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CU System briefs (12/27/2011)

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  • SAN DIEGO (12/28/11)--San Diego County CU has retained the title sponsorship for college football's Poinsettia Bowl for 2012, the credit union announced Friday. The San Diego County CU Poinsettia Bowl--the nation's only game among the 35 post-season college football games to have a credit union as its title sponsor--was played Dec. 21, with TCU beating Louisiana Tech, 31 to 24.  The credit union has been title sponsor of the game since its inception in 2005.  The bowl is also the first college bowl game to establish a charity beneficiary. One dollar of every ticket sold goes directly to the San Diego Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. This year's game generated a $25,000 donation. More than 44 wishes have been granted to children in San Diego since the bowl began …
  • MADISON, Wis. (12/28/11)--UW CU, based in Madison, Wis., last week launched a fixed-rate, private student loan for college students, the first financial institution based in Wisconsin to offer such an option for student members. The loan is designed to help students afford college expenses after they've exhausted their federal financial aid allotment. Previously, UW CU had only a variable rate loan options.  "This fixed-rate term gives students the peace of mine in having the same rate for the life of the loan, while avoiding the upfront fees associated with alternative fixed-rate options," said Mike Long, executive vice president and chief credit officer at the more than $1 billion asset credit union …
  • MIDLAND, Mich. (12/28/11)--Members First CU, a $190 million asset credit union based in Midland, Mich., has reached the $1 million loan mark in its fourth year of offering its $1,000 Whatever Loan. The Whatever Loan is available to members for extra help, especially during the holiday season (Saginaw News Dec. 25).  Sandy Schaffer, lending manager , told the newspaper that many members count on the loan to fill their propane tanks, buy holiday gifts or pay bills …

Tongue-in-cheek CU at North Pole has good year

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TACOMA, Wash. (12/28/11)--The Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune Sunday had a little fun with credit unions' growth, the economy, the Occupy movement, and the holidays with its account of a fictitious credit union, Red Sleigh CU, based at the North Pole, where its main branch is on Blitzen Street in its Sunday issue.

The newspaper claimed it interviewed the "credit union's" president/CEO, Ninneth Horklynsberg, about the credit unions growth, noting it had "been a good year for credit unions at the North Pole," with seven million kronar for deposits through third quarter and 16 billion for loans and a growth of 3,000 members.

The new depositors came from the big Candy Cane Lane banks--Bank of the Pole, Jingle Bells Fargo and Citi, and the credit union noted it has been "hiring elves and gnomes" to meet the demand.

The credit union was known as Santa's Workshop CU for more than 600 years, but to bring it into the 21st century, it hired consultants and did focus groups.  "We almost went with Gingerbread House, but then our attorneys found out it had already been trademarked by Exxon. I liked Tiny Reindeer, but we got some pushback from the elves over in wrapping," the article said.

When asked if the Occupy North Pole demonstrators had caused any problems in the way it does business, the CEO said, "I personally went down to the Occupy camp and handed out hot cocoa. Of course, that was before the police came in with the peppermint spray." The credit union explained it doesn't charge customers fees for using their debit cards and that it recycles ribbon.

As for the economy and the possibility of a double-dip recession, "the only thing we're going to double-dip up here is our cookies."

For the full tongue-in-cheek article, use the link.

CU partners with bank to tap D.C.s unbanked

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WASHINGTON (12/28/11)--District Government Employees FCU, with $47 million in assets, has formed a partnership with two Washington D.C. groups that are urging commuters to use bikes instead of cars to relieve traffic congestion.

District Government Employees FCU partnered with Capital Bikeshares, a bike-sharing network, and Bank on DC, a public-private partnership that helps unbanked consumers open checking accounts (American Banker Dec. 27).

Capital Bikeshares automated stations do not accept cash. To check out a bike from a Capital Bikeshares station, a borrower must use a debit or credit card.

Bank on DC offers a $25 discount on annual Capital Bikeshares memberships to unbanked consumers who open accounts with District Government Employees FCU or United Bankshares.

CUs prepare members for end of paper savings bonds

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PORTLAND, Maine (12/28/11)--As the Dec. 31 deadline looms, credit unions are preparing their members in several ways for the demise of paper savings bonds.  After Saturday, paper savings bonds no longer will be sold at financial institutions.

Maine credit unions are helping both members and employees prepare for the change, said the Maine Credit Union League (Weekly Update Dec. 23).

