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BECU reports significant increase in new members

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TUKWILA, Wash. (10/17/11)--New member registrations have surged recently at Tukwila, Wash.-based BECU, thanks to Bank of America's plans to raise its debit card fees to $5 a month. BECU, formerly Boeing Employee's CU, told The American Banker (Oct. 13) it has seen an "incredible uptick" in new members since the bank's plans were revealed on Sept. 28. Normally, the credit union has an average growth of about 7,000 new members a month, Howie Wu, vice president of virtual banking at the $9.5 billion asset credit union, told the publication. But as of Wednesday, the credit union during the previous 10 days had attracted 5,200 new members, he said. Wu indicated that the credit union emphasizes integrated self-service branches and online service in registering its field of membership. During the past year, BECU saw roughly 12,000 new members signing up online. Today, it has over 720,000 members served by over 40 branches.

ICU Day plans gelling for many CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (10/17/11)--International Credit Union Day may be Thursday, but credit unions are already celebrating, with events throughout the week. Credit unions will get a little help this year in convincing consumers why they are so important. The still struggling economy, consumers discontented with bank fees, and the fact that credit unions have consistently done the right thing by their members will add momentum to the celebration. Maine's credit unions are ready for Maine Credit Union Week 2011. In his Credit Union Week letter to the state's credit union staff and officials, Maine Credit Union League President John Murphy praised more than 3,000 staff and officials. "While many segments of the financial services sector have come under intense scrutiny for putting profits above people, credit unions have continued to build strong futures for their members, through focusing on doing what is in the best interests of the members, and going above and beyond to serve them," Murphy said (Weekly Update Oct. 14). He acknowledged that recent news of banks hiking fees "has increased interest and attention on credit unions so the timing of Credit Union Week is perfect." For the week, the league coordinated and provided all the editorial content for special supplements that will appear in nearly every daily newspaper in Maine and scheduled nearly 30 radio interviews as well as other coverage highlighting credit unions. Some credit unions already have a head start on celebrating. The $407 million asset Heritage CU, Newburgh, Ind., for example, celebrated the event this past Friday so it could accommodate more members. Its seven branches served members coffee and granola bars from opening until 11 a.m.; then hot dogs, chips and water from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; then cookies from 1 p.m. until closing time. It gave away hand sanitizer cozy clips and provided free document shredding at all locations. To coincide with the day's theme of "Credit Unions Build a Better World," it allowed employees who donated to Habitat for Humanity a Jeans Day. North Carolina's credit unions are planning events from bingo to bowling, and pizza to panel discussions, according to the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update Oct. 14). Three chapters are celebrating on Tuesday. The Tarheel Chapter will kick off with a presentation on the history of credit unions and the value of "Rediscovering Our Common Bond." The Western Chapter is displaying Seven Principles, Concern for Community and will host a Bingo Night with chances to win $500 in prizes. The Foothills Chapter will combine community service, fun and Halloween with "Disappearance of Death," a murder mystery that participants try to solve. It also will collect jars of peanut butter for Cooperative Christian Ministries. Other Carolina events occur on Thursday. The North Piedmont Chapter will provide an evening of pizza and bowling and donate $5 of the registration fee to the Victory Junction Gang Camp. It also will have a Credit Unions Got Talent program with contestants competing for a $600 prize. The Southeast Chapter will hobnob with goblins at its 2011 Costume Contest, and the Northwest Chapter has scheduled a comedian and mentalist to entertain. Both chapters will collect donated items for charities. In Pennsylvania, the latest Pennsylvania Newsmakers segment, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA), features PCUA President/CEO Jim McCormack and Senior Vice President Mike Wishnow talking with program host Dr. Terry Madonna, about how credit unions are a better deal as banks institute more fees as a result of the Dodd-Frank Act. They discussed the credit union difference, International Credit Union Day, and the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation's work to assist flood victims of September's Tropical Storm Lee. The program airs on a number of television stations throughout the state this week (Life is a Highway Oct. 17). News Now will report on the more unusual ICU Day celebrations later this week.

CU System briefs (10/14/2011)

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* KEY WEST, Fla. (10/17/11)--An ex-police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to robbing Keys FCU, Key West, Fla., with a threatening note and a fake bomb made of tape and tin cans. A U.S. District Judge sentenced Jeffrey Carl Meyers, 48, to four years and three months in prison, followed by three months of supervised probation (The Key West Citizen Oct. 13). Meyers also was ordered to participate in substance abuse treatment and pay $574 in court costs and fines. Meyers was arrested July 5, the same day a robber netted $1,880 after demanding cash from a teller at the credit union branch. Police arrested Meyers when an officer recognized him sitting in front of a machine at an Internet gaming parlor …

