Raleigh, N.C., announced it is offering an Estate Planning Essentials Pilot Program to its member-volunteers. SECU has implemented the program to fill the need for basic estate planning and will preparation. Knowing that many individuals do not have a will, SECU said it hopes the program will encourage members to take an important step. Available in SECU branch locations statewide, the pilot program provides estate planning documents, prepared by participating attorneys, to its nearly 3,000 volunteers serving on local branch advisory boards or SECU’s board of directors. The $21.04 billion-asset credit union said it is piloting the program to volunteers to test the service, because they provide a resource to critique the benefits of all new member offerings. Upon successful completion of the pilot, the program will be made available to all SECU members. The credit union has identified a slate of attorneys who have agreed to prepare estate planning documents at a predetermined price. Each estate planning package will include a will with possible trust provisions, a durable power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney and living will, and a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act authorization. For wills that include trust provisions, SECU Trust Services through MEMBERS Trust Company can be named as the corporate trustee by the member to manage the trust assets and oversee the distributions on behalf of the beneficiaries. “The Estate Planning Essentials Program is intended to cover the estate planning needs of most members whose situation can be addressed in one appointment with an attorney,” said Sara Trexler, senior vice president of SECU’s Trust Services department. “If a situation requires more complex planning, a SECU Trust representative can also make recommendations regarding a specific need. “The credit union’s goal with this program is to assist members in preparing for the future needs of their family and to ensure that their intended plans are defined and documented appropriately,” she added. “Estate planning documents are critical to a solid financial plan.”

Wisconsin league NASCUS welcome new CU regulator

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PEWAUKEE and MADISON, Wis. (1/25/11)--The Wisconsin Credit Union League has congratulated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on the appointment of Ginger Larson as director of the Office of Credit Unions. Larson, who held the director position from 1996 to 2003, most recently was a supervisor in the Office of Credit Unions. She was among the appointees announced Monday by New Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary Peter J. Bildsten. She succeeds Suzanne Cowan. Larson also has seven years' experience as a credit union employee. She was on the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS) board of directors during her previous term as director and served as board secretary/treasurer for several years, said NASCUS. Currently, she is chairman of the NASCUS Audit Committee and a trustee of the organization's educational foundation, the National Institute for State Credit Union Examination (NISCUE), and is a past NISCUE chairman. " With Director Larson as the chief credit union regulator, Wisconsin will have a very experienced and well-qualified leader ensuring the continued strength and safety of the member-owned financial institutions that serve 2.2 million Wisconsin consumers," said league President Brett Thompson. "We pledge to work closely with Director Larson and state examiners from the Office of Credit Unions to maintain the consistently strong performance of credit unions so that they can help individuals, families and small businesses in ways that for-profit institutions typically won't extend themselves," Thompson said. Mary Martha Fortney, NASCUS president/CEO, noted that Larson "is a long-time, active member of NASCUS and the state credit union community. NASCUS and state regulators extend our congratulations and look forward to continuing to work with Ginger as she returns to lead the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions. NASCUS would also like to gratefully acknowledge Sue Cowan, the immediate past Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions Director, for her great contributions to NASCUS as a member, board director and officer.”

CUs campaign aims to support local businesses

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MANITOWOC, Wis. (1/25/11)--Shoreline CU in Two Rivers, Wis., has launched a new campaign that aims to inspire community members to support local businesses. The $105 million asset credit union’s campaign, dubbed “Walk the Walk,” looks to go beyond community members who just “talk the talk” about shopping locally, said Bob Maloney, Shoreline marketing and public relations director (Herald Times Reporter Jan. 21). "If we can boost business, we can keep our downtown places full; it looks good,” he told the newspaper. “This is what keeps our wheels going and that’s the whole point. [Talking about] shopping local is one thing, but actually doing it is another.” As part of the campaign, participants are given a sticker or window cling to put on their vehicles, demonstrating support for local businesses. Participants can win gift certificates to local businesses that take part in the campaign, with a local radio station announcing winning license plate numbers five days per week, the paper said. “Instead of using advertising money to say my money is as green as the bank next door, I’m using advertising money and walking the walk by giving it back to the community and the people who could use it,” Maloney told the paper. “People don’t realize what services these local businesses can offer them, and that’s why we have businesses that fail.” Shoreline CU pays for the gift certificates. So far, the credit union has given out about $15,000 in gift certificates. Participating businesses are asked to donate merchandise valued at $100 or more for a grand prize drawing on April 2. A second phase, which may include a $100,000 cash prize, will begin in June. To read the article, use the link.

Mid-Atlantic FCU up for national public service award

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GERMANTOWN, Md. (1/25/11)--Mid-Atlantic FCU is a local nominee for the Jefferson Awards, a national recognition system honoring community and public service in the U.S. The Jefferson Awards are presented on two levels: national and local. They began in 1972 to create a Nobel Prize for public service. Mid-Atlantic FCU, with $242 million in assets, based in Germantown, Md., has created a separate senior position to oversee its philanthropic activities, and its 60 employees each get eight hours of paid leave per quarter to volunteer in the community (Washington Business Journal Jan. 21). The credit union raised $27,187 in 2009, and more than $32,000 in 2010. The fundraisers included an annual golf tournament that benefits autistic people and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. One initiative is the Mid-Atlantic FCU’s series of free business seminars, known as the Small Business University. The seminars help small businesses raise capital, share ideas and network with other local businesses. About 20 seminars were held in 2010. Last year, credit union employees volunteered to rebuild the house of an elderly woman who had trouble walking. Other initiatives provide assistance on a broader scale. Through Women Who Care Ministries and Interfaith Works, the credit union provides nine different snack items weekly to 35 needy students during the school year.

CUNA to IWalletpopI 80 of CUs offer free checking

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MADISON, Wis. (1/25/11)--As more banks raise fees to bolster their revenue, consumers should look to credit unions for lower charges and fees, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told Walletpop Monday. Roughly 64% of banks offer checking accounts that don’t require a monthly fee, while 80% of credit unions do the same, Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economics and statistics, told the publication. The average amount paid by credit union members for all fees is less than the average amount bank customers pay, Schenk said. “In a given year, the average bank checking customer incurred $183 in total fees,” he added. “For credit union customers, that amount was less than $72.” CUNA research discovered similar disparities when it compared average car-loan rates, Schenk told Walletpop. “We’re not-for-profit and owned by our members, which gives us flexibility to absorb some of these costs and to live in an environment with slightly lower earnings,” Schenk explained. To read the article, use the link. Roughly 85% to 90% of credit unions with $20 million or more in assets that offer checking provide at least one free checking account to their members. Noninterest-bearing accounts are more prevalent than interest-bearing accounts--73% vs. 60%. And 49% of credit unions offer business checking programs, according to CUNA’s Fees Study (Michigan Monitor Jan. 24). With interest-bearing checking offerings, nearly all banks (96%) charge a monthly fee for these accounts, according to May data from RateWatch. It also reported that the median fee charged by banks is $8. Although most credit unions (58%) charge no such fee, the median fee among those that do is $5, which is $3 lower than the bank fee, said the Monitor.

CU System briefs (01/21/2011)

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* WARRENVILLE, Ill. (1/24/11)--Balance Sheet Solutions LLC, an investment brokerage firm, has hired the staff of Financial Solutions Group, a former department in Western Bridge Corporate FCU. The eight individuals, led by David Scott, senior interest rate risk consultant and office manager, will remain in their current San Dimas, Calif., location. "This addition compliments our strategies and services in the balance sheet risk management arena," said Jim Toliver, president. "There is little doubt that the role risk management will play within the credit union industry is sure to grow. The skill sets are a unique niche and the best tools are expensive. With the expertise in complex modeling, both team and tools, this group allows Balance Sheet Solutions to expand our infrastructure and range of ALM services," he added. The San Dimas office currently serves the balance sheet risk management and consulting needs of 150 credit unions … * MACON, Ga. (1/24/11)--Lisa R. Cox, 48, a 17-year employee and former head teller at Macon-based MidSouth FCU, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for embezzling $624,608 from the credit union. She also was ordered to pay more than $600,000 in restitution and serve five years' supervised release after her prison term (Macon.com Jan. 20). Cox pleaded guilty in September in a U.S. District Court to the embezzlement and to falsifying teller drawer and vault records. She used the money to gamble, take vacations in Europe, make car payments and pay other expenses, said authorities … * BANGOR, Maine 1/24/11)--Donovan W. Steen Jr., 20, has been charged in the robbery Jan. 18 of Penobscot County FCU, based in Old Town, Maine (Bangor Daily News Jan. 19). Steen had been arrested on Jan. 7 after his mother reported the theft of about $4,000 in jewelry and a computer, which Steen allegedly sold to pawn shops. The robbery occurred at about 4:25 p.m., just before the credit union closed. Other details were not made available … * GREEN BAY, Wis. (1/24/11)--PCM Employees CU, based in Green Bay, said last week it had made a $534,000 rebate to its members for 2010. The rebate included 7.5% on loan interest paid in 2010 and a 50% bonus dividend on interest earned on all regular share accounts. During the past six years, the credit union has given a combined total of $1.5 million to its members. The $135 million asset credit union serves employees and their families of Paper Converting Machine Co., and about 30 other select employee groups. It has about 7,700 members (Green Bay Press-Gazette Jan. 19) …

Insider fraud more prevalent in FIs says study

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BOSTON (1/24/11)--Forty-three percent of financial firms surveyed say at least 5% of their total fraud losses come from internal fraud, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars collectively, according to a new survey by Aite Group. Fourteen percent said they suffered at least 10% of fraud through internal fraud. On average, institutions surveyed said internal fraud prompted 4% of their fraud losses. The Boston-based firm said the estimates are likely low, since many financial firms are "not keen to discuss the issue." It noted institutions that build their brands on trust and reliability do not want it widely known that insider fraud is a problem. As a result, 35% of the survey respondents reported prosecuting 10% or less of their confirmed internal fraud cases. Aite Group surveyed 35 fraud and product executives at financial institutions across the U.S. and Canada during November and December. Aite recommended that financial institutions use a layered approach of collaborative and analytic fraud mitigation techniques to lessen the risk from internal fraud, which it defined as applying to a variety of criminal behavior perpetrated by a firm's own employees or contractors. Internal fraud generally falls into three categories: theft from customers, theft from the firm, and abuse of position, said the firm. The report mentioned providers of fraud prevention technologies that financial institutions can use to combat internal fraud. ID Analytics, a CUNA Strategic Services provider, was one of the companies mentioned.

Pioneer CU donates 23000 from Packers parking

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (1/24/11)--Pioneer FCU donated more than $23,000 to local non-profit groups in Green Bay by taking advantage of its location near Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. The $445 million asset credit union's main office is a few blocks from the popular, usually sold-out stadium. During the 2010 season, the credit union charged for parking in its parking lot and an adjacent lot. All monies collected during the 10 home games for the season went to area charities (WFRV.com Jan. 21). The charities were chosen by Pioneer employees, who volunteered to attend the lots and collect the money. They included the Boy Scouts of America, The Salvation Army, Humane Society and others. The Packers were in the playoffs this past weekend for the National Football Conference championship against the Chicago Bears. The winner of that match will play in the Super Bowl XLV.

CUs focusing on savings programs

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MADISON, Wis. (1/24/11)--Credit unions are gearing up their 2011 savings programs with contests, tips and the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) savings challenges related to Youth Week. Here are some examples of savings initiatives. First CU in Chandler, Ariz., has launched a new initiative, “Working to Save You a Million,” geared to help members discover ways to save money. It can be tough finding ways to save money in today’s economy, the credit union said. The $400 million-asset First CU is helping members find ways to save money by posting money-saving tips on Facebook and Twitter and educating consumers about refinancing loans through the credit union. Competitive rates and affordable terms can go a long way towards saving money every month and over the life of an auto, boat, recreational vehicle, motorcycle or home loan, First CU said. Redwood Credit Union (RCU) a $1.7 billion-asset credit union in Santa Rosa, Calif., is seeking applicants for its new Amazing Savers Contest, which will follow five contestants as they transform their finances to compete for $10,000. Applicants must be or become an RCU member to participate. The contestants will meet regularly with a personal financial coach from RCU, who will help them create budgets, reduce debt, and transform their finances so that they can save more and improve their financial future. The process will be documented through contestant blogs and online updates, and the community will be encouraged to follow along at home for tips and guidelines to improve their own finances. Followers of the contest also will cast their vote for the contestant they believe has made the most progress. At the end of the year, the contestant who has made the biggest overall improvement in financial outlook will win $10,000. National Credit Union Youth Week, sponsored by CUNA, encourages youth to take the first step toward accumulating savings. By sponsoring the National Youth Saving Challenge, a credit union can generate excitement about setting money aside for personal goals. Although the 2011 National Credit Union Youth Week is officially April 17-23, credit unions can challenge youth savers any time during the month. In an effort to beat the amount that young people saved last year at participating credit unions nationwide--a $24.8 million total--CUNA has made it as easy as possible to take part. Use the links.

State committees appear CU-friendly in Maine

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PORTLAND, Maine (1/24/11)--The Maine Credit Union League said the makeup of the state's key legislative committees that will hear and debate many issues of interest or impacting credit unions appear credit union friendly. "We are pleased to have so many credit union friends serving on our key committees," said league President John Murphy in the league's newsletter, Weekly Update (Jan. 21). "We anticipate that the makeup of the committees we are most often in front of have many members that will be receptive to issues and concerns of credit unions and our members." The chairs of the Insurance and Financial Services (IFS) Committee--Senate Chair Rodney Wittemore and House Chair Wes Richardson--are strong supporters of credit unions, and a committee member, Rep. John Picchiotti, is chair of the board at KSW FCU, Waterville. Also six other members were endorsed by the league in the past election. Six members of the Judiciary Committee were endorsed by the league, including the chairs, Sen. David Hastings III and Rep. Joan Nass. The Transportation Committee contains nine members who received league endorsements, including both chairs, Sen. Ronald Collins and Rep. Richard Cebra. The league noted that in addition to Picchiotti, three other credit union board members are serving in the house. They are:
* Rep. Herb Clark, vice chair at Katahdin FCU, Millinocket, who is the ranking member of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee; * Rep. Michael Lajoie, vice chair at Lewiston Municipal FCU, Lewiston, who serves on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee; and * Rep. Ken Fredette, board member at Sebasticook Valley FCU, Pittsfield, who serves on the Appropriations and Financial Services and Elections Committees.

UVA Communitys grant will expand VITA sites

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (1/24/11)--The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has awarded the University of Virginia Community CU an Innovation Grant of $8,000 to expand the credit union’s role in supporting the earned income tax credit (EITC) in its community. The credit union was one of 11 credit unions across the nation to receive an Innovation Grant from the NCUF. “One of our primary goals as a credit union is to improve the financial well-being of the people who live in the communities we serve,” said Alison DeTuncq, credit union president/CEO. “These days, with household budgets tight, we know that the earned income tax credit can make a real difference. The grant from the NCUF will help us reach more people.” This is the second time that the credit union has been recognized for supporting greater access to the EITC. In 2009, it won first place in the Virginia competition for the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award for ensuring that more eligible taxpayers in the Greater Charlottesville Region received their maximum EITC benefits. The award is sponsored by the Virginia Credit Union League and the Credit Union National Association. As part of the Thomas Jefferson Area EITC Coalition, the credit union co-hosted luncheons and training sessions to involve employers and developed an EITC toolkit that organizations can use to increase awareness of the EITC among their employees and patrons. In 2009, the credit union’s three UVA Community CU branches were designated Internal Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and credit union employees were trained to provide free basis preparation services for individuals. One of their responsibilities was to determine if their clients were eligible for the EITC, which can amount to more than $5,600. The credit union will use the Innovation Grant to add two branches to its VITA network, said Rebecca Cardwell, UVA Community CU director of community relations. “In the process of helping workers retain more of their income, the coalition’s efforts are also aiming to create an economic stimulus of more than $1.5 million for our community,” Cardwell said.

Iowa CUs study co-ops in Germany Poland

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SOPOT, Poland (1/24/11)--With the help of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), two Iowa credit union league officials traveled earlier this month to Sopot, Poland, and several cities in Germany to discuss collaborative efforts and visit cooperative financial institutions. The purpose of the trip by league President/CEO Patrick S. Jury and league Vice Chair Tim Chapman, president/CEO of Members Community CU in Muscatine, was to examine ways in which credit unions in other countries effectively manage resources through collaboration in hopes of finding ways for Iowa’s credit unions to save money while better serving their members.
Iowa Credit Union League Vice Chair Tim Chapman (from left), president/CEO of Members Community CU, Muscatine, and Iowa League President/CEO Patrick S. Jury joined Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Union’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, in visiting cooperative financial systems in Poland and Germany in search of greater collaborative operational techniques. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Polish credit unions take a collaborative and integrated approach to service. The institutions operate under a uniform brand and use system-wide operations and management capabilities to serve Poland’s 2.2 million credit union members more efficiently. Several Iowa credit union officials would like to see similar economies of scale at work in their state, said WOCCU. “Credit union income is under significant pressure due to corporate stabilization needs and anticipated reductions in debit interchange income,” Jury said. “We want to help Iowa’s credit unions achieve greater economies of scale through collaborative efforts and make sure these initiatives add value for the credit union member.” Poland’s SKOK credit union system works under one unified brand for all of the country’s 62 credit unions and their 1,837 branches. All credit unions belong to the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU), headquartered in Sopot and WOCCU’s member in Poland. NACSCU provides the brand identity and system-wide marketing and investment services. It also provides a framework for products, but credit unions set their own pricing, an arrangement that enables them to operate more competitively, said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Outsourcing services through these companies reduces costs for all credit unions and allows small credit unions to implement programs they otherwise could not afford to,” said Branch, who accompanied Jury and Chapman on the tour. “These include uniform credit analyses, standardized product development with pricing appropriate credit unions, common branch-office design and standardized marketing initiatives.” The SKOK system owns several companies that provide economies of scale in serving credit unions, Branch said. The companies provide expertise in supervision, insurance, investment funds management, publishing, accounting software, training, financial education and arbitration available to all NACSCU members. The SKOK network electronic payments system (HSO) supports 848 ATMs, includes two mobile ATMs and has 1,100 POS devices. HSO provides credit union software, telecommunications card services and electronic settlement and payment services, allowing credit unions of all sizes to offer call center services, internet banking and credit scoring system. It also provides association centralized collections, offers remittances and is a member of Visa, Branch added. In 2010, a pilot group of nine credit unions representing 50% of the system’s assets integrated under the Stefczyk credit union banner to share management services through a limited partnership joint stock company, TZ SKOK. The participating credit unions united around a common commitment to compete aggressively with Poland's banks. The group is led by Stefczyk credit union, which has 759,000 members served by 369 branches and 2,200 employees. Stefczyk's US$1.9 billion dollars in assets constitute 29% of the assets of the entire the Polish credit union system. “The Stefczyk group is an interesting idea that I would like to explore more fully with Iowa’s credit unions,” Jury said. “We have 135 credit unions in Iowa, all but one of which are state-chartered. We’re a close-knit credit union community with long-standing leadership, and we believe there are great opportunities to work together.” The group also met with leadership from the National Association of German Cooperative Banks, the International Raiffeisen Union and other German financial cooperatives. The maturity of the German system yielded additional ideas to those learned in Poland, which launched its modern credit union movement in 1992. Visits to both countries’ systems opened participants’ eyes to possibilities, according to Branch. “There is a great deal of interest among U.S. credit unions to control costs and improve efficiencies,” said Branch. “Many economies can be achieved through collaborative effort, and cooperative systems in other countries offer models of how to do that.”

N.J. League gives CUs 10 dues rebate

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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (1/24/11)--In recognition of the difficult economic and operating environment facing credit unions, the New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) has enacted a one-time 10% dues rebate for 2011. “With continued National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) assessments and a challenging economy, we want to assist our members in any way we can. We already do that through advocacy and high-quality association services, but this year we are also offering a 10% across the board NJCUL dues rebate," said NJCUL President/CEO Paul Gentile (Daily Exchange Jan.21). The NJCUL will continue to seek ways to assist members throughout 2011 and will also continue to press the NCUA to reconsider its 12% budget increase while using the tools at its disposal to lessen the corporate assessments. “The 20- to 25-basis point estimate for 2011 is just too high, based on the estimated losses and the time period the agency has to work with,” Gentile of the NCUA assessments. League members have the option to forego the dues rebate and pledge their rebate to the league’s advertising cooperative program that fuels its “Banking You Can Trust” statewide credit union awareness program, the league said.

WOCCU opens registration for Glasgow conference

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MADISON, Wis. (1/24/11)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) will convene this year’s annual global gathering of credit union professionals and volunteers in Scotland. It’s time to register for the event.
World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) will convene this year’s annual global gathering of credit union professionals and volunteers in Scotland. The historic Klevingrove Art Gallery & Museum will host the 2011 WOCCU Supporters reception at the conference.
WOCCU has opened online registration for the 2011 World Credit Union Conference, which convenes in Glasgow, Scotland, July 24-27. As the only global credit union gathering, this year’s conference is expected to attract as many as 2,000 attendees from more than 50 countries. WOCCU is encouraging credit unions to register online and secure their hotel accommodations. Hotel and tour space are limited and the $100 early bird discount for registration ends May 29. The conference is being held in cooperation with the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd. Its agenda features keynote speakers and educational breakout sessions focusing on four tracks:
* Moving from Philosophy to Service; * Defining Leadership and Strategy: * Developing Credit Union Movements; and * Raising Financial and Operational Standards.
A roster of speakers will provide insights into multiple strategic credit union and business topics. Planned sessions include:
* Peter Tufano, the Peter Moores Dean and Professor of Finance, University of Oxford Saïd Business School, who will help credit unions identify the gaps in financial services today; and * An executive dialogue on the role of giving back to constituents while moving the enterprise forward that includes: Peter Marks, group chief executive for United Kingdom retail giant The Co-operative Group; Tamara Vrooman, CEO for VanCity, the largest credit union in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; and Jeff Post, CEO of CUNA Mutual Group.
Networking opportunities include the annual meeting of the Global Women’s Leadership Forum, which brings together women credit union CEOs and executive leaders from around the world for educational and networking sessions. Donors who support the network at the $250 level or above are invited to a special networking reception July 23 before the conference begins. The leadership forum, open to network members, starts with the donor reception and runs all day July 24, prior to the official conference opening ceremony. The network also benefits from the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions’ golf tournament on July 28, one day after the conference closes. The tournament, open to men and women and not limited to network members, raises funds that are used in credit union development work worldwide.
The iconic River Clyde bridge is one of Glasgow, Scotland’s most recognizable landmarks. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Other conference highlights include WOCCU’s Young Credit Union People Program for attendees under the age of 35. The program offers special conference educational and networking events for young credit unions professionals and the opportunity to compete for one of five scholarships to attend WOCCU’s 2012 World Credit Union Conference in Gdansk, Poland. Glasgow and its surrounding area offer attendees and their companions’ activities, sights and culture to experience. The Scottish highlands combine with sites of historic importance to reveal a country steeped in tradition, but with a forward-thinking, progressive edge. For those who want to come early and stay late, WOCCU is arranging what Scotland has to offer through pre- and post-conference tours, as well as optional day tours. For more information about any of these events, use the links.

MCUA revamps senior management titles

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ST. LOUIS (1/24/11)--The Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) has revamped the titles of its senior management team to better reflect each executive’s responsibilities and focus on Missouri credit unions. Chief Financial and Services Officer Kevin Brueseke, Chief Membership Officer Don Cohenour and Chief Advocacy Officer Peggy Nalls work with President/CEO Michael Beall to help bring services and products to Missouri credit unions (The Missouri difference Jan. 21) Brueseke oversees finance and accounting, business partnerships, product development, information technology and credit union partnership (CUP) products, including the Shared Branching and League Item Processing Center. Brueseke joined Missouri Corporate Credit Union in 1985 and has held numerous positions within the MCUA during his 25-year tenure. He is based in the MCUA’s St. Louis office.

Cohenour joined MCUA in 1994 after serving as a credit union volunteer, vice president consultant and president. He is based in the Kansas City office. Cohenour’s responsibilities include managing MCUA’s field representatives, credit union staff and volunteer development, consulting services, regulatory compliance, education and training, and product and service sales.

Nalls oversees MCUA’s state and federal advocacy efforts and communications. After a career in radio news and hotel management, Nalls served as a credit union marketing manager before joining MCUA in 1993. She has worked in and supervised a variety of areas at MCUA, including marketing, education and training, compliance, and public relations. Nalls is based in the Jefferson City office and is a credit union development educator.

UK prime minister MPs state commitment to CUs

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LONDON (1/24/11)--United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron and several members of Parliament stated the government's commitment to supporting the credit union sector, according to the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd. (ABCUL).
United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron reiterates government policy supporting credit unions. (Photo provided by ABCUL News)
Cameron took the opportunity during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions event to express support for credit unions in response to a question from Tom Blenkinsop, MP, about the government's policy on illegal money lending. Cameron replied, "I think there is unity across the House that we should try to encourage credit unions and try to get people out of the hands of loan sharks. That is our policy and that is what we want to do…" Also in a Commons debate called by Sheila Gilmore, MP, centering on the provision of basic bank accounts in Scotland, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban, MP, stated the government's support for credit union services to be made available through the Post Office. Hoban said Gilmore "also asked about support for credit unions and post offices working together. There has been much discussion about that in recent months, and there is already a lot of cooperation between post offices and credit unions. For example, credit union current account holders can access their accounts through the Post Office, and more thought is being applied to that area." ABCUL Chief Executive Mark Lyonette said, "We are delighted to see David Cameron underline the government's commitment to supporting credit unions in Prime Minister's Questions. To do so on such a high-profile platform is an excellent endorsement to the fantastic contribution credit unions are making to the financial inclusion agenda. "Assisting the victims of loan sharks, though, is only one area of credit unions' role," Lyonette continued. "As Mark Hoban rightly points out, there is a role for credit unions in the provision of current account services, a role in developing the Post Office's financial services offering and a role in generally providing competition and choice in banking, which drives up standards and increases the stability of the financial system," he said. "A growing, strong credit union sector is in the interests of everyone and to see the government commit to this is a very welcome recognition," he concluded.

Maine CEO notes foreclosure issues for governor

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PORTLAND, Maine (1/24/11)--The Maine Credit Union League applauded a credit union CEO for telling Gov. Paul Lepage's administration about the impact that foreclosure regulation is having on credit unions. Rhonda Taylor, president/CEO of the Maine Highlands FCU, a $77 million asset credit union based in Dexter, highlighted the issue during the governor's Red Tape Removal Audit held in Dover-Foxcroft. The governor's representative at the meeting was George Gervais of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the league's newsletter, Weekly Update (Jan. 21). Taylor spoke about the state's new mediation process that extends foreclosures for consumers by at least two months. She said consumers can live in their homes for 12 to 14 months without making payments, during which time some destroy the buildings. "I have pictures that I can show you that would blow your mind," Taylor told Gervais. "One property that was taken back recently had four windows left because the consumers had taken the others, plus the doors and the furnace." Some consumers never need mediation, yet the lending facility must mediation fees, which cannot be recouped, and those costs must be passed on to other consumers, she said. League President John Murphy applauded Taylor for highlighting the issue at the event. "We raised the same issue during each of our regional Breakfast with Legislators events in December so awareness of this issue is building," he said, adding, "We will continue to discuss solutions with legislators and other officials."

Mortgages balance disclosures top complaints in Fla.

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MIAMI (1/21/11)--The No. 1 and No. 2 complaints made to Florida regulators by the state's consumers about their financial institutions last year were about mortgages and account balance disclosures, according to an analysis released Monday. The analysis, by Miami economist and bank consultant Ken Thomas of K.H. Thomas Associates LLC, indicated mortgages accounted for 30% of the 1,379 complaints filed last year. Account balance disclosures received 21% of the complaints. Many complaints about account balance disclosures related to new fees that consumers hadn't expected. Both categories had greater concentration of complaints than the previous year, said Thomas' report (South Florida Sun-Sentinel and The Miami Herald Jan. 18). The number of complaints for 2010 was down from the 1,840 filed in 2009, but up from 992 complaints consumers filed in 2008. Thomas based his analysis on three years' data from the Florida Division of Financial Institutions (DFI), which regulates both credit unions and banks. He focused on financial institutions with a high number of complaints compared with their market share. Bank of America, which has 18.2% of the market share, had 227 complaints or 16.5% of the complaints filed last year. JPMorgan Chase Bank, which has only 2.6% of market share in Florida, was the target of 119.6 or 8.6% of the complaints. Complaints about B of A have risen in each of the past two years, while the total number of bank complaints fell 25% from the year before. In 2009, B of A was the subject of 12% of the complaints filed. As for Chase, Thomas noted that analysis does not include complaints made about Chase affiliates, such as credit card operations. The data analyzed was only for the bank. Merger growing pains and the conversion of data systems produced one unusual finding: A credit union made the Top 10 complaints list this year. The credit union acquired a failed credit union in 2009, a move that doubled its membership size. The complaints came during a conversion of the two credit unions' systems that affected more than half its members. Since then, the credit union said it is already down in complaints to what is considered normal levels (South Florida Sun Sentinel Jan. 19). Others in the top 10 included Sun Trust Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, Regions Bank, Wachovia Bank, Saxon Mortgage Services, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and "unspecified."

