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CU hero gives gift of life

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COLCHESTER, Conn. (12/14/09)--In August, Fred Brown, director of marketing and member development at Northeast Family FCU, Manchester, Conn., saw a TV news story about a man who donated a kidney to help a coworker. "I thought, ‘That sounds neat--I’d like to save a life,’" Brown told News Now. In early September, Brown began the process of donating one of his kidneys by altruistic donation--which means that the donor and recipient are usually anonymous, though they could have the option of meeting later. During the next couple months, Brown underwent a laborious process of medical testing and meeting with a social worker, psychologist and transplant coordinator. On Dec. 2, Brown underwent surgery to remove his kidney for the donation. The surgery was successful. “Everything was as I was told,” Brown said. Brown stayed in the hospital for five days, and will be off from work for four to six weeks. While he was in the hospital, Brown met the woman who received his kidney. The donation saved her life. The woman, Pam Cyr, had seen a news story about Brown several days before surgery, and “put two and two together.” “She’s a very nice woman,” Brown said. One day while Brown was in the hospital, Cyr visited him. He was asleep, so she left him a note: “Your kidney visited.” Brown said the two plan to stay in touch. “She actually lives one town over from me, and we know some of the same people,” he said. After undergoing the donation process, Brown advised those who are considering donating a kidney to do so. “Don’t wait,” he said. “Just do it. Don’t be greedy. You have two kidneys--one to give away.” Besides being healthy, Brown advised the donor to ensure support from family because the donation process will affect them also. “Make sure your family is behind you,” he said. He also said to make certain there’s nobody in the family who may need a kidney later. Northeast Family FCU staff was very supportive of Brown’s decision to donate, he said. When asked if working for a credit union has affected his sense of altruism, Brown said that individuals who work for credit unions are already giving people. His donation, a personal decision, was coincidental with being a credit union employee, but at the same time, his gift goes “hand in hand” with the credit union philosophy. “Fred has a great heart for credit unions,” said Kathy Hammond, vice president of business development at Kent CU in Ohio and a friend of Brown’s. “He also is a hero in his personal life.” Northeast Family FCU has $64 million in assets.

SECU provides refuge for hospital patients and families

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RALEIGH, N.C. (12/14/09)--State Employees’ CU (SECU) is sponsoring a Family House to provide a place for out-of-towners to stay when recovering from surgery or medical care or when someone in their family is hospitalized at University of North Carolina Hospitals. The $16.7 billion asset, Raleigh, N.C.-based credit union’s house has provided a refuge this year for more than 1,160 guests from North Carolina, 19 other states and three foreign countries (The Daily Tar Heel via Weekly Update Dec. 7). “It’s a home away from home,” Robert McRae, whose family stayed there, told the paper. The cost of operating a room for one night is $56, but guests pay between $5 and $35 per room each night, depending on their financial circumstances. The average guest contribution is $25 per night, and there is no limit on how long a person can stay at the house--one person has been there since January--the paper said. “That way it’s a service for all families, not just those who can afford it,” Executive Director Greg Kirkpatrick told the paper. The house will have holiday decorations and events such as evergreen trees, wreaths, community volunteer performances, a Christmas dinner and a surprise visit from Santa Claus. Sometimes there is a waiting list for the 34,000-square-foot house, which contains 40 rooms. “It’s a nice place to stay, but it’s also a supportive and encouraging environment for people to get together,” Janet Hudgens, marketing and volunteer coordinator, told the paper.

Suze Orman to Larry King CUs have great rates

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WASHINGTON (12/14/09)--Credit unions offer better rates on credit cards, personal finance guru Suze Orman told Larry King on Larry King Live Thursday. King asked Orman if credit unions are a better option for those interested in transferring their credit card balances to credit unions from a bank. “Yes, yes, yes, yes,” Orman said. “Credit unions--especially ones that are federally chartered--the maximum interest rate they can charge you is 18%. Now, while that may sound like a very high interest rate, the truth of the matter is many of these banks today are charging 29.99% interest.” “So here is what I am suggesting. I think the United States of America--all of you should start looking into credit union credit cards and do a balance transfer,” Orman said. She suggested consumers visit, a new site that offers information about financial institutions offering credit cards. Users can enter in their zip codes to find credit unions, Orman said.

CU System briefs (12/11/2009)

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* PALO ALTO, Calif. (12/14/09)--Thieves at Stanford FCU in Palo Alto, Calif., stole an ATM machine, according to PaloAltoOnline Dec. 10). The ATM was located in an office building where a credit union branch was formerly located. The building required an electronic card for entry, local police said. The theft was reported Dec. 7 at 8:45 a.m. Police have no suspects, but said the thief may have had knowledge of how to install and uninstall an ATM. Stanford FCU has $1 billion in assets ... * HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/14/09)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) warned credit unions in Life is a Highway Friday that financial institutions in Pittsburgh have received phone calls from a male who identifies himself as FBI Agent Bob Craig. The individual then provides a description of a white male with a mustache, saying the described male plans to rob the branch and may have a gun or bomb. The “agent” then tells the institution to give the robber money if he comes in, and that the FBI will apprehend him. The caller is not an agent--he is an accomplice of the robbery, PCUA said. One robbery has taken place in North Huntingdon, Pa., and another attempt was made Dec. 4 ...

