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California CUs mortgage loans buck the trend

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (12/31/08)--California credit unions are bucking the trend with mortgage loan portfolios growing to nearly $54 billion during third quarter, according to a report from the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues. Daniel Penrod, industry analyst for the leagues, noted that California credit unions’ mortgage lending ballooned to $53.9 billion in mortgage assets as of Sept. 30--an increase of $1 billion over mortgage assets a year earlier(SignOnSanDiego.com Dec. 30). The assets were up even though mortgage originations declined during third quarter to 13,753 loans from 21,562 loans the year before. Year-to-date, originations totaled 71,266, compared with 78,066 for the first three quarters of 2007, he said. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) saw the most significant changes for California’s credit unions. ARMs declined by 50.6% from a year earlier to 267 for third quarter 2008. HELOCs were down 45.6% to 8,225, while fixed-rate loans were down 10.9% to 5,261. Penrod reported that for the current quarter, credit unions have less mortgage business because consumers are pulling back and avoiding large purchases in the uncertain economy. But in 2009, interest rates could drop to 2% to 3% and spark more buying and refinancing. The newspaper also featured comments from Steve Volle, president of Members Loan Services Inc., which assists seven San Diego-based credit unions. He noted credit unions deliver better terms and lower rates that commercial banks do. But some people with non-credit union mortgages may not be able to refinance loans they should not have had in the first place. He estimated credit unions have gone from 1%-2% of the mortgage business to 3% or 4% in the area. For the full article, use the link.

More CUs step in to fill car loan gap

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DENVER and NEW YORK (12/31/08)--Two newspapers--one in Denver, the other in New York City--are reporting credit unions stepping in to fill the financing gap left by other lenders in the auto loan market during the recession. New-auto sales fell an unprecedented 37% in 12 months through November. But “credit unions are holding up the Colorado auto market,” according to a Tom Wilber, a Denver area Ford dealer’s finance director (Denver Post Dec. 29). In the past credit unions typically financed about 20% of the vehicles sold. In recent months, they’ve financed half or more, said Wilber. Credit unions’ share of auto loans registered in Colorado was 42.9% at the end of the third quarter, up from 32.1% at the end of first quarter, according to Centennial-based CU Direct Connect, which links borrowers with credit unions. The article notes that credit unions’ conservative nature in lending kept them from winning a larger part of the market share in the past but left them able to lend in today’s tight market. An auto broker in Centennial noted that people who haven’t used credit unions for auto loans in the past are beginning to use them. New York Daily News (Dec. 29) noted that the economy has brought an abundance of deals on new and used cars. Although it’s a tough time for business, it’s a great time for consumers who have a steady job and solid credit scores, said a spokesman for the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. “If your credit isn’t perfect, you could consider alternative possible sources of financing like credit unions—or ask your local new-car dealer for help,” the article says. To read both articles in full, use the resource links.

CUNA closed Thursday re-opens Friday

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (12/31/08)--The Credit Union National Association’s Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis., offices will be closed Thursday in observance of New Year’s Day. They will re-open on Friday. News Now will not publish a Thursday issue. It will resume publication Friday.

CUs gift cards strong despite retail sales dip

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (12/31/08)--The Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) Service Corp. sold nearly the same amount in gift cards as it did last year, despite a nationwide dip in holiday retail sales. ICUL Service Corp. sold about 600,000 cards, Karen Duffy, senior vice president, told News Now. The strong card sales are likely due to more credit unions offering gift cards to members. Members are asking for the cards, and credit unions “want to offer that financial service,” Duffy said. “Our gift cards did great.” The minimum amount required on the cards sold by ICUL is $10, while the maximum is $500. The average amount for the cards this year was $80, Duffy said. ICUL Service Corp. worked to educate credit unions about the difference between open- and closed-loop gift cards because of concerns some consumers had, she said. Closed-loop cards only can be used in the store where they were purchased. Open-loop gift cards, such as those sold by Visa, MasterCard and Discover, can be used anywhere in the world, Duffy said. Some consumers were concerned that stores they purchased closed-loop gift cards in would become bankrupt after the holidays, she said. Regulations in some states have prohibited financial institutions from selling open-loop cards because the cards often have fees tacked onto them or carry an expiration date. ICUL Service Corp. is monitoring regulations for changes in 2009 and how any changes could affect sales, Duffy added. ICUL Service Corp. is a business corporation that provides credit, debit card products, checking, clearing house and loan services to credit unions in Illinois and 45 other states.