Protect Your ID Week focuses on child ID theft

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WASHINGTON (10/17/11)--A number of government agencies and organizations, including the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), launched on Sunday the 4th Annual National Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW), which will highlight child identity theft protection and education. The week, which runs through Saturday, is hosted by the National Foundation of Credit Counseling (NFCC), the National Association of Triads Inc., and the National Sheriffs' Association. The event coincides with the Council of Better Business Bureaus' Secure Your ID Day, which will be observed Saturday. More than eight million consumers were impacted last year by the crime of identity theft, resulting in the loss of $37 billion, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. "For the 11th year in a row, identity theft remained the No. 1 most-reported complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, further underscoring the need for this campaign," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. "Criminals continually find new ways to rob us of our good name and good credit, making it critical for Americans to stay updated on the latest protection techniques." Children are 51 times more likely than adults to have their identity stolen, said AllClear ID.With children, the crime goes unnoticed for years and is usually not detected until the child attempts to obtain credit or applies for a job, college or government benefits. By then, the damage is done, said NFCC. Other statistics related to child identity theft, from AllClear ID and the Carnegie Mellon Cylab:
* The youngest victim is only five months old; * About 54% of victims are under the age of 12; * The largest debt accrued with a child's stolen identity: $725,000; * A two-year-old was placed into bankruptcy; and * A nine-year-old was in debt collections.
Thieves are also stealing personal data left on old cell phones. "People are eager to cast aside their old phone in favor of the newest gadget, often forgetting that the old phone held passwords account numbers, PINs and other personal information that is a goldmine to a thief," said Cunningham. 911 Cell Phone joined the PYIW campaign to help consumers safely rid themselves of unused cell phones. 911 Cell Phone wipes the phones clean and returns them to law enforcement officials across the country to distribute free to those in need, such as senior citizens and abuse victims. More than 100 PYIW events will be held this week, with organizations such as credit unions offering ID theft protection handouts, workshops, speakers, cell phone collection, credit report reviews and shredding. Some credit unions are using the events as part of International Credit Union Day, which will be Thursday.

Study Online mortgage applications deliver

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MEQUON, Wis. (10/17/11)--Lenders with competitive online rates, optimized websites and integrated point-of-sale (POS) platforms are best positioned to succeed in attracting mortgage loan applications, according to a study of consumer-direct online mortgage applications submitted in 2010 to mortgage lenders. In one segment of the study, the Benchmarks 2011 Report by Mequon, Wis.-based Mortgagebot, such lenders garnered eight times more application volume than their less successful counterparts, the company said. The study aimed to identify methods that optimize lenders' online presence and maximize application volume. "The study's breadth of information gives banks and credit unions a vital tool for success in the consumer-direct, Web-based mortgage channel," said Rick Allen, Mortgagebot senior vice president of client services. In the study, about 40% of lenders surveyed take more than 25% of their loan applications online. Other trends:
* Mortgage shoppers actively research interest rates online. Fifty-four percent of visits to lenders' sites were to check rates, suggesting that lenders must "present accurate, risk-based pricing and detailed fee quotes to meet borrower expectations," said Mortgagebot. * Mortgage shoppers will devote time to complete online loan applications. More than one in six visitors spend more than 16 minutes on a lender's website, excluding visits that were less than a minute. If shoppers don't have enough time to complete the transaction, they will come back--48% of applications were submitted over multiple sessions, with 90% of the returning users submitting their application within two weeks of starting it. * Mortgage shoppers are highly inclined to submit applications online. Give a simple, optimized application experience, 72% of online borrowers who were eligible to complete their loan application online chose to do so.
With the data, lenders "can benchmark the success of their websites and pinpoint methods proven to be most effective in increasing loan volume," said Allen. "And mortgage lenders that have not embraced the online channel can see what's possible with the right tools." Online applications in 2010 in the report had a median credit score of 757, a median household income of $90,000, a median borrower age of 42, and a median loan-to-value ratio of 70%. Other findings:
* Borrowers want to apply on their own terms. More than one in three consumers elects to apply online during non-business hours, when branches are closed. * Simple navigation increases the likelihood of capturing applications. A panel of testers took 24% more time and 24% more clicks to reach the application entry page at less successful sites. More successful sites reaped eight times more loan volume.
The study aggregates data from Mortgagebot's PowerSite platform, responses from its annual partner survey and independent research. It also indicated that lenders who not only maintain online presence to reach consumers but also adopt an efficient online platform reap the greatest awards.

California CUs apply for mergers

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (10/17/11)--Two California credits unions have applied with the state Department of Financial Institutions to merge into other credit unions. Family 1 CU, Placentia, a $24.5 million asset, community credit union with one branch, filed an application Sept. 15 to merge into Credit Union of Southern California, Brea, a $584 million asset multiple employee-group credit union with eight branches, serving primarily educational groups. Also, Santa Monica (Calif.) City Employees FCU, a $28.2 million asset, local government credit union with one branch, filed an application Sept. 7 to merge into Southland CU, Los Alamos, a $491.4 million asset, community credit union with three branches in three cities.

