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CU System briefs (11/18/2011)

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  • SAN ANTONIO (11/21/11)--Need a recipe for the big bird for your Thanksgiving dinner?  The staff at San Antonio-based Generations FCU released its inaugural ebook, From Our Home to Yours Thanksgiving cookbook. Originally intended to be an internal recipe contest for staff only, it features recipes passed down from generation to generation, said the Texas Credit Union League (LoneStar Nov. 18).  The free e-book can be downloaded from the Generations People Helping People blog. It offers tips for hosting the meal, local football and parade schedules, and a forward by Generations President/CEO Tim F. Haegelin.  The recipe book was so successful, the credit union plans to make it an annual event …
  • INDIANAPOLIS (11/21/11)--Finance Center FCU's new community charter, which was approved recently by the National Credit Union Administration, will double its field of membership, the credit union said in a press release.  The credit union can now serve people who live, worship, work, regularly conduct business, or attend school in the Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind., Metropolitan Statistical Area, which covers 10 counties. The new charter means the credit union can serve nearly 1.8 million consumers in the greater Indianapolis area. "Last year we saved current members over $3.6 million, and we look forward to bringing those benefits to more Hoosier families and businesses," said President/CEO Kevin Ryan …

Appeals court reverses ruling in Hannaford data breach

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PORTLAND, Maine (11/21/11)--A federal appeals court Friday, in a reversal of a lower court ruling, ruled that people impacted by the Hannaford Bros. supermarkets credit and debit card data breach in 2008 can sue the company to recover out-of-pocket expenses made to reduce the impact of the breach.

The unanimous decision includes costs to get new cards from financial institutions and the purchase of identity theft insurance, said local media ( Nov. 18). Details were not available at News Now's press time.

It is estimated that the card numbers of more than four million people were stolen in the security breach, which occurred between Dec. 7, 2007 and March 10, 2008, when cyber criminals hacked into Hannaford's system and accessed card numbers used at 165 Hannaford supermarkets in the Northeast and 106 Sweetbay stories in Florida.

At least 1,800 numbers were used for unauthorized fraud.  Hannaford discovered the breach in February 2008 and made it public March 17, 2008.  Many credit unions were among the financial institutions that reissued new cards to consumers.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court had ruled in September 2010 that the victims of the massive data breach could not sue for damages if they didn't suffer financial losses, physical harm or identity theft.  It had said that time and effort alone do not constitute an injury for which damages may be recovered under Maine law (News Now Sept. 23).

Maine CU officials are winners on election day

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PORTLAND, Maine (11/21/11)--Two Maine credit union officials won political races on the Nov. 8 election day in the state, according to the Maine Credit Union League.

Ray Wallace, who serves on the su­pervisory committee at Maine Highlands FCU, Dexter, won a special election to fill the vacant State House seat in District 24. Wallace becomes the fifth credit union volunteer currently serving in the 125th Maine Legislature (Weekly Update Nov. 18).

"We congratu­late Ray on his victory and look forward to having another member in the legislature who has a unique understanding and insight of credit unions," said Maine league President John Murphy.

Dan Emery, marketing specialist at Maine State CU, Augusta, won his first political contest when he was elected to an at-large seat on the Augusta City Council.

"We support and en­courage our employees to be involved in community and public service," said Normand R. Dubreuil, Maine State president/CEO. "Dan's victory reflects well on the credit union and our commitment to the credit union philosophy of 'people helping people'," he told the league.

For a News Now story on the first four Maine state legislators who were honored for being "on board with credit unions," use the link.

Reservists letter Thankful for SECUs support

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (11/21/11)--In a week focused on giving thanks, a letter written by a credit union employee who is thankful for the support he received from the credit union when he was deployed to active duty as a reservist seems a special way to recognize what credit unions do for people.

The letter, which appeared in Thursday's issue of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, was written by Jamie Applequist, a senior vice president at State Employees' CU (SECU) in Raleigh, N.C. and a master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

SECU was one of 15 employers nationwide to receive the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the Department of Defense's highest honor for civilian employers of  National Guard and Reserve members.  Applequist in his letter tells why he nominated SECU for that award.

"As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I find myself reflecting on the many things I am thankful for in life." He wrote he is approaching 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, and although he made a decision not to re-enlist, he decided to commit to the Air Force Reserve.

