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Social media added wow factor in movement to CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (11/10/11)--While all the media coverage of consumers' exodus from banks to credit unions certainly helped get the word out about the benefits of credit unions, don't underestimate the power of social media' in what at least one media outlet called the "stampede" to credit unions.

Social media played a key role in the chain of events from Sept. 29 through Bank Transfer Day--the kind of role that communications academicians and consumer behaviorists will study for years.

One lesson learned "is the power of social media," said Massachusetts Credit Union League President Daniel F. Egan Jr. in his president's message to credit unions in the league's monthly newsletter (Values & Visions November).  "Being aware and involved with social media sites can help you interact in this new environment in a positive way. It has far reaching and dramatic effects on the public perception of many institutions in our society," Egan wrote.

As The Baltimore Sun put it, when Kristen Christian got angry at Bank of America's fee, "she did what many people do these days when they get mad: She put it on Facebook. What followed was an illustration of the power of social media" (Baltimore Sun Nov. 5).  On Oct. 4, she urged 500 of her Facebook friends to abandon their banks. Suddenly 75,000 people had pledged to participate in Bank Transfer Day. And that, said the Sun, culminated in the mass rush to credit unions.

News Now realized that Bank Transfer Day could be a serious move for credit unions after a reader forwarded a link to the Bank Transfer Day Facebook page initiated by Christian. What caught News Now's attention was the response to that page and to other similar pages. Credit union members had written in about how great their credit unions were and how they weren't charged the fees the big banks had charged. They tweeted their testimonials to others, put the information on their own Facebook pages and commented on blogs. It was a marketer's dream.

Members, in discussing their own credit union experiences, provided a direction  that disgruntled consumers could take. Realizing the potential to attract more members, credit unions took it from there. They used their own social media to get the word out about how credit unions are a better deal. To reinforce their message, many developed their own ads  and promotional campaigns and offered incentives. Some, such as Bethpage FCU, created special microsites to urge consumers to try out the credit union. On Saturday alone, it generated 672 new accounts.

The rest has made credit union history:  700,000 new members, $4.5 billion in new deposits.

Just reporting on the events brought record numbers. News Now's home page received more than 1 million hits in October. Typically the page receives 500,000 hits a month. In May, it received 300.  Although it doesn't publish on Saturdays and Sundays, the site received more than 5,900 hits on Saturday, which was Bank Transfer Day, and 4,900 on Sunday.  Its top story on the event attracted 11,000 viewers.

Sites for consumers to locate a credit union--including and all time highs: 69,999 hits Friday and 62,000 hits on Saturday, Bank Transfer Day.  Even on Monday-- after the Bank Transfer Day was officially over--the site received 29,000 hits.  The typical average is 2,000 to 3,000 hits.  After a story on Fox Business News, the site received so many e-mails that it froze up the search engine.

In New Jersey, between Nov. 1 and 6, New Jersey credit unions received 45,315 hits on the credit union locator sites, nearly quadruple the number received in an average month, reported the New Jersey Credit Union League (The Daily Exchange Nov. 7).

"I think we may look back in a few years and say that this was the spark that caused a lot of people to say, 'Yes, credit unions are a better deal,'" CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney told the Baltimore Sun. "Because at a credit union, the members are the shareholders."

In a state that received one of the biggest boosts in new members in October, Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler said he was confident that the newest members "will continue to discover all that their credit unions have to offer, and will take advantage of  savings on loans, credit cards and other financial products. With the help of social media and consumer advocates, people across the country are discovering credit unions and are making the move" (LoneStar Leaguer Nov. 9).

CUNA announces 2011 Maxwell Herring Award winners

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MADISON, Wis. (11/10/11)--Recipients of the 2011 Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award and the Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Member Service Award were recently chosen from among the state winning entries by Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) national awards committee. 

