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CUNA Mutual receives top innovators tech award

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MADISON, Wis. (12/1/10)--CUNA Mutual Group received first place in the Insurance Networking News 2010 INNovators Awards, a distinctive designation intended to advance the spread of business and technology acumen in the insurance industry. The 2010 insurance company winners were determined to have led or contributed to a business application or project that uses innovation to successfully drive business impact, technical impact or the innovation itself. CUNA Mutual received first place in the Customer Experience category for its major redevelopment to loanliner.com, within its Consumer Lending Platform. The category honors insurance companies that develop front-office technologies and initiatives that successfully attract, retain and drive customer loyalty, satisfaction and retention. The other awarded categories include Core Systems: Back-office technologies and initiatives that drive bottom-line results; and Enterprise Systems: Enterprise-class technologies and initiatives that bridge cross-functional, operational boundaries. “Our INNovators are a testament to the industry’s ability to successfully develop and promote technology and business innovations across functional lines to create a win-win,” said Pat Speer, editor-in-chief of Insurance Networking News. “This year’s entries make it clear that insurers understand the importance of innovation as a key to competitive advantage.” “We are very honored to receive this prestigious award from Insurance Networking News for loanliner.com,” said Rick Roy, CUNA Mutual chief information officer and senior vice president. “As a company, we are very committed to credit unions by partnering to provide products that build for the future, while simultaneously delivering results today. loanliner.com is a great example of how we help our credit union customers improve their ability to generate new revenue streams and acquire up-and-coming markets, like Gen Y, through a very customer-centric delivery channel,” he added. The major redevelopment of loanliner.com improved credit unions’ ability to provide online lending services through a multi-channel loan platform that streamlines the lending process. More than 500 credit unions use loanliner.com, which processes 500,000 loan applications annually. This year’s winners were determined by a panel of industry experts, including INN staff editors and INN’s editorial advisory board members. The 2010 INNovators program was designed as an educational vehicle and, as such, Insurance Networking News will publish the winner’s stories its special January/February print edition. Videotaped interviews of winners also will appear online on Insurance Networking News’ INN TV channel.

Conserved Arrowhead CU closes eight branches

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Conserved Arrowhead CU closes eight branches SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (12/1/10)--Arrowhead CU, operating under National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) conservatorship since June, announced Tuesday it will close eight branches by the end of the year. The credit union said the reduction is intended as a continuation of its efforts toward “financial improvement.” The locations scheduled to close are six branches located inside Stater Bros. Markets in Loma Linda, Beaumont, Wildomar, 40th Street in San Bernardino, Summit in Fontana and Eagle Glen in Corona. In addition, the Mt.Vernon branch in San Bernardino and the Norco branch will also close. The San Bernardino, Calif.,-based credit union said the 11 of its branches that will remain open are located within minutes of those that scheduled to close, and 10 of the 11 will operate with expanded hours. Loans, direct deposits, transfers, debit cards and other account services used by its members will continue without interruption, the credit union said. Arrowhead CU will offer members in affected areas options to maintain their membership including assistance to find alternate locations, set up of electronic services, audio telephone banking, bank by mail, automatic payments and other programs designed for member convenience. NCUA assumed control of Arrowhead June 25 and fired four senior-level employees, include CEO Larry Sharp (News Now July 30). The $876-million-asset credit union had been placed into conservatorship due to declining financial condition. The employees were Sharp; Daniel Marciante, chief financial officer; Gene Shabinaw, senior vice president of lending; and Ray Messler, senior vice present of strategic development. Since it was placed under conservatorship by the NCUA, the credit union said its interim management has reduced operating expenses by more than 30%, compared with 2009, while reducing and eliminating some member fees, such as those for loan applications.

Kenyan center joins WOCCU to fight AIDS

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MADISON, Wis. (12/1/10)--The Busia Compassionate Centre in Busia, Kenya, with funding from World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), is helping combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic by supporting orphans who have lost their parents to the disease or who are infected themselves. The observance of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 emphasizes the importance of universal access to treatment and human rights, something that many of Kenya's savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), or credit unions, have been working to further for several years. “As trusted member-owned and operated financial cooperatives, SACCOs are instrumental in improving lives throughout the communities they serve,” said Pete Crear, president/CEO of WOCCU, which manages development programs that support SACCOs in Kenya and other African nations. “SACCOs educate and support their membership in an attempt to diminish the devastation of this terrible disease.”
Stella Egesa, founder and manager of the Busia Compassionate Centre in Kenya--which with funding from World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is helping combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic--tends to the newest addition to the orphanage family. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
The 2010 World AIDS day theme--Universal Access and Human Rights--speaks directly to the efforts made by many of Kenya's SACCOs in helping combat the spread of the deadly disease. The theme also describes the work performed by Busia Compassionate Centre to help children who themselves have been orphaned due to parents who died from AIDS. WOCCU began working with Busia Compassionate Centre as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded program in Kenya aimed at mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on economic growth through credit union modernization. During the program, which ran from 2006 to 2010, many of the involved credit unions played active roles in providing HIV/AIDS prevention education to members and providing food produced by farmers who received credit union loans to orphanages that help AIDS-affected children. Program staff taught volunteers to plant food crops on the orphanage grounds, introduced irrigation, made renovations and worked with program credit unions to finance additional food and scholarships for older orphans to attend secondary school. WOCCU has since focused on providing the orphanage continued financial support through its affiliation with the worldwide credit union movement. Donations made to the Busia Compassionate Centre through the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions directly fund improvements to the home, making it a healthier place for the children to live. Donations also ensure that children living at the orphanage receive basic nutrition and provide scholarships for the children to go to school. “Educating members is one of the most important roles in which financial cooperatives serve the world over. Providing education and care to AIDS victims in Kenya is paramount to the commitment SACCOs have made to their members,” Crear said.