Corporate America LaCorp to explore merger

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IRONDALE, Ala., and METAIRIE, La. (1/21/11)--The Boards of Directors of Corporate America CU and Louisiana Corporate CU (LaCorp) have signed a letter of intent to pursue a merger of the corporates, pending completion of due diligence and regulatory approval. If approved, the result will be a $3.9 billion Corporate America CU, with headquarters in Irondale, Ala. The combined corporate will serve 514 member credit unions in 26 states. Plans call for Louisiana member services and potentially credit union service organization (CUSO) operations to be housed in LaCorp's Metairie, La., facility. Corporate America President/CEO Thomas Bonds will serve as president/CEO of the combined organization. LaCorp's staff will remain in place and continue to serve credit unions in Louisiana. The merger "will benefit both Louisiana and Corporate America members," said Bonds. "This business combination is a natural fit as our memberships are similar, and our product and service offerings will benefit our combined membership going forward." According to LaCorp President/CEO David Savoie, credit unions that currently are members of LaCorp would be asked to convert their existing membership capital shares (MCA) and paid-in-capital (PIC) to perpetual contributed capital (PCC), which will be required by the revised National Credit Union Administration corporate regulation, Part 704. No additional capital investment would be required from these members. Credit unions that are associate members of LaCorp could retain membership in the combined organization by purchasing PCC in a competitive contribution amount with a competitive yield. The two corporates' mutual desire to provide high-quality member service, proximity of their organizations and shared knowledge of the regional market make merging a logical next step--one that carries significant benefits to credit unions, Savoie said. "I believe there is a tremendous advantage in combining our corporates because we would be able to handle both the correspondent and credit needs of any-sized credit union at the same institution," Savoie added. "Unlike some of the CUSO/bank partnership ideas now being floated, our members would not need to rely on banks for their credit or payment processing needs." The corporates are in the information gathering and due diligence phase. Both agree they will proceed with the merger only if there is a sound business case for it. They have discussed the possible merger with their regulators and are staying in close contact with both federal and state agencies, they said. Ensuring continued high-quality member service is the No. 1 priority for both LaCorp and Corporate America, Savoie said. "For us to move forward, the analysis must indicate that members will benefit in all significant areas--product offerings, pricing, convenience, cost-effective operations and member service," he said. "We already have a strong working relationship--in many ways, David and I share a similar credit union background. That's a definite plus," said Bonds.

Former CU extends deadline for community offering

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WAYCROSS, Ga. (1/21/11)--Atlantic Coast Financial Corp., the proposed holding company for Atlantic Coast Bank, a former credit union, will extend its community offering connected to its reorganization from a two-tier mutual holding company to a stock holding company structure to Jan. 27. The closing of the offering remains subject to final regulatory approval and the company must sell a minimum of 1.7 million shares at $10 per share to consummate the offering. Atlantic Coast Federal Corp. is the current holding company for the bank, a federally chartered and insured stock savings bank that was organized in 1939 as a credit union to serve the employees of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. In November 2000, Atlantic Coast FCU converted its charter from a federal credit union to a federal mutual savings association and, in January 2003, Atlantic Coast Federal Corp. was formed as the holding company. The company completed its initial public stock offering in October 2004. Atlantic Coast Bank, with about $893 million in assets, is a community financial institution serving southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida with 12 branches.

Former Treasury official Barr named Filene Research Fellow

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MADISON, Wis. (1/21/11)--Former U.S. Treasury official Michael S. Barr is the newest Filene Research Fellow, announced the Filene Research Institute Thursday. Barr, now a professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, was formerly Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions at the U.S. Treasury Department. He joins a panel of researchers and academics that creates a formal link between the Filene Research Institute and top thought leaders in the consumer finance world. "I'm excited to join the top-notch Research Fellows and contribute to the work of Filene in understanding the financial services needs of American households and businesses," he said. Barr currently teaches financial regulation and international finance, and is co-founder of the International Transactions Clinic. In 2009 and 2010, while he was at the Treasury, he was a key architect of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) worked closely with Barr while he was at the Treasury on various issues such as small business lending. He spoke at the CUNA 2010 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., telling attendees that credit unions are an essential part of the "fabric" of communities throughout the country and that the Treasury would work with them to expand their small business lending activity (News Now Feb. 24, 2010). Barr also said the Treasury and the National Credit Union Administration had a strong relationship, working together to resolve issues affecting credit union legacy assets. "Acting Professor Barr is a testament to both the value and the potential of credit unions in today's marketplace," said Mark Meyer, CEO of the Filene Research Institute. "His academic work and his intimate knowledge of the currents of financial regulation will help Filene continue to publish essential research and experiment with new, innovative models to deliver consumer financial services." Barr conducts large-scale empirical research regarding financial services and writes about issues in financial regulation. He also is author of Building Inclusive Financial Systems and Insufficient Funds. He also has served as Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin's special assistant, as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury, as special advisor to President Bill Clinton, and as special advisor and counselor on the policy planning staff at the State Department. Other Filene Research Fellows include:
* Robert Litan, vice president for research and policy at Kauffman Foundation; * Annamaria Lusardi, professor of economics and director, Financial Literacy Center, Dartmouth College; * Eldar Shafir, William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University; * Dorian Stone, partner, McKinsey and Company; * Peter Tufano, Sylvan C. Coleman Professor of Financial Management, Harvard Business School, and incoming dean of Said Business School, University of Oxford; and * James A. Wilcox, J.J. and M.B. Lowrey Professor of Financial Institutions, University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

Security Service FCU hits 6B in assets

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SAN ANTONIO (1/21/11)--Security Service FCU has reached $6 billion in assets and more than 800,000 members. Officials at Security Service FCU attributed its growth to excellent member service, affordable products and services and convenient service delivery channels. “The credit for our success goes to our members and employees,” said David Reynolds, president/CEO. “The trust and loyalty of our members and the service our employees provide them have played a key role in Security Service becoming a recognized leader in the credit union industry.” Security Service FCU is the largest credit union in San Antonio, the largest in Texas, and the eighth largest in the U.S.

Oakland elected NCUF chairman Garcia vice chairman

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MADISON, Wis. (1/21/11)--The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) Board of Directors has unanimously elected Gary Oakland, president/CEO of BECU in Seattle, as its new chairman. Laida Garcia, president/CEO of floridacentral CU, Tampa, was elected vice chairman. The elections took place during NCUF's 2011 annual meeting Wednesday in Tampa. Oakland succeeds Allan Kemp McMorris, president/CEO of Oakland County CU, Waterford, Mich., as chairman. McMorris stepped down after three years but will remain on the board, said NCUF. Other officers elected are: secretary, Danielle Brown, senior vice president, operations at Northwest Credit Union Association, and treasurer, John Radebaugh, president/CEO of the North Carolina Credit Union League. Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association, is board president. New board members elected are: Rudy Hanley, president/CEO, SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif., and recipient of the 2011 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement, and Pete Pritts, president/CEO, First Corporate CU, Phoenix. Other board members include:
* John Gregoire, president, The ProCon Group, Madison, Wis.; * Stan Hollen, president/CEO, CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; * Sandy Lingerfelt, president/CEO, Clinchfield FCU, Erwin, Tenn.; * Paul Mercer, president, Ohio Credit Union League; * Christopher Roe, senior vice president, corporate and legislative affairs, CUNA Mutual Group, Madison, Wis.; and * Mark Twisdale, senior vice president, human resources, State Employees' CU, Raleigh, N.C.

Invest in America CUNA Mutual partnership announced

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LIVONIA, Mich. (1/21/11)--CUNA Mutual is the newest partnership in CU Solutions Group’s Invest in America program, bringing discounts on home and auto insurance to credit union members. The centerpiece of the partnership is CUNA Mutual’s MEMBERS Auto & Homeowners Insurance program. “We see a natural synergy between Invest in America’s auto partnerships and CUNA Mutual’s auto insurance offerings,” said David Adams, president of CU Solutions Group, a Michigan-based marketing, technology and human resources company. The more than 2,700 credit unions participating in Invest in America will be able to offer the benefit to members. They include more than 1,400 that already endorse CUNA Mutual’s MEMBERS Auto & Homeowners Insurance. According to the March 2009 comScore Auto Insurance Report, almost 63% of auto insurance buyers get an online quote before purchasing a policy, noted Lois Zajac, director of product management at CUNA Mutual. “The partnership with Invest in America and CU Solutions Group will help credit unions reach and build stronger relationships with these members,” Zajac said. Credit union members can get quotes directly through Invest in America’s www.LoveMyCreditUnion.org website. Credit unions can use no-cost marketing materials (including banner ads and newsletter articles) from CU Solutions Group. Any credit union member can take advantage of the program. Credit unions that currently offer MEMBERS Auto & Homeowners Insurance do not have to take any action to participate. Invest in America, which began with a General Motors discount in December 2008, has provided discounts to members on more than 317,000 vehicles and brought more than 213,000 auto loans to credit unions. Forty-six states participate in the program.

CU System briefs (01/20/2011)

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* LAUREL, Md. (1/21/11)--Tower FCU staff joined U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin
(D-Md.) and other members of the Fort Meade Alliance to celebrate the grand opening of the Warrior in Transition Soldier and Family Assistance Center in Fort Meade, Md. The new center provides assistance for injured soldiers and their families. Tower's sponsorship helped equip the facility with furniture, computers, kitchen appliances, and books and games for the children's room. From left are Cyndy Scott, Tower FCU vice president of marketing; Cardin; and Patricia Wagaman, Tower's advertising and public relations manager. (Photo provided by John Keith) … * ABERDEEN, Md. (1/21/11)--Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU (APGFCU)
presented its 90,000th member, Jordan Hunton, with a certificate and a $90 Visa Gift card when he became the 90,000th person to open an account. APGFCU said its membership grew 5.33% in 2010 over 2009. As of June, the credit union ranked No. 1 in deposit market share among financial institutions in Harford County, Md., with deposits of $702 million. From left are Hunton and Brannon Dagilas, APGFCU's Amyclae Branch manager. (Photo provided by Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU) …

Ohio CUs add 34000 members in 2010

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/21/11)--For a seventh consecutive quarter, Ohio credit unions recorded gains in membership—they added 34,547 members in the 12 months between September 2009 to September 2010, according to the latest Ohio Credit Union Quarterly Performance Summary. The 1.3% increase during the 12-month stretch nearly triples the rate at which credit unions across the country added new members (0.48%) during the same time. Analysts attribute the growth to the continuing consumer shift from investing long-term to addressing immediate financial concerns. Like its neighbor state, Michigan, where credit unions have also experienced strong growth, Ohio’s overall economy has struggled mightily in the past decade, Dave Fearing, senior vice president of credit union support for the Ohio Credit Union League, told News Now. In the aftermath of the Wall Street crisis, where big banks were equated with higher risk, consumers may be seeking the local flavor of credit unions, he said. “The recent trend has been for consumers to consolidate, pay off debt, and focus on savings growth rather than incurring additional debt,” said Fearing. “As a result, credit unions have seen an increase in deposits as consumers look to gain the most out of their money through credit unions, which traditionally offer a higher rate of return. Consumers are also attracted to credit unions’ lower rates on credit cards and consumer loans, which helps them to pay off debt quicker.” Fearing’s analysis is supported by the Quarterly Performance Summary, which shows share balances at Ohio credit unions topping $18.1 billion in September 2010, an increase of 6.2% from September 2009. Money market balances grew the fastest, rising 16.8%. Share deposits saw the largest dollar increase, adding $1.1 billion Also, the average member relationship, or the total dollar amount of loan balances and deposits per member, increased 2.1% from $11,112 in 2009 to $11,346 in 2010. Member business lending continued to be the fastest-growing loan category among Ohio’s credit unions. As of September, 95 of Ohio’s 390 credit unions reported outstanding business loan balances, an increase of 22.6% over the previous September. Member business loan balances increased from $383 million from $333 million during the 12 months, a 15% increase, outpacing the national credit union average. Loan activity also increased among Ohio credit unions in the second half of 2010. In the third quarter alone, credit unions originated more than $1.4 billion in new loans, up 18.4% from activity in the second quarter. The largest driver of the increase was a 58.6% jump in quarterly first mortgage originations, driving the September 2010 total loan portfolio up 1.3% from June 2010. While balances are up on a quarterly basis, annual loan growth has turned negative. Balances are down 1.5% at credit unions nationally, while credit unions in Ohio saw their loan portfolio contract 0.36% during the 12-month stretch. The driver of the decline in balances is the auto loan market, said the league. While Ohio credit unions have historically reported above-average auto loan growth, and have avoided declining trends nationally, auto loan balances fell 2 % during the year. Used-auto loans increased 5.1%, while new-auto loans decreased 11.7%. Credit card balances grew 6.58% at Ohio credit unions during the 12-months, nearly doubling September 2009’s growth rate of 3.5%. Ohio credit union economic indicators remain positive overall, with capital levels at 11.7% on average, which is higher than Ohio banks and thrifts, and credit unions and banks nationally. Asset quality in Ohio remains strong, as the delinquency rate fell slightly to 1.34% in September 2010 from 1.37% the same month the year before.

Garden Savings ice fishers on YouTube

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Flexing their acting muscles to spread the word about Garden Savings FCU in the credit union's latest YouTube commercial are, from left, Robert Anselmo, vice president, retail sales and service; Daniel Czerniawski, assistant vice president of lending; and Mike Powers, assistant vice president, marketing and business development. (Photo provided by the New Jersey Credit Union League)
NEWARK, N.J. (1/21/11)--Parsippany, N.J.-based Garden Savings FCU has posted a new commercial to its YouTube channel, according to the New Jersey Credit Union League (The Daily Exchange Jan. 20). "Ice Fishing" features Robert Anselmo, vice president, retail sales and service, and Mike Powers, assistant vice president, marketing and business development, as ice fishermen waiting for a bite. While making conversation on the ice, Anselmo asks what a credit union does. Power answers, while holding a Credit Union Membership Information Packet, "They offer great rates on mortgages and car loans. They even have a checking account that refunds me my ATM fees every month, no matter whose ATM I use." So what's the difference between Garden Savings and a bank? "It's just better," shouts Assistant Vice President of Lending Daniel Czerniawski, who makes a brief cameo as he runs on the screen. The video is the most recent in a line of commercials starring the three staffers. Other commercials focus on Garden Savings' auto loans, employee benefits, free checking and other services. To view the Ice Fishing commercial and other videos from the $190 million asset credit union, use the link.

Some CUs start year with mergers

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MADISON, Wis. (1/20/11)--Credit unions nationwide continue to pool resources, with several starting the new year with mergers or merger proposals. The boards of Affinity Group CU in Pontiac, Mich., and Kensington Valley Community CU (KVCCU) in Highland, Mich., announced a merger of the two credit unions. State regulators have approved the merger and Kensington Valley members voted to create the partnership. Using the Affinity business model will allow Kensington Valley Community to continue to market the KVC brand as a part of Affinity Group CU (Michigan Monitor Jan. 17). “Our board took a serious look at the long-term prospects for our credit union and what it could offer to our members and our employees. Affinity Group was clearly the best option,” said Joseph E. Strauss, KVCCU president/CEO. The combined credit union will have assets of $134 million, 5 branches, and more than 20,000 members, the majority of whom live in southeast Michigan. Other recent mergers include:
* Members of Elgin City Employees CU, Elgin, Ill., have approved a merger with Credit Union 1 in Rantoul, Ill. (couuriernews.suntimes.com.com Jan. 19). Elgin City Employees CU has $14 million in Assets, and Credit Union 1 has $650 million in assets. * Mainstreet CU, a $259.2 million-asset credit union, based in Lenexa, Kan., completed a merger, effective Jan. 3 with Wyandotte CU, a $13 million asset Kansas City credit union. The merger is the fourth one that Mainstreet has completed in past two years. It previously merged with Free State CU, Lawrence, Kan.; Leavenworth (Kan.) Teachers’ and Community CU; and Faith Financial FCU, North Kansas City (Kansas City Business Journal Jan. 11). * Yakima (Wash.) Valley CU and Catholic CU, Yakima, agreed to a merger that is expected to be completed by June 30, at which time the new credit union name will be announced (Puget Sound Business Journal Jan. 12). The merged entity will have $460 million in assets, 50,000 members and eight branches. * The $151 million-asset Valley FCU of Montana in Billings will acquire Cody (Wyo.) Schools FCU (Billings Gazette Dec. 26). The two credit unions will run parallel operations until February or March when the transition will be completed. * Eastman CU, a $2.2 billion asset institution, based in Kingsport, Tenn., will acquire the $11 million-asset Holston Valley CU “on a tentative spring timeline, ” Gary Tucker, Eastman senior vice president government /public relations, told News Now. * Ascend FCU, Tullahoma, Tenn., a 1.35 billion asset credit union acquired $3 million-asset Co-Op Employee CU, LaVergne, Tenn., Dec. 4., the credit union told News Now. * Affinity Plus FCU, a $1.28 billion asset credit union in Saint Paul, Minn., had a pending acquisition approved of Como Northtown Community FCU, the credit union told News Now.

Kroll launches new MBS bond rater

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NEW YORK (1/20/11)--Jules Kroll has created Kroll Bond Ratings Agency Inc.--a new competitor for the Big Three credit rating firms of Standard &Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings. Kroll created the new firm in in 2004. The company has provided financial strength ratings to banks and credit unions and others through a boutique ratings company called LACE Financial--which it acquired in August. Wednesday was the first day it began rating individual securities through Kroll Bond Ratings (Dow Jones Newswires Jan. 19). Then new agency promises a more forensic approach to assessing risks of mortgage-backed securities and other structured -finance transactions, Dow Jones said. The exiting rating agencies avoid doing due diligence, Kroll, 69, said to Dow Jones, referring to the three better-known rivals: Standard & Poor’s, a unit of the McGraw Hill Cos.; Moody’s Investors Service (MCO); and Fitch Ratings, a subsidiary of Fimalac SA of France. The new firm has hired 30 people and plans to add 20 more, eventually expanding outside the U.S., starting with London and either Hong Kong or Singapore, Dow Jones said.

Resource One CU loans thriving

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (1/20/11)--Some financial institutions are struggling with loan losses, but one Texas credit union is working overtime to keep up with the loan demand. The $309 million-asset Resource One CU, Dallas, said its loan demand has increased, eclipsing a goal of netting consumer loans by $1 million in one month. Its success is due to several simple solutions and incentives. “One of the more successful methods of increasing loan activity has been through basic promotion in our branches and in mailings to our members,” Mike Roark, chief lending officer of the credit union, told the Texas Credit Union League Lone Star Leaguer Jan. 13). “We found a lot of positive feedback in our reinforcement of a campaign that alerted visitors, ‘If your car isn’t financed with Resource One, you’re probably losing money.’” One way Resource One CU keeps its loan activity thriving--and its membership happy--is by offering its members options to assist in loan maintenance, such as its successful skip-a-payment program. Borrowers are offered the opportunity to skip a payment for their loans up to twice a year or five times total for the duration of the loan, said Roark. “By allowing that flexibility with the member and ensuring them that the credit union understands there are going to be unexpected occurrences in life, our members in turn reflect their positive experience and membership through their continued account activity and even by recommending our institution to their friends and family who may not currently be members,” he added. Another loan option designed for special credit needs, the Credit Builder Loan, has been so popular that it’s being offered to other members who may not have previously qualified. Under this program, the credit union advances the proceeds of the loan into a savings account and then puts that amount on hold until the members pays the loan. “This helps establish a pay history for our members,” Roark said, “and it turns out this type of loan has been beneficial for every type of member, regardless of class or background.” However Roark also credits the hardworking staff at the credit union’s branches. “It’s customary for our managers to visit tellers within their branches on a periodic basis and ask them how many loan referrals they have recently made,” Roark told the league. “It reinforces the importance of putting the member first in their needs, though we also experienced a significant increase in activity when we ran a promotion offering $5 for every application the teller would send the lending department, regardless of whether it was approved or not.” When it comes to the future of keeping its loan programs on the rise, Resource One CU has its focus on offering members more. “Don’t be afraid of a little delinquency,” Roark advised. “Offer more loan opportunities for every type of member and remember that the extra effort and time your employees put in is worth every incentive.”

Small CU roundtable to meet at GAC

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MADISON, Wis. (1/20/11)--Small credit unions will have the opportunity to discuss critical issues during a free, half-day Roundtable meeting at the beginning of the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) 2011 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). The first-ever CUNA Small Credit Union Roundtable will convene from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET on Sunday Feb. 27, the first day of the GAC, with three panels focusing on key small credit union issues, said Frank Michael, CEO, Allied Credit Union (Stockton CA) and Chair of CUNA's Small Credit Union Committee. CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney will address the group during the course of the Roundtable discussion. The panels will include the views of research experts, service providers and small credit union professionals as well as open forum discussion among attendees. The panels include:
* The Collaboration and Cooperation Roundtable panel, including George Hoffheimer, chief research officer at the Filene Research Institute and Lucy Ito, senior vice president of credit union growth/development at the California and Nevada Credit Union League. They will be joined by several credit union managers and will facilitate discussion of collaborative efforts aimed at reducing redundancies and gaining efficiencies. The dialogue is likely to include examples of credit unions collaborating with one another, as well as collaborations and cooperation between credit unions and non-credit union entities such as cooperatives and community groups. * The Regulatory Compliance panel, featuring Kathy Thompson, CUNA senior vice president and associate general counsel for compliance and legislative analysis; Jennifer Simmons, interim league president of the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association; and Joetta Heck, credit union compliance expert and CEO of Kemba Charleston FCU, Charleston, W.Va. They will facilitate discussion of issues such as the compliance burden and what might be done to alleviate that burden, reducing compliance costs, and identifying and using compliance resources. * The Open Forum, including Jamie Chase, principal and instigator of goodness at CU Strategic Planning, and Bob Hoel, senior scholar at the Filene Research Institute and professor emeritus of business at Colorado State University, Fort. Collins, Colo. The Open Forum will address a variety of issues brought up by Roundtable participants, such as succession planning, strategic planning, grant writing, compensation issues and corporate stabilization.
Other panelists will be announced later. The event, sponsored by CUNA Mutual Group, will be recorded and placed on CUNA's website after the conference. So far, 150 people have registered for the free Roundtable and CUNA has moved the meeting to a larger room to accommodate additional registrants, Michael told News Now. Small credit union professionals interested in attending the Roundtable must separately register for the event during their GAC registration process. To do so, simply check the appropriate box on the GAC registration form. There is no additional charge to attend the Roundtable event. Those from credit unions with $35 million or less in assets can attend the GAC at the reduced rate of $450. Small credit unions that have already registered for the GAC and would like to register for the Roundtable can e-mail Kim Martin at kmartin@cuna.coop. The GAC will be held Feb. 27-March 3 at the Washington Convention Center.

CU System briefs (01/19/2011)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/20/11)--Christina Mihalik, left, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association vice president, government affairs and Big
Sister of Kristiana Walker, front, is shown with the state's 46th governor, Tom Corbett, third from right, and his wife Susan during the couple's visit to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region. The visit took place on inauguration day Tuesday (Life is a Highway Jan. 19). The inaugural ceremony at the state Capitol was attended by more than 1,000 supporters, including association staff. Corbett said he would rein in state spending, enact government reforms and "do the right things, for the right reasons, even in the most challenging of times." He promised not to shrink from challenges in setting a new course "where financial security leads us to prosperity and greatness." (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association) … * NEW YORK (1/20/11)--CUNA Strategic Services provider Fynanz Inc. has hired two senior managers to assist in providing customized private student lending solutions for credit unions. Raymond Dury is Fynanz's new chief information officer (CIO) and Kailash Mathur is senior vice president of operations. Dury, who served as executive vice president and CIO for Fifth Third Bank, has 18 years' experience in corporate and retail banking, capital markets, merchant processing and brokerage services. Mathur, formerly chief operating officer of Campus Door, a private student loan origination platform acquired by Lehman Brothers, has 20 years' experience in student lending, product development, risk pricing, underwriting processes, origination platforms and third-party agreements and relationships … * REGINA, Saskatchewan (1/20/11)--Members of Regina, Saskatchewan-based Conexus CU will vote on a proposed merger with Innovation and Synergy CUs at special membership meetings throughout the province next week. Votes will be from Jan. 24-26. Innovation and Synergy CUs began a series of meetings Tuesday and will conclude those Jan. 26. Results of the vote at each credit union will be announced after Jan. 26 (Saskatchewan News Network Jan. 18) …

Two belt-tightening-tips columns point to CUs

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MADISON, Wis (1/20/11)—Two personal finance columnists have advised consumers to seek out credit unions and the Credit Union National Association to save money when shopping for financial services. Journalist and author Jean Chatzky advised consumers to consider a credit union card to avoid impending high bank fees in her online newsletter, Making Money Make Sense. Chatzky pointed consumers to CUNA’s website at www.cuna.org to find a credit union where they are eligible. Consumers looking to get back on track financially can also get help from credit unions and CUNA, advised Jason Alderman in New Jersey Today (Jan 18.) The article, “Feeling the Pinch? Try These Belt-Tightening Tips,” counseled consumers to switch to free checking, and directed them to CUNA’s website.

IDes Moines RegisterI Coopera helps CU build Latino base

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DES MOINES, Iowa (1/19/11)--Village CU, Des Moines, Iowa, is seeing its member base grow by getting to know the Latino culture. Now 12% of its members are Latino. The $8.5 million asset credit union credits its growth to Coopera Consulting, a Clive, Iowa- based consulting group that helps credit unions attract Latino populations in their areas. Coopera Consulting is owned by the Iowa Credit Union League and works with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and was featured in Tuesday's Des Moines Register. Warren Morrow, CEO and founder of Coopera, told the newspaper that to have true outcomes, "the mainstream institutions need to come to the realization that their future is tied to the Hispanic community….that they're interdependent." That means rethinking how they do business. He suggested that the root issues for Hispanics include isparities in access to assets, access to wealth and economic stability in the household. He suggested hiring bilingual employees and offering culture specific services--such as low-fee remittances and home loans for non-resident, tax-paying individuals--to get new members in the door. Then credit unions can introduce the new members to mainstream banking practices. Serving the Hispanic community fits well with the mission of credit unions and it makes sound financial sense, Mark Condon, CUNA senior vice president of business and consumer publishing, told the Register. "If you're looking to grow and reach more younger people, you need to look at Hispanics, because that's where the growth is coming," he said. Condon is liaison to CUNA's Hispanic outreach committee. "Coopera is helping credit unions do good business by doing good." For the full article, use the link.

Discover Members consumers less optimistic on finances

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RIVERWOODS, Ill. (1/19/11)--Although it noted that credit unions did not engage in the practices that contributed to today's economic mess, a new study indicates that even credit union members--"a typically confident group of consumers"--are feeling the economy's effects on their finances. Data released this week by Discover Financial Services in its U.S. Spending Monitor for December found that 47% of credit union members surveyed--as well as 47% of nonmembers--said their finances are getting worse. Six months ago, credit union members were five percentage points more optimistic than nonmembers, reported Dow Jones Newswires which was published in The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 18). In November, there was nearly a four-point difference between the two groups, with just over 43% of credit union members saying finances are becoming worse, compared with 46.8% of nonmembers. The decline in confidence may indicate a shared pessimism about personal finances and the economy that transcends where consumers choose to bank, Kevin O'Donnell, a Discover executive, told Dow Jones. He also noted the lower confidence could stem from post-holiday bills and noted credit union members appear to anticipate higher household expenses than nonmember counterparts and are adjusting their spending intentions accordingly. Other findings:
* 56.5% of credit union members surveyed rated the economy "poor", compared with 54.9% in November and compared with 57.2% of nonmembers in December. * 43.7% of members ranked the economy "worse," compared with 44.9% of members saying so in November and compared with 44.3% of nonmembers. * 38.2% of credit union members said they spent more in December than in November. That was an increase from 30.6% saying the same thing in November. Roughly 35.9% on nonmembers said they spent more in December. * When asked how many months they could hold their lifestyle if their income was lost, 22.9% of members and 21% of nonmembers said they could go more than six months, while 28.8% of members and 29.5% of nonmembers said they could go no months.
Confidence ratings overall reached a three-year high in November but slid in December. The survey polls 8,200 consumers, including 2,500 credit union members.