The 2011 Dora Maxwell Award first-place winners include:

  • Marinette County ECU in Marinette, Wis.;
  • Joplin Metro CU in Joplin, Mo.;
  • General CU in Fort Wayne, Ind.;
  • Space Age FCU in Aurora, Colo.;
  • Alabama CU in Tuscaloosa, Ala.;
  • Marine FCU in Jacksonville, N.C.;
  • State Employees' CU in Raleigh, N.C.; and
  • Western Chapter of the North Carolina Credit Union League, Penrose, N.C.
First-place winners of this year's Louise Herring Award are:

  • Communicating Arts CU in Detroit, Mich.;
  • St. Louis Community CU in St. Louis, Mo.;
  • Credit Union 1 in Anchorage, Alaska; and
  • Eastman CU in Kingsport, Tenn.
"The winners of these prestigious awards embody the philosophy and ideals of our movement, and we are honored to celebrate their achievements," commented CUNA President CEO Bill Cheney. 

"It's no wonder that so many consumers are turning to credit unions these days, which are led and guided by individuals such as these to ever higher levels of service to their members. Commitment to community involvement and member financial education remain at the core of credit union success, and these award winners have demonstrated their personal commitment to these core values for credit unions. Congratulations to them--and to all in the movement who share and practice their values," Cheney said.

Maxwell was an original signer of CUNA's constitution and organizer of hundreds of credit unions throughout the U.S. She also developed volunteer organizer clubs and worked with organizations on behalf of the poor.

The Maxwell award is presented to credit unions in eight asset-size categories and a chapter or multiple credit union group category for outstanding social responsibility projects in their communities. Activities may include: solving core community problems, coordinating supply drives for the needy, raising money or organizing special events for charitable organizations, or mentoring students.

Herring was also an original signer of CUNA's constitution when she was an Ohio delegate to the 1934 national credit union conference in Estes Park, Colo. She saw credit unions as more than just financial institutions and believed they should work to better people's lives.

The Herring award is given to a credit union demonstrating the internal application of credit union philosophy to help better financial matters and increase financial education for its members.  Examples include: exceptional member service, financial counseling for members experiencing difficulties, and educating members on the credit union difference. 

Winning entries will be on display at CUNA's 2012 Governmental Affairs Conference, March 18-March 22, in Washington, D.C. The award winners will be honored during a March 21 reception.

Use the link for the full list of winners.

Colombias CUs adopt WOCCU model to expand financial inclusion

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MADISON, Wis. (11/10/11)--Through its Banca de las Oportunidades program, the Colombian government has invited World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) to replicate its Semilla Cooperativa [cooperative seed] rural outreach model to expand financial inclusion in some of Colombia's most marginalized areas.

WOCCU's three-year, $2.5 million program will use mobile technology to bring financial services to 100,000 previously unbanked people in rural and low-income communities nationwide.

WOCCU is working with 12 established credit unions and their 182 points of service to implement Semilla Cooperativa, a savings-based approach in which credit union field officers travel into nearby communities to provide financial services directly to members in a group setting. Beyond increasing membership among rural and low-income communities, the WOCCU program aims to expand the credit union network by at least 10% and develop new microcredit and microsavings products to meet new-member needs.

"Colombia's credit unions grew out of a need for greater financial access in areas of the country that other financial institutions were not reaching," said Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. "Over the years, we have worked with the credit unions to strengthen operations, develop new products and expand outreach. Now we are ready to see how much farther they can reach using mobile technology and a model that has successfully brought access to thousands of Mexico's poorest families."

The Semilla Cooperativa model evolved from a recent three-year WOCCU program in Mexico, where 250,000 people living in marginalized rural communities became credit union members, exceeding the program's targeted 15% market penetration. The credit unions improved efficiency and financial inclusion with new technologies, including personal digital assistants (PDAs), point-of-sale devices, handheld printers and ATMs.

Credit union field officers trained in the model use PDAs and handheld printers to enroll new members, record savings and loan payments, and process small loan applications in the communities they visit. Their monthly visits save members time and money by not having to travel to the credit union, and the technology provides a secure and efficient way to process transactions.

In Colombia, WOCCU will use a similar approach to reach markets that are either geographically isolated or have not joined the formal financial system due to a lack of tailored products and the transaction costs related to reaching the nearest credit union branches. The program builds on the achievements of WOCCU's 2008-2010 program in the country, also funded by Banca de las Oportunidades, in which nine credit unions with 48 points of service streamlined operations to better serve their members and build a foundation to expand to outlying communities.