Capital Area FCU, a $22 million asset credit union in Augusta, Maine, said its staff personally contacted members that purchase savings bonds regularly from the credit union to let them know of the change, Diana Winkley, president/CEO of Capital Area told the league. The credit union also posted an announcement on its website, on its Facebook and home banking pages, in its lobby and on its receipt messages.

Five County CU, based in Bath, also said it is using several methods to ensure a smooth transition. The $188 million asset credit union posted a message on its website, and the information is on the home banking message for all users. It also created a flyer displayed at each teller line and is handing out a brochure to its members.

Consumers can purchase electronic savings bonds online through TreasuryDirect, a secure Web-based system operated by the Bureau of Public Debt (News Now Sept. 8). Existing paper bonds are still valid and will earn interest for 30 years from the issue date or until redeemed.  The Treasury Department estimated that going electronic would save $70 million in taxpayer funds over five years.

Because savings bonds are popular gifts, credit unions were expecting more inquiries than usual during the holiday season, said the Maine league.

In September, the National Credit Union Administration issued a Letter to Credit Unions (11-CU-15) that provided guidance in answering members' questions. It specifically asked credit unions to educate members about the upcoming changes, stop accepting applications for savings bonds after Dec. 31, and continue to redeem savings bonds.  The Treasury Department also has a toolkit to assist in communicating the changes.  For more information, use the links.

Banking trends point to more restrictions says iHuffPoi

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WASHINGTON (12/28/11)--The banking environment for consumers in 2012 will likely include more fees and restrictions, according to a Dec. 21 Huffington Post article.

The article, written by Richard Barrington, described how Bank of America, in the midst of a media frenzy, backed away from plans to charge a monthly debit card fee in 2012.  But banks still need to replace revenues lost to regulations and a sluggish market, he writes.

"Having learned their PR lesson, look for banks to introduce new fees more quietly, primarily by raising existing fees, cutting back on free checking accounts, or raising the minimums needed to qualify for free services," says the article. Some banks have already raised interchange fees on smaller debit card transactions to make up for revenues lost to the caps on larger transactions."

Another trend will be more restrictions on debit cards if banks can recover lost revenue from debit card interchange fees. "Look for banks to make those debit cards available to fewer customers, or to stop processing transactions from small retailers," the article says.

Other trends consumers will see include: fewer branches as banking becomes more mobile and consumers embrace online banking; more oversight as a result of increased electronic banking; and rising interest rates.

To read the article, use the link.

Credit unions will track what measures banks introduce to gain more profits and will be ready to assist consumers who find banks' actions less than consumer friendly.

Tablets RDC among the trends for CUs in 2012

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MADISON, Wis. (12/28/11)--What are the technology trends credit unions will mark during 2012? Experts say tablet technology, remote deposit capture, application development and QR codes will be at the forefront for credit unions.

This is the first in a two-part series on technology trends.

The first installment will explore tablet technology and remote deposit capture for member business services.

Apple tapped the consumer market's hunger for tablet technology with the iPad, but competitors are beginning to gain traction with more affordable models that provide comparable functionality. That trend appears as if it will continue.

A study by Oracle found that 57% of consumers already own a tablet device or plan to purchase a device in the next 12 months.

Tablet technology provides credit unions with the same primary benefit as it does consumers: portability. Unitus Community CU, Portland, Ore., has used iPads to support its business development program for more than a year.

"Any time you get your business development officers (BDOs) away from their desk and out in the field, they are going to be able to reach more people," explained Brett Wooden, business development manager at Unitus Community CU.

Unitus Community BDOs can open new accounts through their iPads, which also store the credit union's marketing materials. The iPads can't yet process transactions, but they can be used to fund accounts and take loan applications, Wooden said.

The credit union's BDOs used iPads to open 186 new accounts during a tent event in advance of a branch grand opening earlier this year. Each new account averaged more than four new products or services with the credit union.

Both paperless and portable, the iPad is also effective for taking surveys. "We paid $5,000 for a radio campaign announcing one of our branch grand openings, but when we asked 300 people how they heard about it, only two said radio. We brought that information back to our marketing team and said that $5,000 could be better used elsewhere," Wooden said.

Similarly, tablet data collection capabilities can be used to store member information, such as product interest or preferences, while credit union representatives are out in the field. "In the past, we had to write all that down and log it into a computer back at the office," Wooden said.

