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CU System briefs (12/08/2008)

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* COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. (12/9/08)--A former president of First Community CU (now Financial One CU) in Columbia Heights was sentenced last week to 21 months in prison for taking roughly $225,000 from the credit union between 2001 and 2004. Richard Lange, 52, pleaded guilty last year to two of 55 felony charges of embezzlement, money laundering and false income tax returns. Lange accepted a plea agreement under which he admitted to depositing $11,000 into his personal account and one count of filing a false income tax return (Star Tribune Dec. 5) … * PHILADELPHIA (12/9/08)--A man who owned an ATM-servicing company was sentenced to four years in federal prison on a count of bank larceny in the theft of funds from Lock Haven Area FCU. David McGrath, 48, owner of Hook Financial Services, which serviced ATMs, pleaded guilty in April to stealing $487,796 in funds from the credit union. The thefts occurred between April 2002 and August 2005 (philly.com Dec. 5) … * GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (12/9/08)--A former teller at Colorama FCU has been charged with stealing $24,600 in the past year from the credit union. Diane Marlene Blaylock, 57, told police that she began taking between $50 and $100 and eventually up to $1,000 at a time from her cash drawer several times per month since November 2007. To cover the cash withdrawals, she temporarily moved $47,590 from four members’ accounts to cover the withdrawals (Grand Junction Sentinel.com Nov. 26) … * SACRAMENTO (12/9/08)--The California Department of Financial Institutions has received applications for two mergers of credit unions. E1 Financial CU, a $370 million asset credit union based in Monterey Park, has applied to merge with NuVision Financial FCU, an $847.4 million credit union in Huntington Beach. Also, Pacific Coast CU, a $16.5 million asset credit union in Costa Mesa, has applied for a merger into $741.9 million asset Financial Partners CU, based in Downey. The announcements were made in the DFI Monthly Bulletin (November) … * LINCOLN, Neb. (12/9/08)--Aliant CU a $60.1 million asset credit union based in Lincoln, completed its merger last week with $6.5 million asset Southeast Nebraska FCU, Beatrice, after receiving approval from Southeast Nebraska’s members and from state and federal regulators. The merger allows the credit unions to serve all people who live, work, worship or attend school in Gage and Lancaster countries. Southeast Nebraska FCU will continue business from its current location under the name, Southeast Nebraska CU, an affiliate of Aliant CU. Staff at both locations will remain the same. “For the credit union and its members in the Beatrice area, retaining local ownership was key in the decision-making process and no doubt one of the reasons the members were so supportive of the endeavor,” said Deb Meyer, president of Southeast Nebraska CU …

Golden 1 CU gives foreclosed property to Habitat

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (12/9/08)--The Golden 1 CU has donated a one-acre property that had gone into foreclosure to Habitat for Humanity. The property, near Rio Linda, Calif., was presented Saturday to Habitat (The Sacramento Bee Dec. 5). After more than 100 California Highway Patrol cadets tear down a small house and barn to prepare the property for construction, Habitat for Humanity volunteers will build four houses on it, beginning next year. The $6.955 billion asset, Sacramento-based credit union told the newspaper it had worked with the borrowers on the property until they decided to walk away. It had donated another property to Habitat in 2003. To qualify for a house, prospective owners must be employed, have reasonably good credit and work 500 hours with volunteers building the house.

09 Youth Saving Challenge to expand to entire month

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MADISON, Wis. (12/9/08)--The National Youth Saving Challenge will expand from one week to the entire month of April in 2009. The National Credit Union Youth Week celebration is April 19-25. The challenge, sponsored by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), is expanding beyond youth week because one week isn’t enough time for many credit unions that want to encourage youth deposits, according to Joanne Sepich, coordinator for National Credit Union Youth Week. Also, spring break typically occurs sometime in April, but not the same week nationwide. More days for the celebration result in more opportunities to visit a credit union or in-school branch to make a deposit, Sepich said. Why not turn the Youth Week into a Youth Month? While that is a possibility for 2010 and beyond, many credit unions that have participated since the first celebration in 2002 have limited resources. CUNA plans to survey 2009 Youth Week participating credit unions this summer on ways to expand Youth Week.

