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CUs can follow Community CU conference through live blog

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LAS VEGAS (10/23/09)--Credit unions can follow happenings at this year’s Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Community Credit Union and Growth Conference in Las Vegas by visiting CUNA’s YES CU blog. The conference kicked off Wednesday and will continue through Saturday in Las Vegas. The theme is “Share the Vision. Shape the Future.” This year’s conference combines the CUNA's YES Summit, Reach Out, and Community Credit Union conferences. Josh Jones, CUNA manager of new media and communications, is live-blogging from event. He will provide updates on keynote speakers, breakout sessions and other events through blog postings and video. Jones blogged last year from CUNA’s YES Summit along with Phil Heckman, CUNA director of youth programs, and Christopher Morris, CUNA Councils web manager. “We took the original YES blog and re-branded it for the conference, and repurposed the editorial focus so that we cover growth and other issues in addition to youth and young adults,” Jones said. “The moniker is now ‘Your Essential Strategies for Growth.’” The blog also includes “quick quips”--a running status update that appears live on the blog’s main page to give viewers immediate information. To learn more about the conference, visit the YES CU blog or follow conference updates on Twitter by using the links.

Wis. league drives CU participation in investment program

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MADISON, Wis. (10/23/09)--With the help of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, more than 3,500 credit union employees have registered for free online courses on investing through the REAL Progress and Pathways to Prosperity (RP3) program, according to Investor Protection Trust (IPT). The program’s goal is to provide on-line investor education to 4,000 employees and then study how investing behaviors changed among both employees and members of the credit unions. Because 3,500 employees have already registered for the first phase of the project, project leaders are confident that more than 4,000 employees will participate within the two phases (investorprotection.org September 2009). More than 3,000 employees have taken the pre-course survey and more than 2,800 online course modules have been completed by employees, according to the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). The Wisconsin league also helped to sign memorandums of understanding with 75 credit unions statewide, surpassing the original goal of 40, the DFI said. Also, during Money Smart Week in Wisconsin, Wis. Gov. Doyle's Council on Financial Literacy officially endorsed a concept to recognize employees and CUs for their participation, the DFI said. IPT awarded a grant to the Center on Business and Poverty through the University of Wisconsin Foundation to implement the program. The Wisconsin league partnered with the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy, Precision Information, and other businesses and non profits on the project. Investor education is being offered primarily through an on-line provider, Precision Information, and its Educated Investor University.

CUNA noted in IUSA TodayI article on Obama announcement

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WASHINGTON (10/23/09)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) was noted in a Thursday USA Today article about the Obama administration’s plan to boost lending for small businesses. The article focused on helping the Obama administration's announcement of initiatives to help small businesses receive more access to credit. For instance, President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress to expand the maximum loan size of U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. Loans for small business borrowers would increase to $5 million from $2 million, and to $5.5 million for manufacturers. SBA’s Microloan would increase to $50,000 from $35,000. “The administration can and should go further in allowing more credit union access in making business credit available,” CUNA told the newspaper. Credit unions are capped at providing no more than 12.25% of their assets in small business loans. To read the full article, use the link.

Photo contest encourages CU members to dream big

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. (10/23/09)--Redwood Credit Union (RCU) is encouraging members to “dream big” with RCU’s new “Big Picture, Big Value” photo contest and win $2,009 to be placed in a member’s savings account in 2009. The promotion encourages people to look at their personal “big picture”--their reason for saving money, borrowing responsibly and participating fully in their credit union to gain the best possible value on their financial services--and then submit an original photo of their “Big Picture” dream online by Nov. 8. Photos will be posted to the credit union’s website and the public can vote for their favorite “Big Picture” online Nov. 9 through Nov. 22. The grand prize winner will be announced on or before Dec. 15, and $2,009 will be deposited into an RCU Build-Your-Own savings account to help members save for their designated goals. “As the overall economic picture begins to show signs of improvement, this promotion encourages our members and communities to focus on their own financial ‘big picture,’ set goals for their future, and have a little fun by sharing their big dream for a chance to win the cash to help them achieve that dream,” said Karen Graves, RCU senior marketing specialist, who is leading the “Big Picture” promotion. RCU, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., has more than $1.7 billion in assets.