ECCU CEO named to Religious Org. Accountability Commission

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BREA, Calif. (1/19/11)--A three-year investigation by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) into the financial practices of six ministries has resulted in a new commission to explore accountability and the tax-exempt status of religious organizations. A credit union CEO has been named to the commission. After staff reported on the investigation, Grassley asked the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) for input on how to facilitate discussion about whether the issues it raised “can be addressed without legislation.” ECFA responded by creating the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations. Evangelical Christian CU (ECCU) President/CEO Mark G. Holbrook joins ECFA President Dan Busby as an ex-officio member of the commission, which is chaired by Michael Batts, a certified public accountant with experience in board governance, financial reporting and tax-compliance issues for nonprofits. Four to six additional panel members will be named soon. Holbrook’s selection aligns with Brea, Calif.-based ECCU’s commitment to financial accountability, which is a common topic of discussion with ministry leaders, the credit union said. Ensuring financial integrity is one of four financial priorities by which the credit union’s ministry development officers encourage ministries to operate. “The commission will address some of the most challenging tax and policy issues involving religious organizations” according to an ECFA statement. Its approach will be to gather input from religious organizations of many faiths and provide feedback to Grassley’s office. Issues the commission will address include:
* Whether churches should file the same highly detailed annual information returns that other nonprofits must file (Form 990); *Whether legislation is needed to curb abuses of the clergy housing-allowance exclusion; * Whether the current prohibition against political campaign intervention by churches and other nonprofits should be repealed or modified; and *Whether legislation is needed to clarify tax rules covering “love offerings” received by some clergy.

Filene to survey green lending in CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (1/19/11)--The Filene Research Institute and Hall Associates Consulting LLC are collaborating to assess credit union green lending. Filene encourages all credit unions to complete the survey, regardless of their current green-lending profile. The results will be published this year with a guide that outlines the opportunities, variables and challenges of sustainable lending. Surveys are due by Jan. 28. “This research builds on significant work we’ve done to identify sustainability opportunities for credit unions,” says Filene Chief Research Officer George Hofheimer. “This will provide the first real baseline report of how credit unions are lending around green initiatives.” Large banks are increasingly focused on environmental initiatives, according to research by Hall Associates Consulting LLC, a credit union-focused consulting firm. Bank of America has earmarked $20 billion for a 10-year environmental initiative addressing climate change, including energy efficiency and clean-energy investments and services. Citi is aiming $50 billion over 10 years at alternative energy, “clean technology” and carbon reduction. A new commercial banking group at Wells Fargo is designed specifically for businesses that manufacture, market or develop clean technology products and services. Even without the scale of these banks, credit unions are beginning to act more locally with products such as energy-efficient mortgages and loans for fuel-efficient vehicles and remodeling projects. “The volume of household-level green lending in the U.S. could be as much as $100 billion, even if only 10% of households participate,” said W. Robert Hall, president of Hall Associates Consulting. Credit unions that participate will be asked about the specific components and financial performance of their loan products. Data submitted for the survey will be reported in aggregate, and individual credit union data will be kept confidential, Filene said.

WOCCU Womens Network announces scholarships

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MADISON, Wis. (1/19/11)--The Global Women’s Leadership Network, a World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) subsidiary that addresses the contributions and needs of women credit union leaders worldwide, has issued a call for 2011 scholarship applicants. The deadline for application materials is March 15. Scholarships will cover registration fees and partial travel costs for women from developing credit union movements to take part in the 2011 Global Women’s Leadership Forum, July 23-24 in Glasgow, Scotland. The network, formed in 2009, is designed to promote educational, networking and mentoring opportunities for women credit union leaders worldwide. This year’s forum once again will be held in conjunction with WOCCU’s World Credit Union Conference. “The Global Women’s Leadership Forum provides an important link for credit union women across boundaries,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Countless times we have seen women in credit unions worldwide lead the development and growth of their institutions and their communities. Both the network and forum seek ways to improve and increase those contributions.” The scholarship is designed to promote access to the annual forum and related events for eligible women leaders. Under the forum’s criteria, women from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Poland and the U.S. do not qualify for scholarships. Qualified recipients must demonstrate both financial need and successful contributions to their communities, credit unions and/or credit union systems. Preference will be given to recipients from diverse backgrounds who the evaluation committee believes have the most to gain from the experience. Scholarship materials should be sent to WOCCU’s Madison, Wis., headquarters. Scholarship offers will be made to successful candidates by March 15. For more information, use the link or contact Nicole Bice at nbice@woccu.org or 608-395-2027.

Jane Bryant Quinn CUs 1 of 4 ways to beat bank fees

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MADISON, Wis. (1/19/11)--Credit unions are one key avenue for consumers to go down if they want to avoid high bank fees, Jane Bryant Quinn wrote Tuesday in an article titled “4 Ways to Beat the New High Bank Fees” for CBS Moneywatch.com. Bankers claim pro-consumer legislation passed last year is causing them to pass on additional compliance costs to their customers, Bryant wrote. She recommended low-cost accounts at credit unions in the Tuesday article. “It might surprise you to learn that everyone is eligible for at least one credit union,” Bryant wrote. “These institutions serve particular member groups. In general, they charge lower fees on credit cards, auto loans, and checking accounts, and pay higher interest rates on savings--not the top rate, but above average. They’re also more customer-friendly than most banks. You can find someone to talk to about your finances and even appeal a decision. “To find a local credit union, enter your zip code, church, company, school, or city at FindACreditUnion.com, to see what you might be eligible for,” she added. To read the article, use the link.

Technology 2011 Whats next

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Just three years ago, someone who mentioned “twitter” or “tweet” in a business meeting would draw blank stares. Today “Twitter” and “tweet” is part of the everyday lexicon, and using Twitter is an important branding vehicle for many companies, including credit unions. Who would have thought 140-character micro-blogging would become so vital? While forecasting the next hot technology isn’t an exact science, here is a list of technologies that gained traction in 2010, and just might change the strategic landscape for credit unions in 2011. This is part two of a two-part News Now series on hot technologies for credit unions in 2011.
* Online rewards programs. how Cardlytics, Atlanta, is creating rewards programs for financial institutions through online statements, Jim Bruene, the author and publisher of the Online Banking Report and the blog Netbanker, told News Now. Users log into their online banking accounts and find promotions linked to their transactions. For example, underneath a transaction from an eatery, there may be an offer for $5 off if the consumer spends a minimum of $10. So far companies such as McDonald’s and Macy’s have signed on with Cardlytics and the company has partnered with more than 50 financial institutions, including credit unions. * Fraud prevention. Banks and credit unions will begin taking a more serious look at software-based fraud prevention systems in much the same way they monitor the Bank Secrecy Act compliance and money laundering, said Steve Williams, principal of the consulting firm Cornerstone Advisors, Scottsdale, Ariz., and one of the authors of the online newsletter Gonzobanker.com. These systems typically rely on transaction and customer monitoring to identify “red flags” that may indicate a fraud attempt is in progress. “I’ve seen more credit unions go harder at implementing these systems and spend the staff time to make them work,” Williams said. * Member analytics. Williams believes credit unions will focus more on member analytics in 2011. Where in the past credit unions focused on product use and relationship building with their analytics, increasingly they are emphasizing earnings, because credit union margins are threatened by corporate credit union upheaval and interchange regulation. “The analytics to measure the retail portion of your business are more important than ever,” Williams said. * Person-to-person payments. (P2P) Some financial institutions, including The Golden 1 CU, Sacramento, Calif.; Boeing Employees CU, Tukwila, Wash.; and Patelco CU, San Francisco, already offer P2P payments, at least on a trial basis. Rudy Pereira, senior vice president of operations and technology at Alliant CU, Chicago, said that although financial institutions are intermediaries in the P2P process, consumers will look to them to ensure a secure transaction environment. * Tablet technology. Pereira says the iPad is the “beginning of the storm” for tablets. He noted that PC makers are rolling out their own tablets as laptop growth declines. Pereira says his credit union is already taking advantage of the iPad’s portability to streamline workflow management. “Folks can be away from their desk and still drive workflow,” he says. He said that same portability can be used for business development and loan member applications. “The possibilities are virtually endless,” Pereira said. “The whole delivery channel needs to be rethought with tablet technology.” * Cloud computing. Cloud computing is location independent. Hardware and software are housed on off-site servers and accessed on demand. Peirera said the flexibility offered by cloud computing makes it attractive to businesses of all sizes. In the credit union world, cloud computing could make credit union mergers much easier from a back office perspective. * Blippy and Swipely. Blippy and Swipely are services that allows consumers to automatically share their transactions online. Friends then have an opportunity to share their comments. Bruene acknowledged that sharing this sort of information is not for everyone, but adds that it adds a new context to the viewing of financial transactions. “People are getting used to seeing streams of data, via Facebook feeds and Twitter feeds,” he said. “Now banking transactions can be viewed in the same way.” And, don’t dismiss the potential these services offer, he added. For example, with the proliferation of debit cards it’s harder than ever to keep track of transactions, he noted. With Blippy and Swipely, couples that share a checking account can update each other on their transactions in almost real time. Or, parents could monitor their children’s transactions.
Who knows, next year at this time consumers may ask, “Do you blip?”

CU System briefs (01/18/2011)

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* OSCODA, Mich. (1/19/11)--Northland Area FCU Member Service Representative Karla Schneider was working at the drive-thru on Christmas Eve at the Oscoda, Mich.-based credit union's West Branch, when the car pulled up in the second lane (Michigan Monitor Jan. 17). The man inside slid something in the tube and sent it her way. She opened the tube and found a transaction of a different sort: a small box. Inside was an engagement ring. Paul MacArthur surprised Schneider with a proposal. After her initial shock, she rushed around to the branch entrance to meet MacArthur, who works for Pumford Construction in Saginaw. He officially proposed on bended knee in the credit union's parking lot. MacArthur received the response he was hoping for, a resounding "YES." They are planning a spring 2012 wedding (Photo provided by the Michigan Credit Union League) … * TEMPE, Ariz. (1/19/11)--Two credit unions, both clients of Tempe, Ariz.-based LemmonTree Marketing Group, received Gold Ava awards for their ads from the Association of Marketing & Communication Professionals. The 2009 Branch Opening Ad created for movie theatre advertising for Fort Campbell FCU, Clarksville, Tenn., received the 2010 Ava award in the High Definition/Overall Production category. The 30-second commercial used Flash and video elements. The "I'm a Patriot" television commercial created for Patriot FCU, Chambersburg, Pa., received its award in the Commercial/Financial category …

First of year reaps dividends to members

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MADISON, Wis. (1/18/11)--Credit unions taking stock of their balance sheets for the end of the year are busy returning dividends to their members. A number of credit unions recently announced that their members would reap patronage dividends--just another way that credit unions differentiate themselves from other financial institutions. Among them:
* Wright-Patt CU, Fairborn, Ohio, paid $4 million in special patronage dividends to members on Jan. 4, according to the $1.9 billion asset credit union's website. Each eligible member received at least $10, and the average member earned $22.94 last year. Dividends are based on how many services its 202,000 members use. Since 2008, the credit union's goal has been to pay the dividend every year. It has paid $11 million in dividends in the past three years. "We were able to pay this year's …dividend because new members joined WPCU in 2010 and many members took advantage of our excellent savings rates and low rates on loans," said the credit union. * DFCU Financial CU in Dearborn, Mich. reported $19 million in special patronage dividends for its 85,000 members, who received the dividend on Jan. 5. That averaged out to roughly $224 per member. CEO Mark Shobe said on the $3 billion asset credit union's website that the dividend differentiates the credit union from banks. "The dividend is virtually impossible for banks to do. They can't match this." The payout is calculated on the member's total relationship with the credit union--the greater the relationship, the larger the dividend. Qualifying members received 0.5% dividend on their average loan and deposit balances, with each eligible member receiving at least $50. * In Oklahoma City, Okla., FAA CU announced an end-of-the-year rebate for the 10th consecutive year. The credit union returned more than $300,000 to its 45,000 members by direct deposits into their savings accounts with the amounts reflected on their year-end statements. Accountholders with most loan types received a 2% rebate on interest paid in 2010 and most accountholders earned a 2% bonus on dividends earned during the year. "Even though this year continued to present challenges for the financial industry, FAA CU remains strong and our members deserve to be rewarded. Their continued support is what allows FAA CU to prosper and our success means success for them," said President/CEO Steve Rasmussen. * Eastman CU, Kingsman, Tenn., reported handing out $4 million in extraordinary dividends to its 111,000 members--both savers and borrowers. The dividend averaged to $36 per member, said the $2.3 billion asset credit union. * CoVantage CU, an $824 million asset credit union based in Antiago, Wis., announced a $1.5 million patronage dividend--the 25th year it has offered rebates. There are two components to the payment--a savings bonus that provides an additional dividend on earnings paid on select deposit accounts, and a loan interest rebate that returns a portion of the interest members paid on their loans, said the credit union's website. "This year's $1.5 million patronage payment will put money back into the hands of our members and back into the communities we serve," said Board Chairman Bob MacIntosh. "That's what belonging to a credit union is all about." CEO Brian Prunty noted that much of the credit for the credit union's success is "due to the support of our members. We are more than a financial institution, our members own the credit union, and as owners they too share in its successes." * In Schaumburg, Ill., the $723 million asset Motorola Employees CU (MECU) members received more than $1 million in patronage dividends. "In keeping with our promise to put our members first, returning a portion of that money to members is simply the right thing to do--and it also serves to reward those who have supported the credit union over the past year," the credit union said on its website. All members in good standing with active accounts got a minimum $5 deposited to their savings; on average, members received $30 each. The most active members received more than $100.
Most of the credit unions cautioned that while they intend to pay a special dividend every year, it is not guaranteed and the dividend amount depends on the credit unions' financial performance.

Regulators approve Star Energy Chevron merger

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BAKERSFIELD and OAKLAND, Calif. (1/18/11)--Star Energy CU, Bakersfield, Calif., has won approval from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and the California Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) to merge with the much larger Oakland, Calif.-based Chevron FCU. The next step is to get approval from California's Secretary of State, according to the Bakersfield Californian (Jan. 14). Both credit unions serve primarily employees of Chevron and their families and have talked about a merger on and off for years, Chevron told the newspaper (Jan. 13). Star Energy CU, a 74-year-old state-chartered credit union with about 1,500 members, saw its capital ratio of 6% drop to 3.8% in September from a 6% ratio in June. Its total assets declined by more than $1 million to $5.9 million in the 12 months ended on Sept. 30. Chevron's capital ratio stood at 10.7% in September. It has about 70,000 members and about $1.5 billion in assets.

Southwest Bridge Corporate begins merger vote this week

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PLANO, Texas (1/18/11)--Southwest Bridge Corporate members will have a special member meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the proposed business model for the future of the corporate--a merger of the corporate into Georgia Corporate FCU--and to begin voting on that model. The meeting will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. CT to present the business model recommended by the corporate's Member Advisory Council, to provide information about the five alternative business models considered and the pros and cons of each model, and to answer questions, said a notice sent members by Kerry A.S. Parker, chairperson of the council's Executive Committee and CEO of Austin, Texas-based A+ FCU. Members can vote either through a mailed or faxed ballot, which must be received by Jan. 26, or by voting electronically at the special member meeting webinar on Thursday. In the member notice, the corporate noted that "by casting your vote, you are not committing to re-capitalization, or continued use of Southwest Bridge Corporate's Services. The importance of this vote is to determine the level of member support for the Member Advisory Council's recommended business model, which is Business Model 1." Southwest at one time had $9 billion assets, while the former Georgia Central Corporate had $2 billion in assets. Under the merger proposal, Southwest Bridge Corporate members would own and control the consolidated corporate, having eight board seats while Georgia Corporate has one board seat. The new nine-member board would select the CEO of the combined corporate. The merger would require a lower capital investment than historically required, would continue to provide lines of credit, and would maintain access to all the services in the current structure so no conversions would be required for Southwest members. The combined corporate also would provide a one-stop shop for all services and remain the same low cost provider with the same member service. "It will assure strong continuity of services, some economies of scale will be gained, and the model is scalable and efficient, positioning the consolidated corporate for future consolidations with other corporates which will continue to increase economies of scale," said the business model descriptions. The merger could be executed by mid-2011 but requires perpetual contributed capital. Results of the electronic voting and the mail/fax ballot will be announced on Jan. 28.

Northwest CU Association selects board officers

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash., and BEAVERTON, Ore. (1/18/11)--Bill Anderson, president/CEO of Mid Oregon FCU in Bend, Ore. has been named the new chairman of the Northwest Credit Union Association, and Debie Keesee, president/CEO of Spokane (Wash.) Media FCU was named vice chair. The memberships of the Credit Union Association of Oregon and the Washington Credit Union League voted “overwhelmingly” in November to affirm the creation of the combined Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA). The new association began operations Jan. 1 (News Now Nov. 12). “The creation of a new, regional credit union trade association is an exciting task filled with opportunities to advance the regional economy that these 18 future-focused leaders are well-qualified to accomplish,” Northwest Credit Union Association CEO John Annaloro, told News Now. Other elected table officer CEOs include:
* Secretary--Marshall Ellison, Twinstar CU, Lacey, Wash.; * Treasurer--Gene Pelham, Rogue CU, Medford, Ore.; * Executive Committee--Jack Fallis, Global CU, Spokane, Wash. * Executive Committee--Jean Wheat-Palm, North Coast CU, Bellingham, Wash.
Also, 12 CEO directors were elected:
* Terry Belcoe, North Coast CU; * Elliot Gregg, Kitsap CU, Bremerton, Wash.; * Tom Graves, Prevail CU, Seattle; * Phil Jones, Harborstone CU, Lakewood, Wash.; * Larry Hoff, Fibre FCU, Longview, Wash.; * Mina Worthington, Yakima Valley CU, Yakima, Wash.; * Bob Newcomb, SELCO Community CU, Eugene, Ore.; * Shirley Cate, Providence FCU, Milwaukie, Ore.; * Diann M. Owen, Clackamas FCU, Oregon City, Ore.; * Steve Canfield, NW Preferred FCU, Tigard, Ore.; * Rob Stuart, onPoint Community CU, Portland, Ore.; and * Trisha Baker, UFCW Northwest FCU, Portland, Ore.

O Bee CU leverages technology to Capture the Tag

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TUMWATER, Wash. (1/18/11)--O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash., has created a digital age version of the childhood game “Capture the Flag” to attract consumers to the websites of local businesses. “Capture The Tag” participants armed with their smart phones are unleashed on a treasure hunt to scan and collect 30 Microsoft MS tags that play videos giving them clues to the location of the next tag, along with personal finance tips and advice, until they find and visit all 20 participating businesses (the tag sites). The game is the brainchild of $137 million O Bee CU, while the promotion is co-sponsored by 94.5 ROXY, Olympia; The Olympian, Olympia; TwinStar CU, Olympia; The Washington State Department of Credit Unions, Tumwater; Helix Group, Olympia; and NW Media Company, Lacy. Participating businesses can offer their own discounts and incentives as part of “Capture The Tag,” but no purchase is required to participate. Clues and contest information also will be featured on the sites of all the co-sponsors, as well as “Capture The Tag” Facebook and Twitter pages. Everyone who collects all 30 tags is invited to an end-of-contest Tag Party, where they are eligible for the prize drawing at the end of the night. First prize is $10,000. Second prize is $3,000. Third prize is $2,000. In addition, five other entrants will win Apple iPads. “There is a whole lot going on here,” said Lee Wojnar, vice president of marketing for O Bee CU. “We want to both engage and challenge Generation X and tech users to socially connect offline, as well as online, in pursuit of some nice rewards. In the process, they’ll get an introduction to some area businesses where they can become customers, they’ll get some personal finance lessons, and in the end, they'll get a chance to come together at a great party, where they could win some very attractive prizes. While we have built in some nice incentives, there are plenty of opportunities for fun and knowledge along the way,” he added. The game officially starts on Friday. Entrants have to be 18 years of age or older, but can sign up at CaptureTheTag.org, where they will find video instructions and contest rules. The site also provides a link to download scanning software to read the Microsoft MS Tags used in the game.

Southeast Corporate takes cap restoration plan on the road

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (1/18/11)--Southeast Corporate FCU has scheduled regional meetings to discuss details of its proposed new Business and Capital Restoration Plan. The plan, which was outlined to member/owner credit unions in December, includes key elements of the corporate’s business strategy and methodology for ensuring adequate capital to meet the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) Regulation Part 704 requirements. "Southeast Corporate's strength and future depend on credit unions' support, and it is vital to talk with our members about our plans and continuing to meet their financial service needs," said Brad Miller, president/CEO of the $2.5 billion corporate. Although the final plan will need NCUA approval, Miller noted that the town hall meetings will provide an opportunity to go over the business model and capital plans, answer questions and receive input from members at an early stage of the process. “Credit unions created and own Southeast, and their participation is essential to our mutual success,” Miller said. Members can register to attend the meetings at the resource link. The meetings will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. local time on these dates:
* Jan. 25, Pensacola, Fla., at the Pensacola Civic Center, 201 E. Gregory St. * Jan. 26, Gulfport, Miss., at the Keesler FCU Administration Building, 13083A Seaway Road; * Jan. 27, Jackson Miss., at the Mississippi Credit Union Association, 1400 Lakeover Drive, Suite 200; * Feb. 2, Tallahassee, Fla., Southeast Corporate, 3692 Coolidge Court; * Feb. 3, Jacksonville, Fla., Southeast Corporate, 8400 Baymeadows Way, Suite 18; * Feb. 9, Lakeland, Fla., Publix Employees FCU, 3005 New Tampa Highway; * Feb.10, Miami Lakes, Fla., Don Shula's Hotel, 6842 Main Street.

Technology Mobile is the way to go in 2011

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MADISON, Wis. (1/18/11)--If 2010 will be remembered as the year mobile banking began to go mainstream, 2011 may well be known as the sequel. Credit union technology experts say that mobile banking development will continue to gain acceptance, as smart phone technology becomes more closely integrated into consumers’ everyday lives. And that will have implications for credit unions. This is part 1 of a two-part series on hot technologies for credit unions in 2011. Part 1 focuses exclusively on mobile, which experts agree is the most popular vehicle for delivering information, regardless of the industry. “The smart phone is proliferating,” Rudy Pereira, senior vice president of operations and technology at Alliant CU, Chicago, and chair of the CUNA Technology Council Executive Committee, told News Now. “It’s become preferential.” The key driver of mobile adoption is applications, or apps, as they are better known, small software programs that consumers can download for their iPhones, Androids, or iPads, that perform specific functions to make life easier or more entertaining. In the financial services world, that might include account access, ATM locators, remote deposit or just about any function that can be performed through online banking. “It’s a maturing paradigm,” said Steve Williams, principal of the consulting firm Cornerstone Advisors, Scottsdale, Ariz., and one of the authors of the online newsletter Gonzobanker.com. “It’s not about trying to make the browser work on the phone as much as its focusing on getting the app environment to do anything to serve the member’s needs.” Jim Bruene, the author and publisher of the Online Banking Report and the blog Netbanker, said that at the end of 2009, there were about three dozen mobile applications available from financial institutions. At the end of 2010, that number had increased to about 1,000. “Now virtually every consumer has a financial application they can choose from,” Bruene said. “That will continue to drive adoption.” As the mobile market matures, Williams believes, financial institutions will move toward more hefty mobile applications such as bill payment and loan applications. “I think financial institutions are going to compete on that experience, from bill payment to account opening,” Williams said. “We’re really just getting started on it.” With those capabilities, 2011 will probably be the year credit unions begin to think of mobile as a true part of their retail delivery strategy, Pereira said. “Those that are going to have success are going approach it not as a subset in their delivery strategy but as a completely different channel,” he added Even those credit unions that thought they were ahead of the game in deploying mobile may have to play catch-up to keep up with the fast-changing market. “Those that deployed mobile two years ago are probably going to have to go back and rethink it,” Pereira said. “The market has just started to take off, and that is only going to continue.” Part II will appear later this week.

Maine league meets with CFPBs Warren

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PORTLAND, Maine (1/18/11)--Maine Credit Union League President John Murphy took part in a meeting Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren, the head of the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and 13 key Maine stakeholders that will be affected by the CFPB. At the meeting in Portland, Maine, Snowe told Murphy that her goal was “to make Ms. Warren readily accessible for an informed discussion with a small group,” said the league’s Weekly Update (Jan. 14).
John Murphy (left), president of the Maine Credit Union League, and Elizabeth Warren (right), head of the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, attended a meeting of key Maine stakeholders hosted by U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Warren Wednesday in Portland, Maine. (Photo provided by WCSH-TV) .
Murphy had an opportunity to discuss some of the issues that Maine credit unions face that will now fall under the jurisdiction of the new bureau when it picks up responsibility for the 18 federal consumer financial protection laws now enforced by seven regulatory agencies. The official transfer date is July 21. Warren told attendees, “We need to make compliance easier for lenders, and this is particularly important for credit unions and community banks.” Murphy said: “I took the opportunity during the meeting to point out that a number of financial institutions that were behind the financial meltdown are now recording record profits, and the smaller financial institutions are now left to deal with a significant increased regulatory burden. “I also mentioned to Ms. Warren how regulatory relief could benefit consumers, and she acknowledged the many confusing regulations, disclosures, etc., that exist today,” he added.

