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Charity benefits from CUs football-game parking fees

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (10/22/09)--Pioneer CU donates money generated from fees for parking cars on its property during Green Bay Packer football games to charity. The $409 million asset, Green Bay, Wis.-based credit union is one of several businesses near Lambeau Field--the Packers’ stadium--that gives parking fees to nonprofit organizations and charities (Green Bay Press-Gazette Oct. 19). Pioneer officials take turns parking cars during Packer games. They also choose which organization receives the parking revenue when its turn comes up, the newspaper said. For the past 25 years, the credit union has supported the Boys & Girls Club, Freedom House, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Bay Area Humane Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters and a skating program for the handicapped, the paper said. Pioneer’s parking lot holds 200 cars, and it collects between $17,000 and $20,000 per year, Pioneer CEO Tom Young told the paper. Also, people are respectful of the fact that the money goes to charity, Joe Slattery, Pioneer vice president of marketing, told the paper. Three customers who parked at past Packer games before credit union officials were there to collect money paid their past-due fees Sunday, he added.

CUs grow by attracting Latino members

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DES MOINES, Iowa (10/22/09)--Six years ago, Jose Francisco Batres and Martha Alarcon moved to Des Moines, Iowa, from Veracruz, Mexico. They joined Village CU in Des Moines so they could send money to Mexico, which turned out to be a gateway for them to use other credit union services. Alarcon and Batres, who work 14 hours a day in a restaurant, also opened a savings account at the credit union and were invited to serve on the Hispanic Advisory Council at Village CU (EFE News Service Oct. 20). The Iowa Credit Union League told EFE News Service that its credit unions have experienced sustained growth since offering services to the Hispanic community. Latinos have a “high level of participation in the labor force, their family incomes are on the rise, their purchasing power is also growing and they are ambitious,” said Patrick Jury, Iowa league president. Village CU “understood the value of providing services to the [Hispanic] sector with its rapid demographic growth,” Jury said. The credit union’s outreach to Hispanic members has brought in more than $8 million to the credit union. Other Iowa credit unions also are working to attract Hispanics. Des Moines Metro CU began offering $500 loans to Hispanic immigrants to help them establish their credit. The credit unions’ efforts are the “starting point” that eventually lead Hispanics to begin using other services--like direct deposits and business loans, according to Ahmee Vang, remittance specialist at the World Council of Credit Unions. The Hispanic market is often misunderstood by financial institutions because some think they need to wait until Hispanics adopt the services they offer. Financial institutions have to reach out to the market--which is what credit unions are doing, Vang said. To succeed in reaching Hispanics, credit unions need to create a specific marketing plan, train their personnel in Latinos’ financial needs, and offer financial education to immigrants, Vang said. WOCCU statistics indicate that in 2008, $307 billion in remittances were sent from the U.S. WOCCU created a remittance program to help credit unions offer services for Latinos, and credit unions that have used the program have benefited immediately, Vang added.

Filene researchers innovators and leaders convene

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MADISON, Wis. (10/22/09)--Many researchers, innovators and leaders from the United States and Canada covened in Montreal, Canada, Sept. 29--Oct. 1, for the Filene Research Institute’s collaborative gathering--big.bright.minds--to discuss credit union issues. The annual meeting of Filene’s Research Council, i³ teams, fellows, administrative board, and special guests began with a reminder from Filene CEO Mark Meyer that U.S. credit unions can benefit from looking to their northern neighbors who, on many levels, are weathering the recent economic storm with fewer damages than their American counterparts. In Montreal, Filene’s academic fellows reported on their projects, which ranged from changing financial behaviors at retirement by Jinkook Lee, of the RAND Corporation, to credit union opportunities in Latino families by Barbara Robles, Arizona State University. Also discussed were advances in “customer experience” research by Dorian Stone, of McKinsey and Company, to a report on the Michigan “Save to Win” pilot by Peter Tufano, a Harvard Business School professor. Princeton professor Eldar Shafir delved into the differences between traditional and behavioral economics. Credit unions could learn from the behavioral approach, which would lead to products built around real, not just ideal, consumer behavior, he said. The big.bright.minds gathering featured i3 innovations. The ideas ranged from helping renters to improving credit union members’ environmental impact. They include:
* Giving CD--Members earmark proceeds from deposits to support the cooperative movement; * Joint purchasing initiative--Credit unions cooperate to slash their health insurance benefits costs; *Responsible rent loan---Property owners and qualified renters connect through the credit union; * Share the Wealth--Credit unions grow loan portfolios and boost fee income with home equity loan referrals; and * The Leap--Members save money and the environment when they “go green.
“It feels historic for those of us following on the work of Desjardins and Filene to spend this time face to face,” Meyer said. “Being here together continues the conversation around cooperation and innovation that began more than 100 years ago.” The Montreal conference was hosted in part by the Desjardins Group, a Quebec-based federation of 513 independent “caisses” (credit unions) that share resources and a common brand. For more information, use the links.