His civilian career with SECU began in 1999. "Employers at that time accommodated Guard and Reserve employees' service, but 9/11 changed that dynamic dramatically…Two-week training periods have been replaced with long, grueling deployments."

After 9/11, he was deployed for his first extended tour as a reservist. "I was working in a small credit union branch for SECU, and I will never forget the fear I had when I went to tell my boss I was being activated. I expected the worst, but received the opposite.  He delivered a full vote of confidence and assured me the credit union would be behind me every step of the way. Not once did I worry about my position being there for me when I got back," Applequist wrote.

"And while I was gone, SECU was amazing, frequently checking on my family and regularly sending care packages to me and my fellow airmen," he added. "There are few ways to describe just how valuable this type of support and peace of mind can be when you are leaving your family and job behind for a long deployment."

He noted that most members of the Guard and Reserve have similar employer stories but also recalled a younger service member who lost his job because of his extended deployment.  Despite acquiring leadership and skill sets through their service, Guard and Reserve members face a higher unemployment rate than civilians, he said.

"That's why those of us with supportive employers feel such gratitude," he wrote. "This Thanksgiving season, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities and experiences I have had in my life serving my country, my family, and the State Employees' Credit Union."

He encouraged all Guard and Reserve members to thank their supportive employers by nominating them for the 2012 Freedom Award at Deadline is Jan. 16.

Let the holiday food drives begin

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Wis. (11/21/11)--With the nation celebrating Thanksgiving this week and the rest of the
Mary Yasui-Yamabe (right), board chair of Kinecta Alternative Financial Solutions (doing business as Nix Financial), helps pass out bags of food during the 38th Annual Nix/Kinecta Holiday Food Drive that Kinecta FCU, Manhattan Beach, Calif.,  helped host  Nov. 13 in Los Angeles. (Photo provided by Kinecta FCU)
holiday season just around the corner, credit unions across the country are pitching in to combat hunger by helping stock food pantries and coordinate food drives.

Some examples are:

  • Kinecta FCU, Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Nix Financial hosted the 38th Annual Holiday Food Drive, Nov. 13 at Jesse Owens Park, Los Angeles. Employees from the $3.43 billion asset credit union distributed bags of food and $65 Ralphs/Food 4 Less gift certificates to nearly 1,200 families. Each year, more than 40 community organizations and churches in Southern California partner with Kinecta and Nix to select recipients for the food drive. Donations made by Kinecta members and Nix customers helped raise thousands of dollars for the event.
  • Presenting $500 to each of six area food pantries in an annual holiday tradition for Holy Rosary Regional CU (HRCU) in Rochester, N.H., are, from left, Brian Hughes, president/CEO, HRCU; Kathy Radwan, Farmington Food Pantry; Susan Ford, Homeless Center for Strafford County; Kathy Ford, Homeless Center for Strafford County Board of Directors; Torey Kortz, SHARE Fund in Rochester; Judy Strate, Somersworth SHARE Fund; Patricia Vachon, Community Food Pantry in Somersworth; David Vachon, Community Food Pantry in Somersworth; Darrin Janakis, Dover Food Pantry; and Dana Flanders, HRCU board chairman. (Photo provided by HRCU)
    Brian Hughes, president/CEO of Holy Rosary Regional CU (HRCU) in Rochester, N.H., and Dana Flanders, HRCU chairman of the board, Friday presented $500 to each of six area food pantries: Community Food Pantry in Somersworth, N.H., Dover (N.H.) Food Pantry, Farmington (N.H.) Food Pantry, the Homeless Center for Strafford (N.H.) County, the SHARE Fund in Rochester and the Somersworth SHARE Fund. This has become an annual holiday tradition for the entire HRCU staff. Providing for local area food pantries gives the staff and members of HRCU a sense of satisfaction and community especially during these times of need, HRCU said. "Every year the need is greater," Hughes said. "And, while the economy remains challenging for many, we're proud to make contributions that can help those who are less fortunate. We hope that by giving this money on behalf of our members again this year, our credit union will bring some joy to the lives of many local residents."
  • Rochester Hills, Mich., Mayor Bryan K. Barnett, holding the plaque, presents the Community First Award to Lon Bone, left, vice president of public relations and community involvement, Genisys CU; Genisys CEO Jackie Buchanan; Keri Marentette, Rochester Hills (Crooks) branch manager, and Sarah Slusher, Rochester Hills (Avon) branch manager. The award was presented after staff chipped in and bought groceries for a local handicapped senior citizen. (Photo provided by Genisys CU)
    The City of Rochester Hills, Mich., recently presented Genisys CU, Auburn Hills, Mich., with the Community First Award, recognizing the $1.35 billion asset credit union for its acts of volunteerism and community service. During a time of great financial difficulty, a Rochester Hills senior citizen was unable to buy groceries for more than four weeks. She could not meet her living expenses, pay for medication and still have enough money left to buy food. Also, the woman is handicapped, leaving her unable to access a neighborhood emergency food program. When the staff at Genisys heard of her situation, they pooled their own money to buy groceries for her and delivered them to her home (Michigan Monitor Nov. 14).
  • The 10th annual Maine Credit Unions' Ending Hunger Walking Tour is making the rounds of Maine communities and also attracting positive attention along the way, according to the Maine Credit Union League (Weekly Update Nov. 10). The tour began with a pre-walk kick-off at Penobscot County FCU in Old Town Oct. 27, then officially started a day later at Maine State CU in Augusta. Brenda Davis, who, along with the league's Social Responsibility Committee, founded the walk in 2002, is reporting an increased awareness of the tour and a favorable reception in each community she visits. The tour has also attracted several TV, radio and newspaper stories and encouraged people to get involved. As of Nov. 11, the tour had stopped in 36 communities and contributed more than $4,000 to local food pantries. By the time it ends Nov. 30, the tour will visit a record-setting 75 communities. "It's difficult time for everyone," said Jon Paradise, the league's governmental and public affairs manager. "A lot of people are having to turn to a food pantry, especially for the holidays, and that makes it more difficult if you want to have a holiday for children. This is a way for Maine credit unions to come together to help those who are going through a difficult time."
  • Texas Trust CU in Mansfield, Texas, said it will give up to $25,000 to the North Texas food bank. For every pound of food that was donated online or at its branches between Nov. 1 and Nov. 19, the $671 million asset credit union will donate $1 to the food bank. Because each dollar donated can purchase three meals, a $25,000 donation will provide 75,000 meals. Also, the anticipated 25,000 pounds of donated food will yield roughly another 20,000 meals--for a total of 95,000 meals (Investment Weekly News via Nov. 19).

Metal stamping biz helped by CUs biz loan

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (11/21/11)--Like many businesses, Wolverine Metal Stamping, St. Joseph, Mich., was blindsided by the effects of 2008 financial crisis. Fortunately, the company had a local credit union to partner with when it needed financial support.

In 2008, Wolverine had signed a financing agreement with GE Capital. Wolverine planned to use the capital to diversify its product line and broaden its customer base. Then stock market crashed, and the economy went into a downward spiral. GE backed out of the agreement. Wolverine's prospects for obtaining financing from national lenders in the wake of financial crisis looked dim.

Then, $269 million asset OMNI Community CU, Battle Creek, Mich., stepped in to help provide Wolverine with the capital and financial expertise it needed.

"Omni Community CU really stepped up at a time when our company was on the brink, and thanks to OMNI's assistance, Wolverine is growing and creating local jobs," said Bruce F. Weber, Wolverine chief financial officer/treasurer. "When big banks left local businesses like Wolverine in the lurch, OMNI stepped up and came through. Its small business lending program has made a real difference to our company, to our employees and to their families."

Wolverine said it worked with OMNI to tap into programs from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The company eventually obtained $3 million in financing that will allow it to grow.

"Our credit union is proud to help local communities like Wolverine Metal Stamping grow and succeed in our community," said Ted Parsons, CEO of OMNI Community CU. "Supporting small businesses is the best way to foster job creation. OMNI Community CU is looking forward to continued partnerships with small businesses and anyone with a good business idea so together we can strengthen our local economy and help create more local jobs. Credit unions can do even more with the right pro-business, pro-growth policies that allow us to lend more to entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan."

Credit unions are lending to small businesses at a time when other financial institutions tightening credit. Michigan credit unions' small-business loans surpassed $1 billion for the first time in early 2011 with member business loan growth at 29% for the 12-month period ending June 30, according to the National Credit Union Administration. During the same 12-month period, Michigan banks' small business lending dropped 10.1%.