Message is a phish attempt says CUNA

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MADISON, Wis. (12/31/08)--An e-mail circulating Tuesday purports to be from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), but CUNA says the e-mail is a phishing scam seeking personal information. The e-mail claims to be from CUNA’s customer service and has as its subject line “Your card has been deactivated.” It claims to have disabled the recipient’s card and personal identification number (PIN) and asks the recipient to call 800-587-9804. CUNA and any financial institution would not send e-mails or phone messages soliciting account and identification information. Recipients should delete the message. The message is similar to a number of phishing–type scams involving e-mails, text messaging to cell phones, automated calls and in-person calls to home phone lines, and more. In November, the RSA Anti-Fraud Command Center noted a 20% increase from October in the number of banking brands attacked by fraudsters. Attacks against new entities also increased with 23 new organizations targeted in November. However, the rate of growth of these attacks slowed down. RSA said an increase of 3,481 attacks occurred from August through October—an average of about 1,160 attacks per month. In November, the rate of increased phishing attacks slowed to 46 attacks. Regional banks were attacked most often, followed by nationwide banks and credit unions. Earlier this month, Jefferson Parish FCU, a $65 million asset credit union in Harahan, La., was among several institutions—including the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and security firms--targeted by phishing attempts claiming to be from those institutions (Times-Picayune Dec. 23). More than 450 residents received telephone calls from credit card scammers with automated messages. Sheriff Newell Normand issued a warning about the scam Dec. 21. The newspaper said at least 14 people responded with personal information. One woman spoke to an actual person, who warned her about fraud, then got her to reveal her card information, birthdate, Social Security number and her card’s expiration date. Last week, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood issued a warning about text messages targeting credit union members in that state (WTOK-TV Dec. 25). Hood had been contacted by the Mississippi Credit Union Association after several Jackson area credit union members received a text message. One person’s account had to be closed, said Hood. He noted that the best protection in such situations is education. “Consumers need to understand the scam is circulating, learn what to look out for and most important, do not respond,” he told the newspaper. Credit unions have a number of resources addressing the issue on CUNA’s website.

CU System briefs (12/30/2008)

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* WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (12/31/08)--The board of directors of Robins FCU has selected John R. Rhea as its new president/CEO. Rhea was executive vice president since 2006 at the Warner Robins-based credit union. Rhea was vice president of branch operations from 1996 to 2003. He has more than 30 years experience in the financial industry. Robins FCU is a $1 billion asset credit union serving 130,000 members in 16 counties. It is the fourth largest credit union in Georgia … * BURBANK, Calif. (12/31/08)--Darin Guggenheimer has been named president/CEO of Burbank City FCU, effective tomorrow. He succeeds Thomas J. Moioffer, who will retire after 24 years at the helm of the $250 million asset credit union. According to Janne Turner, board of directors chair, the selection was unanimous, due to Guggenheimer’s financial expertise and knowledge of the credit union industry. Guggenheimer, a 13-year associate of the credit union, served as chief financial officer since 1995 …

McCormack new chair of state execs association

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/31/08)--Jim McCormack, president/CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA), has been elected chair of the Pennsylvania Association of Society Executives (PASAE) board of directors for 2009. McCormack was elected to the PASAE board in 2006 and served as vice chair this year. “In these challenging times, Pennsylvania’s trade and professional associations can thrive by learning from each other,” McCormack said. “It is my hope that PCUA’s involvement in PASAE will directly benefit Pennsylvania’s credit unions and their members.” He succeeds Robert Imperata, who will serve as PASAE immediate past chair. PASAE is a trade association that represents Pennsylvania non profit corporate management teams and companies interested in working with it.

Counterfeiting arrests up 28 this year

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McLEAN, Va. (12/30/08)--As the economy sours, more consumers are trying to pass counterfeit bills, according to a Sunday USA Today article. The number of arrests for counterfeiting increased 28% this year and is the highest since 2004. Counterfeiters passed a record $64.4 million in fake bills--a 5% increase over last year. The spike in counterfeit bills is due to the struggling economy, Lt. Alfonzo Cook of the Moultrie, Ga., detective division, told USA Today. More technologically advanced printers and scanners make the bills easier to duplicate, the newspaper said. Police say counterfeiters use the fake bills for small purchases--such as $20 for gas and food. Counterfeiters also use the bills to pay for holiday gifts. The holidays are a great time to use counterfeit bills because cashiers are overwhelmed, said John Large, Secret Service special agent. For the full article, use the link.

