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Leagues touting accomplishments via videos

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MADISON, Wis. (12/18/09)--Some leagues are trying out the video route to inform their credit unions about their accomplishments in 2009 or present holiday wishes to their affiliates. Virginia Credit Union League President Rick Pillow offered a video overview of the league's 2009 accomplishments on to close the league's 75th anniversary and to thank the state's credit unions for their support "during this eventful, but productive year." In it, Pillow reviews a number of the league's political action initiatives, noting that the league "had one of the best election seasons on record, with fully 87% of the candidates we supported retaining or winning their legislative seats." Credit unions and the league also:
* Defeated two bills in the General Assembly, one that would have fined credit union employees in certain fraud cases and one that would hamper small credit unions' ability to offer mortgages; * Crafted revised bylaws for state chartered credit unions and provided critical resources on a "a long list of new and revised regulations"; * Launched the Credit Unions Care Foundation of Virginia to champion community service work; and * Donated its first million dollars to Children's Miracle Network and its hospitals in the state.
"Who can say what the new decade will hold for credit unions?" Pillow asks. "What we can say, with absolute certainty, is that we'll be better able to face what comes by continuing to do what we've always done: work together for the good of our members and the credit union movement." For the full video, use the link. In another state, Texas Credit Union League President Dick Ensweiler and his wife Judy presented holiday wishes to credit unions via a video on the league's website. "As the year winds down, we reflect back, and what a year it was," says Ensweiler, "from the mess on Wall Street, to the housing bust, to all the complications that brought to the credit union movement, we had a lot to deal with." But, he noted, "credit unions are strong." On the state level, Ensweiler said the state's Credit Union Department has been extended another 12 years as a semi-independent, self-directed agency. "Credit unions are adjusting to a new era, a new way of doing business," he noted, adding he is confident in the future of credit unions. To access that video, use the link.

Two Mich. CUs report hikes in loans new members

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (12/18/09)--Two Michigan credit unions have grown in membership and in loan volumes this year while their “capital-challenged” banking counterparts have scaled back lending, according to local Michigan media. The growth stems from credit unions giving consumers “eye-to-eye” attention, said Bill Beardsley, president and chief lending officer for Michigan Business Connection, an organization that works with credit unions. They also have money to lend--unlike banks--and the few banks that have capital aren’t lending, he added ( Dec. 17). “I hear stories all the time from very well-qualified buyers who were simply told by their bank they don’t make those loans anymore,” he told the news site. “We’re talking about the most basic lending products, such as car loans and small business loans.” As a result, Michigan credit unions have upped their small business lending by nearly 20% during the past year. University of Michigan CU (U-M CU), Ann Arbor, lent $91.3 million this year. The last time the credit union came close to this figure was in 2005 with $65.5 million. The difference is $25.8 million. Jeff Schillag, U-M CU vice president of marketing and business development, said the credit union will likely conclude the year with more than 4,800 new members. That would be the highest number of new members in the past five years, he told Ypsilanti-based Community Driven CU also has grown. The credit union wrote $10.5 million in auto loans this year, compared with $3 million in a typical year. Driving the extra loans was the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program, which brought in a number of deals, said CEO Kevin Finneran. He added that the financial crisis came at a “great time” for the credit union. With banks pulling out of financing, the credit union had an opportunity to increase its lending. Next year, Community Driven will gear programs toward dealerships and marketing other services. Consumers hear about the credit union’s car loans and then find out that its fees are nonexistent, Finneran added. Michigan’s 335 credit unions have grown in loans, deposits and memberships. The Michigan Credit Union League said credit unions added a record 59,000 members this year, News Now reported Dec. 10.

Ohios chapter system refocuses on three purposes

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DUBLIN, Ohio (12/18/09)--The Ohio Credit Union League's chapter system is being refocused with a newly defined purpose targeting three impact areas. The league's Chapter Structure Task Force worked the past 18 months on a new structure, which is moving into the implementation and execution stage, says the league's newsletter, eLumination (Dec. 16). The three areas targeted by the new defined purpose are:
* Community involvement; * Credit union support; and * Movement responsibility.
The task force shared its final report and recommendations, which were approved Dec. 1 by the league's board.