Small business lending by credit unions in Michigan have grown from $345 million in 2005 to more than $1 billion today. Last year, 33 Michigan credit unions pledged $43 million in loans to the Credit Union Small Business Financing Alliance, partnering with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Council to help train entrepreneurs and fund new businesses in the state.

The U.S. Senate Banking Committee is considering a plan to let credit unions lend up to 27.5% of total assets for small-business projects, an increase from the current limit of 12.25%. Increasing the small-business lending cap could potentially pump $13 billion into the nation's economy and create 140,000 new jobs without any taxpayer costs, according to the Credit Union National Association, which along with credit unions nationwide, is pressing Congress to pass the measure.

Global womens networks inaugural outreach in Kenya

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NAIROBI, Kenya (11/21/11)--Credit unions are a global movement no matter where they
Joe Finnigan, board treasurer, Vermont FCU, discusses the World Council of Credit Unions' Kenya strategy during the recent Global Women's Leadership Network engagement program.
are located and supporting other institutions is the responsibility of all credit unions. Those  are among the key lessons learned by participants of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) Global Women's Leadership Network's inaugural engagement program trip to Kenya.

"There's no question that credit unions have a responsibility and role to play in helping smaller institutions at home and abroad," said Joe Finnigan, board treasurer for the Vermont FCU, Burlington, Vt. He and other program participants visited a variety of enterprises supporting Kenya's many small savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs, or credit unions).  "We can and should be making a difference," Finnigan added.

The network's engagement program provides members of the international credit union movement experiences to share ideas from their different systems. Participants learned about WOCCU activities that support and foster growth among Kenya's SACCOS, shared their expertise to strengthen the development program's implementation, and evaluated ways to adapt the information and apply it back home.

Mark Cifuentes, right, senior vice president of  WOCCU Services Group, discusses WOCCU's application service provider program supporting small Kenyan credit unions, with Joe Finnigan, left, Vermont FCU, and Hank Hubbard, Communicating Arts CU.
Participants met with staff of WOCCU's Kenya program and its for-profit arm, WOCCU Services Group, in their Nairobi office and officials of the Kenyan Union of Savings & Credit Cooperatives, Kenya's credit union trade group and a WOCCU member.

The group also traveled to Kisumu to visit Busia Compassionate Centre, a credit union-supported orphanage on the Ugandan border. The visits provided insight into how SACCOs reach underserved markets, and showcased their outreach and  their increasing capabilities through WOCCU technology applications, said WOCCU President/CEO Brian Branch. "Kenya's credit unions also have come to play an important role in the lives of their members," Branch said. "There are many good lessons to learn in Kenya."

In the program, participants:

  • Learned about challenges facing Kenya's more than 4,000 credit unions, many of which are small.
  • Discussed WOCCU's application service provider (AP), which allows credit unions access to affordable banking solutions by connecting them with a central computer platform in WOCCU's Nairobi office.
  • Addressed using cellphones linked to a mobile money transfer service to provide members access to financial transaction services.
Hank Hubbard, president/CEO of Communicating Arts CU, Detroit, is greeted by an orphan at Busia Compassionate Centre in Kenya. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions).
Trip participant Hank Hubbard, president/CEO of Communicating Arts CU (CACU) , Detroit, noted the cell phone concept would be useful to his credit union. CACU's past efforts to reach its marginalized member base, 90% of whom are African American, were based on the community development credit union's attempts to provide more affordable versions of existing services. The trip to Kenya has changed how he approaches that process.

"Brainstorming during the engagement program has put a crack in my thought processes about how best to serve our members," Hubbard said. "The trip has caused me to take a look at our operations from a different angle, and I will now be thinking about new strategies that aren't necessarily tied to traditional financial service delivery," he added.

In addition to Finnigan and Hubbard, program participants included: Gene Brody, president/CEO of Bay Ridge FCU, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Linda Darling, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla.; Linda Hardy, compliance officer, and Sandra Paynter, financial services representative, of Consolidated CU, Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island, Canada; and Stacey Walker, volunteer with Xcel FCU, Forest Hills, N.Y.