Survey 40 of CUs cut 09 marketing budgets

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TEMPE, Ariz. (12/30/08--Forty percent of credit union marketing professionals surveyed are seeing slight decreases in their marketing budgets for 2009, according to a new study. However, 30% said their 2009 marketing budgets will increase, while another 30% indicated their budgets will stay the same, according to a panel of Credit Union Marketing University alumni. The credit unions, mostly community-charter credit unions, ranged in assets from $45 million to $800 million. Of those surveyed, 40% mentioned their marketing budgets will be over 0.20% of assets. In prior surveys, most community charter credit unions indicated budgets of at least 0.20% to 0.30% of assets. Respondents indicated their marketing focus for 2009 included:
* Growing relationships with existing members; * Using an ‘expanded field of membership’ to acquire deposits and youth accounts; * Increasing brand awareness in the community; communicating that the credit union serves everyone; * Explaining the safety of deposits and stability of the credit union; * Getting new deposits and deepening the relationship with existing members and increasing walletshare; * Opening a new office; * Continuing focus on membership, loans, core deposits and relationship; and * Growth/ member intimacy.

CUs loan helps organic grocery in credit crunch

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SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (12/30/08)—A Santa Cruz, Calif.-based organic grocery market got caught in the Wall Street credit crunch when its bank could no longer extend its credit line for an expansion. But Santa Cruz Community CU stepped in to help. Scott Roseman and Rex Stewart, co-owners of New Leaf Community Markets, were midway through a major expansion of their grocery business when Wall Street imploded (The Mercury News Dec. 27). Its regular lenders could not provide cash they needed to finish their new Westside store and to remodel its downtown store. However, the $72.1 million asset Santa Cruz Community CU provided the bridge loan. As a result, the grocers completed a $1 million remodeling on time and on budget, and its new store will open by March 1, ahead of a large competitor’s store. The markets generated $33 million in revenue and with the opening last June of a store in Half Moon Bay, its work force expanded to 330 from 225, with 20 more expected in the Westside store. New Leaf had two setbacks during the year. In May, Canada’s largest natural foods retailer, Planet Organic, pulled back on its offer to buy New Leaf for $9.8 million. The sale would have provided cash for the expansion. Comerica backed the market, but sales were so good, the market didn’t need to borrow for the expansion. In October, Wall Street imploded and Comerica hit a ceiling on how much it could bump up the grocery’s credit lines. Instead, the credit union provided the loan, with the help of a partial guaranty by California Coastal Rural Development Co. Frank Nuciforo, the credit union’s director of lending, told the newspaper that New Leaf was an “excellent and extremely well-managed company. Their expansion plans have been well thought out and their locations are consistently profitable.”

CU System briefs (12/29/2008)

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* BILOXI, Miss. (12/30/08)--The board of directors at Biloxi-based Keesler FCU announced a $3.5 million bonus dividend to be divided among its members at the beginning of the new year. It will be paid based on year-to-date dividends on deposits for members of record as of tomorrow. Last year, at about the same time, the board also approved a $3.5 million dividend (SunHerald.com Dec. 27) … * HUNT VALLEY, Md. (12/30/08)--Chester E. “Chet” Barton, a board member of Point Breeze CU, died Dec. 21 as a result of a massive heart attack, according to the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association. Barton served on the $650 million asset credit union’s board since 1987, and he was treasurer for 21 years. He most recently served on the Finance, Compensation and Incentive Plan committees (FOCUS Newsletter Dec. 29) … * CHESAPEAKE, Va. (12/30/08)--Simone Nolin Huerta, former manager of the Norfolk, Va., branch of Chesapeake-based IBEW Local 80 CU, died Dec. 25 at the age of 72. She served in that position for 33 years. Survivors include her husband; four children; three grandchildren; a brother and a sister (The Virginian-Pilot Dec. 28) …