N.Y. CUs continue growth in first half of year

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ALBANY, N.Y. (10/17/11)--Despite continued economic sluggishness, New York credit unions finished the first half of 2011 showing growth and exceeding national averages in asset, member and loan performance, according to the Credit Union Association of New York.
Click to view larger image Click for larger view
Assets at New York credit unions grew by $2.6 billion from January thru June. For the one-year period from June 2010 through June 2011, assets at the credit unions grew 6.64%, greater than the national asset growth average of 4.22%. Capital levels also remained strong at credit unions in the state, the association said. Holding at 11.2% of assets, this level exceeds not only credit unions nationally, but also New York banks and banks nationwide. Asset quality remains a strong point at New York’s credit unions, according to the association, with an overall delinquency rate of 1.22%, well below national credit union and bank averages. The state also outpaced the national 12-month membership growth rate of 0.59%, realizing a 2.41% jump in membership for the same period. New York credit unions achieved a combined annualized loan growth of 3.63% versus a national credit union growth rate of -0.47%. Member business loans in New York are a key part of credit unions’ loan portfolio, with 12.1% classified as business loans. The national average is 5.7%. “We believe that this new growth is just the start of a trend as other financial institutions introduce new fees and increase many already in existence,” said William J. Mellin, association president/CEO. “Since Bank of America announced their $5 debit card monthly fee, more and more individuals are discovering that the value and benefits offered by credit unions are worth a second look when it comes to choosing a financial institution.”

Pa. foundation commits 150K to flood victims

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (10/17/11)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association and the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation have committed $150,000 to the state’s flood victims--specifically credit union employees and members. The National Credit Union Foundation’s (NCUF) CUAid program also will contribute an undetermined amount of funds to flood victims (Life is a Highway Oct. 14). The state foundation has received nearly 250 grants from employees and members of more than 35 Pennsylvania credit unions. The submission deadline was Saturday. The Pennsylvania foundation approved 40 grants of $1,500 each for a total of $60,000. NCUF has processed the grants, and checks are on the way to credit unions who will, in turn, distribute them to beneficiaries. During the next several weeks, the foundation will process additional grant requests and prepare checks for those that are approved.

W. Va. Vt. N.J. media tell CUs MBL story

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MADISON, Wis. (10/17/11)--Publications in West Virginia, Vermont and New Jersey recently shared credit union member business lending (MBL) story with their readers. In West Virginia, an article on the WBOY website described how Star USA FCU, Charleston; First Choice American Community FCU, Weirton; and Universal FCU, Huntington; are working to increase their presence in the small business market. Daniel Smithson, president of Star USA FCU, told the station that the 12.25%-of-assets cap on credit union MBL activity limits his credit union’s opportunities to lend. “We are at or near our business lending capacity,” Smithson said. “Our ability to make loans to small business is pretty much limited. We’ve helped out a lot of small businesses.” As Congress and President Barack Obama battle over ways to create jobs, credit unions have money to lend to small businesses, Stephen Hewitt, vice president of business development at Star USA, told WBOY. First Choice American Community FCU has been offering commercial lending for 20 years, said Scott Winwood, president/CEO. “We would welcome any regulatory relief that would allow our credit union to increase the availability of our financial products and services to more people,” Winwood said. “We see this as a ‘win-win’ situation for the consumer and us.” An article in the October issue of the Champlain Business Journal described how New England FCU, Williston, Vt.; Heritage Family FCU, Rutland, Vt.; and Vermont State Employees CU (VSECU), Montpelier, Vt.; are ready to loan to small businesses, according the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (Newslines Express Oct. 14). Representatives from the credit unions network with and help small-business owners who are looking for capital to expand their growing companies, the article said. It described how credit unions offer services beyond personal checking, savings and loan products, such as merchant credit card services, to serve their business members. To reach members with information about merchant services, small-business loans and other business products, Heritage Family FCU’s Marleen Cenate told the Journal that the credit union finds networking opportunities through its membership. “We get a lot of referrals from members who refer their colleagues,” Cenate said. VSECU’s Scott Nichols described his credit union’s marketing campaign, which claims the “E” in the credit union’s acronym means “Everyone,” since it was recently granted a statewide field of membership. He explained that in addition to radio and television ads that focus on that message, VSECU also works to reach potential members through business networking, personal contacts and referrals. A Oct. 14 article in the Bergen Record titled “N.J. Credit Unions Campaigning to Raise Business Lending Limit,” highlights the New Jersey Credit Union League’s (NJCUL) radio and Web ad campaign promoting support of legislation to raise the MBL cap (The Daily Exchange Oct. 14)). The campaign, which officially launched Thursday, includes radio ads running on nine New Jersey radio stations and Web ads appearing on the 101.5 FM and PolitickerNJ Websites. “We are hoping New Jersey lawmakers wake up to the reality that small businesses need help," NJCUL President Paul Gentile said in the article. “We have a number of credit unions that cannot lend anymore.” On Wednesday, credit union representatives testified before a House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit hearing on H.R. 1418, the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act, which would increase the MBL cap to 27.5% of assets. CUNA has estimated that lifting the MBL cap would have a number of beneficial effects on the ailing economy, including infusing $13 billion in new credit for small businesses and adding 140,000 new jobs within the first year of enactment--at no cost to the American taxpayer.