CU System briefs (01/17/2011)

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* NAPERVILLE, Ill. (1/18/11)--The Central Illinois Chapter of Credit Unions held a "meet and greet" breakfast to help credit unions get
Click to view larger image Click for larger view
to know Illinois State Rep.-elect Mike Unes (R-91). The event, hosted by CEFCU in Peoria, was the second meet and greet event held by a chapter since nearly 25 new lawmakers were elected into the Illinois General Assembly in November. Since Unes is new to credit unions, the delegation provided him with "a solid foundation on what the Illinois credit union movement is all about," said Charla Buchanan, chapter legislative forum representative. "He was very responsive to our issues." "We look forward to building on this relationship as it pertains to credit union legislative priorities and other concerns related to financial services, said Tory Eckstein, league director for the chapter. From left are: Penni Gebke, league regional director; Eckstein; Unes; Sandy Andrews, chief operating officers, CEFCU; Debbi Bitner, chapter first vice chairman; and Buchanan. (Photo provided by Illinois Credit Union League) … * MADISON, Wis. (1/18/11)--Elizabeth Simonis, 29, of Custer, Wis., pleaded guilty Wednesday in a federal court in Madison, Wis., to embezzling $12,000 from a credit union where she worked in Stephens Point. According to a Department of Justice press release, Simonis ook the amount during 2010 from a member account at Bulls Eye CU. The credit union fully reimbursed the member, said The Capital Times (Jan. 14). Simonis faces up to 30 years in prison. Sentencing has been set for March 31 … * OMAHA, Neb. (1/18/11)--Vincent Gepson, 51, of Omaha, Neb., was sentenced Thursday to nearly 12 years in a federal prison for a string of robberies in Nebraska and Iowa, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Deborah Gilg of Nebraska. Gepson received six sentences of 140 months each, to be served at the same time and was ordered to pay restitution of more than $24,000. He was arrested in December 2008 in Neosho, Mo. The six robberies occurred between Nov. 13 and Dec. 1 of 2008. They included four banks in Omaha and two credit unions in Council Bluffs, Iowa--United CU on Nov. 18 and Telco Triad CU, Nov. 7 (KGAN CBS 2 News Jan. 14 and MoberlyMonitor.com Dec 7, 2008) … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/18/11)--Belco Community CU helped ring in the New Year by welcoming the first baby of 2011 at three local hospitals, reported the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway Jan. 14). It partnered with Hanover Hospital, Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center, and the Pinnacle Health Maternity Center located in the Harrisburg Hospital. The $323.3 million asset credit union donated a gift basket to the parents of the babies. Baskets included a $50 Visa gift card, baby shampoo and lotion, a stuffed Belco tiger, and various toys and linens. "As a community chartered credit union, Belco values social responsibility and enjoys giving back to those in the communities we serve," said Lonny Maurer, president/CEO …

CU System briefs (01/13/2011)

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* CORINTH, N.Y. (1/14/11)--A former pastor and former credit union employee has been charged with the embezzlement of $400,000 from Corinth, N.Y.-based Hudson River Community, C.U. by writing duplicate checks while he was a human resources representative at the credit union. Jason J. LaPierre, 35, Hudson Falls, was charged with second degree grand larceny and first-degree falsifying business records. Police said he allegedly duplicated checks and deposited the money into his accounts. No members' accounts were affected (The Daily Gazette Jan. 13) … * BRISBANE, Queensland (1/14/11)--CU Australia, Australia's largest credit union, said four of its 78 branches in flooded Queensland remain closed. Members who need more than $500 in cash can go to a branch. The credit union imposed a $500 limit on cash withdrawals from its ATMs after the flooding occurred. Queensland was deluged with an "inland tsunami" last week. The credit union has suspended members' home and personal loan repayments for up to three months and will waive late fees (Sydney Morning Herald Jan. 13) … * SILVER SPRING, Md. (1/14/11)--The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) marks its 60th anniversary during 2011. It will celebrate throughout the year, with a particular emphasis during April, Financial Literacy Month, and culminating in September at its Annual Leaders Conference in San Francisco. NFCC, the largest and longest-serving network of nonprofit, community-based counseling agencies in the U.S., is comprised of nearly 100 member agencies representing more than 800 locations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It has more than 3,000 certified credit counselors and more than 2,000 certified housing counselors. NFCC's agencies have helped roughly four million consumers annually with their financial concerns around debt, housing and bankruptcy …

CU-to-bank conversions declining

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MADISON, Wis. (1/14/11)--2010 was a year without a single credit union-to-bank conversion, and it arrived on the heels of two years in which only one such conversion per year occurred. News Now, sniffing a trend, decided to look closer and noted a decline in conversions since they peaked at eight conversions in 2001. Conversions of credit unions to mutual savings banks never were "in fashion," according to Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economists. "In the scheme of things, only a handful of credit unions have converted in the past 30 years," said Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and statistics at CUNA. Between 1995 and 2011 only 31 credit unions have converted. In the past 15 years, there were two "spikes" in conversions--one in 1998, which saw five credit unions convert to banks, and again in 2001, when eight converted. All other years have either three conversions a year (1999, 2000, 2004, 2006, and 2007), two conversions (in 2003), or one conversion (in 1995, 1996, 2002 and 2008 and 2009). Two previous years also saw zero conversions--in 1997 and 2005. Several factors have contributed to the 2010 zero-conversions figure and the low rate in the previous two years, and they all relate to the financial crisis that caused the recession. "'Bank' truly is a four-letter word in the current environment," Schenk told News Now. "Convincing members that for-profit banking provides a better model in the wake of the bank-induced calamity we just lived through would not only be very difficult but it has a high probability of being a career killer," he said. Credit unions facing costs related to the corporate credit union restructuring are in better shape than banks facing huge premiums for bailing out the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)'s insurance fund. Schenk noted that the FDIC deposit insurance fund has a negative equity level and bankers will be paying hefty premiums to restore it to health. He added the expenses they incur to do this will greatly exceed those credit unions incur to pay for NPCU (natural person credit union) failures and corporate stabilization. "Combine that with taxation and it really makes no sense from a bottom-line perspective," Schenk added. A third factor includes what happens after a credit union converts to a mutual savings bank. "The subsequent conversion from a mutual savings bank to stock ownership now promises a relatively small possibility for personal enrichment because investor demand for bank stocks is low," Schenk said. "Furthermore, the specter of relatively low earnings, due in part to insurance premiums, in part to big regulatory changes, and in part to the bottom-line effect of possible market interest-rate increases will likely mean soft demand for bank stocks for quite some time into the future," he added. CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel noted two other factors possibly contributing to credit unions' lack of interest in becoming banks. "It’s not clear there is a receptive place for a converting credit union to go right now," he said. "For the past 15 years, the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) was very receptive to conversions considering they were responsible for an atrophying industry. [The] Dodd-Frank [financial reform legislation] closes OTS down, moving its responsibility to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which is not in need of new institutions to regulate." Hampel also explained that "particularly in the last two years, OTS, OCC, and FDIC have been too busy dealing with the financial crisis to spend much energy on accepting new institutions." CUNA's assessment was backed up by a Utah-based credit union that tried to convert to a mutual savings bank charter in 2009 but decided not to. Beehive CU, based in Salt Lake City, said it decided to remain a credit union because of the turmoil in the economy and reluctance by federal regulators to approve a new bank charter in that environment. Because of that its board changed its mind about what was in the best interest of its members, its management said (News Now Jan. 22, 2009). Legislation in some states and changes in regulations have also tightened the conversion process. For example, in 2007, North Dakota and Massachusetts each passed laws specifying requirements for such a conversion (News Now Jan. 5, 2007 and April 17, 2007). On a federal level, the National Credit Union Administration made its regulations governing charter conversion requirements clearer. Also, several high profile conversions were pulled as a result of members' opposition to a conversion. Those battles resulted in the Principles for Credit Union Conversion, a policy adopted by leagues and credit unions to help educate members about their rights of disclosure and voting processes involved in conversions.

CUs prominent in Good Morn. Americas savings advice

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MADISON, Wis. (1/14/11)--Credit unions were given prominent mention as a good resource for consumers looking to refinance their home mortgages to obtain better interest rates or to procure auto loans in a recent segment of ABC’s Good Morning America. Show host Elisabeth Leamy gave advice on how to save on expenses one might otherwise consider nonnegotiable. The show’s consumer reporter has reported several savings makeover segments on Good Morning America that have featured credit unions in New York and New Jersey. She coordinated with the leagues in both cases and with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) on the New Jersey segment. Leamy has been a past guest on CUNA’s Home & Family Finance Radio show (use the links for these segments). Her story segment also told consumers how to find a credit union. Use the link. With interest rates at historically low levels homeowners want to know if they are in a position to refinance, she said. “I argue that it’s worth refinancing if you can get half a point off your rate and if you will add no more than five years to the length of your mortgage and can still pay your closing costs off in five years or less--preferably much less,” Leamy said. “That’s my Refinancing Rule of 5s. Can’t get approved at a big bank? Try a credit union. Credit unions pay attention to your situation, not just your score.” The same holds true for car payments, she added. “If car payments are a burden and your vehicle is not too old and you are not underwater on the value, did you know you can refinance it?” Leamy said. “Yup. Once again, credit unions are the place to turn. They do more of these auto loan refinances than anybody else.” To read a transcript of the segment, use the link.

Wegner Awards dinner reservations due Jan. 28

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MADISON, Wis. (1/14/11)--The deadline to purchase tickets online for the 23rd Annual Herb Wegner Memorial Awards Dinner is Jan. 28. The Wegner Awards will be presented by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) on Feb. 28 at the Grand Hyatt Washington during the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) 2011 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). Tickets can be obtained online or registrants can download a printable form, complete it offline and mail the completed form with payment to NCUF. Individual tickets for the three-course dinner are $225 each. Tables of 10 are $2,120. The estimated value of the tax-deductible portion of each ticket purchase price is $75. Members of the credit union movement and other affiliated organizations will have the opportunity to recognize award winners through a congratulatory message to be shown on video screens during dinner. The awards ceremony will celebrate three national honors:
* Lifetime Achievement--Rudy Hanley, president/ CEO, SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif. Hanley has been described as a visionary, consensus builder, and a respected voice for all in the credit union industry. * Individual Achievement: Daniel A. “Dan” Mica, former president/CEO, CUNA. Mica helped preserve credit union access for millions of consumers, protected credit unions’ federal tax exemption, raised credit union political involvement to the highest levels, and more. * Outstanding Organization: National Youth Involvement Board (NYIB). For 38 years, the NYIB and its volunteer network of credit union youth advocates have consistently led the charge to bring financial education and understanding of credit unions to America’s young people.

Woman shot at CUs ATM in S.C.

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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (1/14/11)--A 25-year-old woman was shot three times Wednesday during a holdup while using a drive-up ATM at South Carolina FCU, prompting area police to warn members/customers who use ATMs to be extra careful. This is at least the fourth time someone has been shot at a credit union ATM or drive-thru lane in the past month. The victim, Sade Williams, suffered serious but not life-threatening wounds, according to authorities (The State via ColumbiaToday.com Jan. 13). Williams told police that two men approached her while she was stopped at the ATM of a South Carolina FCU branch in North Charleston, S.C. at 1:14 a.m. Wednesday. One of the men shot her three times at point blank range with a silver revolver, she said. It is not certain if anything was taken during the attack. The shooting remains under investigation and no arrests were made by late Wednesday, police told the newspaper. Other episodes include:
* A woman died Dec. 22 after she was shot during a robbery attempt while withdrawing cash from an ATM at a credit union in Knoxville, Tenn. Davida Nicholson, 46, was withdrawing funds from the ATM at TVA Employees CU, when she allegedly was approached by the suspect, Brandon James Johnson, 20, who was wielding two guns. When she tried to shut the door to her truck and pull away, the suspect allegedly shot her. The truck struck the credit union building, police said. Also injured were the shooting suspect, who was shot by police, and a man in a second car at another ATM (VolunteerTV.com Dec. 22 and Knoxnews.com Dec. 22). * Three suspects were arrested in an attempted murder and robbery Dec. 16 at an ATM at a Gainesville, Fla.-based credit union. Alachua police arrested Akil Flagg at his residence on Dec. 30 in connection with the incident (Alachuacountytoday.com Jan. 9). Two suspects, Derae Jenkins, 18, and Richard Addison, 24, both of Gainesville, were arrested earlier in connection with the incident. A man was shot at while retrieving cash from an ATM at SunState FCU in Alachua, Fla., at about 11:15 p.m. Dec. 16. He had withdrawn cash from the ATM, returned to his car and was leaning forward to start the engine when a gunshot shattered the driver’s side window of the car. He was not hit but drove to the police department, where he told police he noticed a white Ford Explorer nearby (News Now Dec. 20). * A man was shot and killed by police while in the drive-thru lane at a Monona, Wis., credit union, after he took a member hostage Dec. 8 and tried to withdraw funds from the member’s account, police said. Daniel L. Thomas, 30, allegedly invaded the 63-year-old hostage’s home and drove him to the Monona, Wis., branch of UW CU, where they entered the drive-thru lane in the hostage’s sports utility vehicle. A teller recognized that the member was in trouble and called police (Wisconsin State Journal and madison.com Dec. 9).

Leagues address Feds interchange proposal

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MADISON, Wis. (1/14/11)--Credit union leagues have begun to weigh in on the interchange proposal from the Federal Reserve. The interchange proposal presents a formidable challenge for credit unions, which are smaller than many banks and do not have multiple lines of business from which they can create additional income (Finance & Commerce Jan. 12). “Our members’ ability to generate revenue is pretty challenged,” said Mark Cummins, president of the Minnesota Credit union Network, who was featured in the article “Now our ability to offer free checking accounts, which are critical to us, are under threat. Losing revenue like this is potentially huge for our members.” Cummins said many credit unions also suspect that the duel-pricing platform that Visa has proposed will not be in place for long. “Small institutions generate a small part of overall fees,” Cummins said. “The marketplace will be driving this, and we wonder if it’s really practical to believe they’ll keep a second tier of pricing for these small institutions.” Jim McCormack, president/CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, said that Visa’s two-tier proposal fails to resolve many issues associated with interchange. “Creating a two-tiered system could be harmful to credit unions, resulting in higher fees and shift[ing] costs to consumers,” McCormack said in a press release Wednesday. “Creating classes of issuers within the network is likely to lead to preferentialism and discrimination. While the legislation exempted financial institutions under $10 billion--the majority of all credit unions--the Federal Reserve’s proposal is not as clear.” Paul Gentile, president of the New Jersey Credit Union League also made note of the lack of clarity in the Fed proposal in the league’s newsletter (The Weekly Exchange Jan. 6). “While the proposal does reference an exemption from interchange rate setting for small issuers with $10 billion or less in assets, it does not include provisions to enforce the exemption,” Gentile said. “Without enforcement, the exemption will likely prove meaningless, and from a practical standpoint small issuers will end up being subject to the same rate setting as large issuers. It is vital that credit unions participate in this effort to reinforce to the Fed the importance of getting this proposal right for the future of credit union debit card programs.” The Fed proposal remains open for public comment until Feb. 22. The Ohio Credit Union League has put together the following “game plan” to mobilize credit unions in that state ( eLumination Jan 12):
* Create an interchange work group of credit union executives; * Assess the financial impact on Ohio credit unions and their members; * Produce an official league commentary on the Fed proposal; * Produce strong grassroots efforts by Ohio credit unions to comment on the Fed proposal; * Stage a congressional campaign to prepare for legislative solutions; * Host a statewide conference call to solicit input from credit union executives; and * Evaluate product and pricing alternatives for future consideration by credit unions to restore interchange-vulnerable income.
The Credit Union National Association has said that that the pending interchange fee rule changes will create issues for both credit unions and their members, as well as consumers in general, whether a two-tier fee system is followed or not. Overall, smaller institutions such as credit unions could lose revenue due to the interchange changes, a circumstance that may force credit unions to increase member fees or reduce the amount of services they offer to those members, CUNA has said (News Now Jan 11).

Monday holiday--CUNA closed no INews NowI

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (1/14/11)--In observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Washington and Madison, Wis., offices of the Credit Union National Association will be closed on Monday. News Now will not publish a Monday issue but will resume regular publication on Tuesday.

CUNA Mutual notes spike in ATM fee disclosure suits

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MADISON, Wis. (1/14/11)--CUNA Mutual Group is warning its policyholder credit unions of a "significant" spike in lawsuits against credit unions related to ATM fee disclosures required under Regulation E, according to several league and state association newsletters. CUNA Mutual's Credit Union Protection Claims division has seen a steady increase in the number of class action lawsuits filed against credit unions. Twelve new suits were filed between mid-December and the new year (Life is a Highway and LoneStar Leaguer Jan. 13 and eWeekly Jan. 12). The lawsuits involve missing signage on or at the ATM and incorrect fees disclosed on the sign at the ATM. Many also involve remote ATMs serviced by third-party vendors, said CUNA Mutual. "Many credit unions involved in the lawsuits erroneously believed the fee notice sign was not necessary since the fee was disclosed on the terminal screen of the ATM." Changes in fees for ATM transactions prompted some of the lawsuits. The regulation requires credit unions to post a sign--in a prominent, conspicuous location on and at every ATM they own or operate--stating that a fee will or may apply. The warning noted that the regulation does not require the actual fee to be placed on the sign. It also requires disclosing the fee on the terminal screen or paper notice before the consumer is committed to paying the fee. The fee also should appear on the transaction receipt. CUNA Mutual also warned credit unions to develop and maintain written procedures for inspecting all their ATMs regularly--either weekly or when the machine is serviced--to ensure the ATM fee signs are intact. Credit unions should photograph each ATM at the time of inspection, maintain an inspection log for all ATMs, and have management review the log to ensure inspections are taking place properly. The ATM inspection log should contain:
* ATM location inspected; * Date of inspection; * Status of the sign (missing or present); * Action taken, such as replaced sign or notice; and * Initials of the employee performing the inspection.
CUNA Mutual also suggested that credit unions maintain a supply of signs/stickers to replace missing ones, and periodically test the ATMs using a non-credit-union issued ATM network card or debit card to confirm the fee appears on the screen and the transaction receipt. It suggested general language for signage and cautioned credit unions to be alert for damage or removal of signs during remodeling projects.

CU System briefs (01/12/2011)

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* MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (1/13/11)--The Massachusetts Credit Union League and 27 credit unions are participating in a blanket drive for the homeless during January. Their participation is in keeping the Credit Union Community Hope Initiative's ongoing efforts to support the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. It is the Social Responsibility Committee's first annual blanket drive, said the league (e-Weekly Jan. 12). STCU CU, Springfield, is participating with two branches collecting new, unused blankets, said the credit union. "People helping people is what this is all about and certainly aligns with our credit union mission," said STCU President/CEO William Brothers … * PEORIA, Ill. (1/13/11)--Valerie D. Mason, 51, a former Visa credit manager at Citizens Equity First CU (CEFCU), pleaded guilty Monday to stealing more than $228,000 over a two-year period at the Peoria-based credit union (Peoria Journal Star (Jan. 12). She will be sentenced May 6 and faces up to 30 years in prison. Part of her position involved training people on the credit union's computer system. Using her access, she allegedly opened Visa accounts, raised credit limits on some cards including her own, and changed mailing addresses to avoid alerting the card holders. She then used cash advances for personal use. Mason also obtained loans in other people's names without their knowledge or consent … * NEW ORLEANS (1/13/11)--Paul T. Bertuccini Jr., former board member of the Louisiana Central CU and Louisiana Corporate CU, died Sunday in New Orleans at the age of 88. He was retired from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and was manager of the former Federal Officers and Employees CU. He is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren (The Times-Picayune Jan. 12) …

Ill. league obtains 1.4M reg. fee holiday for CUs

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (1/13/11)--All 290 Illinois state-chartered credit unions are seeing a boost to their bottom lines in 2011. That is because they received a holiday on their 2010 fourth-quarter regulatory fee, which would otherwise be due in January to the Illinois Division of Financial Institutions (DFI). They will also receive a partial holiday on their 2011 first quarter fees to be paid to the regulatory agency in April. In total, an aggregate credit of $1,452,256 will be received by Illinois state-chartered credit unions. The fee holiday was a result of legislation initiated by the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) to implement the court-approved settlement of a regulatory fee case filed against the state in 2004. Under the terms of the settlement, state-chartered credit unions, banks, savings banks and savings and loan associations received a cash payment from the state in June 2009. The represents a credit for the overpayment in regulatory fees made under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s fee escalation and transfer (“sweep”) budgetary arrangement adopted by the state in its fiscal years 2004 through 2006. The settlement was signed into law by Governor Patrick Quinn, effective April 6, 2009. The 2009 legislation implementing the settlement accomplished two other goals. It codified a rate reduction in regulatory fees on a permanent basis commencing Jan. 1, 2009. It also reduced the credit union fund margin that triggers a credit back to credit unions. The credit union fund is the dedicated fund into which regulatory fees are deposited to offset the ordinary administrative and operational expenses of the DFI Credit Union Section in supervising state-chartered credit unions. It is structured as an operating account, not a savings account. To ensure adherence to that objective, the league’s legislation reduced the margin level from 50% to 25%. When the balance in the credit union fund at the end of a state fiscal year exceeds 25% of the expenses incurred by the state in administering the Illinois Credit Union Act and related laws, the excess must be credited back to the credit unions that paid the fees. “We are happy to report that the margin threshold has been surpassed for the state’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, which means that state-chartered credit unions are entitled to a credit,” said Stephen Olson, ICUL executive vice president, general counsel and chief operating officer. Olson added that the amount of the credit is determined on a proportionate basis, by taking into account the regulatory fee paid by a particular credit union versus the aggregate amount of all fees collected by DFI from state-chartered credit unions.

Supreme Courts bankruptcy ruling a positive for CUs

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WASHINGTON (1/13/11)--Tuesday's 8-to1 ruling by the Supreme Court of the U.S. in favor of a creditor who contested a bankruptcy filer's disposable income deduction is a "positive for credit unions" or any creditor of unsecured debt in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, according to Michael Edwards, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) counsel for special projects. The ruling in Ransom v. FIA Card Services centered on a standard car-ownership deduction in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan. Since the bankruptcy reform act of 2005, bankruptcy courts in Chapter 13 bankruptcies have used a statutory formula known as the "means test" to help ensure that the debtors who can pay creditors do pay them. The test instructs the debtor to determine his disposable income--the amount that would be available for reimbursing creditors--by deducting from his monthly income "amounts reasonably necessary to be expended." The debtor took deductions for both "car ownership," although he owned the car free and clear and made no lease or loan payments on it, and for "car operation," which cover the costs of operating the vehicle. FIA Card Services contested the "car ownership" deduction amount of $471 but not the car operating deduction of $388. The court held that a debtor who does not make loan or lease payments may not take the car-ownership deduction. The ruling means that the debtor has $471 more in the pool for repaying creditors. "This is a positive for credit unions," said Edwards. "With unsecured debt such as credit card debt, the creditor [including credit unions as creditors] will get a greater recovery than if the court had ruled in favor of the debtor, albeit it is often pennies on the dollar." The decision was the first majority opinion delivered by Justice Elena Kagan. The lone dissenter, Justice Antonin Scalia, said that the "occasional overallowance (or, for that matter, underallowance) "is the inevitable result of a standardized formula like the means test Congress chose to tolerate the occasional peculiarity that a brighter-line test produces. Our job is not to eliminate or reduce those oddit[ies] but to give the formula Congress adopted its fairest meaning"

Reality Fair to be at Capitol during GAC

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WASHINGTON (1/13/11)--A Financial Reality Fair--an experiential leaning opportunity for high school students in which they identify career choices, learn salaries of those choices and try to “live” within their budget--will be held after the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Government Affairs Conference General Session March 2 in Washington, D.C. The fair will be at Rayburn House Office Building, so leagues and lawmakers can stop by the fair, said the Credit Union League of Connecticut. “I have had the opportunity to be involved with Reality Fairs for more than 10 years,” said Tony Emerson, president/CEO of the league. “When you get to see the recognition in students’ faces that financial decisions are important and do affect their daily lives, it is instant gratification that the fairs are worthwhile and effective.” The Washington fair will “highlight the benefits of reality fairs to a larger, influential audience that will be able to take what they see back to their states.” In the experience, students are encouraged to save and spend wisely. Financial counselors explore with students the importance of planning for future needs and preparing themselves for future economic empowerment through savings and wise spending. The fair will tempt students to spend their incomes on “fun,” but the financial counselors will bring their focus back to saving and thrift practices.

Bail denied in defunct CU fraud

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CLEVELAND (1/13/11)--U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth McHargh for the Northern District of Ohio, denied bail for Koljo Nikolovski--an Eastlake, Ohio, man who has been indicted and charged with bank fraud and money laundering stemming from the collapse last April of St. Paul Croatian FCU, based in Eastlake. “Yes, the judge ordered him held,” Mike Tobin, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach’s office in Cleveland, confirmed to News Now. Nikolovski, 48, who has residences in Eastlake and in Skopje, Macedonia, was indicted by a federal grand jury Jan. 5 for fraudulently obtaining $2.5 million in loans and placing the money in a personal bank account before wiring about $2.3 million of the proceeds to a bank in Skopje (Cleveland Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com Jan. 5). The newspaper reported that the indictment said Nikolovski was not eligible for the loan because he previously defaulted on more than $1 million in loans. It alleged he paid cash bribes and kickbacks to the credit union’s CEO Anthony Raquez to influence him to issue the fraudulent loans. It also said that the CEO--who has not been charged with any crime--reset the loans when they defaulted. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Office of the Inspector General (IG) revealed in October that the fraudulent loans put the credit union into liquidation, with losses to the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund totaling $170 million (News Now Oct. 14). The IG report also noted that the CEO “manipulated loan records and masked the suspected loan fraud by constantly refinancing certain loans or making advance payment on those loans.” St. Paul Croatian FCU was placed into conservatorship April 23 and closed May 1. At the time of its closing, it held $238.8 million in funds from 5,400 members (News Now May 4).

Pa. CUs outperform national growth for 3Q 2010

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/13/11)--Pennsylvania credit unions outperformed credit union national growth rates in assets, members, savings and loans during the third quarter of 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA). As of Sept. 30, there were 545 credit unions in Pennsylvania, with $33.4 billion in assets, and 3.58 million members. Credit union membership grew 1.1% in the third quarter, and 1.9% in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, compared to 0.7% national growth for the period, (Life is a Highway Jan 12). . PCUA President/CEO Jim McCormack cited the state’s iBelong credit union awareness campaign as a key factor in the third quarter performance. “The iBelong campaign has steadily raised awareness and the perception of credit unions over the past few years, resulting in consistent membership growth that is stronger than the national average,” said McCormack. Pennsylvania’s total loan balances grew 3.5% for a 12-month period ending Sept. 30. Loans rose 1.5% in the third quarter, faster than the national average of 0.3%. Member business loans were the fastest growing loan category, up 4.9% for the third quarter, compared with 1.8% national growth. First mortgages and other unsecured loans each grew 2.7%. Credit cards increased 2.2%. Nearly 96% of all Pennsylvania credit unions were well capitalized with net worth ratios of 7% or greater. Nationally, 94.5% of credit unions met the standard for being well capitalized. “Pennsylvania credit unions have positioned themselves well during the tough economic times, earning confidence of members in helping them make important financial decisions, as well as improving their visibility within their communities. These are important factors in strengthening the foundation for future credit union growth,” said McCormack.

CU surprises pastor with 25K prize

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DALLAS (1/13/11)--A surprised Dallas minister started his new year with a special delivery: an oversized $25,000 “check” presented to him by leaders of Neighborhood CU, Dallas, Texas.
Click to view larger image Neighborhood CU, Dallas, surprised The Rev. Mark Walz with a $25,000 check to start the new year. Walz was the winner of the credit union’s Prize Savings Account annual drawing. Pictured from left, Neighborhood CU CEO Chet Kimmell, Walz, and Neighborhood Senior Vice President Carolyn Jordan. (Photo provided by Neighborhood CU)
The Rev. Mark Walz was speechless as $250 million-asset Neighborhood CU CEO Chet Kimmell, accompanied by credit union team members, arrived at Walz’ house early Jan. 4. “This is amazing. Truly amazing,” said Walz, as the news sank in. “When I got the call that you wanted to deliver some kind of prize, I figured it was either a $5 bill or a chance to learn about life insurance. This is an amazing surprise and a wonderful way to start the new year.” The pastor of Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff, Texas, Walz has been a member of Neighborhood CU since 2004. He and his wife have checking and savings accounts and an auto loan. The credit union drew the name of the 62-year-old winner from among its Prize Savings Account holders. Neighborhood CU’s Prize Savings Account was created to promote and incent good savings habits. The credit union offers prize drawings throughout the year, culminating with the annual $25,000 grand prize.

CUNA MarketingBiz Development Council taps Gill for keynoter

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MADISON, Wis. (1/13/11)--CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council (CMBDC) has tapped Libby Gill, executive coach, brand strategist and author as the keynote speaker at the 2011 CMBDC Conference, March 16-19, in Las Vegas. Gill, whose clients include Dr. Phil and Accenture, will kick off the two-and a-half day conference with her audience participation game “Name That Brand.” She will share five key strategies for creating a powerful brand that creates mindshare, promoting trust and loyalty. Other sessions for the 18th annual conference include:
* Creative strategies in challenging times: * Strategies for penetrating a crowded market; * Building member relationships online; * Effective social media; * Industry update; and * Two pre-conference workshops (additional fee required)--a full day on marketing plans and a half-day session on the process of turning innovation into action.
A recognition dinner and award presentations for the Marketing Professional of the Year, Business Development Professional of the Year, and Diamond/Merit award winners will take place March 18. Best Practice Award winners also will be announced during the conference.

Australias floods affect CUs

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BRISBANE, Australia (1/13/11)--Continued flash flooding, including what has been described as an “an inland tsunami” bearing down on Brisbane, has saturated the province of Queensland, Australia. After three weeks of rain, communities are underwater, homes have been destroyed, credit unions affected and the personal toll stands at 78 missing and 30 presumed dead.
Click to view larger image A lone wallaby is stranded on a hay bale outside the town of Danby, Queensland, a victim of the worst flooding in Australia’s history. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Massive service disruptions have hit Queensland’s mutuals, including credit unions and building societies, which are dealing with operational challenges and attempting to help members cope with what authorities have described as the worst floods in Australia’s history. Heritage Building Society, based in Toowomba, has closed multiple branches and enacted hardship provisions for its members, including postponing loan payments and adjusting credit contract terms, according to Bill Armagnacq, the assistant CEO. Credit Union Australia was forced to shut down its online banking services in Brisbane (finextra.com Jan. 12). Also, credit unions and building societies in the cities of Warwick, Maleny and Gympie have struggled with flooding, protecting branches with sandbags and in some cases closing them in the face of the rising waters. No credit union staff have been injured or killed during the disaster; however, conditions are expected to worsen now that Brisbane is in the path of the massive wave. World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) member Abacus Australian Mutuals, which serves the country’s 104 credit unions and nine building societies, has taken steps to help its member institutions. The Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, part of WOCCU, has also stepped in and will work with Credit Union Foundation Australia (CUFA) to channel funds to mutuals under siege. WOCCU will make a donation from its own disaster relief funds and invites interested individuals and credit unions to contribute to Australian credit union rebuilding and relief. “Credit unions comprise a global movement and, as such, stand together in the face of disaster,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer “We know that the strong leadership of Abacus and the support of CUFA will make a significant difference in the recovery of Australia’s credit unions and building societies.” WOCCU will send its donation directly to CUFA. Those interested in making a contribution to Australia's relief effort can send their donation by check, credit card or wire to:

Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions

5710 Mineral Point Rd.

Madison, WI 53705, USA

Donations may be made online with a credit card. Use the link. For wire transfer information, contact: Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 608-395-2055, or vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate that the donation is for Australia Disaster Relief.