Calif. CU donates 70000 this year to nonprofits

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PLEASANT HILL, Calif. (10/23/09)--During the first three quarters of 2009, Pacific Service CU donated more than $70,000 to nonprofit organizations throughout Northern California. “The need for services in the greater San Francisco Bay Area continues to be very high,” said Toni Bullard, Pleasant Hill branch manager of the $1.7 billion asset, Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Pacific Service CU. “Our continued support of local non-profit organizations, like the Bay Area Rescue Mission, provides a measure of stability in uncertain times.” The Bay Area Rescue Mission was established in 1965 to provide food, shelter and charitable service to the homeless to help them achieve self-sufficiency. The mission offers long-term substance and homelessness recovery programs, short-term emergency assistance, and an after-school center for youth. Pacific Service donated funds to support the educational programs of the mission. Also, the credit union donated four computers to the organization for computer literacy, education and homework assistance, and writing skills. Other San Francisco Bay Area groups receiving donations from the Pacific Service in the third quarter include Oakland Ballet and Marine Mammal Center. “Every year, local non-profit organizations provide valuable benefits to our community, and this year fund-raising for charitable organizations has been decimated by the economy,” said Steve Punch, president of Pacific Service CU. “With the continued support of our members and board of directors, we are very proud to able to continue to support local organizations that contribute so much to our community.” Pacific Service has donated money this year to:
* The American Red Cross; * Axis Community Health; * Bay Area Rescue Mission; * Cal Ripken Youth Baseball of Fresno; * Children’s Hospital Central California; * Children’s Hospital Oakland; * City of Fresno Crime Prevention Office; * Easter Seals Child Development Center in Fresno; * Elder Financial Protection Network; * Embarcadero YMCA; * Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano; * Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission; * Fresno Police Activities League; * Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of the Bay Area; * Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Fresno; * Lindsay Wildlife Museum; * Marine Mammal Center; * Oakland Ballet; * The Salvation Army of Fresno; * The Salvation Army of San Francisco; and * Shih-Yu Lang YMCA.
During the third quarter, Pacific Service also hosted free child safety events in Livermore and Vacaville. These events offered free DNA LifePrint kits, electronic fingerprinting and child safety journals, along with child health and safety information provided by area public safety groups and non-profits. Launched in 2001, the credit union donates funds through its Community Involvement Program. Over the years, the credit union has given more than $1 million to area charities, impacting an estimated 386,000 people. An ongoing program funded annually by the credit union’s board of directors--the Community Involvement Program-- primarily focuses its efforts on organizations that assist low-income and at-risk individuals, especially children. The credit union gives to charitable organizations located in the 12 counties it serves: Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Marin, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma.

Laid-off workers aided by new CU programs

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ERIE, Pa. (10/23/09)--Erie (Pa.) General Electric FCU has developed several new programs to help members who are among the 1,500 workers laid off from the company’s Lawrence Park, Pa., plant. The credit union is offering free consultations with financial advisers, and is working with members one-on-one to restructure loans as needed (Life is a Highway Oct. 21). Also, the credit union has launched a website, LaidOffinErie.com, to help members and non-members find new employment, keep their finances in order, and plot new goals. The credit union is also offering a job-hunting seminar to the public, with an emphasis on interviewing skills and polishing resumes. The $187.6 million-asset credit union received TV coverage about the new website and its special programs (see link). In September, GE Transportation--builder of electric locomotives in Erie, announced that the 1,200 workers on temporary layoff were permanently without jobs. Also, the company announced that within the next two months, 230 hourly jobs and 50 salaried jobs would be cut, along with 200 lost jobs at an engine plant in Grove City, Pa.