The same mobility that makes iPads convenient for consumers to tote around the home or office makes them easy to use in a branch environment as well, Wooden said. "A teller can flip around a screen (on a tablet) and show a member what he or she is looking at a lot easier," Wooden said. "Or if members are waiting in line, we can educate them on mobile services or other products."

For credit unions involved in member business services, remote  deposit capture offers an opportunity to build existing relationships, according to Christine Barry, a research director for Aite Group, a financial research company.

Research by Aite indicates that about 7% of credit unions that offer member business services also offer remote deposit capture, but 42% said it is likely or extremely like that they will offer RDC in the next year.

Just as important  only about 5% of small businesses are using RDC, according to Aite. But about 43% of businesses expressed a willingness to use it.

"I think credit unions recognize the opportunity, and our research shows the opportunity is there for credit unions," Barry told News Now.

RDC offers credit unions an opportunity for fee income and just as important, can help credit unions even the playing field with their larger competitors, she said.

"One thing credit unions are really known for is building relationships," Barry said. "I think RDC requires a bit of hand holding to get comfortable with. Credit unions have the advantage over banks in that they have the ability to do that hand holding."

The Credit Union National Association estimates that increasing the current 12.25% of assets members business lending cap to 27.5% of a credit union's total assets would have a number of beneficial effects on the ailing economy, including infusing $13 billion in new credit for small businesses and adding 140,000 new jobs within the first year of enactment--all at no cost to the American taxpayer.

PCUF grant helps open 43rd student branch

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/28/11)--Funding from the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation helped make possible the recent opening of the state's 43rd student credit union branch.

Funding from the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation helped make possible the recent opening of  a student branch at Wyoming Valley West Senior High School, Edwardsville, Pa.. Pictured from left are, Irv Dereemer, assistant. school superintendent; Ronald G. Jeffrey, president, Wyoming Valley West FCU; Erin Keating, principal, Wyoming Valley West Senior High School; David Tosh, secondary school adviser; Paul Appel, CEO, Wyoming Valley West FCU. (Photo provided by Pennsylvania Credit Union Association.)
The branch was opened by Wyoming Valley West FCU at Wyoming Valley West Senior High School, Edwardsville, Pa., said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) (Life is a Highway Dec. 16).

Joe Wambach, foundation executive director, and John P. Kebles, manager of the REAL Solutions program, represented the PCUA at the ceremonies.

Paul Appel, CEO, Wyoming Valley West FCU, thanked the foundation for its grant of $10,000 which made it possible to open the student branch in 2011, earlier than expected.

Erin Keating, principal of the high school, said the credit union would begin classroom education during the second semester, complementing an already active financial education program among business students and through Junior Achievement.

Wyoming Valley School District Assistant Superintendent Irv Dereemer spoke about the possibility of an additional student branch becoming a reality in the middle school so that students can receive practical instruction on financial education at an earlier age.

Troops get special treatment for holidays

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MADISON, Wis. (12/28/11)--Many men and women serving the country were not able to return home for the holidays. However, credit unions did their best to send them a little bit of home, be it words of encouragement on a video from loved ones, holiday gift packages donated by credit unions and their communities or even Christmas cards.

At State Employees' CU, Raleigh, N.C., 130 employees, family members and volunteers worked together on its "SECU Supports the Troops" campaign, which provided holiday gift boxes for North Carolina's deployed National Guard and Reservists.  On Dec. 3, the group packed up 5,000 gift boxes in just three hours, with Raleigh postmaster Cheryl Picard assisting. The boxes were loaded into a U.S. Postal Service 18-wheeler for delivery.

Click to view larger image About 130 employees, family members and volunteers at State Employees' CU, Raleigh, N.C., worked three hours on Dec. 3 to pack 5,000 holiday gift boxes for North Carolina's National Guard and Reservists deployed around the world. (Photo provided by the North Carolina Credit Union League)
SECU's 239 statewide branches became collection sites for the donated "wish list" items that poured in from SECU members and local community groups. Items included travel size items of dental supplies, first aid items, soap, shampoo, travel games, socks, writing supplies, and snacks, and were topped off with special hand-written letters from North Carolina school children thanking the troops for their service to the country.