CU System briefs (01/11/2011)

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* TOTOWA, N.J., and PATERSON, N.J. (1/12/11)--The snowstorm that hit the northeast early this week has delayed the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a student-run branch of North Jersey FCU at Paterson, N.J., Public Schools. The event was supposed to be today, but has been moved to 10 a.m. ET on Jan. 18. Twenty-seven students from grades 10-12 have been trained to operate the new credit union branch at JFK High School in Paterson. They will be supervised by a teacher and full-time credit union employee, but students will have primary responsibility for the branch. The group participates in the school's Business, Technology and Marketing Academy, and will develop marketing promotions and creative initiatives for the branch … * WHITEFISH, Mont. (1/12/11)--Whitefish (Mont.) CU is helping out Glacier Bank whose Eureka branch was destroyed by fire in October. The bank said construction on a new branch at the site will begin in March and is expected to be completed in November. In the weeks after the fire, Glacier Bank employees used space provided by the $1.2 billion asset credit union and a local bank. Now the employees are working from a modular building. Fire officials have determined the fire was an accident (Associated Press Newswires Jan. 10) … * ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (1/12/11)--PSCU Financial Services announced it will continue sponsorship of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's (CWF) initiative to educate students on the nation's democratic principles and foundation. The St. Petersburg-based credit union service organization (CUSO) is funding 50 schools nationwide to receive seven monthly electronic field trips to bring American history to life for elementary and middle-school students through streaming video productions with interactive question-and-answer sessions. "We are continuing this sponsorship in honor of our late CEO Dave Serlo, who passionately believed American youth need to understand the principles and responsibilities of our democratic government to ensure that our heritage of freedom and democracy is passed down to future generations," said Mike Yatros, interim CEO of PSCU Financial Services. The CUSO said it encourages credit unions to provide scholarships for local schools. Electronic field trips cost $500 for a series of seven events during a school year. The fee registers all participating teachers and students in one school …

Branch manager injured in robbery

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GERMANTOWN, Md. (1/12/11)--A branch manager was injured Saturday when he was thrown over the counter during a robbery at his credit union in White Oak, Md. According to local news reports, two armed men entered the branch of Mid-Atlantic FCU Saturday at about 10:42 a.m. They announced the robbery and attacked the manager (Associated Press Newswires and Colesville.Patch.com Jan. 10) . Although initial reports indicated there were no injuries, police later told local media the manager had suffered a possible broken leg that required medical attention when he was tossed over the counter. The suspects left the area in a small, dark-colored van with an undisclosed amount.

Third suspect arrested in ATM shooting

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (1/12/11)--A third suspect has been arrested in an attempted murder and robbery Dec. 16 at an ATM at a Gainesville, Fla.-based credit union. Alachua police arrested Akil Flagg at his residence on Dec. 30 in connection with the incident (Alachuacountytoday.com Jan. 9). He was found hiding in an air conditioning vent inside the residence but was arrested without incident. A man was shot at while retrieving cash from an ATM at SunState FCU in Alachua at about 11:15 p.m. Dec. 16. He had withdrawn cash from the ATM, returned to his car and was leaning forward to start the engine when a gunshot shattered the driver's side window of the car. He was not hit but drove to the police department, where he told police he noticed a white Fort Explorer nearby (News Now Dec. 20). Two suspects, Derae Jenkins, 18, and Richard Addison, 24, both of Gainesville, were arrested earlier. Addison was caught while fleeing with two other men from a sports utility vehicle parked near the ATM. Jenkins was arrested Dec. 23, said the Alachua newspaper. Police found a gun inside the vehicle, which had been reported stolen two days earlier.

Small FIs ahead of big banks in wooing Mass. consumers

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FAIRHAVEN, Mass. (1/12/11)--Although big national banks have begun adding branches and beefing up services to woo Massachusetts' consumers, local credit unions and community banks are already "ahead of the game," said a Fairhaven, Mass., newspaper. "Community banks and credit unions have capitalized on dissatisfaction with national financial giants by adding new branches in the region over the past year," said the SouthCoastToday.com (Jan. 9). The newspaper noted that more than half of major banks plan to add branches or maintain existing ones because the branch is where most account openings take place. They are looking to turn basic checking accounts into more lucrative relationships by focusing more on service, the article said. The newspaper also interviewed local credit unions and community banks about their growth. Southern Mass CU, a $177.3 million asset credit union in Fairhaven, last year added a full-service branch in Bedford, and it plans to open a branch in Fall River in about two years. It also has a branch office at Fairhaven High School during the academic year. "We began our expansion plan development several years ago and selected the New Bedford location long before the recent trend of other financial institutions adding more branches and services," Southern Mass CU President/CEO Daniel Waltz told the publication. "The opening of our first full-service branch office just happened to coincide with this recent trend." He agreed national banks are trying to emulate smaller financial institutions that offer competitive services. "Consumers have recognized this and have been moving their financial account relationships from large, nationwide banks to community credit unions and banks such as Southern Mass CU where they receive personalized service and know we are always looking out for their best interests," Waltz said.

CUs credit card clunkers program finds success

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (1/12/11)--Leyden CU has adapted the “Cash for Clunkers” program to the credit card market, helping the Franklin Park, Ill.-based credit union serve its mission and offering members a way to get their debt under control. The program was initiated in August 2009, around the time of the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” auto program. Leyden CU CEO David Lukas decided to try something in similar to help members get out from under overwhelming debt they held on bank credit cards. Because it realized losses in the past with debt consolidation programs, the credit union entered the program with caution by first surveying members through its online banking site to gauge interest. The response was positive, and the credit union went forward with the program. To participate, members submit their worst, or “clunker,” bank credit card. In return, members who meet lending criteria are granted a three-year loan at 9% interest--the same interest rate as the credit union’s VISA Gold card. Once the loan is paid off in good standing, members can then re-apply for another loan to pay off other credit cards. Lukas said participation in the program has been modest, but those who take part are pleased with it. In fact, he described a few members who held $25,000 in credit card debt with interest rates up to 30%. “That’s something they were never going to be able to pay off,” he said. Lukas described the program as a success. In the year since it rolled out, the program has provided more than 40 loans, with low delinquencies and no charge-offs. Two members paid off their loans early and are starting on their second ones. At this point, the program is open-ended, Lukas said. “This is just one thing we can do to be true to our mission statement and help others along the way,” he explained.

Fees expert Low incomers will leave banks for CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (1/12/11)---Expect to see lower-income bank customers leave bigger banks for more affordable options, such as credit unions, a fees consultant who advises banks and credit unions told Public Radio International on Monday. With new rules for cards and overdraft fees, banks will try to find profits in other places, such as fees, according to the report. Mike Moebs, a consultant based Lake Bluff, Ill., said he expects banks to start charging customers fees for low balances, not having multiple accounts with the bank and not banking online. “They’re basically shedding themselves of accounts they can’t make any money at,” Moebs said. Those types of fees will hit low-income consumers especially hard, and they will look for “cheaper options like credit unions,” he added.

LSCU CUs take part in Fla. governors inauguration

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. and TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (1/12/11)--Republican Rick Scott was sworn in as Florida’s 45th governor Jan. 4, and the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU)--representing credit unions in Alabama and Florida--and seven Florida credit unions attended the event and participated in the day’s festivities.
Republican Rick Scott (center) is sworn is as Florida’s 45th Governor Jan. 4. The League of Southeastern Credit Unions--representing credit unions in Alabama and Florida--and seven Florida credit unions attended the event and participated in the day’s festivities. (Photo provided by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions)
The league was one of the sponsors of the inauguration and helped credit unions have access to a prayer breakfast at Florida A&M, the swearing-in ceremony, inaugural parade and inauguration ball. Attending the inaugural ball were Larry Tobin, CEO of Fairwinds CU in Orlando; Brent Lister, CEO of First Florida CU in Jacksonville; Cecilia Homison, CEO of Florida Commerce CU, Tallahassee; and Patrick La Pine, LSCU president/CEO. Among those attending the swearing-in ceremony were Lisa Brown, CEO of Tallahassee-Leon FCU in Tallahassee; Steven Nazurak, CEO of Tallahassee (Fla.) FCU; Clarence Rivers, interim CEO of Florida A&M University FCU in Tallahassee, and LSCU staff. Darrell Worrel, CEO of Envision CU in Tallahassee, along with Brown, Rivers and Homison attended the prayer breakfast. At the inaugural, which included six former governors, Scott talked about the steps needed to get Florida back on track. “We have to remember that modern businesses can locate anywhere,” Scott said. “If the conditions Florida offers aren’t the best, businesses go elsewhere. What does it take to create that favorable business climate? Florida has to offer the best chance for financial success. Not a guarantee--just the best chance. Three forces markedly reduce that chance for success--taxation, regulation and litigation. Together those three form ‘The Axis of Unemployment’. Left unchecked, they choke off productive activity.” Scott issued several executive orders that included: the suspension of rulemaking and the establishment of an Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform, the verification of employment status, ethics and open government, and reaffirmation of commitment to diversity in government. Also included was the Code of Ethics from the Executive Office of the Governor, effective Jan. 4. The involvement of LSCU is a continuation of a commitment to build relationships with elected officials in the state and elevate the visibility of the credit union industry, said LSCU.

WOCCU calls for WYCUP nominations

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MADISON, Wis. (1/12/11)--The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is accepting nominations for the 2011 WOCCU Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) Scholarship Program, which promotes international education and networking opportunities for credit union professionals and volunteers under age 35.The deadline for nominations is June 14.
Click to view larger image Pete Crear, president/CEO of World Council of Credit Unions (left), presented 2010 WYCUP Scholarships to winners, from left, Christie-Anne Scott, Australia; Carol Karugu, Kenya; Orla O’Shea, Ireland; Melia Keller, U.S.; and Scott Daukas, U.S. The presentation took place at The 1 Credit Union Conference in Las Vegas in July. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
The WYCUP Scholarship Program seeks individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of their credit unions, or regional or national credit union systems, and have demonstrated the potential to employ their talents at the international level. Credit unions and credit union organizations that are WOCCU members can nominate their candidates to compete for the scholarship. “Over the past decade nearly 500 young credit union professionals and volunteers have passed through the program,” said WOCCU Director Ron Hance, president/CEO of Heritage Family CU in Rutland, Vt., and chair of the WOCCU Awards Committee. “The hallmark of any profession is its willingness and commitment to train the next generation of leadership, and the WYCUP program helps the global credit union movement to fulfill that mission.” To be eligible for the scholarship, nominees must:
* Be sponsored by their credit union or credit union organization to attend the 2011 World Credit Union Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in July; * Be 35 years of age or younger on Jan. 1, 2011; and * Submit a completed nomination form to WOCCU with supporting materials no later than June 14.
The WYCUP Scholarship, which consists of an all-expense-paid trip to the 2012 World Credit Union Conference in Gdansk, Poland, will be awarded to five recipients at the 2011 Glasgow conference. All WYCUP nominees, regardless of award status, will be formally recognized in Glasgow and invited to take part in events and networking sessions organized throughout the conference for participants under age 35. Conference registrants age 35 and under also qualify for a discounted registration fee regardless of whether or not they compete for the scholarship. “The energy and enthusiasm that comes out of the WYCUP program is intoxicating,” said WYCUP founder Dave Grace, WOCCU senior vice president of association services. “Dozens of lasting connections among young professionals are created each year.” For more information, use the link. For questions about WYCUP, contact Liliana Tangwall at ltangwell@woccu.org or call 608-395-2043.

One year later Haiti CUs poised for comeback

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (1/12/10)--Piles of rubble and acres of tents still dominate the skyline of Haiti, a country in which supplies remain scarce, violence sometimes threatens and the struggle for survival continues. But one year after the most devastating earthquake in the country's history, hope looms on the horizon as Haiti's caisse populaires--credit unions--begin their slow comeback.
Click to view larger image Massive piles of rubble caused by last year's earthquake still wait to be cleared in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.
It's a comeback built on financial assistance from the global credit union movement and the will to once again serve members in dire need, said a release from the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). "Haiti's credit unions have a determination and resolve like none I've ever seen," said Greta Greathouse, chief of party for the Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) program, implemented in part by WOCCU. "They are recovering with help from multiple sectors and will no doubt become stronger and more efficient than they were prior to the disaster." An earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck Haiti's southern shore, including the capital of Port-au-Prince, shortly before 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 12, 2010. The disaster claimed an estimated 230,000 lives and left an additional one million people homeless. Enormous tent communities arose in the quake's aftermath, many of which are still occupied. Many of the credit unions in Haiti's earthquake zone were damaged and a handful destroyed. Greater problems loomed when balance sheets for even undamaged credit unions began to crumble as borrowers either had died or lost all their assets and were no longer able to satisfy their debts. Some credit unions estimated as much as 70% of their loan portfolios would default, potentially driving the institutions out of business.
Click to view larger image Greta Greathouse, right, head of the World Council of Credit Unions' HIFIVE program in Haiti, and Yvrose Joseph, left, HIFIVE director of financial products and services, present a US$200,000 check to Jocelyn St. Jean, general director of La Federation des Caisse Populaires Le Levier.
The global credit union movement rallied to the cause, in the end contributing nearly $1.2 million to the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, WOCCU's fundraising arm. (Editor's note: All dollar amounts are in U.S. dollars.) The contributions were used to buy 175 tents to provide structures out of which the credit unions operated and provide temporary housing for credit union staff. The funds also paid for psychological counseling for staff and helped support some reconstruction costs for qualifying credit unions. Reconstruction grants drawn from funds raised, as well as HIFIVE's own grant fund, were given in varying amounts to three credit unions. Applications from other credit unions are under consideration for a total amount committed of $377,000. Recently, HIFIVE officials presented a $200,000 grant to La Fédération des Caisse Populaires Le Levier, an organization representing 17 of the country's larger credit unions. Le Levier's grant money will provide balance sheet stabilization loans to its member institutions. As the credit unions pay back Le Levier, the association will create a pool of funds similar to an insurance fund to provide its member institutions with greater stability. Haiti's credit unions currently have no form of insurance, said WOCCU.
Click to view larger image More than one million people--including credit union employees and members--were left homeless by the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti. Most still live in tent cities throughout the country. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Not all credit unions are in such dire straits. Mango farmers in Mirebalais benefited this past year from Kredi Mango (Mango Credit), a micro-credit program developed by HIFIVE to provide credit union loans at critical times during the mango growing season. The loans enabled farmers to delay crop sales until they are guaranteed the best possible price. Loans also cover the costs of seed for growing other small-market crops. This past year HIFIVE also co-sponsored Mon Enterprise, Mon Avenir (My Business, My Future), a business plan competition that aimed to inspire Haiti's entrepreneurs to more effectively participate in the rebuilding of their country. The competition attracted 377 participants--nearly twice the anticipated number. The 10 winners each received $10,000 and additional assistance to support their enterprises. Several credit unions also stepped forward to provide support to the semifinalists. "Haiti's credit unions prove what an indomitable spirit the movement has in times of trouble," said Pete Crear, WOCCU's president/CEO, who led an April delegation of credit union officials to the Caribbean island nation to view the earthquake devastation firsthand. "We can be proud of the work Haiti's credit unions have done, as well as the support and goodwill that the global credit union movement has provided. Together, we will turn this situation around."

CU System briefs (01/10/2011)

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* TRENTON, N.J. (1/11/11)--New Jersey Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) has become the 12th co-sponsor to an Assembly measure that would amend the state's 40-year-old Governmental Unit Depository Protection Act (GUDPA). The bill would enable counties, school boards, municipalities and other local government entities to include credit unions when considering potential depositories. The state Senate passed a companion bill, S-1807, in June with a 29-6 vote. The Assembly measure is pending consideration in the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, said the New Jersey Credit Union League (The Daily Exchange Jan. 7) … * TUCSON, Ariz. (1/11/11)--A 71-year-old woman and her 47-year-old daughter have been charged in two robberies, including one at Tucson FCU, and one in Pima County at a Bank of the West branch. Evelyn L. Ward and her daughter Bonnie Jane Jasmer were arrested by Tucson Police after a tip from a citizen. Police said a handgun was used in the bank robbery but not the credit union heist. Ward allegedly entered the financial institutions and Jasmer allegedly was the getaway car driver. They have been charged with one count of robbery, one count of armed robbery and two counts of aggravated robberies, all felonies (abc15.com Jan. 8) … * CHULA VISTA, Calif. (1/11/11)--Tellers at a Chula Vista, Calif., branch apparently foiled a robbery attempt Friday when they refused to open a locked door for a masked man. The man wore a blue bandana over his face and tried to enter the branch at about 10 a.m., said police. The small credit union, which has a practice of keeping its doors locked and letting members in one at a time, activated a silent alarm and would not let him enter. The man shouted and rattled the door briefly before leaving in a Volkswagen Jetta (Sandiego6.com Jan. 7) … * JANESVILLE, Wis. (1/11/11)--Sherri Stumpf has been named president/CEO of Janesville-based Blackhawk Community CU. She succeeds Robert Carmichael. Stumpf most recently was chief operating officer of TruStone Financial FCU, Minneapolis. She also has held management positions at the Bank of Elk River, Minn., and Home Depot. Blackhawk has $322 million in assets and more than 32,000 members with locations in Janesville, Edgerton, Delavan and Stoughton, Wis. (Wisconsin State Journal Jan 6) … * MEXICO, Mo. (1/11/11)--United CU President/CEO Betty Clark is retiring after spending more than 20 years in the credit union movement, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA). Clark started as vice president of Mexico, Mo.-based United in 1989, moving up to senior vice president in 1994 and president in 2001. She held positions in the Northeast Chapter of Credit Unions, serving as vice chair and chairman of the MCUA Board, chairman of the Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation Board and a member of Credit Union National Association's Examination and Supervision subcommittee. During her tenure, the credit union grew to $115 million in assets from $61 million. She will be succeeded by Brent Sadler, who was chief operating officer of Mid Missouri CU, Fort Leonard Wood, and previously served in the U.S. Army. At Mid Missouri, Sadler provided volunteer personal finance and credit score counseling to more than 12,500 soldiers and civilians and partnered with MCUA for the Homes for Our Troops project (The Missouri difference Jan. 7) …

Fitch affirms corporate rating after merger announced

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CHICAGO (1/11/11)--Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU's rating has been affirmed by Fitch Ratings. The affirmation followed announcement of the corporate's plans to pursue a merger with VACORP FCU. Fitch said it affirmed the "A+" long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) and the "F1+" short-term IDR. The rating outlook is stable. Mid-Atlantic and VACORP entered into an agreement in principal to pursue a merger. Mid-Atlantic, which will be the surviving charter, has begun its due diligence process, said Fitch's press release. The merger is subject to approval by the National Credit Union Administration and VACORP's members. If approved, the merger is expected to be completed in fourth quarter. "The transaction should provide the combined company with some cost-saving opportunities, but more importantly, by the time the merger is completed, Mid-Atlantic will likely have completed its current capital-raising initiatives and capital ratios for the combined company are expected to be in compliance with the new regulatory standards," Fitch said. Fitch said its affirmation reflects that Mid-Atlantic's IDR is currently at its Support rating floor. The Individual rating, which reflects the corporate's stand-alone financial position absent external support, remains an "E." An "E" rating denotes a company that requires or will require external support. Although Mid-Atlantic has never fallen below its mandatory regulatory capital requirements, Fitch said, it "still faces significant capital challenges and continues to benefit from the government support provided to the industry to stabilize the corporate credit union system." However, as Mid-Atlantic executes on its current capital-raising initiatives while maintaining its otherwise sound fundamentals, the companies Individual rating would likely be upgraded, Fitch said. The $3.1 billion asset Mid-Atlantic is based in Middletown, Pa., and the $1.2 billion corporate credit union is based in Lynchburg, Va. On a pro-forma basis the total assets of the combined company will be more than $4.3 billion, with a membership base of about 860 member institutions. For the full ratings report, use the link.

Injured congresswoman a CU supporter

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TUCSON, Ariz. (1/11/11)--Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was critically injured in Saturday's shootings in Tucson, has worked closely with credit unions on several key issues, said the Arizona Credit Union League. Six people were killed--including a federal judge, a congressional aide, and a nine-year-old girl--and 14 others injured--including two other aides--during the rampage, which occurred as Giffords greeted constituents in her first "Congress on Your Corner" event of her third term in Congress. Monday she remained in critical condition after being shot in the head, but doctors say they are optimistic she will recover. The alleged assailant, Jared L. Loughner, 22, has been charged with five federal counts, including the attempted assassination of a member of Congress. "The tragedy over the weekend has left all of us in Arizona with very heavy hearts," said league President/CEO Scott Earl. "The league mourns the six Arizonans we lost, as we extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the victims. We continue to pray for the full recovery of Congresswoman Giffords, as well as those that were injured on Saturday." Earl noted that the league and member credit unions have worked with Giffords for over a decade. "Our relationship began when she was first elected as a state representative in 2001, and later elected to the State Senate in 2003. At the time, she was the youngest female elected to the Arizona State Senate," he said. In 2005, she resigned from the Senate to seek election to the open congressional seat in the state's eighth district. "During her initial campaign, the league endorsed Giffords and even held a credit union Meet and Greet for her in Tucson," Earl told News Now. "The league again supported her candidacy during the 2008 and 2010 elections. Our federal political action committee, CULAC, contributed a total of $11,500 spanning across all three elections." "Since her time in Congress, credit unions have worked closely with Congresswoman Giffords on several key issues. She has been one of the most accessible representatives in the state and has always been willing to meet and listen to credit union concerns," he said. Last spring, credit union constituents from Congressional District 8 visited Washington, D.C. to meet with her. "Instead of holding a meeting in her office, she invited her credit union constituents to join her for breakfast at a D.C. coffee shop to have a more personal conversation with us. After meeting with our group, the congresswoman joined us by signing a letter of opposition to an interchange fee amendment." The league said that several credit unions have asked how they might show support in the wake of the tragedy. Arizona State CU shared this statement from Giffords' husband, Captain Mark Kelly: "Many of you have offered help. There is little that we can do but pray for those who are struggling. If you are inspired to make a positive gesture, consider two organizations that Gabby has long valued and supported: Tucson's Community Food Bank and the American Red Cross." Arizona State CU and the league will make a contribution to the Community Food Bank.

Community Food Bank

3003 S Country Club Road #221

Tucson, AZ 85713-4084

520-622-0525

American Red Cross, Southern Arizona Chapter

2916 E. Broadway Blvd.

Tucson, AZ 85716

520-318-6740

Mass. Court Must record mortgage before foreclosure

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BOSTON (1/11/11)--The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Friday upheld a lower court's ruling that US Bancorp and Wells Fargo foreclosures were invalid because the mortgages contested weren't legally recorded first as being owned by the foreclosing banks. The ruling could have implications for all mortgage lenders, including credit unions, in the state. The court unanimously upheld the March 2009 decision by Land Court Judge Keith C. Long, which rejected claims made by the two banks that, as securitization trustees, they did not have to prove their authority to foreclose on two separate homes. However, the court found their assignment of mortgage notes invalid because they left blank the part of the notes designating who the properties were transferred to and therefore failed to meet the state's requirement for the assignment notes as negotiable instruments. Also, the mortgage transfers were not recorded with the state's recording agency as required by state law. If the lender has no valid assignment note, it is not the mortgage holder; if not the mortgage holder, it can't foreclose on the mortgage, the court said. The ruling repudiates the industry’s fallback defense on botched securitization procedures. The American Securitization Forum and several securitization attorneys working for the banking industry have argued that evidence of intended transfers of a mortgage are enough to demonstrate legal standing. The Massachusetts high court rejected that argument. In Massachusetts, the ownership of a mortgage can be divided and transferred multiple times by the lenders into mortgage-backed securities existing along with the mortgaged property. The transfer document often lags in months or even years of the property's sale. That, coupled with the trend of passing along assignment paper without the mortgagor's name, makes it difficult to determine who owns what in the "chain of title" from lender to lender of the trusts. Many states have adopted nonjudicial foreclosures to alleviate unnecessary paperwork and speed up time in court. But the court maintained that "there must be proof that the assignment was made by a party that itself held the mortgage. "The key in either case is that the foreclosing entity must hold the mortgage at the time of the notice (of foreclosure) and sale in order accurately to identify itself as the present holder in the notice and in order to have the authority to foreclose under the power of sale…," the court wrote. "The theoretical purpose of mortgage recording is to put other lenders and third parties on notice that the property is encumbered with a mortgage on the property, but recordation is an important part of states' mortgage regulatory schemes and is typically a prerequisite for foreclosure," said Michael Edwards, counsel for special projects at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). He told News Now the case could have implications for credit unions and other lenders in Massachusetts. Credit unions "should check with their lawyer to make sure that they are in full compliance with all state and federal laws, including making sure that mortgages are assigned in compliance with the state's Uniform Commercial Code and are recorded with the state." He noted the case could be an issue for title insurers and people who have purchased foreclosed homes in Massachusetts. "If there is a cloud on a title, it would involve a separate court case to settle the title. Hopefully credit unions have kept better records than the banks in this case."

IKansas City Business JournalI CUs help small biz

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KANSAS CITY (1/11/11)--Credit unions are increasingly finding ways to provide loans to small businesses as they diversify their service portfolios for members, according to an article this week in the Kansas City Business Journal. “It’s a market we want to develop,” Dennis Pierce, CEO of $1.75 billion-asset Community America CU in Lenexa, Kan., told the Journal. “We go at it as an extension of our members’ personal business, and we tend to continue to focus that way.” Although the credit union doesn’t aggressively try to market products to local businesses, commercial loans are becoming more important because members are struggling to keep their small businesses thriving in a troubled economy, Pierce told the Journal. “If you look at national statistics, most of the job growth is going to happen with small businesses, so we want to be a part of that and support it,” Pierce added. Credit unions often provide loans that banks don’t because credit unions look at the character and individual circumstances of the applicants, Rob Givens, CEO of $410.6 million-asset Mazuma CU in Kansas City, told the Journal. “It varies case by case, but in general, I think the difference is the relationship we establish and the commitment we make to really understand their business,” Givens added. “We dig into it and try to find what is going on that inhibits them from getting a loan from a bank. Having a deeper level of understanding for what they are trying to do often gives us confidence to make a loan that a bank might not do.” From March 2009 to March 2010, credit union business lending rose 9%, while it decreased 9% at banks, according to Credit Union National Association (CUNA) data, the Journal said. CUNA and credit unions have advocated to Congress that their member business lending cap should be lifted to 27.5% of total assets from 12.25% to boost the economy with 100,000 jobs and $10 billion in loans to small businesses, at no expense to the taxpayer. To read the article, use the link.

Schenk to IBankrate.comI Savers face prolonged yield drought

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MADISON, Wis. (1/11/11)--People looking to bolster their savings during the next few years will have to deal with a paucity of interest rate yields, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told Bankrate.com Monday. Although no one knows for certain when the Fed will adjust interest rates, one sure thing is that it won’t happen until inflation becomes a concern, Bankrate.com said. As a result, savers may face a prolonged yield drought for the next several years, Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economics and statistics, told the publication. "Without those substantial increases in economic activity, without improvements in labor markets, you won’t have inflation pressures,” Schenk added. To read the article, use the link.

WalletPop recommends CUs to young adults

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MADISON, Wis. (1/11/11)--AOL consumer finance website WalletPop.com advised young adults to check out their local credit unions in a recent article on what financial products they should choose and which ones they should leave behind. The article advised young consumers of financial services to opt for a bank or credit union checking account over a prepaid debit card. The article specifically pointed cost-conscious readers to credit unions. “Our experts recommend checking out local credit unions, since these often have lower fees than banks,” the article said. Prepaid cards don’t offer the same protections as checking accounts, the article said. With monthly fees and activities charges, prepaid cards also tend to be more expensive than checking accounts.