Housing holding its own Hampel tells IMarketWatchI

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MADISON, Wis. (10/22/09)--U.S. housing construction has strong fundamentals and is prevailing against economic forces, Bill Hampel, chief economist at the Credit Union National Association, told MarketWatch Tuesday. “[Housing construction is] holding its own against some strong headwinds,” Hampel told MarketWatch. The industry’s fundamentals are sound because of low mortgage rates and relatively low home prices. There’s also pent-up demand for housing, he added. Housing starts are down 28% in the past year, with starts of single-family homes 8.7% below par, and starts of apartments and condos nosediving 69%, MarketWatch said. In September, new construction of U.S. housing was basically flat with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Factoring in September’s 0.5% estimated increase, housing starts have been flat for four consecutive months, following a large rebound earlier this year from historic lows, analysts said. Since hitting the bottom in January, housing starts have increased 21%, analysts added.

CU System briefs (10/21/2009)

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* BATON ROUGE, La. (10/22/09)--A robber pepper-sprayed two female employees of Pelican State CU in Baton Rouge, La., Friday night after taking money from the credit union. Neither employee was seriously hurt, but one was treated for a foot injury from the attack (Associated Press Oct. 21). Police are searching for the robber. Pelican State CU has $167 million in assets ... * REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (10/22/09)--San Mateo CU (SMCU) funded the equivalent of 560 lunches through its refer-a-friend program, which means that every time a member refers another person to the credit union for membership, SMCU will contribute to Second Harvest Food Bank of San Mateo County. The program was launched this summer and runs through the end of December. The 560 lunches are the result of referrals in the program’s first quarter. On Oct. 15--International Credit Union Day--SMCU presented the food bank with the results of the fundraiser. SMCU, Redwood City, Calif., has $607 million in assets ...

S.D. CU granted community charter

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (10/22/09)--Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Bell FCU has been granted a community charter to serve two counties in the state, and is hoping to use its expanded membership to offer more services and better rates. The credit union applied for the charter to ensure future growth, said Darla Erb, Bell FCU president. It also dropped the “Sioux Falls” from its former name--Sioux Falls Bell FCU (Argus Leader Oct. 21). The credit union was created 70 years ago to serve telephone employees. Many credit unions are looking to expand, Jeff Olson, political and public affairs director for the Mid-America Credit Union Association, told the newspaper. For credit unions that serve a closed membership--or a specific company as Bell FCU used to--there is a need to expand because industries and professions have contracted, he said. Credit unions that expand and gain more assets also can provide more member business loans. Credit unions are capped at 12.25% of their assets for business loans, so by having more assets, they can expand their loan portfolio, Olson said. Bell FCU has $29.9 million in assets.

Canada Mexico CUs partner through WOCCU program

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EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (10/22/09)--On Oct. 8, Canadian credit union history was made when Servus CU, Edmonton, Alberta, signed a formal partnership agreement with Caja Yanga CU, Veracruz, Mexico. The partnership, facilitated by the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program, is the first direct relationship involving an individual Canadian credit union.
New partners (from left) Eduardo Rojas, Caja Yanga; Garth Warner, Servus CU; and Margarito Saavedra, Caja Yanga; sign a partnership agreement, with World Council of Credit Unions’ Victor Miguel Corro and Servus CU's Penny Reeves in attendance. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
“Partnering Servus with an international credit union has been my dream for some time,” said Penny Reeves, secretary of the WOCCU board of directors and director for the $9.6 billion Canadian credit union. The only other Canadian partnership exists between Central 1 CU of British Columbia, which operates similarly to a U.S. corporate credit union, and the Credit Union League of Hong Kong. The partnership between Servus and Caja Yanga, which has assets of $22 million, continues a relationship that began in March. Officials from the two partner credit unions met in Córdoba, Veracruz, to examine Caja Yanga's outreach to rural communities and the success of WOCCU's PATMIR II project funded by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (SAGARPA). The project has helped Caja Yanga grow its membership and strengthen its role as a financial institution. Caja Yanga also is piloting WOCCU’s MatchSavings.org. The online program allows people worldwide to match the small savings of individual Caja Yanga members through a dedicated website. By helping Caja Yanga members save for housing, micro business, education and healthcare expenses, MatchSavings.org participants are helping the credit union's poorest members build savings habits as a first step toward overcoming poverty. During a partnership visit to Edmonton earlier this month, Caja Yanga officials identified new product development, governance and ATM implementation as areas in which the Mexican credit union would like assistance. Caja Yanga is currently working with Union Coop of Mexico, part of WOCCU’s for-profit subsidiary WOCCU Services Group, to launch a credit union-owned ATM network throughout Mexico. Caja Yanga needs assistance in developing sound policies and procedures to help better manage in-branch ATMs, an area in which Servus can help. “We can learn from Servus’ experience in rolling out new initiatives,” said Margarito Saavedra, Caja Yanga's general manager. “We will place special emphasis on enhancing our electronic delivery channels.” Governance also was discussed by the Caja Yanga delegation, which, in addition to Saavedra, included Eduardo Rojas, chairman, and Francisco Perez, marketing manager. Rojas met with Reeves and other members of Servus' board of directors, to discuss credit union growth and the board’s role in facilitating--rather than managing--the process. In return, Servus officials hope their credit union's experience with Caja Yanga will help their employees stay in touch with their cooperative roots and make a contribution to international credit union development. “No matter the size of our organizations, we share in our commitment to helping members,” said Garth Warner, president/CEO of Servus.