Golfing for Ikes CU victims nets 60000

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FARMER’S BRANCH, Texas (12/9/08)--Texas’ Golf for the Gulf Celebrity Tournament to benefit credit union victims of Hurricane Ike netted $60,000, announced the Texas Credit Union League. Southwest Corporate FCU joined the Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) and the league in hosting the event on Nov. 18 (LoneStar Leaguer Dec. 8). In addition to the corporate, sponsors included American Share Insurance-Excess Share Insurance, Bluepoint Solutions, CO-OP Financial Services, Co-op Shared Branching, Credit Union Resources Inc., CUNA Mutual Group, Level 5, PULSE EFT, TNB Card Services, United Heritage CU of Austin, and U.S. Central FCU. Celebrity athletes played in the tournament. They included Baseball Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew and Ozzie Smith, who headlined the roster with county and western performer Charley Pride. In addition to his musical career, Pride was also a member of the 1950s Sox Negro League. He joins the Texas Rangers for workouts each spring, said the league. The roster also included athletes from the Rangers, the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers, as well as local broadcast personalities. Proceeds from the event will be combined with existing hurricane relief funds, which will enable TCUF to administer the Phase II grant process for those most severely affected by Hurricane Ike. “There is still so much work to do in rebuilding lives and property,” said Texas league President/CEO Dick Ensweiler.

Michigans CUs growing amid economic turmoil

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LANSING, Mich. (12/9/08)--Michigan’s 350 credit unions expanded membership and increased loan growth during the third quarter, according to statistics released by the National Credit Union Administration and the Michigan Credit Union League. Total membership grew by 17,000--the most since 2003. Total loans grew rose by 2% to $22 billion--an annualized growth rate of 8% and highest since 2006. “This data show credit unions’ resilience and the benefits of prudent lending,” said David Adams, league president/CEO. “The strong loan growth suggests that credit unions are well-positioned to help consumers and small businesses weather a struggling economy in Michigan.” Michigan Credit unions saw the strongest growth in auto loans with a 4% increase in used-vehicle loans--a 16% annualized growth rate--and a 3.1% rise in new-vehicle loans--a 12.4% annualized growth rate. Credit union member business loans grew by 3.1% to $651 million. While some large banks and financial institutions are experiencing trouble in the current economy, Michigan credit unions are holding steady, and some are even posting healthy gains, said the Grand Rapids Press (Dec. 7). Credit unions have been successful by adhering to a traditional formula of making conservative but well-priced loans for homes, cars and small businesses with the money credit unions take in as deposits, the newspaper said. “Because they are not-for-profit, [credit unions] are not swinging for the fences, so to speak,” Adams told the paper. “Rather, they’re playing the game conservatively even in a tough economy.” Nationally, deposits at credit unions are predicted to grow by 10% in 2009, according to a report by the Credit Union National Association, the newspaper said.

iBelong sticker in scene of NBCs The Office

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/9/09) -- An iBelong.org sticker posted on a bulletin board was included in a scene in last week’s episode of NBC’s “The Office.”
An iBelong.org sticker is visible on the bulletin board in this screen shot of an episode of “The Office,” which aired Thursday on NBC. (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
Lynn Loomis, director of marketing and technology for Frick Tri-County FCU, Uniontown, says it was her attention to detail that spotted the sticker right away above the receptionist’s desk in the episode titled, “The Surplus” (Life is a Highway Dec. 8). Loomis says she’s always looking for unique and interesting ways to market the credit union and make people more aware of the benefits of credit union membership. She hopes that the show had curious viewers visiting the iBelong.org website. “The Office” premiered on NBC in March 2005, and is a “docu-reality” parody about modern American office life, which delves into the lives of workers at Dunder Mifflin paper supply company in Scranton, Pa. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association’s iBelong campaign launched on TV and radio stations throughout Pennsylvania in July 2006. Since then, several other leagues have licensed the campaign. Consumers seeking to join a credit union can visit the iBelong.org website for online search locators. The website contains commercials and credit union facts also are featured (News Now Oct. 8).

