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Hurricane season at end CUs stayed clear

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MADISON, Wis. (11/30/10)--The 2010 hurricane season--which ends today--lived up to last year's predictions of an active hurricane season. Twelve hurricanes formed in the Atlantic Ocean. However, none made landfall on U.S. soil, and the nation's credit unions managed to stay clear of the storms. Hurricane season lasts six months. An average season produces 10 named storms, with six hitting hurricane status and two becoming major hurricanes. This season, 19 named storms formed, with 12 becoming hurricanes. Five were major Category 3 or higher hurricanes, with winds of 111 mph, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Hurricane Center. Since the busy hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, which yielded seven major hurricanes including Ivan and Katrina, credit unions have stepped up their business continuity plans, adjusted their disaster recovery procedures, and taken measures to mitigate fraud during the disasters. Six months ago, when the 2010 season began, credit unions were assuring members they had procedures in place. Although they have not had to use them, credit unions in other countries have. This season's tropical storms and hurricanes killed more than 250 people in the Caribbean and in Central America, according to the Associated Press. Colorado State University meteorologist William Gray told USA Today (Nov. 29) that the chance of seeing so many hurricanes in a single season and not having a landfall was 2% to 3%. Half of the hurricanes turned right and ended up in the Atlantic Ocean, and half went to the Caribbean Sea, he said. While the 2010 season is over, he already is predicting an active hurricane season for 2011. No doubt credit unions will dust off their back up plans and, once again, be prepared to use them.

iPhone app from MDDC foundation helps locate CUs

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COLUMBIA, Md. (11/30/10)--iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad users nationwide can identify and contact credit unions quickly through Credit Union Finder, a first-of-its-kind application from the Credit Union Foundation of Maryland and District of Columbia. The free application is available for download at the Apple App Store. The foundation developed the mobile application earlier this year with an Innovation Grant from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), graphics support from Visions, Ink, Inc., and data from credit unions nationwide. "Every week more credit unions are establishing mobile banking capabilities," said the Maryland/D.C. foundation. "Credit unions realize the value of mobile applications, especially to their younger members. The foundation wanted to help members find and contact your credit union through a mobile app and to help nonmembers find a credit union they could join." The app can search for credit unions near the user's location, search any site in the U.S. by ZIP code or city/state, or search by credit union name. Results are displayed as a list or on a map. Contact information and the credit union's Web address also are displayed. “What really makes this more than just a credit union search resource is the ability to tap into an iPhone’s GPS technology and find credit unions nearest your current location,” said Christopher Morris, NCUF director of communications. Since its launch, the app was downloaded more than 900 times. It has a 3 ½ star rating (out of five) from user reviews in the Apple App Store. A personal finance blog, “Get Rich Slowly,” featured the app and said it is "handy for folks who travel a lot." Securityplus FCU, Baltimore, set up a webpage for the app and promotes it to its members so they "have an easy and free means for our members to stay in touch with us,” according to Securityplus CEO Rick Williams. The Credit Union National Association and the American Association of Credit Union Leagues are developing a new consumer awareness website to debut early in 2011 that will include an enhanced nationwide credit union locator and a downloadable application, using technology from findacreditunion.com.

JM Associates FCU sponsor team up on Smart Badge accounts

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (11/30/10)--JM Associates FCU, an $83 million asset financial institution in Jacksonville, Fla., has partnered with sponsor JM Family Enterprises Inc. to create “Smart Badge,” a new payment process for employees using smart-chip technology. The payment process allows JM Family’s employees to make purchases in the company’s on-site cafés and hair and nail salon with their identification (ID) security badges. Once employees create a Smart Badge account, they can add funds to their ID badges several ways. Credit union members may make cash deposits, transfer funds online using electronic services, or transfer funds directly from their JM Family Enterprises Inc. automatic payroll. Smart Badge is a no-transaction-fee joint program.