CNBC.com column Expect a rush to join CUs

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NEW YORK (12/30/08)--A columnist for CNBC.com predicts that 2009 will bring a rush to join credit unions. Consumers will “flock to credit unions where they truly are more than three digits and a credit report,” according to John Ulzheimer, a contributor for CNBC’s “On the Money.” Ulzheimer listed 10 items in a recent column that the new year will bring for consumer credit. He listed credit unions as No. 2. “Little or no exposure to subprime mortgages, no shareholders to impress every three months and plenty of money to lend seems like a trifecta to me,” Ulzheimer said. “Add to that the same level of insurance for your deposits and overall better treatment of their members compared to that of the large banks and this is a slam dunk,” he added. To read the full article, use the link.

Letter Article overlooks best FI option--CUs

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VERO BEACH, Fla. (12/30/08)--The director of marketing at Indian River FCU, Vero Beach, Fla., responded to a recent newspaper article that he says overlooks consumers’ best financial institution option--credit unions. Marc Camelleri recently wrote to the Treasure Coast Palm noting that its Dec. 19 article, “Bad loans driving down banks’ ratings” overlooked Indian River FCU as an option. The credit union recently scored a “4” on a rating report from Bauer Financial, which was higher than the other Treasure Coast financial institutions mentioned in the article, Camelleri said. Indian River FCU’s nonprofit status helps members save money with low rates on loans and fewer fees. The credit union also is trustworthy, because it “exists solely to serve our members,” he added. To read the letter, use the link.

AARP names Eakes to Ten Who Inspire list

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WASHINGTON (12/30/08)--Martin Eakes, president/CEO of Self-Help CU in Durham, N.C., was recently named to AARP’s “Ten Who Inspire” list. The list includes:
* Actress Glenn Close, mental health advocate; * Alma Powell, children’s advocate; * Katherine Freund, transportation advocate; * Musician Quincy Jones, global poverty fighter; * Rose Nakamura, compassionate caregiver; * Eakes; * Actor Peter Gallagher, Alzheimer’s activist; * David E. Hayes-Bautista, Ph.D, Latino health researcher; * Richard Cohen, voice for the chronically ill; and * Susan Love, M.D., cancer crusader.
Eakes was noted for his work at Self-Help, which serves low-income individuals. AARP said the credit union has a default rate of less than 1%. “If I have a choice between making a loan to a rich person or one to a poor person, solely on grounds of credit risk, I’ll pick a poor person every time,” Eakes told AARP in its January issue. “They simply take care of their debts better.” Eakes started the credit union in 1984. Since then, it has provided more than $5 billion in loans to homeowners, non profits and small businesses. He led a fight for the state’s anti-predatory lending law in 1999 as founders for the Center for Responsible Lending, and has warned federal legislators that poor financial practices would trigger foreclosures. He is currently working to make sure the subprime meltdown doesn’t hurt those most at risk. “We’ve got proof that families of limited financial means will be incredibly great borrowers if given the chance,” Eakes told the magazine. To read the full AARP article, use the link.