By the end of the program, credit union membership had increased by 28% (49% of which were women); institutional capital grew by 52%; and the number of savings accounts increased by 43%. Four of the program credit unions are among the 12 participating in the current program.

WOCCU helped Colombia establish its first credit unions 50 years ago. Today the sector has grown to 192 credit unions that serve more than 2.2 million people nationwide.

Catalyst shares balance sheet strategies with Belize CUs

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PLANO, Texas (11/10/110--Bryan Turner, director of advisory services for Catalyst Strategic Solutions, shared balance strategies with 130 attendees at the the Belize Credit Union League's annual meeting and training conference, held in San Ignacio, Belize, last month.

Turner's session was part of a relationship that Catalyst Corporate forged with the Belize credit union league more than five years ago.

The presentation--one of four concurrent sessions during the daylong training event---focused on financial management. The session leaned toward the basics, Turner said, with an emphasis on financial management concepts and balance sheet strategies.

The credit union movement in Belize resembles a U.S. credit unions in the 1960s, Turner said. Lending at credit unions in Belize is caught in a balancing act "between character and collateral," he added. While there appears to be an emphasis on placing members first, Turner said that philosophy must be balanced with financial fundamentals.

The credit union system in Belize serves working individuals in the city and in rural regions. Belize has 13 credit unions, with 12 belonging to the Belize league. Though some are common bond, the larger institutions are community-based, and offer consumer lending and agricultural lending products.

Britain passes dereg package for CUs

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LONDON, England (11/10/11)--A deregulatory package created to help British credit unions and cooperatives more effectively compete and grow has been approved by the British Parliament.

The Legislative Reform Order (LRO) will go into effect Jan. 8. The far-reaching changes will help credit unions and cooperatives in several ways (M2 Presswire Nov. 9), including:

  • Allowing credit unions to accept new types of members, such as partnerships and limited companies;
  • Allowing credit unions to offer interest on deposits;
  • Amending common-bond and membership requirements to allow expansion, consolidation and mergers; and
  • Giving credit unions and cooperatives the flexibility to choose their own year ends and removing the requirement to have interim accounts audited.
"Credit unions in Britain are delighted that legislation reforms have been agreed by Parliament and which free up the sector to compete on a more level playing field," said Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL). "ABCUL has campaigned long and hard for these changes, so we're happy that credit unions will be able to use the new powers from the New Year."

Lyonette also has called for credit union services to be made available to consumers through Britain's post office network, following an announcement that people no longer will be able to use post office branches to manage the National Savings and Investments savings products (ENP Newswire Nov. 7).

Two California mergers One approved another filed

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (11/10/11)--Two California credit union mergers are in the works, with one being approved and another filed last month, according to the California Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).

Pomona, Calif.-based Inland Empire CU's plan to merge into Credit Union of Southern California, Whittier, was approved June 16.

The $40 million asset Inland Empire has one branch and 14 employees. Credit Union of Southern California has eight branches and $584 million in assets. It has a multiple group charter, serving primarily educational groups.

North Orange County CU, Fullerton, Calif., filed its plans to merge into Credit Union of Southern California with the California DFI on Oct. 5. North Orange has one branch and $60 million in assets. It has a government charter.

Vermont CUs visit Peru CUs

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (11/10/11)--A group of 11 representatives from North Country FCU, South Burlington, Vt., and Vermont FCU, Burlington, Vt., visited Lima, Peru as part of the World Council of Credit Union's (WOCCU's) International Partnership Program.

The group was led by John Benoit, chief operating officer of North Country, Bernie Isabelle, president/CEO of Vermont FCU and Joe Bergeron, president of the Vermont Credit Union Association (Newslines Express Nov. 4).

The group visited the Peruvian trade association, Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito del Perú (FENACREP), then split into separate multi-day meetings with Pacifico, NorthCountry's partner, and Aeulcoop, Vermont FCU's partner.

The credit union partners will learn about each other's operations and their respective countries' governance structures, then determine how their partnerships will evolve in the future.

The Vermont association has been consulting with FENACREP on advocacy, the creation of a deposition insurance system and development of an ATM network and debit card program.