CU receives offer on historic train depot

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SAN ANTONIO (12/1/10)--Generations FCU (generations) in San Antonio announced that VIA Metropolitan Transit has offered to purchase the former International & Great Northern Depot--known as the MoPac Depot--a historic train depot located in downtown San Antonio. The depot, which currently houses the 70-year-old credit union’s administrative offices and its downtown branch, was originally completed in 1908. It fell into disrepair after the Missouri Pacific vacated the building in 1970, but was restored to its original grandeur by generations and returned to full use in 1988 (LoneStar Leaguer Nov. 24). “In 1986 we had the opportunity to purchase and renovate this extraordinary facility, saving a significant piece of San Antonio’s history,” said generations CEO Tim Haegelin. “Since that time, our organization has continued to grow and expand to the point where we require additional space to accommodate our employees and our systems that keep our credit union running every day, serving our members.” Designed by Harvey L. Page and built by James Stewart and Company, the building is 110 feet by 110 feet and features a large cathedral-style rotunda that is 88 feet high. Atop the dome’s exterior is a 200-pound statue of the International & Great Northern (IG&N) Railway mascot, an Indian. The Indian’s bow and arrow point in the direction of the IG&N’s home offices, which were located in St. Louis. “It’s a bittersweet moment for us as a credit union,” Haegelin said. “We poured our hearts into the restoration of this beautiful, historic building. However, the ability to return the depot to its original purpose, a hub of transportation that serves the citizens of this community, was an opportunity we felt we couldn’t pass up.” Generations FCU will continue to operate out of the depot building until the completed construction of its new downtown branch.

Hampel to IMarketplaceI radio Increase CU MBL to help economy

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MADISON, Wis. (12/1/10)--If the credit union member business lending (MBL) cap was raised, the needs of small businesses could be better met, Bill Hampel, chief economist for the Credit Union National Association, told Marketplace radio Monday. Hampel made his comments as one of several people interviewed in a segment about AFRA-SAG FCU in Burbank, Calif., because the credit union decided to ask some of its high-dollar depositors to consider withdrawing their funds. Hampel explained the credit union’s rationale for the request. “In normal times what they would do is, they would just take the funds that were not being loaned out and invest them,” Hampel told Marketplace. “But right now, interest rates on short-term investments are essentially very close to zero, so there's not much they can do with the money.” Asking members to withdraw money is unusual, because typically a credit union might lower interest rates to discourage customers from depositing too much, Hampel added. Credit unions have been working for years to be able to lend more money to small businesses, Marketplace noted. Federal regulatory reform regarding limits on credit unions’ MBL would help the economy, Hampel told Marketplace. “We feel that we should be allowed to have something more than 12% of our assets in business loans,” Hampel said. “And the bankers would prefer that we stay at this limit, even if some of them are unable to meet all of their small-business loan demands.” Credit unions are seeking to get the MBL cap lifted to 27.5% of total assets. To read the interview transcript or hear the audio file, use the link.

AEA FCU members say thank you

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YUMA, Ariz. (12/01/10)--AEA FCU was virtually wallpapered with handwritten “thank you” notes after it asked members and employees to write down what they were grateful for this Thanksgiving (YumaSun.com Nov. 29) The credit union placed note pads with the heading, “I am thankful for … ” at each teller window, with markers and tap for members share their thoughts and post them on the counter. The notes of gratitude ranged from the very specific--one member was thankful for Starbucks--to the more global and, perhaps, universal, such as freedom, families and faith. Members thought so much of the idea that they asked if they could take the note pads to their schools, churches and other local organizations. The $348 million asset, Yuma, Ariz.-based credit union showed its gratitude during November by donating a turkey to a local homeless shelter for each vehicle financed that was purchased through a local dealership. To read the article, use the link.

Shot fired during Nevada CU robbery

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HENDERSON, Nev. (12/01/10)--A shot was fired, but no one was injured during a robbery at a Silver State Schools CU branch in Henderson, Nev. on Monday. The FBI reports that a man in his 20s entered the branch at 12:13 p.m. and fired one shot between two of tellers, jumped the counter, and took an undisclosed amount of money. (Las Vegas Sun Nov. 29). Witnesses reported the suspect fled scene in an older, gold-colored Lincoln Continental with a white top that was driven by another man. The trunk was tied down with rope and there appeared to be faded shoe polish on the back window (KTNV Nov. 29). The suspect who fired the shot was described as about 5-feet-8-inches tall and 150 pounds, with his race unknown. The getaway driver is described as a Hispanic male standing about 5-feet-4-inches tall.