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CommunityAmerica CU CEO fabric of community

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LENEXA, Kan. (10/15/08)--CommunityAmerica CU CEO Dennis Pierce has made a dedicated effort to be a part of the fabric of the Kansas City community, according to Missouri Credit Union Association president Rosie Holub. “He believes in leading by example,” she told the Kansas City Business Journal (Oct. 10). The Journal published an article spotlighting some of Pierce’s achievements in his credit union career. Pierce, who said he “started at the bottom” and received his first raise when the minimum wage went up, is a “natural leader” for the credit union, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Chairman Tom Dorety said. Pierce began working in the credit union movement in 1983, when he was hired as the data processing systems manager at Steel Workers CU, which is now United Consumers CU, in Independence, Mo. He was hired as president of Members America CU, CommunityAmerica’s predecessor, in 1993. The credit union was serving employees of TWA, an airline that was struggling after going bankrupt, the newspaper said. Pierce helped the TWA employees by making sure the credit union’s products matched their needs. He also created a community identity for the credit union and permitted credit union employees 12 work hours a year to volunteer with community organizations. Pierce led a merger with Yellow Financial CU in 1998, which created CommunityAmerica. He also set up an agreement to put branches in Hy-Vee retail stores in 1999. Last year, CommunityAmerica merged with Midwest United CU of Blue Springs. Pierce said his goal isn’t to see how big the credit union can be, but how well it can help people, he told the newspaper. With the merger came a $6 million distribution to members. The last payment was in November--$250. One member said she was going to use the dividend to buy Christmas presents for her children. Without the dividend, she had no money for the holidays, she told Pierce. “That type of thing just really gets me going,” Pierce told the Journal. CommunityAmerica has $1.689 billion in assets.

NCUF approves 10278 grant to Montana CUs for community development

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HELENA, Mont. (10/15/08)--To help more low-income families receive free tax filing from a special corps of volunteers, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) has approved an Innovation Grant of $10,278 to Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (MCUCD). The NCUF grant will empower MCUCD to expand Montana’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to 13 credit unions and 16 sites. Part of the grant will support AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America (VISTAs), a corps that will be specially trained to process tax returns for 3,000 low-income families. AmeriCorps VISTAs will encourage low-income workers to file for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a tax break designed to lift low-income workers out of poverty. “Over its 30-year history, the EITC has developed into the nation's largest anti-poverty program,” explained MCUCD Executive Director Jeanne Saarinen. “Increased capacity and access to VITA sites helps families build wealth by increasing access to EITC and helping families keep more of their tax refunds.” All tax filers are also advised to avoid refund anticipation loans. “We believe our model of statewide credit union VITA sites is sustainable and replicable,” said Saarinen. “MCUCD has the experience and training to set up and run VITA sites in communities without any other free tax preparation sites. We take the burden off of individual credit unions, so each credit union can focus on what it does best--helping members.” This is the first of 14 NCUF Innovation Grants approved this year. During the 2008 Innovation Grants application cycle, NCUF received 41 applications requesting over $2.2 million in funding. This was nearly four times the $600,000 budgeted for Innovation Grants through the Community Investment Fund (CIF). “Grant requests were much higher this year because the needs are much greater,” said NCUF Deputy Director Steve Bosack, the Foundation’s staff liaison to the NCUF Grants Committee. “More credit unions are seeking innovative ways to serve people with low wealth and modest means.” “More credit unions than ever are investing in the Community Investment Fund,” said NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin. “Yet here’s the paradox: even though CIF balances reached an all-time high, the fund has returned a much lower percentage of grant dollars in 2008. “This is due to federal interest rate cuts from January through September. So especially during these challenging economic times, we thank all 650-plus CIF investors, the NCUF Board and Grants Committee for allowing us to maintain our $600,000 in Innovation Grant commitments and reward credit unions serving low-wealth households,” he added.

Australian CUs told to boost liquidity

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SYDNEY, Australia (10/15/08)--The Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) is putting pressure on the country’s credit unions to lift their liquidity levels in a move to reinforce the country’s $65 billion industry buffer against ramifications from the global financial crisis. APRA approached several institutions last week in advance of the government’s weekend announcement of deposits and wholesale funding guarantees that also cover credit union and building societies (The Australian Oct. 15). A building society is a financial institution, owned by its members, that offers banking and other financial services, especially mortgage lending. APRA is believed to have asked some of the country’s regulated entities to increase liquid assets--funds that can be converted to cash within days--to 15% from the previous 13% of total assets. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) reported that the country’s banking system maintained well-capitalized with the aggregate capital ratio standing at 10.6% as of the end of June. Also, RBA said the credit union sector remains well-capitalized, with an aggregate capital ratio of 16.5%. About 4.5 million Australians are members of credit unions or building societies.

Florida SECU establishes employee volunteer outreach program

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (10/15/08)--State Employees CU (SECU), Jacksonville, Fla., has made a commitment to increase its involvement in volunteer efforts within its communities and beyond with the establishment of SECU C.A.R.E.S., the credit union’s employee volunteer program. The name, SECU C.A.R.E.S., was developed by credit union staff and stands for “Committed, Able, Resourceful, Employees in Service.” After research into volunteer opportunities within its communities, it was decided that SECU’s first efforts would be centered on a partnership with Ronald McDonald House. The Ronald McDonald House provides a home for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. SECU C.A.R.E.S. is excited about this partnership and the many volunteer opportunities it will afford staff, the credit union said. The Jacksonville and Raiford SECU staff members recently participated in the Children’s Way 5K Run/Walk. As a further means of raising money for the event, the branches sold sponsor running shoes for one dollar each. The employees and local members are also participating in the Ronald McDonald House beverage pop top collection efforts. The pop tops are recycled for cash to support the house program. SECU’s Tallahassee offices sponsored a pizza and salad night for their local house. The families had pizza and salad waiting for them after a long day at local hospitals. Wish list collection boxes have also been placed in the branches for employees and members to donate needed items for the house. SECU C.A.R.E.S. is off to a great start, and SECU is proud of its staff and their commitment to its members and communities, the credit union said.