ICBS Early ShowI other media give boost to CUs

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NEW YORK (12/18/09)--Is it time for consumers to dump their banks? That’s a question the CBS Early Show posed to consumers in a highly positive Thursday story about credit unions. The story, “Credit Unions Better than Banks For You?” compared credit unions with banks, touting credit unions’ benefits--including low rates, member service and the fact that credit unions are still lending, even though many banks have pulled back. “[Consumers are] tired of all the big fees being imposed by the big banks, they’re tired of the really bad customer they’re making the switch from the banks to the credit unions. Membership was up 11% in the third quarter,” said “Early Show” financial contributor Vera Gibbons. “If you look at the bank loan portfolios, they’re actually shrinking, whereas the credit union loan portfolios are growing,” she added. “What that means--is if you’re a creditworthy customer you stand a better chance of getting a loan at a credit union than at a big commercial bank.” She also noted that credit unions offer higher rates on deposits and lower rates on loans, especially auto loans. “The overall satisfaction rate is very high at credit unions,” Gibbons said. Another story by CBS Moneywatch Thursday said to “consider a credit union” as one of the “nine best strategies for borrowing in 2010.” The story cited a 2009 Pew Charitable Trusts Study, which said credit union credit card interest rates are about 20% lower than banks. The Pew study has received significant attention from other media including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. On Thursday, CNBC noted that consumers should check out credit unions when seeking auto loans. The story quoted Jim Hanson, Credit Union National Association vice president of personal finance. Hanson told CNBC that credit unions' rates tend to be 1% to 1.5% lower than banks'. To see a video of the CBS Early Show story, “CUs Better than Banks for You?” or to read the full MoneyWatch article, use the links.

Mass. CUs weather cold to build home for injured vet

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MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (12/18/09)--Despite freezing temperatures, hundreds of volunteers, including many from Massachusetts area credit unions, joined the Homes for Our Troops "Build Brigade" Dec. 11-13 in Middleboro, Mass., to build a home for an injured vet. They built a specially adapted home for Army SSG Michael Downing and his family. Downing lost his legs during combat in Afghanistan during his second tour of duty there in 2008, according to the Massachusetts Credit Union League (E-Weekly Dec. 16). The announcement that Downing's home would be the organization's next project was made in June at the Homes for Our Troops Gala in Boston. Title sponsors of that event were the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Credit Union Leagues and the Credit Union Association of Rhode Island. Before raising the first wall, the group held an opening ceremony with speakers including Daniel F. Egan, president of the three leagues; John Gonsalves, founder and president of Homes for Our Troops; and Col. Jack Hammond, chief of staff, and Lt. Col. Art Elfman, both of the Massachusetts National Guard. Volunteers will work on the home throughout the winter, with Downing and his family planning to move in next spring. Homes for Our Troops has built 40 homes for severely injured veterans and has nearly 30 more projects in progress. Credit unions have been involved in building homes in several states, including Missouri and projects during the presidential campaign national conventions last year in Colorado and Minnesota.

Brrrr No its another dues freeze says CUANM

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (12/18/09)--The Credit Union Association of New Mexico is giving member credit unions a gift for the holidays: a dues freeze and a rebate. For the fifth consecutive year, CUANM's Board of Directors has approved a dues freeze for the association's 50 affiliated credit unions. In addition, CUANM will send a rebate to the credit unions, based on adjusted 2009 net income--the first time the association has offered a rebate. "After a challenging year for our credit unions when every penny counted, we are very pleased to be able to share in our financial success," said Sylvia Lyon, CUANM CEO/president.

WOCCU expands Islamic CUs in Afghanistan

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MADISON, Wis. (12/18/09)--The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) $60.5 million to expand financial services in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The WOCCU program will establish the country's first national association for Islamic investment and finance cooperatives (IIFCs), or credit unions, and help IIFCs reach more small and medium-scale business owners, farmers and low-income households in underserved rural areas.
Click to view larger image Farmers in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan purchase fertilizer with financing from their Islamic investment and finance cooperative (IIFC), or credit union.
Afghanistan's banking and microfinance sectors have grown in the past several years with support from international donors; however, financial services have yet to reach rural areas on a large scale, said WOCCU. "The most difficult challenge with broadening access to credit and savings in Afghanistan is operating in the sparsely populated, culturally conservative and highly insecure southern and eastern provinces where farming is the primary economic activity, input supply is very limited and markets are undeveloped," said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. "WOCCU's program will directly address these challenges while increasing the flow of financial services," he added. WOCCU has worked since 2004 with local leaders across Afghanistan to establish the country's first fully Shari'a-compliant financial institutions, which operate under Islamic principles of finance.
Click to view larger image Islamic investment and finance cooperatives (IIFCs), or credit unions, supported H1N1 influenza awareness training for children in eastern Afghanistan as part of their community development programs. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
As a result, 16-member-owned IIFCs with 11 full-service branches currently bring financial services to about 47,000 members across the country. Three are already self-sufficient, despite a harsh operating environment, said WOCCU, and overall membership is growing by about 1,000 new members per month. WOCCU plans to expand the IIFC network by adding 15 IIFCs and seven branches in the south and east, and support creation of a national association provide supervision, technical assistance and local capital to the IIFCs. "This new program will make a significant contribution to the stabilization efforts while building institutions that can rapidly become self-sustaining and permanent Afghan-owned and governed vehicles for economic development," said Geoffrey Minott, USAID/Afghanistan private enterprise officer. For more about WOCCU's program in Afghanistan, use the link.