Pacifico and Aelucoop are the second and third largest credit unions in Peru. The largest, Abaco, is partnered with Heritage Family FCU, Rutland, Vt. All three are based in Lima, Peru, and share a Japanese heritage connection, though they have open memberships.

While in Lima, the Vermont group also visited Peru's Congress, where they met with the chair of the Committee on Production, Micro and Small Business and Cooperative Banks.

CU System briefs (11/09/2011)

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  • MILWAUKEE, Wis. (11/10/11)--Rick Roy, CUNA Mutual Group senior vice president and chief information officer, has been named the 2011 Chief Information Officer of the Year in the Enterprise category by the Wisconsin Chapter of the Society of Information Management (SIM) and the Business Journal of Milwaukee, Wis. The SIM Wisconsin awards highlight the significant role of technology, said Jeffery Melcher, present of SIM Wisconsin and director of technology support and energy delivery at We Energies. The Enterprise category comprises companies with more than 1,000 information technology users. Under Roy's leadership, CUNA Mutual has received several awards, including the CIO 100, InfoWorld 100, Insurance Networking News' INNovators award and InformationWeek's 500 Most Innovative IT Organizations …
  • PARAMUS, N.J. (11/10/11)--Greater Alliance CU, a $156.2 million asset credit union based in Paramus, N.J., is celebrating what it calls "Veteran's Month," as opposed to just Veteran's Day on Friday (The Daily Exchange Nov. 4). As part of the month-long celebration, Greater Alliance is offering all current members of the armed forces or veterans who either already are members of the credit union or who join in November, 0.5% off any personal, debt consolidation, or vehicle loan rate ...
  • LOUISVILLE, Ky. (11/10/11)--Trenea Eversole, a member at Park Community FCU, Louisville, Ky., captured the $5,000 first-place prize in the credit union's second $aving Families Challenge. Eversole reduced her debt more than $20,000 over 10 months. Douglas and Wendy Pederson took the second place prize of $2,500. Catrina Lowery captured the third-place prize of $1,500. Margaret Davis won the fourth-place prize of $1,000. Each family set goals such as purchasing their first home, getting out of debt, starting a college savings for their children or increasing their 401(k) balance. As a group, the participants reduced their debt nearly $50,000, increased their net worth more than $79,000, and increased their credit scores a total of 210 points …

Veterans Day is Friday no INews NowI

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Veterans Day is Friday, no News Now

WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (11/10/11)--The Credit Union National Association's offices in Washington D.C. and Madison, Wis., will remain open Friday for Veterans Day, a federal holiday.

News Now will not publish a Friday issue, but will resume regular publication on Monday.

Maine lawmakers recognized for being on board with CUs

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PORTLAND, Maine (11/10/11)--The Maine Credit Union League honored four state lawmakers who are part of credit union family last month at its Legislative Forum.

Click to view larger image Maine Credit Union League President John Murphy, left, presented state Rep. Herb Clark (D-Millinocket) with a special award as one of four state lawmakers who currently also sit on credit union boards. (Photo provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
Of the 151 members of the Maine House, four are credit union board members, the largest contingent of credit union board members ever serving in the legislature at the same time, said the league (News & Views November).

Legislators recognized are:

  • Rep. Herb Clark (D-Millinocket), currently serving his 12th, non-consecutive term in the Maine House. He is vice-chair at Katahdin FCU, where he has served on the board since 1996.
  • Rep. Michel Lajoie (D-Lewiston), serving his second term in the House. Lajoie is in his 14th year as a volunteer at Lewiston Municipal FCU, where he is currently board chair.
  • Rep.  John Picchiotti (R-Fairfield), serving his first term in the House. Picchiotti is current board chair at KSW FCU and is a member of the legislature's Insurance and Financial Services Committee, which hears many measures impacting credit unions.
  • Rep. Ken Fredette (R-Newport), serving his first term in the House.  Fredette is a 15-year board member and past board chair at Sebasticook Valley FCU.
"Having individuals that not only support credit unions but who, as a credit union board member, bring that perspective to issues and legislation and what the impact would be to credit unions and members is invaluable," said John Murphy, league president. "We are fortunate to have four board members currently serving in the legislature. They are great advocates and friends, and we appreciate their efforts and service."