NASA astronaut helps Filene LIFT off program

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MADISON, Wis. (11/21/11)--Astronaut Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Johnson Space Center, recently addressed the Filene Research Institute and five partner credit unions that are taking part in Filene's LIFT loan program.

Astronaut Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at the Johnson Space Center, helped the Filene Research Institute and five partner credit unions celebrate the launch of Filene's LIFT loan program. From left, are: Matt Davis, Filene Research Institute, Madison, Wis.; Lance Potter, Vermont FCU, Burlington, Vt.; Susan Heneman, Public Service CU, Denver; Kavandi, NASA; Matt Vance, Industrial CU, Bellingham, Wash.; Leah Gjertson, UW-Madison Center for Financial Security; Jason Sherrill, Inetsolution Inc.; David Southall, Innovations CU, Panama City, Fla.; and Denise Gabel, Filene Research Institute. (Photo provided by Filene Research Institute)
LIFT, an idea shaped by Filene's i3 innovation team, is being tested as a way to improve repayment behavior and financial capacity. Kavandi spoke to help celebrate the launch of an idea that provides incentives for timely loan payments.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Financial Security will study automobile loans to 1,200 low- and middle-income consumers with subprime credit scores, with the results to be published in 2013.

LIFT is supported by a grant by the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

"It is a fantastic experience to see an i3 idea get into the field for testing," says Denise Gabel, Filene chief innovation officer. "The LIFT program will provide credit-challenged consumers with the help they need, while managing the inherent risk in doing so."

Credit unions piloting LIFT during its research phase include:

  • Del Norte CU, Santa Fe, N.M., with $392 million assets;
  • Industrial CU, Bellingham, Wash., with $144 million assets;
  • Innovations CU, Panama City Beach, Fla., with $148 million assets;
  • Public Service CU, Denver, with $1 billion assets;
  • Vermont Federal CU, Burlington, Vt., with $330 million assets;
Filene i3 team is a work group of young professionals that shapes innovative ideas into new products and services for credit unions.

The Filene i3 innovation team behind the LIFT idea comprises:

  • Shelly Berryman, SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif., with $8.8 billion assets;
  • Matt Henry, Elevations CU, Boulder, Colo., with $1 billion assets;
  • Jackie Edwards, Connexus CU, Wausau, Wis., with $351 million assets; and
  • Mike Kenzie, Patriot FCU, Chambersburg, Pa., with $432 million assets, Santa Ana, Calif.

New Hawaii CDCU center to assist native communities

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HILO, Hawaii (11/21/11)--Hawaii First FCU blessed its second Community Resource Center on the Big Island of Hawaii Nov. 10. The center, which opened Nov. 14, will use funds from the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund  and  a loan from the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to assist native communities.

Terri J. Fowlkes, left, director of community development investments at the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, attended a blessing ceremony for Hawaii First FCU's second Community Resource Center with Laura Aguirre, president/CEO of the credit union.
The new center, located next door to the community development credit union's (CDCU)  Hilo branch,  provides no-cost resources to any resident in the County of Hawaii.

It will offer financial education, including personal money management, debt solutions and credit repair; Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) for home purchase, higher education or financing a small business; assistance to job seekers and employment training; small business startup assistance and development; and foreclosure prevention assistance.

It also will have a computer lab and a resource library open to the community.

"We couldn't have done this without the continued support of the CDFI Fund, the
Hawaii First FCU staff are shown with local religious leader, Kumu Koh'okele Crabbe (center) after a blessing ceremony for the credit union's new Community Resource Center. (Photos provided by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions).
National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs," said Hawaii First FCU President/CEO Laura Aguirre. She noted the resources the center will provide "are critical tools to help our members and our community to get ahead, and it is comforting to know that community members will not have to travel such long distances to access these vital services."

Terri J. Fowlkes, federation director of community development investments, attended the blessing ceremony, which was conducted by Kumu Koh'okele Crabbe, a local religious leader.

"With Hawaiian communities facing crippling unemployment due to a decline in tourism, gentrification of native communities and rising housing costs that often displace Native Hawaiians, Hawaii First FCU and the Hawaii First Community Resource Centers have never been needed more," said Fowlkes.

The $40 million asset CDCU opened its first Community Resource Center in Kamuela in 2008, also with a CDFI Fund award. The new center uses CDFI Fund awards plus the proceeds from a secondary capital loan from the federation.