Collaboration key to Polands small-CU success

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SOPOT, Poland (10/17/11)--Unified back-office services and a single nationwide brand have helped even the smallest of Poland’s credit unions thrive during difficult financial times. Additional changes to broaden services and outsource them to a management group led by the country’s largest credit union are on track to further grow the system, and to extend Poland’s credit union success story, said the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).
Click to view larger image Participants in the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) recent Polish credit union study program included, from left: Joseph Bergeron, Association of Vermont CUs; Anthony Emerson, Credit Union League of Connecticut; Michael Mercer, Georgia Credit Union Affiliates; Anne Cochran, Louisiana Credit Union League; Monika Tarnowska, National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU) in Poland; Diana Dykstra, California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues; Brian Branch, WOCCU; John Radebaugh, North Carolina Credit Union League; Dennis Tanimoto, Hawaii Credit Union League; Michael Banks, NACSCU; Patricia Sowick, the Credit Union National Association and American Association of Credit Union leagues; and Troy Stang, Northwest Credit Union Association. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Credit union collaboration remains the driving characteristic among these strategies, and credit unions of all sizes are growing as a result. This was the lesson U.S. credit union league and association executives learned last week during a study program arranged by WOCCU in Poland. A single brand, developed and supported by the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU), Poland’s credit union trade association and WOCCU member, has brought success to a system considered the largest locally owned financial entity in Poland, WOCCU said. “I’m very impressed with how the Polish movement in a very short time has taken the best from credit unions worldwide to create a system that is efficient, cooperative and exerts a major influence on Polish society,” said Joseph Bergeron, president/CEO of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions. “I wish we could emulate that cooperation back home.” Bergeron was one of nine U.S. executives studying Poland’s credit unions, which operate under the brand acronym SKOK, during an exchange visit led by WOCCU President/CEO Brian Branch. Other participants included:
* WOCCU Second Vice Chair Anne Cochran, president/CEO of the Louisiana Credit Union League; * Diana Dykstra, president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues; * Anthony Emerson, president/CEO of the Credit Union League of Connecticut; * Michael Mercer, president/CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates; * John Radebaugh, president/ CEO of the North Carolina Credit Union League; * Patricia Sowick, vice president of league relations with the Credit Union National Association and the American Association of Credit Union Leagues; * Troy Stang, president of the Northwest Credit Union Association; and * Dennis Tanimoto, president/CEO of the Hawaii Credit Union League.
Victor Miguel Corro, vice president of WOCCU’s Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions and head of the International Partnerships Program, also attended. As part of its week-long study of cooperative systems, the group met with NACSCU executives at the association’s headquarters in Sopot and with SKOK Stefczyka, Poland’s largest credit union named for Franciszek Stefczyk, who introduced financial cooperatives to Poland in the late 19th century. Poland’s original cooperatives disbanded during World War II. They were not revived until the Solidarity movement freed the country from Communist rule in 1989, when NACSCU helped reestablish Poland’s credit union movement in partnership with WOCCU. The movement has since grown to one of the most successful in the world, WOCCU said. Poland’s 59 credit unions support 1,852 branches and serve 2.2 million members nationwide. In addition to maintaining a unified market presence, which enables even small credit unions to compete on even footing with larger institutions, NACSCU’s services to its credit union members include maintaining a centralized data processing system that supports a payment cards program; providing deposit insurance; managing credit bureau relationships; and raising capital for the system. In 2010, NACSCU established the Stefcyzk Credit Union Group, a management group headed by SKOK Stefcyzk that provides many of the marketing and technology functions for its seven member credit unions. “Poland’s credit unions continue to innovate within the framework of their collaborative model in new and effective ways,” Branch said. “The winners in this strategy are the members of those credit unions.” Continued collaboration between institutions also enables the system to grow and for small credit unions to maintain their identity while providing competitive services. It is a lesson from which credit unions everywhere can benefit, according to Emerson. “It’s refreshing to see the compassion, the hunger and the true cooperative spirit with which Polish credit unions operate,” Emerson said. “They know how to stick together, and they know that’s what makes it all work.”