CUNA Mutual ranked tops in defined contribution plans

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MADISON, Wis. (12/9/08)--CUNA Mutual Group’s Retirement Plan Services garnered top rankings for overall client satisfaction, customer loyalty and brand relationship in Boston Research Group's annual defined contribution provider (DCP) study. Boston Research Group's DCP study of client satisfaction and loyalty rated 22 leading defined contribution plan providers based on surveys of more than 1,380 plan sponsors with plan assets totaling $5 million or less. Boston Research Group is a full-service marketing research firm located in Woburn, Mass. It conducts retirement industry research. CUNA Mutual ranked highly in many underlying categories, including:
* Top ratings in 401(k) Plan Relationship Satisfaction (91% very satisfied, versus 72% average); * High percentage very satisfied in three of seven Key Drivers of Overall Satisfaction identified in the study, including: Value for cost, recordkeeping services and participant statements; * High loyalty ratings, including top scores in three of four Loyalty Segments: customers likely to recommend, quality of reference and customers likely to consider for other employee benefit services: * Top score in five of 13 Brand Image Attributes, grouped by the study in two categories-- Relationship and Resources. These include: partners effectively with you to meet the challenges of administering your 401(k) plan, understands the needs of your company and its employee population, easy to do business with, effective helping participants reach their financial goals for retirement, and has a well known and respected brand among your employees; * Percent of eligible employees participating in the plan (91.4% mean, and 72.5% average); and * Years using as service provider (14.8 years mean, 7.4 years average).
“The high rankings overall reflect our ongoing commitment to simplify the experience of plan sponsors, by providing them with best-in-class customer service,” said Tom Eckert, vice president of CUNA Mutual’s Retirement Plan Services. “Although their plans may be sophisticated in design and features, we add value to our clients’ businesses by allowing them to focus on what they do best while we serve and support their retirement plans.” CUNA Mutual’s retirement plan service model includes dedicated salespeople, retirement specialists and consulting coordinators working directly with plan sponsors. Many of these professionals have received multiple retirement industry designations. Also, the self-service features of the plan participant website received top rankings. “Not only do we enjoy great loyalty,” Eckert said. “But the high participation rates we have jointly accomplished with our plan sponsor clients means the intended beneficiaries of the plans--eligible employees--will have funds when their time comes to leave the work-force. That’s why we’re expanding our program beyond credit unions to select employee groups and small businesses.”

15 CUs participate in Conn. student loan effort

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MERIDEN, Conn. (12/9/08)--So far, 15 Connecticut credit unions are participating in the state’s new low-interest student loan program. Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced that the program officially began Monday, with credit unions accepting applications for the loans (NorwalkPlus.com Dec. 8). As much as $17.5 million in loans was committed for the new program, established in November by the governor and the Credit Union League of Connecticut. The credit unions expect to offer rates of between 5.75% and 6%, significantly below the 6.99% rate offered by the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority. “The national economic recession is hitting home on all levels and families across Connecticut are faced with the difficult decisions on what expenses to cut,” said Rell. “Under this program, college tuition does not have to be one of them.” The program stems from a Nov. 18 meeting of Rell and officials of the league and credit unions to discuss the state’s economic situation and to propose the partnership. For more information, use the link or call 203-265-5657.

Wegner Dinner registrations open online through NCUF

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WASHINGTON (12/9/08)--Credit union leaders and supporters can register now for the 21st Annual Herb Wegner Memorial Awards Dinner to be presented by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) Feb. 23 during the Credit Union National Association’s 2009 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). The ceremony will present four of the credit union movement’s highest national honors:
* Lifetime Achievement Award: Bill Sterner, late president/CEO of Elevations CU, Boulder, Colo. Decades before most credit unions learned to “serve the underserved,” Sterner was teaching this concept around the world, said NCUF. * Individual Achievement Award: Rita Haynes, treasurer and manager of Faith Community United CU, Cleveland, Ohio. Haynes shows faith in members who have filed for bankruptcy by reaching out a helping hand toward redemption. * Individual Achievement Award: Tom Sargent, president/CEO of First Tech CU, Beaverton, Ore. Sargent’s leadership on the Credit Unions for Kids campaign helped credit unions gain visibility worth hundreds of millions of dollars in paid advertising. * Outstanding Organization Award: Montana Credit Unions for Community Development, Billings, Mont. This five-year-old organization already has helped more than 50,000 people avoid predatory loans, keep more of their earned income, and open their first savings accounts.
“These Wegner Award winners are extraordinary and unique,” said NCUF Awards and Recognition Chairman and Master of Ceremonies Bob Schumacher, CEO of MountainCrest CU in Arlington, Wash. “We invite everyone with a passion for credit unions to register for the dinner and see their achievements come alive.” Use the resource link to reserve seats online through a secure page on the NCUF website. Registrants also can choose to download a printable form, complete it off-line, and fax or mail their completed form to NCUF. For the second straight year, the dinner will take place at the Grand Hyatt Washington, two blocks from the Washington Convention Center where the GAC will be staged. Individual tickets for the three-course dinner are priced at $200 each; tables of 10 are $1,900. A portion of the price is tax-deductible.