31 from 13 states earn CCUE designations

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MADISON, Wis (1/11/11)--Credit Union National Association Certified Credit Union Executive (CCUE) designations have been awarded to 31 individuals from 13 different states, bringing the total nationwide to 2,714. Designed for managers and those aspiring to credit union leadership, the CCUE program teaches advanced credit union management and operations techniques. High honors were awarded to Allison Anderson, Clinchfield FCU, Erwin, Tenn., and Mark Young, Maine State CU, Augusta, Maine. Honors were awarded to Carol E. Rich, State Employees CU, Raleigh, N.C., and Peter VanGraafeiland, CCUE, Coastal FCU, Raleigh, N.C. Also, three individuals earned the Certified Financial Services Professional (CFSP) designation. This program began in 1999 as a designation targeted specifically at educating credit union professionals specializing in financial services. Julie L. Cunningham, Cherokee Strip CU, Ponca City, Okla., earned honors in the Certified Financial Services Program. The Certified Executive Program (CEP) awarded specialty certifications to 16 credit union professionals. The certifications require in-depth courses in a specialty area, including: compliance, lending, financial management, marketing and human resources. The CEP is the overall name for the self-study program allowing for the above designations. Recommended for college credit by the American Council on Education (ACE), the classes and materials are tailored to those working within the credit union system. VanGraafeiland also graduated with honors as a Certified Lending Specialist

Bill Gates Kudos to WOCCU mobile phone effort

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MADISON, Wis. (1/11/11)--Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates gave kudos in his personal blog to World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) for its efforts in helping to bring financial services via mobile phones to poor African countries. “When I visited Kenya last December I had a chance to observe M-PESA, which is a mobile money service that is being used by more than 13 million people for storing and transferring money,” Gates wrote. “Services like M-PESA are exciting because financial services of any kind have been available to only 10% of the 2.5 billion people who live on less than $2 per day.” Gates said he took part in a panel discussion, which included WOCCU, about the kinds of partnerships that can deliver financial services to every household in developing countries. “I was … struck by how Brian Branch, [chief operating officer of WOCCU], recognized that scale is a problem for the smaller community-based banks he represents, but also an opportunity,” Gates wrote. “They are seeking ways to band together to find common technology solutions and partner with bigger players with national payment platforms such as Safaricom. This way they can remain true to the interests of the local communities they serve, offering more services at a lower cost. “Technology can be a major force to advance financial inclusion, which can help improve the lives of the poor in the developing world,” Gates added. “This is an important focus of the foundation’s efforts. At the Global Savings Forum, we pledged $500 million over five years to help create access to savings accounts that will help increase the financial security of the world’s poorest. “I’m personally very excited about these efforts, which have the potential to replicate in other key markets,” he concluded. To read Gates’ blog, use the link.

NCUF grantee helps Kansas City Hispanics with fin lit

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (1/11/11)--Holy Rosary CU is making headway in helping its local Hispanic community become financially literate through a collaborative financial education program made possible by a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation.
“Your Finances Today” is part of an outreach initiative to bring financial services and skills to the largely unbanked Latino community in Kansas City. Here, instructor Ximena Pacheco and her assistant, Leonel Prato, discuss the basics of credit during a “Your Finances Today” session. (Photo provided by National Credit Union Foundation)
The program, “Your Finances Today: Building Your Brighter Financial Future” is one part of an outreach initiative to bring financial services and skills to the largely unbanked Latino community in Kansas City. Through NCUF’s grant to the Missouri Credit Union Association, St. Louis, Nancy Pierce, field coach for the NCUF’s REAL Solutions program in Missouri, is working with Holy Rosary to develop community partnerships to better serve the market and to document efforts and results for a case analysis. The $10 million-asset Kansas City-based credit union is working with St. Anthony’s Parish Catholic Church to reach Latino parishioners and to gain their trust. The Reverend Joseph Cisetti of the parish approached Carole Wight, CEO of the credit union, in 2009 and requested financial and educational help for his Latino parishioners. The result is a growing and strengthening relationship between the church and credit union to perform outreach to meet the financial needs of the Hispanic community. The program’s two-hour modules were taught over a seven-week period. Ximena Pacheco, a native of Chile with a background in personal financial education, constructed the curriculum and taught the classes. The modules covered the U.S. financial system, credit and budgeting and identity theft. The final two sessions, which addressed buying a house, funding a college education, and starting a micro-business, were taught by Spanish-speaking experts in those areas. As a community development credit union, Holy Rosary also was provided a grant by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to cover the costs of the instruction and development of a curriculum designed for the immigrant market. The participants were identified by Brother Jim Krause of St. Anthony’s as leaders among the Latino parishioners and were encouraged to attend the program, so they could recommend future courses to other families.

Serving Underserved Conference adds speakers

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NEW YORK (1/10/11)--New keynote speakers have been added for the 37th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved to be held June 15-18 in Hollywood, Calif., according to the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. Speakers include:
* Sister Corrine Florek, a pioneer in community investing and founder of the Mercy Investment Partnership. The partnership was the first investor in the federation's Community Development Investment Program over 25 years ago. * Pete Crear, president/CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions, who will offer a global perspective on credit union community economic development activities worldwide. * A. Rex Johnson, owner/founder of Lending Solutions Consulting, an instructor at the Credit Union National Association's Advanced Lending School, former credit union manager and inductee into the Illinois Credit Union Hall of Fame; * Mark Pinsky, president of the Opportunity Finance Network, who will provide his vision for the future of community development finance; and * Jennifer Tescher, president/CEO of Center for Financial Services Innovation, who is active in raising the profile of underbanked access and asset-building in the industry for the industry. She will focus on innovative programs and products credit unions can adopt to better serve their communities.
The federation has limited scholarships to assist member community development credit unions in attending the conference. For more information use the resource link. Scholarship applications are due Feb. 18. For more information, use the link.

CU targets Milwaukee ZIP codes for IDA grants

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MILWAUKEE (1/10/11)--Brewery CU is targeting neighborhoods with specific Milwaukee ZIP Codes to disperse $100,000 in Individual Development Account (IDA) grants. The $33 million asset community development credit union announced it will partner with Select Milwaukee and the $427,000 asset CTK CU in a neighborhood stabilization effort that involves nine of Milwaukee's ZIP codes. The program is open to all residents of southeastern Wisconsin. Brewery CU is taking applications from members in the community who wish to participate in an IDA program. The program was made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund. IDAs are special savings accounts set up to help people purchase an asset, in this case a first-home. Brewery CU will match up to $2,500 to use toward a down payment and other home purchasing costs, said the credit union in a press release. The program has no income limitations. The member's account must be opened for at least six months and cannot be opened longer than 12 months to earn the matched funds. The IDA funds can be earned only if the first-time homebuyer is purchasing a home in one of nine ZIP codes.

12 nonprofits compete in CUs charity contest

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MADISON, Wis. (1/10/11)--Twelve Madison, Wis.-area nonprofit organizations have been selected for Heartland CU's "Go Local" contest, in which they will compete for a $10,000 donation from the credit union. The 12 organizations have posted what they would do with the $10,000 on the Go Local Contest page of the credit union's website (use the link). Voting is open on Heartland's website and the public can cast votes until April 3 on which nonprofit should receive the donation, said the credit union. The organization receiving the most votes will receive the donation. The contest is part of Heartland's "Go Local" campaign, which gives $75,000 back to the credit union's communities via donations, services and employees' volunteer time in 2010 and 2011. Earlier it enlisted the public's help in nominating local nonprofits that make a difference and do their part to support their communities. "We were so impressed by the hundreds of nominations that we had for the contest, and even though we planned on 10 finalists, there were so many deserving nonprofits we chose 12," said Sally Dischler, CEO of Heartland CU. "Our Go Local semifinalists represent so many great projects and stories, and we can't wait to see how the community votes." The winner will be announced in May.

Maine CUs awareness campaign underway

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PORTLAND, Maine (1/10/11)--The Maine Credit Union League kicked off its 2011-2012 statewide awareness campaign under the new theme, “Look into Maine’s Credit Unions. You’ll like what you see.” The centerpiece of the campaign is a set of TV commercials built on gaming and 3-D concepts. The topics of the 15-second spots are lending, technology, convenience, shared branching, savings, locality, and the fact that consumers are always welcome at credit unions, said the league’s newsletter Weekly Update Jan. 7). The league’s media buy includes placement in programs popular with Gen Y, such as “Glee.” The program also includes the league’s sponsorship of the National Basketball Association Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws, and quarterly public service announcements featuring financial tips. The campaign’s reach has expanded to include Web advertising, including Facebook and Google. Another addition to the program is the league’s sponsorship of Young & Free Maine, a campaign to attract young adults. The program’s spokesperson will interact with the state’s 25-and-under crowd in person and through social media, sharing financial advice and advocating for Maine credit unions. The program will launch in April.

Seven scams targeting small businesses

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MADISON, Wis. (1/10/11)--Credit unions serving small businesses with member business loans should note seven scams, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). “Small-business fraud can come from internal threats, such as employee fraud, or from external full-time scammers,” said Alison Southwick, BBB spokeswoman. “Because small-business owners often lack the time and resources to fight fraud, they are a popular mark for any number of different scams” (LoneStar Leaguer Jan. 5). Credit unions can warn their business members about these scams:
* Directory Scams--Usually the scammer will call a business to “update” the company’s entry in an online directory, or the scammer might lie about being with the Yellow Pages. The business is later billed hundreds of dollars for listing services it didn’t agree to or for ads which it thought would be in the Yellow Pages. * Office Supply Scams--Some scammers prey on small-business owners and hope they won’t notice a bill for office supplies--such as toner or paper--that the company never ordered. * Overpayment Scams--Businesses should be cautious if a customer overpays using a check or credit card and then asks the business to wire the extra money back to them or to a third party. Overpayment scams often target catering businesses, manufacturers, wholesalers and even sellers on sites like eBay, Craigslist and Etsy. * Data Breaches--No matter how vigilant a company is, a data breach can still happen. Whether it’s the result of hackers, negligence or a disgruntled employee, a data breach can have a severe impact on the level of trust customers have in a business. * Vanity Awards--While it’s flattering to be recognized for hard work, some awards are just money-making schemes and have no actual merit. If approached about receiving a business or leadership award, research the opportunity carefully and be wary if asked to pay money. * Stolen Identity--Scammers often will pose as legitimate company to rip off consumers. A company whose identity is stolen doesn’t necessarily lose money, but its reputation is potentially tarnished when angry customers ripped off by the scammers think the real company is responsible. * Phishing e-mails--Some phishing e-mails specifically target small-business owners with the goal of hacking into their computer or network. Common examples include e-mails pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service that claim the company is being audited, or phony e-mails from the BBB saying the company has received a complaint. Companies receiving a suspicious e-mail from a government agency or the BBB should not click on the links or open attachments. Contact the agency or the BBB directly to confirm the legitimacy of the e-mail.

Callahans names Filson chairman Mancinelli new CEO

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WASHINGTON (1/10/11)--Chip Filson, co-founder and president of Callahan & Associates, Washington, D.C., is stepping aside from the daily operations of the credit union consulting firm to serve as company chairman. Bruce Mancinelli, a management and technology entrepreneur, has been named interim CEO of the credit union consultancy. The realignment will allow Filson to focus on the company’s external initiatives, including opportunities for credit union cooperative reforms, Callahan said. Mancinelli has been CEO of several high-technology companies during a 40-year career and serves on the board of DigitalMailer, Inc., a Herndon, Va.-based credit union service organization.

Voting opens for best Real Solutions testimonial

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MADISON, Wis. (1/10/11)--For the second consecutive year, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) is asking individuals to vote for the best credit union testimonial out of five finalists posted on the REAL Solutions Impact Center. Capturing testimonials on video from members who have been positively impacted by their credit union illustrates how NCUF’s signature program, REAL Solutions, is impacting the credit union movement, said NCUF. To cast a vote, individuals can visit the Real Solutions Impact Center web site and click the “Vote” link on the homepage. Each voter can cast only one online ballot per computer. Voting ends Jan. 21. The field was narrowed by NCUF from 30 video entries to 10 that were judged to be compelling examples of credit unions in action. Then an external judging committee representing credit unions and credit union organizations narrowed the field to five. The finalists are:
* Tamika Anderson, who relays how her spending habits, particularly relating to her car and home, got back on track through financial consultations and budgeting help from ELGA CU, Burton, Mich.; * Andrew Gaines, who talks about how Lakeside CU, Milwaukee, saved him from buying a home he couldn’t afford; * Robin Pharo, who shares how Summit CU, Madison, Wis., put people before profit when granting her small business a loan; * Saundra Marie Ramirez, who discusses how SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif., repeatedly helped her with honest financial advice and support; and * Oscar Rivera, who shares his story of becoming a homeowner and small-business owner with help from Guadalupe CU, Santa Fe, N.M.
The grand prize-winning entry will earn a free trip to Washington, D.C., for the featured member and one representative from the credit union and state league. As guests of NCUF, the winners will share the stage at a VIP event held prior to the Wegner Awards Dinner, which is held during the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference, Feb. 27-March 3. Also, the winning member will receive a savings account deposit of $500. The member(s) featured in the four remaining videos will receive a savings account deposit of $250.

CUNA Mutual hires insurance commissioner

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MADISON, Wis. (1/10/11)--CUNA Mutual Group has named Sean Dilweg, a former state insurance commissioner, as vice president, product executive. In this role, which he began Tuesday, Dilweg leads CUNA Mutual’s mortgage insurance business. “Sean Dilweg is well known and respected within the insurance community and a high-level addition to the CUNA Mutual team,” said Jim Power, CUNA Mutual senior vice president and chief products officer. “His insights and experience will help us enhance the products and services we provide to credit unions.” Dilweg’s responsibilities also will include managing CUNA Mutual’s interest in CMG Mortgage Insurance Company. CMG MI operates as a corporate joint venture between CUNA Mutual Insurance Society and PMI Mortgage Insurance Co. CMG MI provides private mortgage guaranty insurance to protect credit unions against potential losses in the event of borrower default. “This new position represents CUNA Mutual’s ongoing commitment to the mortgage insurance business and its important role in the credit union marketplace,” Power said. Most recently, Dilweg served as the insurance commissioner for Wisconsin, overseeing the regulation of all insurance in the state, including life, bond and mortgage insurers. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing the de-risking of the Ambac Assurance Segregated Account, the second largest financial guarantee insurer in the nation. Also, he’s served as the vice chair of the Interstate Insurance Product Regulation Commission.

Kansas CUs beat national trends

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WICHITA, Kan. (1/10/11)--Despite a turbulent year in the financial industry, Kansas credit unions show higher than average numbers for national trends in assets, shares, and loans during 2010, with a 5.18% year-over-year growth in total capital, announced the Kansas Credit Union Association. Member growth increased as well, with the state's 102 credit unions reporting more than 27,000 new members as of June 2010, which means Kansas credit unions serve more than 600,000 consumers. Kansas credit unions also ranked third in loan growth, at 6.4%; third in member growth, at 4.71%--more than four times the national average--and first in auto loans per members, at 25.5% annually). The state's credit unions remain a stable option for financial services to both individuals and businesses, said the association. "These statistics reinforce that more and more people realize the true value of financial cooperatives like credit unions," said Bob Mayes, vice president of credit union support services at KCUA. "Kansas credit unions work hard to serve their members, and the association is proud of their dedication to the credit union philosophy: people helping people." Callahan and Associates conducted the survey for the association.

Maine league part of governors inauguration events

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PORTLAND, Maine (1/10/11)--Paul LePage was inaugurated Wednesday as Maine's 74th governor, with Maine's credit unions represented at the inauguration and other associated events. Maine Credit Union League President John Murphy attended the inauguration with members of the league’s governmental affairs team, including Quincy Hentzel, league director of governmental affairs; Phil Moreau, chair of the league Governmental Affairs Committee; Tucker Cole, chair of the league Political Involvement Committee, and other credit union officials (league’s newsletter, Weekly Update Jan. 7). Hentzel represented Maine’s credit unions at the Governor’s Reception. The league also was a sponsor of LePage’s inaugural activities. At the reception, Hentzel spoke briefly with LePage, who said he is looking forward to meeting with Maine's credit unions and working together in the coming weeks. U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) also attended and reiterated her support of credit unions. Snowe said she will be excited to see credit union officials at the league’s Breakfast for Maine’s Congressional Delegation, during the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference next month. “Our participation in this event goes a long way in building and strengthening relationships with the new governor and legislators,” Murphy said.

CU System briefs (01/06/2011)

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* SMYRNA, Tenn. (1/7/11)-- The Smyrna, Tenn.-branch of Tullahoma-based Ascend FCU was robbed Wednesday morning for the third time since Dec. 21. The suspect entered the credit union just after 10 a.m., approached a teller and implied he had a gun and told her to "give me the money. Hurry up," according to Smyrna Police. He fled to a getaway vehicle driven by a second suspect. The credit union was also robbed on Dec. 21 and Dec. 29. According to Smyrna Police, the robber in each robbery said he had a weapon but did not display it (Daily News Journal.com Jan. 5) … * DECATUR, Ill. (1/7/11)-Tina Finn, a former personal banker at Earthmover CU's Forsyth, Ill., branch, pleaded guilty Monday to stealing more than $350,000 from about 20 accounts, most of them belonging to elderly, sick or deceased members. Macon County Associate Judge Timothy Steadman sentenced her to three years of probation and ordered her to repay the stolen funds. She pleaded guilty to misappropriation of financial property, which could have carried a five year prison sentence. Instead she was recommended for probation so she could work to repay the funds (Associated Press Newswires Jan. 5) … * REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (1/7/11)--A former teller of a San Mateo CU branch in Redwood City, was sentenced Wednesday to one year in jail and five years probation for stealing $40,000 from her elderly aunt's account and a $33,000 inheritance from the account of a 16-year-old whose mother had died. Arcelia Barajas Aguilar, 29, allegedly obtained her teller position by using her mother's Social Security number on her job application. The thefts occurred during the summer of 2009. Most of the money was used to pay off credit card debt. In August, she pleaded no contest to felony grand theft and felony elder fiscal abuse in a plea bargain to avoid state prison. The credit union reimbursed the victims' money, and San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Lisa Novak ordered Aguilar to pay restitution to the credit union (The Mercury News Jan. 5) … * PHOENIX (1/7/11)--Phoenix Police say a suspect they arrested Saturday is a serial robber known as the 'Manila Bandit,' named for the large Manila envelope he stashes money in from the robberies. Walter Furrh, 51, of Phoenix, was arrested and charged with robbing three Tucson financial institutions: a US Bank in July, a Wells Fargo branch in October, and Pyramid CU in October (Arizona Daily Star Jan. 3) … * DETROIT (1/7/11)--Detroit Metropolitan CU says its "Easy Money" loan program is so popular with members that they will stand in line for hours to get an application. It offers the program twice a year and makes up to 1,000 of the loans each time, but has considered increasing it because it's so popular with members. There is no credit check for the $500, six-month loan, said CEO Kathie Trembath (Michigan Monitor Jan. 3). The rate is 18%. The loans are available to members in good standing who have been members for at least six months, have five years continuous employment with the same employer, and are on a payroll deduction or direct deposit plan. The credit union simplifies the process by not allowing exceptions to the loan. Staff work on Saturday to process all the loans in the same day. Trembath told the Michigan Credit Union League that it is not a huge profit generator after labor is paid, but members look forward to the program each year … * NEWARK, Del. (1/7/11)--DPL FCU is now Community Powered FCU to reflect its expanding field of membership. The credit union changed its name Jan. 2, reported the Delaware Credit Union League (Together Dec. 30). According to credit union CEO Anthony Hinds, the change tells people in the New Castle community that they can "enjoy the benefits traditionally experienced by Delmarva Power, Hercules and News Journal employees, retirees and their families" and honors "our original and core members who are still very important to us. It is a way of embracing our legacy while reaching out to serve the community at large." In December, the credit union opened a new branch in the league's building to prove a more centric location for members living in the New Castle area. Last year the credit union expanded its charter to include all persons living, working, worshipping or attending school in, and business and other legal entities located in New Castle County, north of the C & D Canal, and their families … * PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago (1/7/11)--Hyder Ali, manager of the Trinidad and Tobago Credit Union Deposit Insurance Fund Cooperative Society Ltd. and secretary to the board of directors at the fund, died Dec. 18. The credit union movement leader managed what was previously the Trinidad and Tobago Stabilization Fund after he retired in 2005 as Commissioner of Cooperatives in the Ministry of Labour in 2005. A lecturer in cooperative studies at the Cipriani Labour College, he also was a founding member and former secretary of The Caribbean Association of Regulators of Cooperatives (Newsday Dec. 19) …

SECU CU of Ohio expand scholarship programs

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RALEIGH, N.C., and HILLIARD, Ohio (1/7/11)--Credit unions looking for good ideas for their scholarship programs can note two successful programs offered by the Credit Union of Ohio, based in Hilliard, Ohio, and Raleigh, N.C.-based State Employees' CU. Credit Union of Ohio launched a contest Monday where students can receive up to $7,500 in college scholarship money this winter by making a short video revealing the impacts of positive and negative financial choices. The contest is open to all undergraduates enrolled or officially accepted at The Ohio State University, Columbus, as well as members who are undergraduates at any accredited university. Deadline for entries is Feb. 28. This year's contest theme is "The Good, The Bad, and The Money." The competition's goal is to prompt students to reflect on daily spending choices, saving money, managing finances and sharing their wisdom with their peers. "This scholarship opportunity is meant to help students discover and share tips for financial responsibility, while taking a stab at earning some real money in the process," said Kim Hudson, vice president of marketing at the $115 million asset credit union. Five thousand dollars will be awarded to the first place video selected by a panel of judges, and $2,500 will be awarded to the video receiving the votes in an online "people's choice." Details for online voting will be disclosed on the credit union's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cuofohio. In North Carolina, SECU's members renewed the member-funded SECU Foundation "People Helping People" High School Scholarship program. Originally approved in 2004, it provides a $10,000 four-year college scholarship to a graduating senior from each of the traditional public high schools and two charter high schools in the state. It is awarded for study at one of the 16 constituent campuses in the University of North Carolina system. The 2011 renewal brings the total educational funding commitment in North Carolina by SECU members to $28.5 million. Scholarship recipients are chosen by each high school's scholarship committee, based on the student's embodiment of the "People Helping People" spirit and grade point average of 2.5 or higher. The graduation rate of SECU Foundation scholarship recipients is more than 85%. "The need for the SECU Foundation Scholarship program continues to grow as college expenses increase and our state's economy struggles," said foundation Board Chair Shirley Bell, who added the scholarships "benefit the economy and help secure a bright educational future for North Carolina's young adults."

Board education being revved up at leagues CUNA

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MADISON, Wis. (1/7/11)--Credit union boards of directors will have plenty of opportunity to beef up their training and address regulations coming their way this year. State leagues and associations, as well as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), already are announcing training schedules for boards during 2011, including a free audio conference next week. This year, board members will need to know more, get serious with stricter fiduciary duties in a more complex and almost overwhelming regulatory environment. To top that off, they specifically must comply with the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA's) new financial literacy rule, which goes into effect in July. CUNA has already announced its training opportunities for boards. CUNA and the leagues will offer a free audio conference at 2-3:30 p.m. CT on Jan. 13, which is entitled "Implications of the New NCUA Requirements for Directors." It will cover key requirements of the new rule, limits on indemnification and how it relates to directors' and officers' insurance purchase decisions, what areas in the rule to focus attention, and more. Use the resource link for more information. The literacy requirement also has resulted in CUNA's new Board Financial Literacy Certificate, where directors can opt to fill one of four options to be certified as financially literate. The options include:
* Attend CUNA's CU Finance for Non-Financial Managers & Volunteers eSchool, May 4-June 15; * Attend CUNA's CU Finance for Non-Financial Managers & Volunteers School, April 3-6, Nashville, Tenn.; * Complete six self-study CUNA Volunteer Achievement Program (VAP) courses; * Book an in-house training session, where a subject matter expert will travel to credit unions for a two-day presentation of targeted financial literacy curriculum, by e-mailing ksmith@cuna.coop or calling 800-356-9655, ext. 4261.
At least three leagues are providing programs of their own. In Michigan, the Michigan Credit Union League will offer financial Volunteer Achievement Programs at its Spring Leadership Development Conference March 25-27--three of the six VAP programs in CUNA's certificate program. The other three VAP programs will be featured at the league's Fall Leadership Development Conference on Sept. 16-18 (Michigan Monitor Jan. 3). The Texas Credit Union League is offering webinars, workshops and conferences throughout the year for volunteers. "The league is committed to providing quality training programs for our dedicated credit union volunteers who so unselfishly serve this movement," said Tonya Farmer, vice president of training and events at the league. "Providing board of directors and other credit union volunteers with access to the educational programs they need to competently lead their institutions is critical," she added. It will offer "Required Financial Literacy Training for Directors under NCUA Guidelines" events, which include a webinar on Feb. 15 about what regulators want and what directors should know; a webinar on March 3 about ratios, concentrations and investment valuations and more; a new volunteer workshop and advanced volunteer workshop on March 26 in Dallas; and special sessions for boards at the league's Annual Meeting and Expo in Austin April 26-28. It also will have a Volunteers Forum June 4-5 in San Antonio. The New Jersey Credit Union League added a special director education session on March 23 at its Credit Union Reality Check 2011 conference, which meets March 21-23. "We thought it was vital to add this special session so our director attendees can get this important education as they attend" the conference, said league President/CEO Paul Gentile. Those attending the dinner-hour session will receive a complimentary meal, he said (The Daily Exchange Jan. 5).

CUANY backs regulator consolidation if CUs represented

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ALBANY, N.Y. (1/7/11)--William J. Mellin, Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY) president/CEO, has commended New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his goal of creating efficiency and streamlining state government. As part of this goal, Cuomo is looking to consolidate the state’s Banking and Insurance departments and the Consumer Protection Board. While the proposed consolidation poses potential challenges, the association said it believes that if executed properly, it would streamline the state’s oversight of the financial services industry. It also could create a structure that is more responsive to consumers’ needs and legitimate concerns of all financial service providers, Mellin said. “Creating the new department should not be undertaken as consolidation for its own sake, however. The state needs to seize this opportunity to ensure that financial oversight not only becomes more cost effective, but also fosters greater accountability,” he said. “New York’s credit unions feel it’s essential to maintain credit union representation on the governing body of this new department. Just as vital is that any consolidated department includes an office specifically dedicated to credit unions to preserve the unique and vital role they play in communities statewide. Such an office would guarantee appropriate expertise and a clear line of communication for credit unions at the highest level of the new governing structure,” Mellin said. He noted credit unions have traditionally found ways to provide financial opportunity for those who stood little chance of gaining credit elsewhere. Credit union mortgages, car loans and credit cards provide cost-effective alternatives to millions of New Yorkers. Also, the money members invest in their credit unions is reinvested in New York, he said. While there are no quick fixes to address the state’s budget challenges, CUANY said it believes Cuomo’s proposal, which could create greater efficiencies and a stronger regulatory body, is a step in the right direction. CUANY said it looks forward to working with Cuomo and his administration to bring his concept of consolidation to fruition.

CUNA to IInvestors Biz DailyI Jobs to improve slowly

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MADISON, Wis. (1/7/11)--The U.S. labor market will improve in 2001, albeit slowly, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told Investor’s Business Daily Wednesday. U.S. private firms hired 297,000 employees in December--the most since record-keeping began in 2000--according to ADP Employer Services. “It remains to be seen whether big jumps like that (in the ADP report) are the rule or the exception,” Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economics and statistics, told Investor’s Business Daily. “Our view is that labor markets will be improving, but doing so slowly.” Despite his forecast for 3% economic growth, Schenk said the jobless rate will remain above 9% through 2011. That’s partially because of a skills disconnect between jobs that are available and people who are looking for work, he said. Unskilled former construction and manufacturing workers confront a particularly tough job search, Schenk told the publication. To read the article, use the link.

What CUs should do in 2011--CUNA economist

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MADISON, Wis. (1/7/11)--The Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) 2011 Economic and Credit Union Forecast reflects expectations that the economy will improve, but the level of growth associated with the rebound will be lower than what is typically seen in an economic recovery. This has implications for credit unions’ actions, says a CUNA economist. The underpinnings of the CUNA forecast are that that the job market will continue to recover slowly and the unemployment rate will remain elevated. Credit union savings balance growth is expected to remain at 5% this year, while loans are expected to increase to 4%. To see CUNA’s complete 2011 economic forecast and how it will affect the 2011 financial results at credit unions, use the link below. Given the forecast, what should credit unions do in 2011? “One thing that should definitely be on credit unions’ to-do list is to stay involved in the political process,” Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economic and statistics, told News Now. “There were a boatload of laws and regulations introduced last year. Those laws and regulations come at a cost. Credit unions can either pass costs along to their members or eat them--but then credit unions can’t grow as fast, and members will suffer down the road. So continue lobbying lawmakers and regulators to soften the blow of the new regulations.” Another area that will require credit union involvement will be capital reform. At the beginning of the recession, 91% of credit unions had net worth/asset ratios exceeding 9% (e.g., well-capitalized with a two-percentage-point buffer). Today, only 75% of credit unions have this level of capital, Schenk said. “Most of those institutions that saw the decline in capital saw that decline through no fault of their own,” Schenk explained. “They were collateral damage--suffering simply because local real estate markets imploded. It’s important for all credit unions that those affected credit unions be given the chance to restore net worth quickly through access to alternative forms of capital. “Don’t forget, Congress painted all financial institutions with a broad brush, and credit unions--while not contributing to the mess--are being saddled with many of the same laws and regulations that were imposed on the bad actors,” he added. Helping CUNA ensure that the two-tier interchange system is effective will be an especially important undertaking in 2011, Schenk said. Credit union members should go to the top of the home page of the CUNA website under “Operation Comment” to submit comments to the Federal Reserve Board regarding its interchange proposal, he said. Savings growth at credit unions has been very strong, and loan growth has been weak--which means that investment portfolios have been growing rapidly, Schenk said. “In the current environment, investment yields are close to zero, which indicates that the changing mix of credit unions assets has put significant pressure on credit union bottom lines,” he said. “Credit unions should--if they haven’t already done so--re-evaluate deposit pricing to ensure that they can afford the growth.” “On the other side of the balance sheet, it makes sense to redouble efforts to steal loans from other financial institutions,” Schenk said. “While members’ appetites for new debt are low, it may be possible to entice those burdened with higher-rate bank loans to come to credit unions.” While CUNA expects the economy and labor markets to improve, there definitely will be unusually high levels of bankruptcy filings in 2011. So proactively helping members to avoid that situation and/or managing that process will be especially important, Schenk said. A final key action is collaboration. “It would probably make sense--given the financial challenges--for credit unions to begin steps to redouble efforts to engage in more cooperative endeavors, and collaborate to reduce costs and eliminate redundancies,” Schenk said.