CUNA HRTD Council accepting awards entries

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MADISON, Wis. (11/30/10)--Entries are now being accepted for the 2011 HR/TD Excellence Awards, sponsored by the CUNA HR, Training & Development (HR/TD) Council. Recognition will be given in three major categories:
* Award for Employee Engagement--including human resources/training department programs related to internal communications, staff development, rewards and recognition, employee satisfaction, community involvement; * Award for HR/TD Management Practices--covering programs that include compensation and benefits, recruitment and retention, training design and implementation, and workforce diversity; and * Award for HR/TD Strategic Leadership--recognizing a senior HR/TD professional who has made significant contributions or taken an innovative approach in such areas as: innovative business solutions, change management, succession planning, culture building, learning development strategy and leadership development.
A panel of HR/TD peers will review entries and determine honorees, based upon criteria that include innovation, business outcomes/impact, sustainability, quality and integration. “The CUNA HR/TD Council leaders wanted to highlight truly excellent approaches to human resources, training and development programs,” said Jennifer Morse, executive committee chair and vice president of HR at Empower FCU in Syracuse, NY. “By creating the HR/TD Excellence Awards we look to both salute and showcase programs of merit and an outstanding individual.” All entries must be received by 5 p.m. CT, Jan. 14. Winners will be notified by March 1. Winners will receive industry recognition and a complementary registration to the 2011 CUNA HR/TD National Conference in San Francisco. Awards will be presented to winners at the conference.

Canadas Central 1 CU notes 65 income decline

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VANCOUVER, Canada (11/30/10)--Central 1 CU in Vancouver, Canada--which functions as a central bank and trade association for Canadian credit unions--has experienced a 65% net income drop in the past year. In a news release, Central 1 attributed the net income decline--to $30.9 million for the first nine months of this year from $88.7 million in the same period last year--to mark-to-market losses due to “continuing volatility” in financial markets (vancouversun.com Nov. 26). In 2009, Central 1 said it reaped the benefits from a rare combination of shrinking bond spreads and declining interest rates that culminated in robust mark-to-market gains that created record net income. The credit union’s assets dropped this year to $10 billion--a 2.9% year-over-year decline, while its return on equity was 7.4%, compared with 24.2% a year earlier. Central 1 has $70 billion in assets and serves 2.9 million members.

Aging membership means challenges ahead Mich. survey

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MADISON, Wis. (11/30/10)--The U.S. population is aging, and seniors are the country’s fastest growing demographic, which has implications for credit unions, says the Michigan Credit Union League. The U.S. is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of people who live to old age, according to the Administration on Aging, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (Michigan Monitor Nov. 29). This phenomenon is creating challenges for Americans of all ages as they cope with Social Security, health care, housing, employment and other national issues that are important to an aging population. The average credit union member is 47 years old, up from 40 in just the past two decades, according to Credit Union National Association (CUNA) research quoted by the league. Given that the average adult credit union member has moved beyond his or her prime borrowing years of 25 to 44, credit unions should take notice as they plan for the future, said the league. That’s not to say that members over the age of 44 won’t use credit union loan services, but the number of services or types of loans they use are limited and considerably lower than what members use during their prime-borrowing years, according to the league's 2010 Consumer Study. Members older than age 60 use fewer online services due to their habits and preference for personal service and traditional mail, the study found. However, although fewer credit union members age 60 and above used online banking (52%)--compared to members 25 to 44 years old (68%) and those 45 to 60 (73%)--more seniors (44%) used online bill pay than the younger groups (43% for 25 to 44 year olds and 39% for 45 to 60 year olds). The senior group has a higher percentage of retirement plans (16% for those 60 and older, compared to 7% for the 25 to 44 age group and 11% for the 45 to 60 demographic) and credit cards (57% compared to young borrowers age 25 to 44--28%-- and 40% for those age 45 to 60. That implies that at a certain age, borrowers rely more on their credit cards or home-equity loans than on their own income, since many of them are either retired or not working, the league noted. For the aging population of credit unions, it is important to focus on money-saving loan solutions since these borrowers are typically on fixed incomes, said the league. It is important to show them how they can save for retirement and end up with having more, and not less, over the years. However, for the long-term, it would be necessary for credit unions to seek a balance between keeping aging members and attracting young adults and children to their membership because the future for credit unions is youth and young adults, the league concluded.

IBoston GlobeI editorial Banks need competition from CUs

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BOSTON (11/30/10)--Credit unions are a good option for U.S. consumers who are fed up with new or unexpected fees from large banks, according to an editorial in The Boston Globe (Nov. 26). Recent legislation such as the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act have cut into banks’ fee income--with one analyst estimating that U.S. banks have already lost about $6.3 billion in overdraft fees alone, the newspaper said. Therefore, banks are shifting their losses to customers in the form of increased or new fees ranging from ATM transactions to checking accounts, the paper said. “Credit unions, nonprofit cooperative financial institutions owned by their members, tend to offer lower fees and higher interest rates, at least for savings accounts,” the Globe said. “And while credit unions haven’t been immune to the economic tumult faced by the big banks and occasionally have fee increases of their own, they generally don’t feel the same pressure that big banks do to maximize short-term returns. “If consumers vote with their wallets, credit unions could apply some much-needed competitive pressure to the banking behemoths,” the newspaper added. To read the article, use the link.