"North Carolina National Guard soldiers and their families are within SECU's membership base, making this project even more significant for our cooperative. The excitement and success of last year's campaign, including the heartwarming thank you from soldiers who received gift packages, prompted the return of SECU Supports the Troops," said Leigh Brady, SECU senior vice president of education services."

"It's more than just the number of packages the credit union is delivering," said SECU board Chairman McKinley Wooten, "it is the demonstration of love that we have for our soldiers that makes this project special. We want them to feel the care that goes into putting these boxes together."

Many credit unions worked with Operation Best Wishes, a national program partnered with the Defense Credit Union Council and that credit unions bring to military installations during the holidays. Walter Laskos started the operation in 2004, when he was an employee at a credit union in California that worked with military families and invited families to use a new webcast video studio to send a video message to relatives deployed overseas. It proved so popular that he went on the road with it to other credit unions on military bases.

At Hanscom Air Force Base, Alison Murray used Operation Best Wishes to throw a virtual birthday party for her son, Phillip Kiy, who turned 21 earlier this month in Afghanistan.  She baked four cupcakes, packed a photo of her son in his uniform, and she and her two teenage daughters sang happy birthday to Kiy, fed his photo a cupcake, and performed a skit for him (Boston Globe Dec. 18). 

Click to view larger image Andrews FCU, Suitland, Md., was among the credit unions participating in the Defense Credit Union Council's partnership with Operation Best Wishes to sponsor free holiday video messages for service members and their families.  Eighty-nine people taped messages for loved ones overseas. (Photo provided by the Andrews FCU)
At Andrews FCU, Suitland, Md., 89 people taped messages, each recording a message up to 10 minutes long that included updates and words of encouragement. Participants received a CD containing the video message and service members accessed the archived recording via a link to the secured website. Deployed family members receive secure links through e-mail almost immediately after the video is recorded. They can log in for up to 90 days to watch the link throughout the holiday season ( Dec. 7).

At Fort Drum, N.Y.,  AmeriCU offered video messages via Operation Best Wishes.  Tiffany Dietter, whose husband, Sgt. William Dietter is deployed with the Third Brigade Special Troops Battalion, told local media that "We wanted to do something special." Even though the family uses Skype to talk to their father, her children were excited to send a video greeting to their dad.  Another spouse, Sara Cotleur, said sending a video greeting to her husband, Spc. Michael Cotleur, was a way for her to show him "I'm OK, so he doesn't have to worry about me." Like last year, the video production crew stayed well into the evening to accommodate family members (Army News Service Dec. 8)

Other credit unions remembering troops included:

  • Belvoir FCU, Woodbridge, Va., which attended Fort Belvoir's "Holiday Cookie Social & Goodie-Box Packing Party," to support families with deployed soldiers. Fifteen families took part in the specialized filing schedule during the packing party, hosted by Fort Belvoir's Army Community Services, which allowed a personalized video message to be sent in a care package. ACS packed 100 goodie bags for soldiers, representatives from the local Veterans of Foreign Wards cooked food for attendees, and the Belvoir Eagle newspaper captured the event.
  • Saginaw (Mich.) Medical FCU provided mailings for soldiers with "Send Santa to the Troops," a care package drive run by the Yellow Ribbon Guard. The staff of Medical FCU hosted a "Stuff a Bus" event at the credit union on Veterans Day. Some people drove more than 50 miles to each way to drop off donations. Elementary schools donated more than 610 pounds of candy, which was used as stuffing in the shipped care packages. The campaign filled three buses and collected $1,600 in cash donations (Michigan Monitor Nov. 28).
  • Mazuma CU, Kansas City, Mo., prepared holiday packages for team members' relatives serving in the U.S. Army. Jeannie Ray, a member service representative at the credit union's Gladstone branch, wanted to send Christmas cards to her brother's battalion in Afghanistan. She thought a battalion would be 100 to 150 people, but learned there are more than 800 men and women in the battalion. She approached the branch and her team members about collecting cards. They collected 1,048 holiday cards, 1,400 candy canes, 4,400 other candies, and $445.29 in cash donations in four weeks. The cash donations paid for the 15 boxes of cards and candy shipped overseas as well as the purchase of the candy. The remaining $%109.65 was donated to Homes for Our Troops, one of Mazuma's charities. Left over cards were donated to team member Ben Monroe's unite in Texas, to the American Legion to be used in Christmas packages sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the Veteran's Administration.