MCUA looks to work with new CU Division chief Bonnot

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ST. LOUIS (1/7/11)--Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon Tuesday appointed Kenneth J. Bonnot as director of the Missouri Division of Credit Unions, and the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) told News Now Thursday it will work with Bonnot on credit union issues. "I look forward to working with Ken on issues affecting Missouri's state-chartered credit unions and congratulate him on his appointment by Gov. Nixon," said Mike Beall, MCUA president/CEO. According to the governor's press release, Bonnot, a 15-year veteran of the division, has served as acting director since June 2009. From 2005 to 2009, he served as the division's deputy director. The division, which regulates Missouri's 129 state-chartered credit unions, is an agency within the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration. "Missouri's credit unions are financially strong, having weathered our challenging economy very well, and I have assured Gov. Nixon that our division will maintain our commitment to a healthy industry that best serves Missouri consumers," Bonnot said. In making the appointment, Gov. Nixon said Bonnot "is a tough but fair regulator and the right choice to lead the Division of Credit Unions. My No. 1 priority as governor has always been and remains transforming Missouri's economy, and having healthy and well-regulated financial institutions in our state is a key part of that transformation."

Man indicted for fraud related to CUs demise

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (1/7/11)--An Eastlake, Ohio, man has been indicted and charged with bank fraud and money laundering stemming from the collapse last April of St. Paul Croatian FCU, based in Eastlake. Koljo Nikolovski, 48, who has residences in Eastlake and in Skopje, Macedonia, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday for fraudulently obtaining $2.5 million in loans and placing the money in a personal bank account before wiring about $2.3 million of the proceeds to a bank in Skopje (Cleveland Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com Jan. 5). The newspaper reported that the indictment said Nikolovski was not eligible for the loan because he previously defaulted on more than $1 million in loans. It alleged he paid cash bribes and kickbacks to the credit union's CEO in influence him to issue the fraudulent loans. It also said that the CEO--who has not been charged with any crime--reset the loans when they defaulted. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Office of the Inspector General (IG) revealed in October that the fraudulent loans catapulted the credit union into liquidation, with losses to the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund totaling $170 million (News Now Oct. 14). The IG report also noted that the CEO "manipulated loan records and masked the suspected loan fraud by constantly refinancing certain loans or making advance payment on those loans." St. Paul Croatian FCU was placed into conservatorship April 23 and closed May 1. At the time of its closing, it held $238.8 million in funds from 5,400 members (News Now May 4).

Irish regulator probes use of unregistered auditors

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DUBLIN, Ire. (1/6/11)--Ireland's Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement under Paul Appleby said it is investigating the possible use of unregistered auditors by several credit unions. An unregistered auditor is one who is not on the official register compiled by the Irish Companies Registration Office (CRO). Out of more than 1,500 auditors, about 85 are unregistered, said Appleby's office (Irish Independent Jan. 5). The probe will review whether companies have allowed people to pose as auditors and sign off on accounts, or whether legitimate auditors' names have been used without their knowledge to sign off on other accounts. Using unregistered auditors is a breach of the Companies Act of 1990. The CRO indicated it may use a technological solution, by giving auditors a password or encryption device in the future to make it easier to identify auditors operating illegally.

Top 20 most-read INews NowI stories of 2010

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MADISON, Wis. (1/6/11)--Compliance issues and new regulations, interchange, corporate restructuring, and business lending were among the News Now stories that drew the most readership in 2010. The top story centered on overdraft disclosures. But there were bright spots, such as the No. 2 most-read item about media and financial guru Suze Orman joining in on the "Move Your Money" movement and touting credit unions. Here are the top 20 most-read stories for 2010. 20. CUNA: Final reg reform has some CU improvements WASHINGTON (7/16/10)--Following the Senate's 60 to 39 vote approval of comprehensive financial regulatory reform legislation, Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney said that credit unions would work with regulators to ease the impact that interchange provisions could have on their operations and members. 19. Interchange vote forces CUNA opposition to Sen. reform bill WASHINGTON (5/14/10)--Late Thursday the U.S. Senate voted 64-33 in favor of including Sen. Richard Durbin's (D-Ill.) interchange amendment in S. 3217, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act. 18. CUs stand against interchange bill in media MADISON, Wis. (6/10/10)--Credit unions continue to reach out to regional media to oppose an interchange provision in pending federal regulatory reform legislation that would allow the government to set interchange fees. Credit unions also are teaming up with other financial industry groups on their anti-interchange efforts. 17. NCUA session features frank talk on corporate plan WASHINGTON (1/25/10)--At its first town-hall style meeting of the new year, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) shared some frank thoughts about its plans to revamp the corporate credit union system. 16: Compliance: Answers to overdraft questions WASHINGTON (3/17/10)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has added five questions to its "frequently asked questions" (FAQ) on Regulation E's new overdraft rules requiring members to consent before being assessed fees on overdraft services for ATM and one-time debit card transactions. 15. Compliance: A SAFE registration update WASHINGTON (9/13/10)--The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) briefed the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and other trade associations last week about its progress on developing the registration process that banks, credit unions, and their employees will have to follow in order to comply with the Safe and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act (SAFE Act). 14. Fed issues final CARD Act rules WASHINGTON (1/13/10)--The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday approved amendments to Regulation Z, Truth in Lending, which implement provisions of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009. The rules go into effect Feb. 22 13. CreditCards.com lists 10 places not to use a debit card MADISON, Wis. (3/18/10)--There are 10 situations where consumers should keep their debit card in their wallet, according to CreditCards.com. Susan Tiffany, the Credit Union National Association's director of consumer periodicals, provides some of the advice. 12. Friday sees one CU, seven banks closed ALEXANDRIA, Va. (4/26/10)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Friday assumed control of the operations of St. Paul Croatian FCU, headquartered in Eastlake, Ohio. 11. CUNA Compliance: CUs need to review check-hold disclosures WASHINGTON (3/2/10)--As of Feb. 27, the Federal Reserve Board consolidated all its check-processing operations into Cleveland, Ohio. This action eliminates all "nonlocal checks" under Regulation CC, which implements the Expedited Funds Availability Act. 10. CUNA 'disappointed' by reg reform bill's interchange treatment WASHINGTON (6/28/10)--Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Dan Mica on Friday said that he was "disappointed" that House and Senate regulatory reform conferees allowed legislation that would enable government intervention in interchange fee negotiations to remain in the final version of financial regulatory reform. 9. Ten events that changed CUs in the past decade MADISON, Wis., and WASHINGTON (1/5/10)--A decade has ended and in the tradition of newshounds everywhere, the Credit Union National Association's News Now staff took time out to mull the impact the first decade of the 21st century presented credit unions. Staff sniffed out 10 events of the decade that changed the way credit unions operated and their strategies. 8. CUs outraged over biz lending snub by administration WASHINGTON (2/3/10)--Credit unions are outraged, baffled and feeling "snubbed" by the Obama administration's proposal to funnel $30 billion into smaller banks for business lending--but do nothing for credit unions, Credit Union National Association President/CEO Dan Mica said Tuesday. 7. CU movement reacts to NCUA's actions on corporates MADISON, Wis. (9/28/10)--The credit union movement responded over the weekend to the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA's) announcements about its final corporate rule, the conservatorship of three corporate credit unions, and its plan to isolate and securitize the corporates' "legacy assets." 6. Cheney battles notion of CU 'bailout' on Fox News WASHINGTON (9/29/10)--Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney took to the airwaves to correct the misperception that credit unions are being "bailed out" by the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) recently released corporate credit union and legacy asset plans. 5. CUNA compiles FAQ on CARD Act queries WASHINGTON (2/22/10)--As promised, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) on Friday posted a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) related to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, which becomes fully effective today. 4. Tax refund fraud is among latest scams WASHINGTON (2/18/10)--Credit unions should warn members that tax-filing season brings out tax-preparation frauds. The latest scheme involves tax refunds transmitted as a direct deposit or automated clearing house (ACH) credit 3. NCUA assesses 13-bp charge to repay corporate CU coverage ALEXANDRIA, Va. (6/18/10)--Credit unions will soon be charged an assessment of 0.134% of insured shares as the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) collects a portion of the funds necessary to pay for the costs of the corporate stabilization. 2. CBS Moneywatch, Suze Orman: Time to join a CU NEW YORK (1/13/10)--It's time to say goodbye to banks and join a credit union, according to CBS Moneywatch.com, which touted credit union's lower fees, better rates and the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) credit union locator. Also this week on CNN, financial guru Suze Orman encouraged consumers to obtain credit cards from credit unions. 1. Compliance: All CUs must report NSF fees monthly WASHINGTON (1/7/10)--Credit unions have inquired whether a new Truth in Savings (TIS) disclosure requirement for overdraft services applies to institutions that do not offer overdraft protection services to their members but do charge returned-item (NSF) fees.

Media Bust those bank fees move to a CU

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FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (1/6/11)--Media coverage of new charges by banks trying to recoup revenues they'll lose under new regulations includes this advice to consumers: Move their accounts to credit unions. The latest article is "Bust your bank fees," in WickedLocal.com (Jan. 4), which published a syndicated article by GateHouse News Service. It notes that new regulations make it harder for banks to hit customers with overdraft fees and that banks have created or reinstituted charges on consumers' monthly statements. (See related article in News Now's "News of the Competition.") In the article, personal finance blogger Jeffry Strain of SavingAdvice.com offered consumers tips to avoid the bank fees, and No. 1 on the list: "Move your account to a credit union." "Credit unions generally have lower fees, better service and lower minimum balance requirements for checking accounts," said the publication. The item has been published in a number of media outlets, including The Patriot-Ledger, Norwich Bulletin, and the Utica Observer-Dispatch. Use the link to access the article

PCUF Fundraising up in 2010

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/6/11)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation announced Tuesday that it raised $261,333 in total funds in 2010, or 16% more than in 2009. It also raised 231,583 in unrestricted funds, or 5.3% more than its 2009 total. This result highlighted a successful year in which the foundation also awarded 28 grants for $126,500 to credit unions and non-profit organizations, principally for financial literacy projects (Life is a Highway Jan. 5. Foundation Executive Director Joe Wambach noted that the foundation board personally raised $143,894, or 14% more from credit unions and vendors than in 2009. The turnaround was also spurred by an 11% increase in the foundation’s Fall Leadership Viva Las Vegas special event. Foundation Chair Diana Roberts praised the generosity of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association board, which supported small credit unions through its $20,000 restricted grant during the final week of 2010. “We expect to see a significant increase in our grants portfolio in 2011 because of an increase in educational webinar activities by small credit union staff that will result from this unexpected grant,” Roberts said. Roberts also expressed hope that the financial literacy project grants will increase as more credit unions participate in school and community-based activities during 2011.

NCUF grant helps teens in New York

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ALBANY, N.Y. (1/6/11)--The New York Credit Union Foundation (NYCUF) is looking to extend the reach of a financial education program in 2011 with an additional National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) Innovation Grant.
Financial education participants from Union Settlement FCU in New York. (Photo provided by National Credit Union Foundation.)
NCUF recently announced that NYCUF will receive a grant for phase two of its Money & Me program. NYCUF designed the financial education program for teens. Credit unions across New York offer financial education workshops throughout the year--typically during summer, winter and spring breaks. Using an award-winning curriculum and interactive, hands-on activities, credit union staff teach teens essential financial skills, such as budgeting, saving, maintaining a checking account, managing credit and planning for the future. In 2009, NYCUF piloted the program with six credit unions, conducting six sessions serving about 80 students. Assisted by an Innovation Grant from the NCUF in 2010, NYCUF expanded the program with 15 credit unions conducting 19 sessions for 270 teenagers. During phase two, NYCUF will develop alternate versions of workshop curriculum to meet the diversified needs of credit unions and to tell the stories of the students and parents who benefit from the program. With this approach, NYCUF said it hopes to raise the profile of New York credit unions and the credit union movement. “Financial education is a core philosophy of credit unions and both the New York Credit Union Foundation and the National Credit Union Foundation,” said Christopher Morris, NCUF’s director of communications. “We look forward to watching the program progress and continue to make a difference in teenager’s lives.”

Canadas Atlantic Central to serve CUs in five provinces

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HALIFAX, Novia Scotia (1/6/11)--The creation of Atlantic Central results in a business combination that benefits 61 Canadian credit unions with 1,500 employees and more than 340,000 credit union members in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Each Canadian province has a central credit union. Centrals are similar to corporate credit unions and credit union service organizations in the U.S. The creation of Atlantic Central is the end-product of more than two years of work on the part of each provincial central office, in cooperation with regulators in each province, said Bernie O’Neil, president/CEO of Atlantic Central (TheDailyGleaner Jan. 5). Atlantic Central provides banking, treasury and other services to member credit unions. Atlantic Central deals directly with credit unions and isn’t a retail operation, he said. “We’ll have the ability to syndicate larger loans among credit unions,” O’Neil told the publication. “A larger group of credit unions would participate in particular loans as opposed to one or two credit unions and thereby be able to spread the risk throughout the region.” All employees of the three combining centrals were offered positions in the new central, said O’Neil. The headquarters for the new operation will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The change will result in improved services for credit unions, such as more consistent products across the region, better cost control as a region because much business is volume driven, back-office economies of scale, and better marketing, O’Neil added.

Ohio CUs help homeless viral video star

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/6/11)--In a story that received national media coverage, a Columbus, Ohio-area homeless man has gone from down on his luck, to the latest viral sensation, to a likely spokesperson for the Central Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Credit Union League. Ted Williams, who was featured on The Columbus Dispatch website in a video story titled “Golden Homeless Voice,” claims to be “an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times,” according to the sign he uses to panhandle. (Use the link to access the video.) Nicole Carey, marketing manager for BMI Federal CU in Dublin, Ohio, set in motion events to give Williams his second chance. “I heard the story on a local radio station and thought there might be some way credit unions can help,” Carey said. “He has the talent, and he appears driven to return to his voiceover roots.” Carey contacted the Ohio Credit Union League, who in turn contacted Central Ohio Chapter President Amanda Thomas, marketing and business development manager for Members First CU in Columbus, to see if any credit union opportunities existed for Williams. The chapter board agreed he would serve well as the vocal talent for their upcoming video marketing campaign. Wednesday morning, live on Columbus’ WNCI-97.9, Thomas offered Williams up to $10,000 in voiceover work. The work is contingent on a background check. Meanwhile, the video of Williams has appeared on social media outlets such as YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit.com and started trending on Twitter. Mainstream media such as CNN, CBS, ABC, Inside Edition, and local Columbus television affiliates pursued Williams’ story. Williams appeared on the CBS Early Show Wednesday. The Central Ohio Chapter is also working on securing funds to help subsidize everyday needs for Williams, including an apartment, transportation and groceries. The chapter also has offered to provide Williams with financial counseling services. Patrick Harris, director of media relations for the Ohio Credit Union League, said that although everything is still in progress it appears that Williams’ life has indeed changed within a matter of hours. “In these depressing economic times, it’s nice to see somebody turn his life around,” Harris said. “I’m glad credit unions could be a part of that.”

Maine league breakfasts lay foundation with lawmakers

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PORTLAND, Maine (1/6/11)--The Maine Credit Union League’s first Breakfast with Legislators series in December is providing opportunities for Maine credit unions to speak face-to-face with state lawmakers. The league coordinated a series of regional breakfasts prior to the holidays for credit union representatives and legislators that covered most regions of the state (News & Views January 2010). By the time of the final breakfast just before Christmas, nearly half of the 186 members of the Maine legislature had attended, the league said. “The impressive participation rate demonstrates the positive and important role that credit unions have in Maine,” said league President John Murphy. Consensus among credit union representatives who attended was that the breakfasts were beneficial and valuable, the league said. Issues generating the most discussion between credit unions and legislators were foreclosures, member business loans and financial education.

Citys 1 land deal with CU in court

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NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (1/6/11)--A three-hour hearing was held Tuesday in a Johnson County, Iowa, District Court on whether a judge should issue a temporary injunction to prevent the city of North Liberty and a development group from buying land and transferring some of the acreage for a new University of Iowa Community CU (UICCU) headquarters. In the hearing, the city defended its economic development project, saying that its process is standard procedure for municipalities' developments (Press-Citizen.com Jan. 5). A group of residents filed a petition in November to halt the sales transaction, saying the plan goes against the city's comprehensive future development plan and that the public wasn't informed adequately about the project. The group also expressed concerns that it would increase property owners' taxes. The city planned to partner with 380 Development Group to buy 64 acres for $11 million and then transfer 24 acres to the credit union for $1 as an incentive to build (News Now Nov. 15). According to the Press-Citizen, the city began discussions with the credit union about relocating in North Liberty in early 2010. In October, it passed a resolution authorizing the sale of $11 million in tax bonds, which UICCU would purchase. Then the credit union location would be placed in a Tax Increment Finance district and the city could use that tax revenue to repay the bonds over 20 years. State law requires the city to have a third-party development group facilitate such a sale because the sale is for a below-fair-market price. Parties in the case will file briefs within the next month and Judge Paul Miller will decide whether to issue a permanent injunction. At that point, the city would have to take the case to trial. Meanwhile, the city is moving forward with UICCU and the current landowner, said the article.

Nine Iowa CU execs enroll in global womens group

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DES MOINES, Iowa (1/6/11)--Nine executives from the Iowa Credit Union League and its affiliated organizations are new enrollees in the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN), an international education and advocacy group created in 2009 by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).
New enrollees in World Council of Credit Union’s Global Women’s Leadership Network from the Iowa Credit Union League and its affiliates are, from left, front row: Tina Hoffman, vice president of marketing, TMG Financial Services; Marybeth Foster, executive director, Iowa Credit Union Foundation; Dianne Taylor, management consultant at the league; Cynde Urness, senior vice president of product management, The Members Group; Darlis Wambold, senior executive assistant, the league. Back row: Miriam De Dios, vice president, Coopera Consulting; Ginger Heckman, member business lending coordinator, Community Business Lenders; Julie Vande Hoef, director of government affairs, PolicyWorks; and Anne Whatley, general counsel, Affiliates Management Company. (Photo provided the Iowa Credit Union League)
“An essential aspect to leadership development is continuing education and awareness, and for credit unions that takes on a worldwide scope,” said Patrick S. Jury, league president/CEO. “As members of the GWLN, our enrollees will have the opportunity to collaborate, learn, and share solutions with other credit union leaders both in the U.S. and across the globe.” GWLN connects credit union women leaders with a worldwide network that engages them in professional and personal development through programs, educational forums and social media. The network also offers international perspectives on common challenges that credit unions around the globe face, including growth strategies, alternative capital and operational efficiencies. “These are not just challenges for credit unions, but also challenges for the socioeconomic development of the communities in which credit unions operate, including Iowa,” Jury said. New enrollee Ginger Heckman, member business lending coordinator with Community Business Lenders, agrees. “Our mission at CBL is to build stronger communities, one business at a time, and being a part of the Global Women’s Leadership Network is really going to facilitate that,” Heckman said. “Women are fortunate in the U.S. to have already gained a high measure of respectability as business leaders. That didn’t happen overnight; we needed a strong support network over many years. So it will be very exciting to be able to provide support and insight to women business leaders in developing countries as they strive to gain independence and respect.” The leadership network also helps strengthen financial stability for families. In many countries, women often are family financial decision-makers but sometimes lack expertise or face stigma about a woman’s role. By interacting with other professionals in a business forum, network members have access to unlimited resources and can learn from their peers. “Connecting through the leadership network will be a great way for us all to benefit from best practices,” said Miriam De Dios, vice president of Coopera Consulting and new GWLN enrollee. “We’ve seen in the U.S. that as women gain financial confidence and experience, both in the family realm and in business, that helps provide overall economic growth and stability to an entire generation and region.”

CU System briefs (01/04/2011)

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* RIVERSIDE, Calif. (1/5/11)--Ron Woodbury, a 25-year former senior executive of Altura CU, an $838.5 million-asset credit union based in Riverside, Calif., announced his candidacy for mayor of Riverside after officially filing Dec. 28 for the June 2012 election. His tenure at Altura made Woodbury “acutely aware of how local, state and national economic conditions pose great challenges and opportunities to our community,” he said on his website, ronwoodburyformayor.com. Woodbury said he would focus on enhancing technology in the city to create jobs and also the city’s commitment to the arts … * BOULDER, Colo. (1/5/11)--Elevations CU has added three new members to its senior management team. Jay Champion has been named chief lending officer. Todd Kern has been named vice president of marketing and Ryan Klassen has been named assistant vice president of credit risk management. Prior to joining Elevations CU, Champion served as executive vice president and chief lending officer for Texans CU, Richardson, Texas. Champion also served as president/CEO of Texans CU’s credit union service organization, Texans Commercial Capital, LLC. Kern comes to Elevations CU from USA FCU, San Diego. Klassen was director of lending services for Bellco CU, Englewood, Colo. … * PROVIDENCE, R.I. (1/5/11)--Leonard Decof, a trial lawyer who at the request of former Rhode Island Gov. Bruce Sundlun represented the state after the collapse of the state's private share insurance system, died Dec. 31. He was 86. Decof prosecuted civil claims after Rhode Island state-chartered credit unions' private share insurer, the Rhode Island Share and Indemnity Corp. (RISDIC), collapsed in 1990. The events resulted in the demise of more than a dozen private share insurance companies. (The Providence Journal Jan. 4) … * TULSA, Okla. (1/5/11)--Harry William Avey, former president of Tulsa, Okla.-based Red Crown FCU, died Dec. 13. He was 78. He began his credit union career at 66 FCU, where he served seven years. He served as president of Red Crown FCU until his retirement in 1993. He was a member of the Credit Union Executives Society and taught credit union courses at Tulsa Community College. He also served as board chairman of Oklahoma Central CU. In 1982, while president of the Magic Empire Chapter of NE Oklahoma Credit Unions, he was one of four founders of a credit union scholarship, which has awarded thousands of dollars every year. Services will be in Jenks, Okla., on Saturday (Tulsa World Jan. 2) …

Lawsuit filed over acquired CUs failed loans

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INDIANAPOLIS (1/5/11)--A credit union that acquired the assets of the now defunct, Michigan-based Capital Community CU has been sued by an Indiana-based credit union that entered a loan participation agreement with a provision for CapCom to buy back the loans if they defaulted. FORUM CU, based in Fishers, Ind., filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, on Dec. 15, against Dearborn, Mich.-based DFCU Financial, which acquired CapCom's assets and assumed its liabilities in 2009 in a merger. FORUM acquired 90% interest in the two life insurance policy loans in December 2007 and the loans are worth $6.7 million in principal and interest, according to the complaint filed, which maintains its agreement required CapCom to buy back the loans if they went into default. The loans were made to trusts set up by elderly, wealthy individuals to fund the purchase of high-value life insurance policies. They were intended as short-term loans intended to pay the first few years' premiums after which they would be sold in the open market, FORUM's complaint said. They went into default in 2010 and FORUM requested the repurchase on June 23. "In 2008, there was a material change in the value of the collateral securing the … loans because of changes to the life expectancy tables used to calculate the values of the collateral life insurance policies," said the complaint filed. According to the court documents, Dearborn maintains that a subsequently executed contract does not include a repurchase provision. However, FORUM said the subsequent contract is unrelated to the loans at issue and involved "additional loans FORUM might later agree to fund," said the court document. Dearborn has filed for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association under an arbitration provision but FORUM has moved to stay the arbitration because "arbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be forced to arbitrate without its consent."

CUs loan brings Culvers to town

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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (1/5/11)--Battle Creek, Mich., now has a new Culver's restaurant, thanks to a business loan that OMNI Community CU provided after 28 other financial institutions refused financing for the business.
OMNI Community CU Commercial Services Manager Ed Mounce, left, congratulates Culver's owner Michael Miller on bringing the restaurant to Battle Creek, Mich., with a loan from the credit union. (Photo provided by OMNI Community CU via the Michigan Credit Union League)
The credit union said its business lending has grown by nearly 100% from September 2009 through September 2010 (BattleCreek Enquirer.com Dec. 27 and Michigan Monitor Jan. 3). "Twenty-eight different financial institutions turned me down for financing my business," said Michael Miller, owner/operator of the Culver's in Battle Creek. "OMNI was the only one who gave me the opportunity to make my business a reality in successfully brining Culver's to Battle Creek." OMNI Community CU CEO Ted Parsons told the Enquirer that many businesses can benefit from bringing their relationship to the credit union. The $249 million asset credit union has paid a cashback rebate for the past three years to members. The rebate differentiates the credit union in the marketplace because no other financial institution in Southwest Michigan is offering this, the credit union said. Credit unions, state-level leagues and associations, and the Credit Union National Association have advocated throughout the past year to lawmakers that raising credit unions' member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25% would help generate more loans and more jobs without cost to taxpayers.

Merger official for Pacific CU Self-Help FCU

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VALLEJO, Calif. (1/5/11)--The merger between 1st Pacific CU and Self-Help FCU has received regulatory approval. Effective Jan. 1, the nine Bay Area Calif. branches of 1st Pacific CU, will operate as part of Community Trust, a division of Self-Help FCU. The merger brings 1st Pacific CU, a $161 billion institution, into a family of Self-Help FCU branches operating across California. Self-Help FCU, with $377 million in assets, was chartered in 2008 with a mission of preserving and expanding economic opportunities for families and communities of modest means. With the addition of 1st Pacific CU, Self-Help FCU now has 17 branches. The merger is the sixth for Self-Help FCU in California.

Advantage FCU acquires 1st Priority FCU

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (1/5/11)--Advantage FCU in Rochester, N.Y., has acquired 1st Priority FCU, which serves employees and students of Rochester Institute of Technology. The acquisition became effective Saturday when 1st Priority took the name of the $148 million-asset Advantage (Rochester Business Journal Jan. 30). Advantage FCU serves city schools and more than 70 select employee groups, including the University of Rochester, Highland Hospital and Rochester General Hospital. Advantage has five branches in the Rochester area.

CU loan balances fall but earnings may rise in 11

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MADISON, Wis. (1/5/11)--Although credit unions’ loan balances declined in November and the past year, their earnings are expected to increase in 2011, according to a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist’s analysis of CUNA’s monthly estimates of credit unions.
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Credit union loans outstanding decreased 0.2% during November, the same as the decrease for October. Unsecured personal loans led loan growth, up 1.6%, followed by fixed-rate mortgages, credit card loans and used-auto loans, which rose 1.5%, 0.9% and 0.3% respectively. Home equity lines of credit declined 0.4%, followed by new-auto loans (1.3%) and adjustable-rate mortgages (3.4%). Credit union loans in November totaled $580.1 billion, compared with $590 billion in November 2009. “Loan balances declined 1.7% over the last year,” Steve Rick, CUNA senior economist, told News Now. “The main cause of the decline was a 17% drop in new-auto loan balances over the last 12 months. The two bright spots in credit union lending were used-auto and credit card loans, which were up 3.6% and 3.1% respectively over the last year.”
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Credit union savings balances decreased 0.5% in November, compared with a 0.7% increase during October. Money market accounts led savings growth, rising 0.3%. Individual retirement accounts fell 0.1%, followed by one-year certificates (0.3%), regular shares (0.6%) and share drafts (1.5%). Credit union savings in November totaled $799.4 billion--or $34 billion more than the $765.4 billion in November 2009. Credit unions’ 60-day-plus delinquencies increased slightly to 1.8% during November. “The credit union loan delinquency rate has remained essentially unchanged over the last year,” Rick said. “The November delinquency rate came in at 1.77%, one basis point lower than the 1.78% reported in November 2009. The delinquency rate will rise to the mid-1.8% level during the December-to-February time period because of seasonal factors.” The loan-to-savings ratio increased slightly to 73% in November 2010. The liquidity ratio--the ratio of surplus funds maturing in less than one year to borrowings plus other liabilities-- remained constant at 19%. The movement’s overall capital-to-asset ratio remained at 10% in November. The total dollar amount of capital is $94 billion. “Over the past 12 months, the growth rate of credit union capital exceeded the growth rate of assets pushing the capital-to-asset ratio up from 9.9% in November 2009 to 10.1% in November 2010,” Rick said. “Credit union earnings are expected to increase in 2011 due to higher net interest margins and falling loan loss provisions.”