U.S. Central corporates in good company on ratings

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WASHINGTON (12/29/08)--U.S. Central has joined a host of financial institutions receiving substantial credit rating downgrades in recent days. Moody’s Investor Services announced last week that it downgraded U.S. Central’s long-term debt rating to A1 and placed the wholesale liquidity provider’s long- and short-term debt on review for further possible downgrades. Among U.S. financial institutions, U.S. Central is far from alone in seeing its ratings reduced amid the historic dislocation in global credit markets. Just last week, Standard & Poor’s issued multiple downgrades for several large global banks, ranging from Bank of America and Citibank to Goldman Sachs and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Conversely, U.S. Central remains just one of three depository institutions rated at AA+, now the highest rating S&P bestows on any U.S. financial institution, U.S. Central said.. Moody’s action last Monday targeted growing unrealized losses that have emerged on U.S. Central’s balance sheet. The losses stem from the declining market values of debt securities, primarily mortgage-backed securities, in its investment portfolio. However, Moody’s acknowledged that those unrealized losses considerably overstate potential real losses. While a small portion of U.S. Central’s securities may not pay off completely, and therefore represent a realized loss, the only way that the bulk of the unrealized losses will become realized is if U.S. Central sells securities in the current weakened market. U.S. Central repeatedly has emphasized it does not intend take such action. “The vast majority of the securities owned in our portfolios continue providing consistent cash flow in the form of regularly scheduled principal and interest payments,” said Francis Lee, CEO of U.S. Central. “We continue to put these bonds through ongoing rigorous analytics to determine that we are still ‘money-good.’ ” For its part, U.S. Central agreed with Moody’s on the nature of losses in its investment portfolio, stating that it believes “economic losses will be much less severe than current unrealized losses.” Those unrealized losses, of course, could reverse if the market value of securities rebound, it said. At the same time, U.S. Central likely will declare additional “other-than-temporary-impairments (OTTI)” in coming months on those securities that are not expected to pay off completely. These charges will have the effect of reducing earnings and regulatory capital. The likelihood of such impairments contributed to Moody’s downgrades, U.S. Central said. “We have told our members that we are likely to experience realized losses in our portfolio in 2008,” Lee said. “Based on our analysis and on that of third party experts, we believe that any OTTI will be manageable in relation to current earnings and retained earnings, but we’re still finalizing our assessments.” U.S. Central noted that 82.2% of its investment securities portfolio remain rated AAA or AA. It has managed to maintain that high level of quality despite the narrowing availability of debt securities boasting those ratings, it said. Since the credit crisis began in mid-2007, ratings agencies have downgraded more than 50,000 residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), representing more than half of all RMBS issued between 2005 and 2007. Prior to 2005, there were typically less than 500 downgrades in a year. Several corporates also received ratings actions last week. WesCorp was one of two corporate entities with long-term debt ratings that were reviewed. “There is no immunity from the current market dislocation,” said Jim Hayes, WesCorp senior vice president and chief financial officer, when the ratings were announced Dec. 22. “Today’s action further illustrates the continuing devaluation that all financial institutions are experiencing in their portfolios.” Hayes noted that 100% of the securities in WesCorp’s portfolio were government-backed or were rated AAA or AA, the two highest rating categories, at the time of purchase. Moody’s acknowledged that WesCorp’s securities portfolio is of “relatively high quality.”

U.S. Centrals November net income at 32.8 million

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LENEXA, Kan. (12/29/08)—U.S. Central announced it had recorded net income of $32.8 million for November, bringing its year-to-date earnings to $108.7 million. However, Treasury plans and fears about the economy and overall market illiquidity have affected market pricing of its assets, it said last week. Members’ share and certificate accounts averaged $24.5 billion during November, compared with $36.4 billion in November 2007, according to U.S. Central’s monthly financial statement posted Dec. 19. Net interest income totaled $39.1 million in November, compared with $37 million in October. Fed funds/LIBOR spreads were again historically wide in November and were the primary reason for the high net interest income total, said the report by Kathryn E. Brick, senior vice president and chief financial officer. Net losses on financial instruments totaled $1.4 million for the month, primarily as a result of gains paid to members on the redemption of member certificates. Also, U.S. Central reclassified securities with a fair value of $145.2 million from trading to available-for-sale ($124.7 million) and held-to-maturity ($20.5 million). As of Nov. 30, accumulated other comprehensive income (AOCI) on the balance sheet reflected an unrealized loss of $5.6 billion, up from $4.6 billion a month earlier. The announcement that the Treasury Department would no longer plan to purchase mortgage-related assets under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), coupled with continued fears about the U.S. economy and overall market illiquidity, caused spreads on these assets to widen significantly, resulting in a decline in fair value of approximately $650 million, the report said. Securities backed by credit card receivables, auto loans and student loans also experienced spread widening, which accounted for the remainder of the AOCI change.

Pennsylvania CUs report strong third-quarter growth

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/29/08)--Pennsylvania’s credit unions reported growth in earnings, membership and loans for the period ending Sept. 30. The Pennsylvania Profile Third Quarter 2008 indicates that despite the recession, loans for the state’s credit unions grew 7.5% in the 12 months preceding Sept. 30, compared with the national growth rate of 7.1% (Life is a Highway Dec. 23). Loans totaled $17.1 billion-- up from $1 billion in September 2007. Loan delinquencies and chargeoff rates also edged up the past year. Pennsylvania credit unions continued to grow in member business loans--by 5% from third quarter 2007 and nearly 30% for the 12 months ending Sept. 30. The 30% figure is nearly double the national rate of 18.4% for that period. Credit unions in Pennsylvania experienced 18.2% growth in first mortgages, which compares with 15.8% in mortgage growth nationwide. Used-auto loans grew 7%, compared with a 4.4% growth nationwide over 2007. The savings growth rate for the period was 8%, compared with 5.8% nationally, largely due to growth in certificates (12.5% compared with a 3.9% national growth) and individual retirement accounts (13% growth for the state’s credit unions and 8.9% for credit unions nationwide). The movement gained 29,000 members in Pennsylvania during the year ending Sept. 30, and all asset categories posted new member growth.