Newspaper article CUs avoid risky investments

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (10/15/08)--Because credit unions are focused on the needs of members, they stay away from the risky investments that have plagued many other financial institutions during the current economic crisis, according to a Tuesday article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “The purpose of a credit union is not to make profits to provide services to its members, so there’s no incentive to be involved with risky lending,” Patrick Keefe, spokesman for the Credit Union National Association, told the newspaper. “Credit unions don’t have any skin in the game.” More than 90 million credit union members nationwide are federally insured [through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF)] at the same rate--up to $250,000--as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insure bank deposits, Keefe added. Despite the current economic turmoil nationwide, credit unions may be some of the safest U.S. financial institutions, the Florida Credit Union League told the paper. “Where some financial institutions are reeling from the economy, credit unions are not,” Guy M. Hood, league president, said in league-issued statement. “There has been some hype about money in credit unions being unsafe, when in fact, it is just as safe being insured with the [NCUSIF].”

Certificate growth at CUs noted by IWall Street JournalI

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NEW YORK (10/15/08)--Investors are turning to certificates of deposit (CDs), and term share certificates--especially at credit unions, according to a Tuesday article in The Wall Street Journal. Term share certificate deposits at credit unions nationwide have risen an estimated 4.8% so far this year, according to data from the Credit Union National Association, the paper said. There has been a $57 billion increase in the total amount of revenue held in CDs and term share certificates of $100,000 or less during the past few months, according to Federal Reserve data, the paper indicated. The primary motive for investors moving more into CDs and term share certificates is security because they offer a way to insure investors’ money, the paper said. Certificate investors also have been prompted by the new $250,000 federal insurance limit [at credit unions and banks], said John Nersesian, managing director of Nuveen Investments in Chicago. The yield on an average one-year CD now is 2.56%, and the average five-year CD yield is 3.38%, according to Bankrate.com.

CNBC Minn. news station promote CUs safety soundness

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MADISON, Wis. (10/15/08)--CNBC and a local St. Paul, Minn.-based television news station recently noted credit unions’ safety and soundness. CNBC’s Jane Wells noted credit unions during a segment about the subprime mortgage crisis. Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, was interviewed for the segment. Cheney told Wells that credit unions are well-capitalized. WCCO 4 News in St. Paul featured Hiway FCU and its CEO, Jeff Schwalen, during the news station’s “Good Question” segment. WCCO interviewed several credit union members who described the credit union difference and noted that they felt their deposits were safe at the credit union. Hiway has $742 million in assets. To see the videos, use the links.

100 students attend KCUA fin lit camp

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TOPEKA, Kan. (10/15/08)--About 100 middle school students attended the Kansas Credit Union Association’s Money$mart Financial Literacy Camp Friday.
Jim Holt (left), president/CEO of Mid-American CU, and Kristen Spear, Mid-American assistant to the CEO, assembled materials for the Kansas Credit Union Association’s Money$mart Financial Literacy Camp.
The Kansas Credit Union Association held a Money$mart Financial Literacy Camp to teach middle school students financial skills. (Photos provided by the Kansas Credit Union Association)
About 20 credit union leaders were in attendance at the day-long event, which was held at Truesdell Middle School in Topeka. The camp taught students leadership and financial skills. Students attended workshops on budgeting, saving, goal-setting, cash and credit. KCUA partnered with Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins to hold the camp. “Financial education is vital to the success of our state’s citizens and it must begin with our youth,” Jenkins said. “The Money$mart Financial camps are a perfect way to bring this invaluable information to young people so they can begin to understand how to make responsible decisions with their money.” The camp, endorsed by the middle school, was held on an in-service day, which means only teachers and administrations were required to report to school. The school opened for the camp so students could learn in an environment that was familiar to them.

CUNA honors community CUs

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SAN DIEGO (10/15/08)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) named Erie (Pa.) General Electric FCU, and OSU FCU, Corvallis, Ore., the 2008 Community Credit Unions of the Year at CUNA’s 2008 Community Credit Union Conference in San Diego.
Carlyn Roy, executive vice president/chief operations officer, OSU FCU, Corvallis, Ore., received the Community CU of the Year award from John Sackett, award judge and board treasurer, Royal CU, Eau Claire, Wis. OSU FCU won in the more than $250 million asset category.
Award judge Lee MacMinn, CEO, Freedom CU, Warminster, Pa., presented Gail Cook, CEO, Erie (Pa.) General Electric FCU, with the Community CU of the Year award for institutions with less than $250 million in assets. (Photos provided by the Credit Union National Association)
The award recognizes community chartered credit unions that best exemplify credit union ideals, are proactive in their communities, and provide a wide array of services to meet their communities’ diverse needs. Erie General Electric Federal, the winner in the less than $250 million asset category, excelled in new product development and community impact, noted Lee MacMinn, president/CEO of Freedom CU, Warminster, Pa., and an award judge. Most of Erie General Electric Federal’s new products are geared toward helping members that other financial institutions don’t want to serve, MacMinn noted. “The credit union was willing to take a chance on helping members help themselves through many ‘second chance’ type programs.” The key to community credit union success is “serving all segments of your membership and the community,” said Carlyn Roy, executive vice president/chief operations officer for OSU Federal, the winner in the more than $250 million asset category. “By reaching out and supporting varied communities, we end up gaining members out of nonmembers. “Our slogan is ‘creating financial solutions to make lives better,’” she continued. “All of our staff live by that mantra at work.”