Obama appoints Wash. league exec. to SBA post

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SEATTLE (12/14/09)--The White House announced Thursday the appointment of Calvin Goings, senior policy adviser to the Washington Credit Union League and former Washington state senator, as regional administrator for the Small Business Administration (SBA), overseeing Region X headquartered in Seattle with offices in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho. “Calvin Goings’s experience and drive to help small businesses succeed, including credit unions, makes him a clear choice to lead the administration’s Pacific Northwest small business initiatives,” said John Annaloro, league president/CEO. “The Washington state and national credit union communities are extremely proud; we look forward to our continued work with the administration.” Goings has spent nearly his entire professional life in public service. In 1996, Goings became the youngest state senator to ever be elected in Washington. Between 1996 and 2001, he rose to vice-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee where he supported investment in infrastructure projects to bolster the local economy, and also statewide legislation to support small businesses. In 2000, Goings was elected to Pierce County (Wash.) Council, where he focused on economic development, workforce training, small-business investments and industrial land preservation. “I am honored to be joining the Obama Administration and the SBA to implement the White House plan to support small business expansion in these difficult times,” Goings said. “Working with small businesses and emerging entrepreneurs across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, we can fully realize President Obama’s plan for reinvigorating our economy.” Goings rejoined the Washington league early this year. From 1998 to 2001, he served as executive director of the credit union trade association’s 501(c) (3) philanthropic arm--the Washington Credit Union Foundation. In the span of his nearly 20 years in public life, Goings has earned many honors and awards, including the Distinguished Service Award from the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association, the Outstanding Citizen Award from the Washington Jaycees, the Citation of Leadership from the Small Business Incubator, and the Excellence in Community Service citation from the Puyallup/South Hill Rotary.

Peruvian CUs pave way for agricultural lending

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WASHINGTON (12/14/09)--As a development methodology, value chain financing has proved effective in helping credit unions in Peru reduce the risks of agricultural lending and expand access to affordable finance for rural populations, said the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). WOCU has released the “WOCCU Value Chain Finance Implementation Manual: Increasing Profitability of Small Producers,” designed to help financial institutions, development finance organizations and donors better understand and implement the award-winning methodology developed in Peru. The manual was created in partnership with The SEEP Network, an international association for microenterprise practitioners. Often referred to as a supply chain, a value chain is a series of activities, including financing, that take a product or service from its conception to market. The WOCCU value chain finance methodology, developed in partnership with Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito del Perú (FENACREP), WOCCU's membership organization in Peru, is designed to assess and mitigate specific risks associated with financing existing rural value chains. The process also determines at which points along the value chain--from production to commercialization--financing can best support the different participants, particularly small farmers.
Click to view larger image Value chain finance can mitigate credit union risk while serving more members, Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito del Perú Manuel Rabines tells potential participants in Peru. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
“Using this methodology, the credit unions can take into account the financial and market potential of the entire value chain, not just the creditworthiness of a single individual, as we have traditionally done,“ said Manuel Rabines, general manager and CEO of FENACREP and first vice chair on WOCCU’s board of directors. “With this shift in focus, the credit unions can more accurately measure and mitigate risk, opening the door to potential rural participants previously seen as too risky.“ The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which funded the WOCCU/FENACREP Peru program, has lauded the effectiveness of the process. This past February, it awarded its first Innovations in Financing Value Chains award to WOCCU and FENACREP for the program. The award-winning methodology is outlined in the new manual, according to Anicca Jansen, senior technical advisor from USAID's Office for Microenterprise Development. “There is so much practical information in the manual to help a financial institution evaluate whether or not value chain finance is right for them and to actually start implementing it,” Jansen said. “This publication will add value to the development community.” To date, six Peruvian credit unions have used the methodology to finance 36 distinct value chains through 76 rounds of financing. In total, credit unions have disbursed $2.3 million through 1,573 loans to 4,686 rural producers, producer groups and other value chain participants. In addition to Peru, WOCCU is implementing USAID-funded agricultural and value chain finance programs in Haiti, and programs in Kenya and Sri Lanka funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. WOCCU also is testing financial applications through new technology solutions--including point-of-service devices and personal digital assistants--designed to enable credit unions to reach even more people in the rural areas and increase the efficiency of providing rural finance options. “Many rural poor face difficulties in increasing income and assets not only because of lack of access to financial markets, but also due to isolation from markets, lack of information about crop demand and product prices and lack of relationships between input suppliers and harvest buyers,“ said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “WOCCU’s value chain programs increase income generation and wealth accumulation for poor households through simultaneous improvements in access to financial services and value chain linkages,” he added.

Gateway Metro opens 3rd elementary school branch

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (12/14/09)--Gateway Metro FCU has opened its third elementary school branch in Missouri. The branch was opened at Christ, Light of the Nations School in
Click to view larger image Gateway Metro, St. Louis, operates the only three student-assisted credit union branches in Missouri. Pictured are Gateway staff members, St. Ferdinand staff and students during a grand opening of the St. Ferdinand branch in October. (Photo provided by Gateway Metro FCU)
Bissell Hills. The opening comes after St. Ferdinand CU and HNJ Catholic CU combined operations with Gateway Dec. 1. In addition to the Bissell Hills branch, Gateway has started and operates the only two elementary school student-assisted credit union branches in Missouri. The credit union will provide financial education to more than 630 students, Gateway said. Gateway also is offering a 10% annual percentage yield youth share certificate. Children ages 10 to 18 whose parent or grandparent has a checking and direct deposit at Gateway Metro are eligible. Youth must take an online financial class to earn the interest. The certificate allows them to make additional deposits up to $1,000. Gateway Metro FCU has $187 million in assets.

Filene announces new chair

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MADISON, Wis. (12/14/09)--The Filene Research Institute announced that Patricia Smith, president/CEO of Unitus Community CU in Portland, Ore,, has been elected chair of the institute. She replaces outgoing chair Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, CEO of Travis CU in Vacaville, Calif., who completed a three-year term as chair and will remain on the board as a director. Smith, a four-year veteran of the Filene board, will be the institute’s sixth chair. “The need for independent research about changes in consumer finance has never been more important than it is today,” Smith said. “I’m proud of the research and the innovation work we’ve done at Filene to position credit unions for this changing world.”