CUNA Mutual to end retiree medical benefits subsidy

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MADISON, Wis. (12/29/08)--A shaky economy and its impact on balance sheets has led to cutbacks in companies’ medical benefits programs for retirees. CUNA Mutual will end its subsidy of retiree medical benefits effective Jan. 1--a decision that will affect 1,000 retirees. The insurance company is one of two in Madison that recently announced such measures. The subsidy currently provided by CUNA Mutual covers 50% of retirees’ medical coverage premium, the company said.. CUNA Mutual will provide a lump sum payment to retirees equal to two years of the company subsidy to help them through the transition. Retirees can still purchase group medical plans through the company, but will have to bear the full premium costs. CUNA Mutual said it regrets having to cut the benefit. The health subsidy represents $100 million on the company’s balance sheet. “That is simply too much for a company of our size in these uncertain economic times,” Rick Uhlmann, CUNA Mutual senior manager of media relations, told News Now. “This very difficult decision is one of several actions we are taking to retain appropriate levels of capital and thus our strong financial ratings. Ultimately, it's a decision that is being made in the best interest of our 400,000 policyholders during this economic downturn,” he added.

Legacy Community CU discusses CU difference in media

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (12/29/08)--Despite a turbulent economy, First Legacy Community CU, Charlotte, N.C., recently changed to a community charter, added a new branch, and is seeking an expansion to a new location. Saundra Scales, president/CEO of the credit union, recently discussed her credit union’s charter change, success and the credit union difference with The Charlotte Observer Dec. 21. First Legacy was originally chartered as School Workers FCU to serve black teachers in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg area. In September 2006, the credit union opened to anyone who lives, works, attends school or worships in the 10-county area around Charlotte. “We felt that we were missing out on a lot of people who wanted credit,” Scales told the Observer. After the change, the credit union averaged 100 new members in the first month, compared with 30 or 40 previously. The difference between First Legacy and a bank--besides offering better rates on loans and higher dividends--is in developing relationships with members, which minimizes defaults, she said. The economic downturn has affected First Legacy’s loan delinquencies--0.75% of 1%, compared with half of 1% previously—but it is overall very healthy, Scales said. Many of First Legacy’s members do not have 600 to 700 credit scores, so the credit union looks beyond the scores when lending. A member’s rental history, utility payments, and job stability are taken into consideration, Scales said. The credit union also offers financial counseling, she added. During her work as president/CEO, Scales said she has learned that credit unions need to understand their target market to be successful. They also need to be responsive. “I can’t change the world but I’m maybe able to influence one person at a time,” she told the newspaper.