2010 bankruptcies up 9 over 2009

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (1/5/11)--Personal bankruptcies increased 9% to more than 1.53 million in 2010, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute (The Wall Street Journal Jan. 3). The 2010 figure is the highest in any year since 2.04 million bankruptcies were filed in 2005, when Congress revised the bankruptcy statute, making it more difficult for individuals to discharge debt under court protection (Reuters Jan 11, 2006). By comparison, fewer than 600,000 bankruptcies were filed in 2006. Since then, the number of bankruptcies filed has increased each year because the housing slump and recession have pushed unemployment to nearly 10%, said analysts. The Southwestern and the Southeastern regions have been hit particularly hard during the economic crisis. However, in 2010, filings dropped in Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama. Filings were up dramatically, however, in two Southwestern states. In California, bankruptcies increased by 25%. In Arizona, filings rose nearly 24%.

Second half of 10 dealt interchange corporate regs

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MADISON, Wis. (1/4/11)--Maybe credit unions were in shock the first half of 2010. Or perhaps they had more specific information available during the second half of the year about what lies ahead. When News Now reviewed its third- and fourth-quarter coverage of 2010, it found many more stories focused on--no surprise here--interchange proposals, financial reg reform and corporate system stabilization plans. Every month during the third and fourth quarters had interchange stories in their top four stories. The first half of 2010 was reviewed in Monday's issue (See link for "First half of 2010 saw challenges, opportunities for CUs.") Today, News Now examines the top stories of the second half of the year. Later in the week, News Now will feature its annual Top 20 Stories of the Year, based on total readership. Financial regulatory reform was a hot topic for the third quarter. But July stories were all over the range, similar to second quarter. Other popular stories for July included alerts about home equity fraud schemes, news of CEOs barred from future credit union work, and reports of a credit union CEO killed by police in a park. These aren't operational stories that normally attract many credit unions, but the latter three fall under stories that are "unusual" for credit unions. The impact on credit union operations from external forces was the common thread in August's top stories. The top story was economic, with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) relating what conclusions credit unions could make from the decisions by the Federal Open Market Committee, the Federal Reserve' policy makers, on quantitative easing and interest rates--big issues in a year where credit unions are looking at a slow recovery and dents in the bottom line from operations challenges. Proposed changes to the Financial Accounting Standards Board's Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) rules were of high interest to credit unions, with some saying the rules would mean tens of thousands of dollars in extra annual costs to credit unions. The Fed's review of check-hold rules in the new financial reform law and some of the smaller changes credit unions might see in their operations also was a top story. And finally, there was the Durbin Amendment, with CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney urging further consideration of how credit unions and banks offer credit cards differently. By the end of third quarter, credit unions saw more action in the corporate system. Credit unions combatted the "bailout" perception in the media after the conservatorship of several corporate credit unions; reacted to the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) corporate stabilization actions; heard about the registration process that banks, credit unions and employees would have to follow under the Safe and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing (SAFE) Act; and saw NCUA make a rare denial of a community charter application in Missouri. The fourth quarter saw credit unions mulling over more compliance issues. In October, the sole noncompliance article--and top story for the month--centered International Credit Union Day, which was Oct. 21, and credit unions' philosophy. Otherwise, top stories included NCUA's announcement it would redesign its examination process to better interact with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and a ruling in a lawsuit that deemed the interchange rules as unconstitutional. The election for the 112th Congress was the top story for November with CUNA analyzing how credit unions' candidates fared in the election results. Corporates dominated the top 10 list for the month, as Fitch ratings company withdrew its ratings of three corporates under conservatorship as they formed bridge corporates, and NCUA projected what the corporate stabilization assessment would cost credit unions. A fourth story hit on growth and strategies to adapt services to retain young adults, with the Filene Research Institute noting that attracting more Generation Y members would be a matter of survival for credit unions. Credit unions ended the year with 13 U.S. senators urging greater consideration by the Fed on the interchange rules in a letter encouraged by CUNA; more scams involving HELOCs, the passage in the House of NCUA's technical amendments; and NCUA's opinion on gift cards as incentives to attend credit unions meetings.

Perfect Circle CU closes branch

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HAGERSTOWN, Ind. (1/4/11)--Perfect Circle CU, Hagerstown, Ind., has closed one of its four branches as a consolidation strategy. The credit union closed its west Richmond branch, and will move staff to its other branches in east Richmond, Hagerstown and New Castle. No jobs will be lost. PCCU President Lisa Dykhoff told the local newspaper that two years after the $51 million asset credit union opened its east Richmond branch, it conducted a market analysis, followed by a second earlier this year (Palladium-Item.com Dec. 31). The analyses indicated more members were transferring their business to the east side location, which has more vehicle and food traffic. West side businesses have been declining in recent years. Dykhoff noted in the article that the credit union is facing regulatory changes and increases in the costs of providing basic financial services.

CU System briefs (01/03/2011)

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* KENNEWICK, Wash. (1/4/11)--A gang-related shooting injured a man outside of the Kennewick branch of Richland, Wash.-based Hapo Community CU. The victim, Miguel Montenegro, 20, was shot in the stomach as he walked to his car on the street outside the busy credit union. He is in serious but stable condition, said police. Police arrested Jose Cardona, who is charged with assault first degree, possession of a stolen firearm and felon in possession of a firearm. After Montenegro was shot, he ran to the credit union's parking lot before collapsing. Police indicated several others may be involved in the shooting. (KNDO.com and KEPRTV.com Dec. 30 and 31) … * CONYERS, Ga.(1/4/11)--A couple who followed a getaway car are being credited for helping police capture two Army National Guardsmen accused of robbing the Conyers, Ga., branch of Atlanta-based Georgia's Own CU. The unidentified man and woman were out shopping Dec. 23 when they saw two men run from the credit union with guns and a large bag. The couple drove behind the men as they got into a getaway car driven by a third man. Police said the couple caused the suspects to deviate from their escape plan. The men were caught after they drove into a dead end at a warehouse and fled the car. Arrested were Jemelle Francis, 25, and Menshack Nyepah, 21 (WSBRadio.com Dec. 30) … * TEXAS CITY, Texas (1/4/11)--AMOCO FCU announced it would distribute about $1 million in bonus dividends and provide a 4% loan interest refund to members in good standing as of Dec. 31, 2010 (LoneStar Leaguer Jan. 3). This is the 15th year the Texas City, Texas-based credit union has paid dividends to members. The board determined that the credit union's reserves and capital were at levels in excess of what is necessary to protect members' accounts … * HANSCOM AFB, Mass.(1/4/11)--Hanscom FCU will return more than $750,000 in loyalty dividends to members, representing a 2.5% bonus on dividends earned and consumer loan finance charges paid in 2010. Dividends were paid on Dec. 31. "This year brought an extraordinarily challenging financial climate," said board Chairman Paul Marotta, noting that the credit union continued to grow assets. The $846 million asset credit union serves 44,376 members …

Help members with their No. 1 resolution

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SILVER SPRING, Md., and HARRISBURG, Pa. (1/4/11)--A December poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) revealed that decreasing debt was consumers’ No. 1 financial New Year’s resolution. Sixty-nine percent of more than 3,200 respondents chose this goal over other objectives, such as increasing savings, improving their credit score or decreasing their dependence on credit cards. Credit unions are already helping members with their No. 1 resolution of the New Year--and better manage their finances. The poll question and results are: My No.1 New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to:
* Decrease debt-- 69%; * Improve my credit score--18%; * Increase savings--7%; and * Decrease my dependence on credit cards--7%.
Credit unions, leagues and NFCC had plenty of advice to assist consumers. Lonny Maurer, president/CEO of Belco Community CU in Harrisburg, Pa., discussed five resolutions that consumers should make in 2011,when he appeared in December with Mike Wishnow, senior vice president of communications and marketing with the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association on a TV segment of Pennsylvania Newsmakers, Belco said. The resolutions are:
* Develop a written monthly annual budget; * If you don’t already have one, establish a relationship with a credit union or bank; * Take a critical view of your personal debt; * Develop a plan to save and invest; and * Teach your children about finances.
The Ohio Credit Union League also has some tips to get the most out of your money, according to the Akron Beacon-Journal (www.ohio.com Jan. 2). They are:
* Pay yourself first; * Create a budget and stick to it; * Pay off debt; * Manage your credit; and * Already saving? Save more.
To read the Akron Beacon-Journal article, use the link. The NFCC offers these tips:
* Define your objective--Be specific about which area of your financial life you want to address. Having an overall goal of “improving your financial situation” is too broad. Success is more likely if you identify one problem and take steps to rectify it. You can always add more categories, but taking on too much at once can be overwhelming and discouraging. * Be willing to pay the price--Be prepared to make significant lifestyle adjustments in order to reach your goal. The sacrifice will be worth it. Changes, even those that are ultimately positive, can be difficult. Knowing this up front will help you persevere. * Be ready for set-backs--When the going gets rough, don’t give up your goal. Set-backs are inevitable, so anticipate them and commit to riding them through. There is nothing to be gained by quitting. * Have an accountability partner--Holding yourself accountable is one thing, but having a partner often means the difference between success and failure. Share your goal with trusted friends, family members or mentors, and ask them to provide support to help you stay determined. * Celebrate success--Establish a reward as you begin your financial journey, to serve as a great incentive to keep going. And, once you meet your goal, you’ve earned a reward.

Illinois Michigan leagues announce alliance

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. And LANSING, Mich. (1/4/11)--The Michigan and Illinois credit union leagues have entered into a strategic alliance, with both leagues stressing the agreement was neither a merger agreement nor an indication of an intention to merge.
Click to view larger image From left, Michigan Credit Union League and Affiliates CEO David Adams and Illinois Credit Union League President/CEO Dan Plauda announce an alliance between the two organizations. (Photo provided by Michigan and Illinois credit union leagues)
In a press release, the leagues stated “the agreement expresses each state’s desire to seek ways to collaborate, share services and partner on product development on behalf of credit unions in the two Midwest states.” “This collaboration will provide economies of scale that credit unions nationwide can tap into when expanding or growing products,” said Illinois Credit Union League President/Chief Executive Officer Dan Plauda. Michigan Credit Union League CEO David Adams also reinforced the need for collaboration. “There is a remarkable lack of overlap in our product areas,” Adams said. “We think this creates great opportunities for joining forces either formally or informally in order to share our strengths and visions in each state.” Each league’s management met in Chicago on Dec. 16 and 17 in what was the final of several meetings to organize the arrangement between the two state leagues. The strategic alliance does not require any kind of formal combination of the two organizations, though both organizations cited the alliance as a first step toward more formal collaboration

CUNA provides home-buying advice in IBankrate.comI

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MADISON, Wis. (1/4/11)--A valuable tool for home buyers, especially first-time purchasers, is down-payment assistance, according to Susan Tiffany, director of consumer periodicals for the Credit Union National Association, whose advice was featured on two of Bankrate.com “6 must-do’s before buying a home.” Strapped-for-cash homebuyers can improve their chances by searching out down-payment assistance in addition to banking their own money, Tiffany said. Often this type of assistance is location-based or tagged to a type of buyer such as first timers. She recommended that buyers conduct an Internet search with the city name, county name, and word combinations like “down payment assistance,” “first-time home buyers” and homebuyers assistance.” A safe formula for home expenses is not to exceed 28 percent of gross monthly income, Tiffany said in another home-buying tip in the article. She said home buyers can improve their chances by “trying on” a rough estimate of their mortgage payment before they sign the papers. Tiffany recommended that home shoppers calculate the mortgage in their price range, along with expenses such as taxes, insurance and utilities, then bank the difference between that total and what they are currently paying for monthly home expenses.

Top 10 INews NowI stories for December (01/03/2011)

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MADISON, Wis. (1/4/11)--Stories about interchange fees and legislation dominated December’s credit union news with four spots in the top 10 stories for the month in News Now. The stories are: 10. Fed offers two plans for interchange fees WASHINGTON (12/17/10)--The Federal Reserve on Thursday issued for public comment its proposed rules addressing interchange fees. 9. NCUA CU risk concentration regs out next year--Matz WASHINGTON (12/10/10)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is developing new regulations on natural person credit union risk concentrations, and those regulations will be released during the first quarter of 2011, NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said during a Thursday Senate hearing. 8. Agencies issue guidelines on real estate appraisals/evaluations WASHINGTON (12/3/10)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), in conjunction with other federal financial institution regulators, has emphasized that financial institutions are responsible for selecting appraisers and people performing evaluations based on their competence, experience, and knowledge of the market and type of property being valued. 7. New survey: CUs on top in customer satisfaction MADISON, Wis. (12/8/10)--Credit unions and small banks lead their larger rivals in customer satisfaction and loyalty, according to the Prime Performance 2010 Bank and Credit Union Satisfaction Survey released Tuesday. 6. Rep. Frank shares interchange concerns for CUs WASHINGTON (12/21/10)--The implementation of still-pending interchange regulations, if not properly crafted, “may have unintended consequences” for credit unions and consumers, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) recently said in a letter to the Federal Reserve. 5. CUNA to Fed: Interchange rules confirm CU fears WASHINGTON (12/20/10)--The Federal Reserve’s proposed rule on interchange fees, which was introduced late last week, confirms the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) “worst fears about the inadequacies of the purported protections” for credit unions and other smaller issuers of debit cards, CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney has said. 4. Gift cards as meeting incentive? NCUA says yes but … ALEXANDRIA, Va. (12/16/10)--In a legal opinion released this week, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) advised a federal credit union that sought to increase participation at its yearly meeting by giving $25 gift cards to members in attendance. 3. NCUA tech amendments bill passed by House WASHINGTON (12/23/10)--The House on Wednesday approved a technical corrections bill that would provide the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) with new tools to address both troubled individual credit unions and the larger corporate credit union crisis. 2. Scams zero in on home equity lines MADISON, Wis. (12/29/10)--Identity thieves are having a field day with scams, particularly lucrative ones aimed at home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). Others have stepped up their card scams, and phishing and vishing efforts to take advantage of consumers’ good will and inattention to details during a busy holiday season. 1. Senators urge greater interchange consideration by Fed WASHINGTON (12/13/10)--In an action strongly encouraged by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), 13 senators late last week wrote to the Federal Reserve to voice their concerns over proposed interchange regulations.

Michigan commissioner named to NASCUS Board

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ARLINGTON, Va. (1/4/11)--Ken Ross, commissioner of the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR), has been appointed to the board of directors of the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS). He will fill the unexpired term of Roger Little, also of Michigan, who retired earlier this week from his state regulatory career. Ross' term will run until September. Ross has served in the Michigan commissioner position since February 2008. He formerly was deputy commissioner for policy and the commissioner's chief of staff. Prior to joining OFIR, Ross served as vice president of regulatory and legal affairs at the Michigan Credit Union League.

First half of 2010 saw challenges opportunities for CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (1/3/11)--As credit unions turn to a new year, News Now took a step back to review credit union news throughout 2010. Later this week News Now will publish its Top 20 stories for 2010. Meanwhile, staff reviewed the top stories each month to glean a quarter-by-quarter account of the movement's activities. Contrary to expectations, the agenda wasn't all corporate restructuring and lifting credit unions' member business lending caps. News stories reflected both challenges for credit unions and opportunities to press their case and make the public more aware of the credit union difference. This article will review the first six months of 2010. Tomorrow, News Now will review the second six months of the year. At the beginning of the year, credit unions were embroiled in analyzing a decade of changes, as reflected in the second top story of January: "Ten events that changed the past decade." But they also looked ahead at steep compliance challenges. The top story for January dealt with complying with overdraft rules and Reg Z in the Truth in Lending Act. Credit unions also were preparing for the Fed's final rules related to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, which went into effect in February and became that month's top story. During first quarter, the Move Your Money movement took root, with CBS Moneywatch, Suze Orman on ABC, and the Larry King show, among others, expounding on distressed bank customers seeking out credit unions. CNN 's "take this bank and shove it" story in February also received note. Credit unions and leagues capitalized on the issue throughout the year. The administration's proposal in February to funnel $30 billion into small banks for small business loans was perceived as a snub by credit unions, who stepped up their efforts to progress legislation to lift their member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. February also saw hints of problem credit unions in a story in which the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) discussed an increase in credit unions with lower CAMEL ratings. Compliance took top billing in March, with stories on credit and debit cards, check hold rules under Reg CC, and overdraft incentives. However, an underpinning of the corporate system restructuring issues was reflected in several of March's top stories list. Discussions of the costs of corporate losses to the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, and proposals for legacy assets, and a new corporate model all surfaced at the end of the quarter. Second quarter, April through June, saw more variety on the agenda. The top story for April was financial institution closures--seven banks and one credit union--with similar stories reoccurring later in the year. The introduction of the new $100 bill and discussion on how the Securities and Exchange Commission's actions against Goldman Sachs might affect credit unions also were highly read during April. As the administration pressed its health care issues, News Now's readers' interests reflected the national agenda with stories on cutting health care plan costs prominent. The ongoing issue of credit unions as alternatives to payday lenders also received treatment in the press. Positive press for credit unions continued, with the announcement in April of credit unions topping another customer satisfaction survey--a story to be repeated with several new surveys later in the year. In May, an interchange issue related to Congress's financial regulatory reform bill forced the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the nation's credit unions to oppose Senate banking reform--the No. 2, No. 9 and No. 10 stories for May. NCUA announced it was considering splitting share insurance and corporate fees, the fifth most-read story for May. Credit union people were also in the news. Two top stories during the first half of 2010 centered on six people who had been banned by NCUA from future credit union work. The appointment of Bill Cheney as the new president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association ranked No. 4 for May. In June, NCUA announced its assessment of 0.134% or 13 basis points of insured shares to pay for its corporate stabilization plan. That was the top story for June, followed by stories on interchange--CUNA's call for credit unions to oppose the financial regulatory reform bill and a key congressman's reassurance that the Federal Reserve's new rules governing interchange fees would not apply to credit unions or small institutions under $10 billion in assets. Compliance issues continued, with the Fed releasing a clarification of its Regulation E, Electronic Fund Transfers, and Regulation DD, Truth in Savings, rules that addressed overdraft services. A review of the second-half 2010 activities in the news will continue later in the week.

Northwest CU Association operations began Saturday

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BEAVERTON, Ore. and FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (1/3/11)--The Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), a combination of the Washington Credit Union League and the Credit Union Association of Oregon, began operations on Saturday. The NWCU’s primary phone number is 800-995-9064. Its fax line is 877-928-9064. To reach the association via postal service, use the following information:

Oregon mailing and physical address

8205 SW Creekside Place, Suite 220

Beaverton, Ore. 97008

Washington mailing and physical address

33301 9th Avenue South, Suite 200

Federal Way, Wash. 98003

Credit unions previously registered on either the Oregon association or Washington league site must register at the NWCUA’s new website at NWCUA.org. Failing to register will limit access to the site and its functionality, including event registration, training events, the online directory and compliance resources.

Consumer awareness translates to CU growth--leagues

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MADISON, Wis. (1/3/11)--For all the good publicity credit unions have generated from campaigns such as MoveYourMoney.org or consumer backlash against big banks, the enthusiasm does not appear to be translating to membership growth. Nationally, credit unions grew at a 0.7% rate through Sept. 30. Total loans were down -1.2%. But credit union leagues in states with coordinated awareness programs say they are bucking those trends--and they cite data to back it up. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association’s (PCUA) iBelong awareness program has been in place for three years. Michael Wishnow, senior vice president of communications and marketing, said Pennsylvania credit unions had either lagged or maintained pace with national credit union growth statistics for 25 years when a group of state credit union CEOs convened to see what they could do about improving that status. “It all came down to one thing: awareness,” said Wishnow. PCUA leaders thought awareness was so vital to their financial health that they created a mandatory assessment for member credit unions to fund the iBelong campaign, Wishnow said. The funding was used primarily to produce a high-quality TV/radio ad campaign. Wishnow said the quality of the production has helped the campaign have a greater impact for consumers--and made a big difference for credit unions of all sizes. “Even the largest credit union probably couldn’t afford to spend on the production of the spots, [and maintain] the quality of them, let alone run them on a statewide basis,” he said. Wishnow said he believes--and just as importantly, PCUA’s members believe--the investment has translated into growth. He cited 2010 second quarter data: Pennsylvania credit unions have exceeded national rates in membership growth (2.2% vs. 0.9%), assets (8.9% vs. 3.8%), and loans (5.4% vs. -0.9%). In part, because of that success the amount Pennsylvania credit unions are assessed for the iBelong campaign will decrease by one-third in 2011. Credit unions under $20 million in assets will pay $7 per million. Credit unions between $20 million and $50 million in assets pay $27 per million. Those $50 million and over in assets will pay $40 per million. The association’s credit union service organization, Pacul, also will make a $50,000 contribution to the campaign, which will cost $1.1 million in 2011, down slightly from $1.2 million in 2010. New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) President Paul Gentile also attributes his state’s credit union growth to increased public awareness. The NJCUL’s “New Jersey Credit Unions: Banking You Can Trust” campaign can be seen and heard on radio and cable TV and in New Jersey Transit stations and on buses. New Jersey credit unions grew by nearly 25,000 members in the first half of 2010. As of the third quarter, member loans had increased by 1.9%, compared with a national decline among credit unions of -1.2%. Member business loans at New Jersey credit unions rose at a 17% rate. Nationally, credit union member business lending increased at a 7% for the third quarter. First mortgages at New Jersey credit unions were up by 9.3%, compared to a 2.3% rate nationally. “The branding campaign is definitely helping,” Gentile said. “We’re pushing everybody to the [national credit union finder] website. New Jersey gets the second most visits of any state in the country, so we know we’re getting people to visit that site. We think they’re signing up for memberships and taking out loans.” Gentile said New Jersey credit unions contribute to the campaign on a voluntary basis. “As a league, we think telling the credit union story is so important that we are willing to subsidize it on our own,” Gentile said. Nowhere has the effect of the recession been felt more directly than Michigan, which has experienced the restructuring of auto industry. Yet Michigan credit unions have grown the past two years. Michigan credit unions added more than 50,000 members in 2010, the second straight year it has surpassed that figure. By comparison, that’s nearly three times the 17,000 members added in 2008, the league said. Michigan had 4.5 million credit union members as of the end of September, and 44% of the state’s residents do at least some of their banking at credit unions, the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) told the (Detroit News Dec. 26). Among the 10 most populous states, Michigan has the highest rate of credit union membership. MCUL President/CEO David Adams said he believes strong cooperative advertising programs such as Own Your Money and Invest in America made Michigan credit unions stand out at a time when banks fell out of favor with many consumers. “Michigan has always been a strong credit unions state, but as the state has lost population in the past decade, credit union membership growth has been negligible,” Adams said. “That is, until the past two years.” That’s when Michigan credit unions kicked in more than $3.4 million for the “Own Your Money” and “Invest in America” messages. Invest in America was a partnership with automakers that offered credit union members savings on GM vehicles while marketing the benefits of credit union membership. Own Your Money is a TV and radio advertising campaign geared to 18- to 34-year-olds, with an underlying message that credit unions offer member-focus, value and personal control. Pennsylvania’s Wishnow said that awareness campaigns such as Own Your Money, iBelong and Banking You Can Trust explain to consumers what a credit union is and inform them that almost anyone can join. “Then credit unions don’t have to invest their time and energy on explaining what a credit union is,” Wishnow said. “We’re doing that, so they can focus on specific products and services. And that’s more important now than ever before. The bottom line is a lot different than it was four years ago. This alleviates some of that pressure.”

CU System briefs (01/02/2011)

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* DULUTH, Ga. (1/3/11)--Georgia FCU, based in Duluth, Ga., has changed its name to Georgia United CU because it recently converted to a state charter (Atlanta Journal-Constitution Dec. 30). The credit union was founded as DeKalb County Teachers FCU 52 years ago. Georgia United CU serves employees of 10 school systems and more than 450 select employment groups as well as University of Georgia employees, faculty, students and alumni. It has $630 million in assets and 13 branches located throughout the state … * CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (1/3/11)--Champaign County Employees CU has merged into $240 million asset University of Illinois Employees CU. Both credit unions are located in Champaign, Ill. Champaign County Employees CU had about $330,000 in assets. Chairman John Dimit said the county employees credit union was finding it increasingly harder to manage all the administrative duties with a small asset base. Many members had dual memberships already with the UI Employees CU. The merger took effect Dec. 1 (The News-Gazette Dec. 30) … * LAUREL, Md. (1/3/11)--Robert "Bob" Byroad, first president of Tower FCU, headquartered in Laurel, Md., died Dec. 25 at the age of 81. He started at the credit union in 1959 as office manager, with two employees, about 3,000 members and $400,000 in assets. In 1978 he was named general manager and in 1986, he became president. By his retirement in 1994, Tower was a full-service credit union with $620 million in assets and nearly 92,000 members worldwide. Today, Tower is the largest federal credit union in Maryland, with more than $2.2 billion in assets, 16 branches and more than 121,000 members. Current President/CEO Martin Breland attributed the growth to Byroad's tenure. He also was active nationally in the movement. He is past president of the Maryland Credit Union League and the Metropolitan Area Credit Union Management Association. Before arriving at Tower, he assisted in chartering the Wheaton Co-op FCU. He is survived by his wife, sister, two children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild …

CUs gave so troops could have a good holiday

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MADISON, Wis. (1/3/11)--Credit unions ended 2010 by putting their money and efforts where their philosophy is--making things better for others. Credit unions made special efforts to ensure that one group had a bright holiday: troops deployed far from home. For the third year in a row, Dover (Del.) FCU treated troops to homemade goodies and warm wishes as part of "Operation Cookie Drop." Staff and volunteers at branches throughout Delaware baked and delivered 2,196 cookies--or 183 dozen--to troops to thank them for their commitment and sacrifices on behalf of the nation. "We know that being away from your family during the holidays is hard," said President/CEO David Clendaniel. Staffers also rang the bell for the Salvation Army in Dover for two eight-hour days in mid-December. Hanscom FCU at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., provided 20 Thank You prepaid debit cards, each totaling $50 and supplied in partnership with the Armed Forces Financial Network (AFFN), to Fisher House Boston officials to distribute to family members while veterans receive treatment at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System. The cards are used for expenses such as food, gas and personal items. Air Force FCU, San Antonio, Texas, also was part of the Thank You card effort, presenting 100 $50 "Thank You" cards to the Lackland Air Force Base Fisher House. AFFN, the Defense Credit Union Council and the Association of Military Banks of America, have supported the Fisher House Foundation and individual Fisher Houses in Germany and the U.S. for the past seven years, contributing more than $1 million to the efforts during that period. In Oklahoma, Tinker FCU and Rose State College teamed up to help military families at Tinker Air Force Base for the holidays. They collected toys and food for the families (The Oklahoman Nov. 25). All 233 branches of State Employees' CU, Raleigh, N.C., collected 5,000 gift boxes for overseas troops in early November. The gift boxes were packed with a variety of travel size items such as dental supplies, soap, shampoo, first aid items, travel games, socks and food (The Weekly Update Dec. 17). Steve Sheppard, SECU's Raleigh-NCSU Advisory Board member, noted he was mobilized for two tours of duty for Iraqi Freedom as a Navy Reservist serving with the U.S. Army. "We were 750 strong but always looked forward to our mail and especially the care packages. Many items in the boxes were unobtainable at our bases. The long days and poor conditions were made better by the magical boxes and the thought that someone at home cared." Piedmont Advantage CU, Winston-Salem, N.C., aimed its efforts to troops seriously injured in the line of duty. The credit union had an ornament sale to benefit Hope for the Warriors, which ensures the injured troops' needs are met. It also sold ornaments last year. Belvoir FCU, Woodbridge, Va., filmed "countless" live greeting card video messages for members and nonmembers to share with soldiers overseas. It sent more than 50 personalized eGreetings in the effort. The videos were filmed at the credit union's branches in front of a "Belvoir Federal Cares" backdrop. It used YouTube to post each eGreeting.