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CU System Briefs (12/02/2013)

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  • WESTBURY, N.Y. (12/2/13)--NEFCU has contributed $15,000 toward Typhoon Haiyan disaster relief, it announced Tuesday. The Long Island-based credit union donated the money to the World Council of Credit Unions, which is working with local authorities in the Philippines to assist the 4.5 million affected by the November storm. "Typhoon Haiyan is one of the worst natural disasters in recent history" said Dr. Esmeralda Lyn, second vice chair of the NEFCU board of directors. "As with other natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and most recently Super Storm Sandy, we recognize the role we can play in supporting hard-hit communities, and we are proud to continue our 75 year history of helping those in need--locally, nationally and internationally." After Super Storm Sandy devastated the northeast last year, NEFCU gave $50 million in discount loans throughout Long Island. It also was designated a Small Business Loan Expeditor by the National Credit Union Administration, allowing the credit union to offer credit to business owners seeking fast relief. The World Council has operated in the Philippines since 1996. According to a Nov. 18 Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council assessment, Typhoon Haiyan killed 3,976 people, injured 18,175 and displaced an additional 850,808. NEFCU, which is headquartered in Westbury, N.Y., has over $2 billion in assets ...
  • MADISON (12/2/13)--Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced Nov. 20 that Money Smart Week in the state will be held from April 5 until April 12 next year. The proclamation was read at the closing meeting of Money Smart Week Wisconsin 2013 by state financial regulator Peter Bildsten, (center) secretary of the Department of Financial Institutions. With him at the proclamation presentation are, from left: Alejo Torrest, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago senior outreach manager; Michelle Tidemann, Fond du Lac County University of Wisconsin Extension family living educator and department co-chair; Tammy Matzdorf, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Fond du Lac credit and housing counselor; Lori Burgess, Fond du Lac Public Library support services coordinator, and David Mancl, DFI Office of Financial Literacy director. Tidemann, Matzdorf and Burgess are members of the Fond du Lac County Money Smart Week team. Many credit unions in Wisconsin participate in Money Smart Week, which is dedicated to promoting financial literacy through events and courses. It was started by the Governor's Council on Financial Literacy in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (Photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions) ...

Tax Fight Gets Press In California, National Police Publication

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MADISON, Wis. (12/2/13)--Credit unions' battle to preserve their tax status was featured in a Fresno, Calif., business journal and a publication for U.S. police officers.
 
The attacks spearheaded by banks aren't complicated, said the American Police Beat (Nov. 25). "Big banks and fat cat banksters say credit unions should have their not-for-profit tax status revoked because it gives credit unions an unfair competitive advantage over commercial banks," said the staff-written APB. "But that's nonsense. They just want the money so they can pay themselves more and to continue to rip off their own customers with impunity."
 
The article also featured seven points in favor of credit unions keeping their tax status made by Jason Gold in a blog on the Credit Union National Association's "Don't Tax My Credit Union" site.  Use the link to access the full article.
 
TBJNow (Nov. 27), powered by The Business Journal, Fresno Calif., also featured CUNA's Don't Tax campaign in its article, "Credit unions fighting to protect tax-exempt status," noting the campaign was launched to advocate for credit unions to remain exempt.
 
Defending the credit union tax status in the article were Jeremy Empol, vice president of governmental affairs at the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, who pointed out that banks are the only group advocating that credit unions lose their exemption, and Doug Kileen, CEO of Portville-based Safe 1 CU.
 
Credit unions are a vital component in the marketplace to ensure competition, Empol said, noting that "it comes down to consumer choice. What holds banks accountable is that there is a not-for-profit competitor in the marketplace.  If credit unions are no longer tax-exempt, who is going to keep those banks accountable?"
 
A change in the tax status would threaten survival of credit unions' current not-for-profit structure, Kileen said.  The status allows credit unions to offer more competitive rates to its members. To view the full article, use the link.
 
Check in with CUNA's campaign at www.don'ttaxmycreditunion.org.

World Council Volunteer Advises Belrus CUs On Membership Strategies

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MINSK, Belarus (12/2/13)--Joe Thomas, president/CEO of Fairfax (Va.) County FCU, visited the Republican Association of Consumer Cooperatives for Mutual Financial Assistance (RACCMFA) of Belarus last month as part of a World Council of Credit Unions volunteer assignment to assist with membership growth strategies.
 
Click to view larger image World Council of Credit Unions volunteer Joe Thomas, left, president/CEO of Fairfax (Va.) County FCU, traveled to Belarus to discuss membership growth strategies with Republican Association of Consumer Cooperatives for Mutual Financial Assistance (RACCMFA) representatives, including Alena Kaliada, right, RACCMFA chair. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
RACCMFA, the Belarus credit union trade association and World Council affiliated member, has focused on increasing membership, assets and number of credit unions while operating in an environment with an emerging legislative and regulatory framework for credit unions. Belarus credit unions must also overcome inflationary pressures discouraging investment and savings.
 