Grant brings Culture of Savings to Latino Community

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DURHAM, N.C. (12/29/08)--Latino Community Credit Union (LCCU) has earned a $60,000 Innovation Grant from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) to create a “Culture of Savings” throughout a state with one of the fastest-growing Latino populations. In North Carolina, the Latino population has surged to over 600,000 from 22,000 in 1990. LCCU estimates that 80% of Latinos in North Carolina are unbanked--twice the national average for Latinos. Their per-capita income of $8,650 is less than half of other North Carolina households, and their average household net worth of $8,000 is less than one-tenth of white families.
A graduate of Latino Community Credit Union’s financial education course makes his first savings deposit. (Photo provided by the National Credit Union Foundation)
“Creating a culture of savings is critical for the Latino population,” emphasized LCCU CEO Luis Pastor. “Our Culture of Savings initiative will educate LCCU members as well as create a vital program that can be a model for other organizations to follow.” Latino families tend to be younger than the rest of the U.S. population, so they may be more responsive to financial education. LCCU’s membership reflects this trend, with an average age of 34, compared with the national average credit union membership age of 47. “We plan to develop and pilot three projects targeting three distinct age groups,” explained LCCU Financial Education Director Erika Bell. “Our hope is that by influencing multiple generations, this will instill and perpetuate a culture of savings. The projects will get everyone involved in and learning about the concept of savings, and will include monetary awards through long-term share term certificates.” Primary goals are to increase the number of savings accounts and the amount of savings for children, youth, and adults. “The implementation of this Culture of Savings initiative beginning in 2009 is particularly crucial,” Pastor said, “because we are planning to open three new branches and expand our financial education program. By implementing this initiative now, we will be able to attract, educate, and retain new members.” LCCU currently has seven branches throughout North Carolina. Chartered with just 500 members in the year 2000, LCCU has grown to serve over 50,000 members--95% are Latino; 97% are low-income, and 70% were previously unbanked. “The credit union can create opportunities for young families in this target population,” Pastor concluded. “Providing financial education in conjunction with access to affordable financial services, helping to create credit histories, and building toward homeownership are necessary steps to improve their lives.” This is the 11th of 14 Innovation Grants approved by NCUF in 2008. Innovation Grants are made possible by members of corporate credit unions who invest in the Community Investment Fund (CIF).

CU System briefs (12/26/2008)

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* RICHMOND, Va. (12/29/08)--Chris Saneda, senior vice president and chief information officer for Virginia CU, Richmond, has been selected as one of IDG Computerworld’s Premier 100 Information Technology Leaders for 2009. Saneda has been with Virginia CU since 2007. Computerworld’s Premier 100 IT Leaders Awards Program honors executives who show exemplary technology leadership in resolving pressing business problems. Virginia CU has $1.6 billion in assets. (Photo provided by Virginia CU) ... * RALEIGH, N.C. (12/29/08)--On Dec. 19, State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) unveiled its 1,000th Cash Points ATM in Lizard Lick, N.C. SECU chose Lizard Lick as its landmark ATM site for the unique name and history of the community. SECU constructed a special themed ATM featuring a giant lizard replica and a commemorative plaque marking the milestone. Town officials, including Lizard Lick “Mayor” Charles Wood and Wendell Town Commissioner Sid Baynes attended the ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon. Baynes, Wood, and SECU Board of Directors Chairman Shirley Bell addressed those in attendance. From left are: SECU Advisory Board members Lou Ann Cooke, Felisa Parker, Dale McLeod; SECU Vice President Kim Canipe; SECU Board of Directors’ Chairman Shirley Bell; Wood; SECU Facilities Services employees Vice President Dot Hinton and Specialist Ben Falk; Baynes, who is also and SECU Advisory Board member; and SECU Advisory Board members Dyke Hostettler and Beth Barham. (Photo provided by State Employees’ CU) ... * SALT LAKE CITY (12/29/08)--Mountain America CU was recognized as one of the best companies to work for by Utah Business magazine. The magazine noted Mountain America’s First Day Lunch. Since new employees may be nervous on their first day at work, the credit union provides lunch hosted by a member of the executive staff. During these lunches, senior staff members share their stories of career success from within the company to motivate and support the new employees. Mountain America has more than $2.8 billion in assets ... * KANSAS CITY, Mo. (12/29/08)--Bob Ziegler, a former Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) board chairman and long-time leader in the Kansas City Credit Union Chapter, died Dec. 19. He was 79. Ziegler was CEO of American Enterprise CU, Liberty, Mo., from 1966 until he retired in 1991. The credit union later became Midwest United. Ziegler also served for about two decades on the MCUA Board of directors, including a term as board chairman in 1981-1982. He also served as a director for the Credit Union National Association, representing Missouri credit unions (The Missouri difference Dec. 24) ...

CUNAs Small CU Committee offers free white paper

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MADISON, Wis. (12/29/08)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Small Credit Union Committee’s newly published free white paper, “Managing Through Tough Times,” is now available on CUNA’s website. Small credit union professionals are often stretched thin, so the committee decided to detail some of the operational issues it had been discussing in the paper. The paper may be of interest to large credit unions too, the committee said. The paper was a collaborative effort, said committee chair and CUNA Board member Pat Wesenberg. Wesenberg is CEO of Point Plus CU, Stevens Point, Wis. “Our committee spends a great deal of time talking about small credit union challenges and what might be done from a regulatory perspective,” she said. “But we also keep a close watch on small credit union financial results, and it's certainly obvious that many are feeling the strain of the current market turmoil.” Wesenberg noted recently released National Credit Union Administration data show that credit unions with less than $35 million in assets recorded return on assets of 0.42%. “That’s down from 0.61% in 2007,” she said. “Perhaps more disturbing--recent results show that 23% of small credit unions were 'unprofitable' [with negative return on assets]. That's up from 14% in 2007.” To read the paper, use the link.

