Archive Links

Consumer Archive
CU System Archive
Market Archive
Products Archive
Washington Archive

CU System Archive

CU System

Group Health CU embraces environmentalism

 Permanent link
SEATTLE (10/6/09)--Group Health CU, Seattle, encouraged members to be more environmentally savvy with a promotion that will literally bear fruit for the community. The credit union launched a Neighborhood Harvest promotion last month that involved placing a fruit tree at each Group Health branch. The credit union branches cared for the trees until the trees were taken to their permanent home--the Dakota Orchard and P-Patch in Rainier Valley. The fruit from the trees will be shared with the community, and the overflow will be donated to local shelters and food banks. The credit union used the fruit trees and Neighborhood Harvest promotion to encourage members to sign up for the credit union’s paperless services--including e-statements and online bill pay. Members also could opt to receive the e-mail version of Gear Up, the credit union’s newsletter. The credit union got the idea for the promotion with connections it received through social networking site Twitter. Shannon Perry, Group Health CU assistant marketing manager, posted a tweet on Twitter asking for some ideas to help the promotion. Perry connected with an executive from the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska, which eventually led to Perry talking with a Seattle arborist (Seattle Times Oct. 4). The experts led Perry to a local tree nursery--Raintree Nursery--where she was given several recommendations for fruit trees that would do well in the Seattle area. The credit union then used the trees as a part of the Neighborhood Harvest promotion. Group Health embraces environmentalism as a corporate strategy, the Times said. In addition to the Harvest promotion, the credit union offers discounts on loan interest rates for hybrid vehicles, the newspaper added. Group Health CU has $285 million in assets.

Iowa league files application to buy Ariz. bank

 Permanent link
DES MOINES, Iowa (10/6/09)--The Iowa Credit Union League has filed an application to purchase Tucson, Ariz.-based CreditCard National Bank in response to member credit union needs and an understanding that Iowa Corporate Central CU is looking at its future. Iowa Corporate Central CU, Des Moines, is a small but well-capitalized corporate, according to Patrick Jury, Iowa league president/CEO. However, the Iowa corporate has conveyed to its members that it is examining its future to determine if it can continue to provide the same competitive products and services, considering its relatively small size in a changing regulatory environment. “Based on that understanding, our membership directed the Iowa league to look for a resolution that would maintain local autonomy and direction of Iowa credit union correspondent services,” Jury said. In addition to local ownership and autonomy, Jury said other priorities include:
* Ensuring credit unions’ transition to a new institution is seamless; * Assuring that the alternative serves all credit unions regardless of asset size; and * Ensuring that the alternative provides similar products, services and pricing, and retains current Iowa Corporate Central CU employees.
The proposed bank charter would provide credit unions with settlement services, access to payment systems, and relationships with Visa and MasterCard for Iowa credit unions, Jury said. A secondary benefit of the charter would be to facilitate the league’s credit card processing expansion through The Members Group, a league affiliate. "This application is in response to the needs communicated by Iowa credit unions based on the uncertain future of Iowa Corporate," Jury said. "We have complete confidence in the National Credit Union Administration.” The league has conducted several town hall meetings for Iowa credit unions about the application to buy CreditCard National Bank. The credit unions have expressed “strong support,” Jury said. The application, filed with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, has a 60-day window before a decision is made. The bank could ask the league for more information, which extends the decision-making process. If the application is declined, the league will look at other alternatives to serve its members, Jury said. He emphasized that should the league purchase CreditCard National Bank, it would not have a retail operation and no board member or staff member would receive stock or a financial benefit as a result.

Scams hit four CUs

 Permanent link
MADISON, Wis. (10/6/09)--Several recent scams have targeted four credit unions in various regions of the U.S. The following scams have been reported:
* Suffolk FCU, Medford, N.Y., and Island FCU, Hauppauge, N.Y., debit card holders were targets of scam text or voice messages, which tell members their debit card numbers have been deactivated, police said. The victims were instructed to call a phone number to provide account and personal identification numbers to reactivate their accounts. Police reminded the public that credit unions do not contact members by mail, phone or Internet to request account information (Newsday Oct. 3). * Shoreline CU, Two Rivers, Wis., reports that a website--www.SurveyLot.com--is mailing fraudulent cashier’s checks to Internet visitors nationwide, according to Sharon Tome, Shoreline chief operating officer. The checks are written for $3,975.20 and contain the routing number for the credit union and an account number--now closed--of a Shoreline member. The credit union has returned roughly $30,000 worth of checks that tried to clear through the account, Tome said. No Shoreline members have been victimized by the scam, she added. Shoreline officials are alerting other financial institutions that the checks are fraudulent (Herald Times Reporter Oct. 1). * Paducah (Ky.) FCU, has received dozens of calls from members who received a suspicious text message that said in part: “This is an automated message from Paducah FCU. Your ATM card has been suspended. To reactivate, call URGENT at 1-866-571-7629.” When the number was dialed, the caller heard an automated message requesting the caller’s bank account number. The telephone number has been disconnected, and the credit union is not aware of any members who were victimized by the scam (INFED Oct. 1).