During a five-day conference in Minsk, Belarus's largest city and capital, Thomas gave a presentation to Belarusian credit union managers on identification and development of financial products and services, building the credit union brand, and organizational and management strategies to achieve membership growth.
 
"The people I've met are some of the most dedicated and hospitable I've ever come across, with a real desire to help their countrymen and women improve their financial and social well-being through credit unions," Thomas said. "It feels as if the credit union movement is ready to become a much more critical part of the local economy."
 
Thomas, and Alena Kaliada, RACCMFA chair, also met with the National Bank of Belarus to discuss the supervision of the country's 20 credit unions, which were all established within the last 10 years and represent more than 3,000 members located primarily in urban areas.

FBI To Holiday Shoppers: Beware Cybercriminals

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WASHINGTON (12/2/13)--Holiday shoppers are targets for cybercriminals out to steal money and personal information, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation in an announcement from the Internet Crime Complaint Center last week.
 
Credit unions can remind their members to closely monitor financial transactions and correspondence from financial institutions. Cybercrooks target banking accounts for account takeovers and for creating new accounts with stolen identities, said the FBI.
 
Warn members to never click on a link embedded in an e-mail from their financial institution. Instead tell them to open a new Web page and manually enter the URL or Web address. Phishing scams often begin with phone e-mails featuring a financial institution's name and logo.
 
Other cautionary tips credit unions can give to members: 
  • Use only reputable sites when shopping online. Avoid specials on the Web or e-mail offers that look too good to be true. These capture personal identification information such as credit card numbers, addresses and phone numbers to make fraudulent transactions.
  • Monitor credit reports every year and review account statements each month. Scrutinize credit card bills for any fraudulent activity. Unrecognizable charges listed on a card statement often are the first indication that a consumer's identity has been stolen.
  • Take precautions in using search engines to locate a company or item and scrutinize the results list before going to the website. Avoid automatically clicking on the first search result. Fraudsters' websites may appear ahead of the legitimate company's on popular search engines. Their sites will be a mirrored version of the company site with a slightly different URL. Look for misspellings or extra characters such as a period or comma in the URL. When clicking on the payment page of a website, verify the URL again and make sure it is secure by starting with "https" instead of "http."

SECU Foundation Sponsors Governor's Excellence Awards

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RALEIGH, N.C. (12/2/13)--
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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, front row, center, is pictured with the recipients of the 2013 Governor's Awards for Excellence for extraordinary service to the state. State Employees' CU and its members, through SECU Foundation, sponsored the awards. (Photo provided by State Employees' CU)
Through SECU Foundation's sponsorship of the 2013 Governor's Awards for Excellence, State Employees' CU (SECU) members helped honor 18 individuals and a state agency for their extraordinary accomplishments and dedicated service to the state and citizens of North Carolina.
 
Held at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh and hosted by the Office of State Human Resources, awards were presented to each recipient by Thomas Stith, the governor's chief of staff, and Neal Alexander, director of the Office of State Human Resources.
 
Awards were in the categories of Customer Service, Efficiency and Innovation, Human Relations, Outstanding State Government Service, Public Service, Safety and Heroism, and Spirit of North Carolina.  The award is the highest honor bestowed upon a state employee.
 
Mark Twisdale, SECU executive vice president of administrative services and the SECU Foundation executive director, welcomed guests to the Nov. 19 ceremony. He noted "the work of public employees is often behind the scenes and unrecognized, yet invaluable to the strength and vitality of our state."
 
"Nearly 90,000 state employees serve North Carolina, not only through their jobs, but through the many volunteer, community service and charitable organizations they champion," he said. "As a cooperative, we stand firmly upon the principle of 'People Helping People,' and no one knows more about helping people than the dedicated state employees who make a difference in the lives of millions of North Carolinians each and every day."

CUs Have Much To Be Thankful For, Cheney Notes(1)

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WASHINGTON (12/2/13)--As credit union leaders celebrated Thanksgiving last week, Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney in The Cheney Report noted that there is much to be thankful for in the credit union system.

"We are thankful there will be no corporate assessment scheduled for credit unions in 2014--which we had called for just this past summer--and that the likelihood of assessments in years beyond that is growing increasingly remote," he wrote. What's more, credit unions could see rebates for the funds paid into the Temporary Corporate Credit Union Stabilization Fund within the next four to five years. "That's certainly something to be thankful for considering where we've come from," Cheney said.

"We can be thankful that credit union members value their credit unions so much that they are willing to get politically active," as millions have used traditional methods and social media to tell their legislators "Don't Tax My Credit Union!" This level of involvement is a tribute to the great job credit unions do every day in serving their members, Cheney added.

Cheney also took time to thank the more than 86,000 credit union volunteers that serve their institutions and fellow members, and, overall, gave thanks for the "great system that we are all part of...A system that puts people first." Credit unions truly do believe, "people are worth more than money," Cheney said.