WOCCU alliance to broaden remittance services

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MADISON, Wis. (11/30/10)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), through its for-profit subsidiary WOCCU Services Group (WSG), has joined with Pa-Go Mobile Inc. and mFunds Global Payment Solutions Inc. to broaden its delivery of remittance services to Latin America. The partnership is one of nine that WSG maintains through IRnet, its low-cost remittance service linking credit unions in the U.S. to those in eight countries. Initial trials with Pa-Go Mobile and mFunds will focus on remittances originating from the U.S., Mexico and Central America. They later will expand throughout Latin America and other parts of the world. “Since WOCCU began offering remittance services in 2001, we’ve looked for ways to offer lower-priced, transparent and reliable transfer options,” said Saul Wolf, WOCCU manager of remittance services. “The mobile, card and online solutions offered by mFunds and Pa-Go Mobile will provide significant value to our international credit union partners as well as their members.” In addition to their flexibility, Pa-Go Mobile and mFunds will offer access to services that many immigrants working in the U.S. already use. Transactions through these networks are more convenient and less expensive than the current agent-based money transmitter firms that dominate the market, WOCCU said. “This agreement will expand the reach of mFunds and Pa-Go Mobile’s bundled solution of prepaid cards, mobile and online infrastructure to deliver financial services to a much broader range of users, and at a far better price,” said Don Barbacovi, mFunds CEO. Since 2001, affiliates in nine countries have transferred roughly $3.5 billion in remittances, making IRnet one of the world’s largest non-bank remittance networks, WOCCU said. For 2010, WOCCU expects to top $500 million in remitted funds. “This is a step in the right direction for us, allowing our users to gain access to what will translate to more competitively priced remittances, which will now be in the palms of their hands, on their mobile phones,” said Tony Zaragoza, Pa-Go Mobile’s executive vice president.

CU System briefs (11/29/2010)

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* ORLANDO, Fla. (11/30/10)--A former employee of a bank and a credit union pleaded guilty two counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft after accessing member accounts at a Lake County, Fla., branches of Orlando-based Fairwinds CU and Royal Bank of Canada. Nazreen Mohammed, 47, faces a maximum term of 30 years in prison on the fraud accounts and a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence related to the identity theft. According to the plea agreement, Mohammed gained access to credit union accounts without authorization from April 17, 2009, through July 18, 2009. She allegedly created loans and withdrew funds from the accounts of elderly or deceased members, then transferred the proceeds into accounts of other members before eventually withdrawing them. She obtained $82,300 with the ruse, and attempted to attain more than $127,431. At the bank from Nov. 5, 2009, through Jan. 7, 2010, she allegedly used the ruse to attempt to steal at least $312,581, said a prosecutor's press release (Targeted News Service Nov. 22 … *
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (11/30/10)--The Huron Valley Chapter of credit unions got some face time with several incoming lawmakers at the chapter's legislative breakfast, said the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor Nov. 29). Participating were Reps-elect Mark Ouimet (R-52), Rick Olson (R-55), Jeff Irwin (D-53), and David Rutledge (D-54), and Sen.-elect Bruce Caswell (R-16). Ouimet and Olson discussed their experience working in the financial services industry and their interest in healthy, local financial institutions. Caswell stressed the importance of personal financial responsibility, and Rutledge mentioned he would make the bipartisan "tough votes" needed to turn around the state's economy. Pictured are participants at the breakfast. (Photo provided by the Michigan Credit Union League) … * PORTLAND, Ore. (11/30/10)--OnPoint Community CU's Credit Union for Kids Auction raised a record $124,000 to benefit the Children's Miracle Network hospitals in the area. The funds will help support a professorship for Dr. Robert Steiner at Doernbecher Children's Hospital; a labor and delivery triage room at Sacred Heart Medical Center, and a HUGS infant security system at Rogue Valley Medical Center … * TEMPE, Ariz., and CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (11/30/10)--Patriot FCU, based in Chambersburg, Pa., and Tempe, Ariz.-based LemmonTree Marketing Group have been recognized with an honorable mention in the design/website category in the 2010 MarCom Awards of the Association of Marketing & Communication Professionals. The competition attracted more than 5,000 entries. LemmonTree revamped and redesigned the $431 million asset credit union's website with online applications, easier navigation, faster flash downloads, and features such as online chat, podcasts and financial resources …