Online surveys help CU improve cash management

 Permanent link
BREA, Calif. (10/6/09)--A credit union that positions itself as a banking resource to ministries faced new challenges helping customers navigate the changing financial landscape when the economy went into crisis mode last year. One way Evangelical Christian CU (ECCU) met the challenges was by partnering with the ministries they seek to serve. ECCU created a ministry advisory panel to solicit--through brief online surveys--the insights and expertise of ministry staff, leaders, and financial decision-makers regarding financial management and other relevant issues. Panel participation was not limited to ECCU member ministries. The credit union’s goal is to explore new ideas and uncover best practices that can help ministries better manage their financial resources. Besides keeping the surveys brief, ECCU attracts new panelists by assuring that their feedback is anonymous, offering them eligibility to receive incentives for participating, and assuring panelists they will be the first to be notified when survey results become available. The $1.264 billion asset, Brea, Calif.-based ECCU is a banking resource for Christian churches, schools, and other evangelical ministries nationwide.

Federation reacts to CDFI Fund awards

 Permanent link
MILWAUKEE (10/6/09)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions said it is pleased to have received an award from the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. The federation received $750,000 from the fund. The awards were announced Friday in Milwaukee. The funds support CDFIs’ lending activities in underserved areas. They also help organizations, including credit unions, to provide affordable financial products and services to low-income communities and populations. “We have seen significant positive changes in the fund’s awards over the past year, thanks to the efforts of the CDFI Fund’s committed staff, but we remain concerned about the under representation of credit unions among awardees,” said federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “Credit unions are central to the CDFI industry because in addition to affordable financing, they provide low- and moderate-income communities with a full range transaction and insured deposit services, asset building programs, financial literacy education, and other lifeline products that are so desperately needed in the current economy,” Rosenthal added. Of the 62 CDFIs receiving awards, two awards totaling $850,000 went to two community development credit unions (CDCUs), less than 2% of the total financial assistance awards this round, the federation said. The two CDCUs were Neighborhood Trust FCU, New York City, which received $350,000, and Union Settlement FCU, New York City, which received $500,000. One million dollars also was given to Self-Help Venture Fund, Durham, N.C., an affiliate of Self-Help CU in Durham. With the federation's award, the combined four awards account for less than 4% of the $52.7 million that was distributed, the federation said. National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Chairman Debbie Matz applauded credit union participation in the CDFI’s supplemental funding round, and encouraged broader credit union involvement in the currently open 2010 CDFI financial assistance program. Credit unions receiving funds under the Recovery Act and 2009 Round as noted by NCUA include:
* Alternatives FCU, Ithaca, N.Y., $2 million; * ASI FCU, Harahan, La., $2 million; * Brooklyn Cooperative FCU, Brooklyn N.Y., $1.1 million; * Communicating Arts CU, Detroit, $2 million; * First Legacy Community CU, Charlotte, N.C., $2 million; * Latino Community CU, Durham, N.C., $2 million; * Mendo Lake CU, Ukiah, Calif., $2 million; * Opportunities CU, Burlington, Vt., $2 million; and * Santa Cruz (Calif.) Community CU, $2 million.
The CDFI Fund also awarded $4.4 million to 10 CDFIs through its Native American CDFI Assistance (NACA) program, which is designed to encourage the creation and strengthening of certified CDFIs that primarily serve Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian communities, the federation said. Of the 10 NACA awards, two went to credit unions--$470,000 to Federation-member Molokai Community FCU (Kaunakakai, Hawaii) and $225,000 to First Hawaiian Homes FCU (Hoolehua, Hawaii). While the percent of total NACA awards to community development credit unions (CDCUs) was 6.45%, CDCUs represent nearly 20% percent of the CDFI industry. The federation is committed to closing this gap. “We will continue to advocate vigorously for CDCUs to receive grants commensurate with their leading role in community development finance,” Rosenthal said. “We look forward to working closely with the fund to determine the barriers to increased credit union funding, especially at a time when financial services are so desperately needed in low-income communities, and when CDCUs have been hard hit by credit union system problems not of their making.”