Cheney also noted developments on the regulatory front, where CUNA and credit unions are making some progress towards building credit unions a better operating environment, and working with the National Credit Union Administration to build a better exam experience for credit unions.

"Let's be thankful that more Americans are choosing to do business with credit unions," as total credit union membership crests 98 million. And, he wrote, "despite our many challenges in recent years, we can all be thankful that Americans have a credit union movement that is strong, safe and sound--and continues to be dedicated to the ideals of "not for profit, not for charity--but for service."

For more of The Cheney Report, use the resource link.

Illinois Foundation: How To Assist Tornado Victims

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MADISON, Wis. (12/2/13)--At the request of the Illinois Credit Union Foundation, the National Credit Union Foundation will not activate CUAid.coop assistance in the wake of tornadoes that struck the central part of the state Nov. 17.

After consulting with Illinois credit unions, the state foundation determined the immediate needs of membership and staff are more pressing than the intermediate assistance CUAid would provide.
 
CUAid is the only program of its kind that enables credit union employees, volunteers, and members, as well as credit unions and credit union organizations across the U.S., to contribute directly to support other credit union people.
 
To make donations to the two primary organizations providing relief to Illinois tornado victims, the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army, the Illinois foundation suggests using the links provided.
 
Meanwhile, Illinois credit unions continue to help their staffs and memberships recover from tornadoes that devastated several small towns.
 
Two Illinois credit unions maintain branches in towns where tornadoes struck: Morris Community CU in Diamond and CEFCU, with branches in Washington, Pekin and East Peoria. 
 
An F2 tornado struck Pekin Nov. 17. A second tornado, an F4, first struck in East Peoria, and then continued on the ground to the small community of Washington. Pekin and East Peoria sustained significant damage; however, the community of Washington was severely devastated. The F4 tornado was on the ground for 45 minutes. One fatality was reported. 
 
In Diamond, an EF-2 tornado with between 111 mph and 135 mph ripped up buildings, trees and power lines and scattering debris for many miles. About 220 homes and buildings were damaged 75 with major damage (WLS Nov. 20).
 
There was no permanent damage to Morris Community CU or CEFCU facilities or ATMs. However, the homes of at least 11 CEFCU staff members were damaged, and in some cases, destroyed, the Illinois Credit Union League said. Many other employees suffered losses from hail and storm damage to their properties. One staff member was injured, but is expected to fully recover.
 
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of credit unions members were impacted by the storms in central Illinois, the Illinois league said. Several credit unions reported hearing from members who experienced losses due to the storms.
 
With more than 1,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the area it serves, CEFCU estimates at least three out of four households are members of the credit union. News Now reported Nov. 21 that CEFCU donated $100,000 to the Central Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross.
 
Members have CEFCU with varying financial needs, the Illinois league reports. Some have sought advice on handling their mortgages on homes that have been destroyed or on auto loans in which the vehicle has been totaled. Victims from the tornados lost many personal documents. In some cases, personal information was found 100 miles away. To ensure data security, many CEFCU members have closed their old accounts and opened new ones.
 
CEFCU has arranged for affected members to enroll in TransUnion Interactiv's credit monitoring service at no cost. CEFCU's debit and credit card processor, PSCU, is covering costs to expedite credit cards to members who need replacements due to the disaster. CEFCU is also waiving fees for replacement checks and stop payments for members who were affected by the storm.

ABC News, PBS Feature 'Save to Win'

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NEW YORK and LANSING, Mich. (12/2/13)--Save to Win, the prize-linked savings program that encourages non-savers to get into the habit of saving, gained some exposure in national feature stories on PBS and ABC News last week.
 
ABC News, in "Here's a Lottery You Cannot Lose," (Nov. 27) reported that 68 credit unions in four states offer the program and that there is federal legislation pending that would allow banks to also offer them. It noted the accounts don't encourage risk, but rather promote saving. The number of accounts have increased to 17,000 since 2009, when 11,700 accounts were counted.
 
The program was developed by the Michigan Credit Union League, in collaboration with the Filene Research Institute and the Doorway to Dreams Fund, said the report. Doorway to Dreams promotes financial opportunity for low and moderate income consumers.
 
Sharon Hall, CEO of Seattle-based Express CU, told ABC News the credit union began offering the accounts in 2010 because it serves low-income consumers and there was a benefit to offering an "incentive win component." Winners take the money and reinvest it, in hopes of winning a larger prize.
 
PBS featured a similar story Nov. 23, said the Michigan league, and that story was trending last week on Digg.com (Michigan Monitor Nov. 25).
 
In Save to Win accounts, account holders earn entries into monthly and annual cash prize drawings for every $25 they deposit. All funds deposited into the accounts, including interest earnings, belong to the account holders.
 
The program appeals to unbanked and under-banked consumers. Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Washington are among the states that allow credit unions and other institutions to offer the products.