WOCCUs Branch in a Backpack extends member service in Kenya

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NAIROBI (10/23/09)--The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is helping credit unions service people in remote areas of the world through a ‘branch in a backpack’ program.
Click to view larger image Jesus Chavez, World Council of Credit Unions’ Kenya program director, demonstrates the “branch in a backpack,” which brings credit union services directly to members. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
In the village of Kakuyuni in rural Kenya, there are no financial institutions. Residents often have to spend up to 90 minutes on a matatu--a somewhat uncertain form of public transportation--to make deposits into accounts at the nearest branch of Universal Traders SACCO (UTS), their closest credit union. The challenge in making the trip over Kenya's rough roads often reduces their interest in utilizing the credit union. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WOCCU developed the "branch in a backpack" alternative. “This is another step in new transaction technology that will help us better serve people without easy credit union access," said Jesus Chavez, manager of WOCCU's SACCO Growth Program in Kenya, to members of the Kakuyuni Dairy Farmers Self-help Group this week. A collection of high-tech electronic equipment, anchored by a Dell laptop computer with 160 gigabytes of memory, makes up Chavez's “backpack branch.” Rounding out the basic lineup is an inexpensive computer-mounted camera, a portable scanner and point-of-service (POS) device with biometric capabilities. All fit into a standard-size backpack that can be taken to villages like Kakuyuni, whose members live too far from the nearest credit union branch to visit regularly. The laptop serves as the branch’s engine, with the mounted camera used to take pictures of new members in the field. The small scanner, which connects via USB port to the computer and taps its battery power to function, is used to copy legal documents required to enroll SACCO members. The POS device, which scans the print on each member's thumb or finger of choice, allows the credit union representative to verify the member's identity for each transaction. The device also sends the transaction's information for processing to the mainframe at WOCCU Services Group, WOCCU's for-profit subsidiary that shares its development program's Nairobi office and supports the high-tech initiative. The technology saves members countless hours of travel to and from their credit unions to conduct simple transactions, Chavez said. The small laptop has limited battery life, which led the WOCCU program director to add a Powergorilla and Powermonkey to each of the backpack branches. The two devices, produced by Powertraveller Ltd., headquartered in the United Kingdom, are batteries for the laptop and POS device, respectively. They are rechargeable using small portable solar panels that fit into the backpack. WOCCU pays about $1,300 for each “branch.” The new backpack branch interacts with members' existing cell phone banking capabilities, an interactive technology that WOCCU introduced in Kenya in March 2007. The devices use M-PESA, a software program created jointly by Kenya telecommunications provider Safaricom and the United Kingdom's Vodaphone. “M“ stands for “mobile“ and “pesa” is Swahili for “money.“ By March 2009, two years after WOCCU introduced the technology, M-PESA transactions throughout Kenya totaled $1.73 billion. “This year M-PESA has introduced online bill-pay,” said Chavez. “The company also just announced that it was going international.” On Wednesday, WOCCU signed an agreement in Kenya with I&M Bank House to support the program SACCOs with clearing services required to make the backpack branch a viable option. However, Chavez also is ready to take his SACCOs to the next step in high-tech transactions by introducing a smart card that includes the member's identifying thumb or fingerprint on its memory chip. The device also can act as a stored-value card, enabling easier transfer of funds through ATM or backpack branch usage. “It's called ‘virtual wallet,’” Chavez said. “Members just have to remember never to leave any of their fingers at home.”

CU System brief (10/22/2009)

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* HERNDON, Va. (10/23/09)--The Northwest FCU (NWFCU) Foundation presented the Reality Store to the senior class of a local high school to teach them about finances. More than 700 students participated in the event. The Reality Store is a budget simulation workshop that assigns individuals a life scenario with familial and financial status. Students make a budget and choose expenditures for everyday living expenses--such as housing and food. The event also was taped by a public television crew to air during a show in November. Fifty-six volunteers, including staff from NWFCU, helped with the event. NWFCU, Herndon, Va., has $1.7 billion in assets. (Photo provided by Northwest FCU) ...