CU hopes to turn around Alaska community

 Permanent link
ANCHORAGE (10/6/09)--An Anchorage-based credit union is hoping to help turn around an Alaska community that is known for its high crime and low income. Credit Union 1 plans to open a branch in spring in Mountain View, a community located near Anchorage. Although the branch’s opening is months away, the staff is already helping Mountain View residents by providing financial literacy and organizing community events and projects in the area (KTUU.com Sept. 30). The credit union also began offering a new elective class at a local middle school that teaches personal finance to seventh and eighth graders. Rachel Ramsey of Credit Union 1 told KTTU that it takes “baby steps” to get individuals into the habit of saving and opening checking accounts. Credit Union 1’s plans to open a Mountain View branch is viewed as a “personal finance renaissance,” that will hopefully end Mountain View’s poor economic stigma, the news outlet said. Mountain View has failed to keep many national businesses in the area, and its last financial institution--Alaska State Bank--closed in 1989, KTTU added. Credit Union 1 has $661 million in assets.

CU System brief (10/05/2009)

 Permanent link
* TOLEDO, Ohio (10/6/09)--Efforts to raise $100,000 in start-up capital for a proposed state-chartered credit union in Toledo, Ohio, are underway (eLumination Sept. 30). Credit unions have committed nearly $1.3 million in non-member deposits for the proposed Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Community CU (NECCU), but regulators require that 10% of that amount be raised for capital before the credit union opens. Toledo-area businesses, business leaders and individuals are being asked to contribute. The Ohio Credit Union League, Ohio Credit Union Foundation, NECCU incorporators and Toledo-area credit union leaders met with business leaders to discuss the benefits that NECCU would provide the community. NECCU will serve residents of South Toledo--primarily Latino residents. The credit union hopes to increase financial literacy, and provide a safe, reasonable alternative to higher cost financial services that many residents use ....

More than 200000 youth save with SECU programs

 Permanent link
RALEIGH, N.C. (10/6/09)--State Employees’ CU’s (SECU) youth accounts are continuing to grow, as more young North Carolinians embrace the concept of saving. The credit union’s two programs--Fat Cat, for children up to age 12, and Zard, for teens aged 13 through 19, recently surpassed the 200,000 mark in accounts opened with deposits totaling more than $80 million.
Fat Cat and Kristy Spaulding, vice president of SECU’s Lumberton-West Fifth Street branch, meet with students at a local elementary school as part of the Fat Cat program for children up to age 12 that places an emphasis on youth financial education. (Photo provided by State Employees’ CU)
Fat Cat and Zard place emphasize youth financial education, with dedicated websites, newsletters and in-school presentations by SECU personnel. Launched in 2000, SECU’s Fat Cat account was developed to foster a relationship with members at a young age and to assist parents in teaching their children the value of saving and managing money wisely. When Fat Cat members establish their accounts, they receive incentive items, and a passbook to track their savings. In addition to the Fat Cat website, www.cufatcats.org, and Fat Cat Paw Prints newsletter, SECU utilizes a Fat Cat Smart Money booklet as a teaching tool in many North Carolina elementary schools. With more than 35 Fat Cat costumes statewide, SECU personnel take the mascot into the schools to help them teach basic money concepts. SECU’s Zard teen program, which started in April 2002, expands account and service options for members to include a checking account, ATM/debit card and other lending and savings products. Zard members also receive an incentive item, and financial information on topics such as budgeting, checkbook balancing and credit scores via its Money Matterz newsletter and www.teenzard.org website. To enhance the program, SECU personnel use the National Endowment for Financial Education High School Financial Planning program and BizKid$ curriculum in North Carolina schools. “We are so happy to see the growing number of youth accounts at our credit union, as SECU personnel have worked diligently over the years to reach out to younger members,” said Leigh Brady, SECU senior vice president of education services. “Our youth programs also allow us to expand our financial education efforts--giving back to North Carolina through presentations to youth on money management topics. As SECU’s Fat Cat and Zard members grow older, we look forward to their financial success.”