Central CU Fund Foundation names trustees

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WARRENVILLE, Ill. (12/26/08)--The Central Credit Union Fund Foundation, which services former credit unions of The Central Credit Union Fund and other credit unions in Massachusetts, announced its board of trustees. Officers for this year are:
* Chairperson Barry F. Crosby, president/CEO, Freedom CU, Springfield, Mass.; * Vice Chairperson Debbie C. Guiney, president/CEO, AllCom CU, Worcester, Mass.; * Treasurer Daniel E. Waltz, president/CEO, Southern Mass CU, Fairhaven, Mass.; and * Secretary Ann. M. Theberge, CEO/treasurer/manager, Plymouth County Teachers FCU, West Wareham, Mass.
Other trustees include:
* C. David Surface, president/CEO, St. Jean’s CU, Salem, Mass.; * Richard E. Wright, treasurer/CEO, RTN FCU, Waltham, Mass.; and * Dirck C. Van Deusen, senior vice president, corporate relations, Members United Corporate FCU.
The foundation, established by Members United Corporate FCU, Warrenville, Ill., funds initiatives that support credit unions and their efforts to improve consumers’ financial well-being.

Louisiana CUs advocacy efforts set a record

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HARAHAN, La. (12/26/08)--The Louisiana Credit Union League’s (LCUL) Political Action Committee (PAC) is closing the books on its most successful year ever. LCUL PAC 2008 receipts total more than $100,000, a 12% increase from 2007 receipts. The Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC) will use the resources to contribute to and support state and federal officials that support the goals and priorities of the credit union movement. “We have soared past the goals that people thought were unreachable,” said Sidney Parfait, CULAC chairman, attributing the efforts to hard work by CULAC representatives in each chapter and individuals in credit unions. All nine chapters exceeded their goals for the year by holding fundraisers and special events. League President/CEO Anne Cochran commended the volunteers, professionals and members for supporting the credit union movement. “Thanks to the exceptional efforts we have been able to support credit union friendly candidates at the state and federal level,” she said.

CUs boost holiday spirit in tough times

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MADISON, Wis. (12/26/08)--On Monday, the Kyle family and the O’Hearn family, all members of Dort FCU in Flint, Mich., were taken by
Citadel FCU, Thorndale, Pa., provided the Chester County United Way with a check for $50,000 to help families during the holidays. (Photo provided by Citadel FCU)
Kansas City (Mo.) CU brought Santa Claus to the credit union to visit the young members. The credit union hosted a holiday party Dec. 6, where youth could get pictures taken with Santa. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association)
limousine to see what the credit union had given them for Christmas. Kara O’Hearn told WJRT-TV that she was “speechless” when she realized that the credit union was giving each family a new home--with the mortgage paid. Dort FCU provided the families with the homes, which a local contractor remodeled. The Kyles’ home is in Davison Township, while the O’Hearns will reside in Flint. The credit union chose the families from a pool of 100 applicants. In addition to receiving the home, both families must pay property taxes, household bills and attend homeowners counseling, the station said. Like Dort FCU, credit unions nationwide are helping their members and communities weather tough economic times by providing them with help during the holidays. Here are a few examples:
* LGE Community CU, Marietta, Ga. employees raised $35,097 with a matching donation from the credit union to help needy families; * Beaver Valley FCU, Beaver Falls, Pa., adopted a family. Employees and directors donated money to buy gifts for the family, and filled two large bins with food and paper goods (Life is a Highway Dec. 23); * GHS FCU, Binghamton, N.Y., collected children’s winter clothing and personal care items; * Health Care Family CU, Richmond Heights, Mo., decided to forego its annual Christmas party at a restaurant and donate the money to help build a specially adapted home for Specialist Scott West through the Missouri Homes For Our Troops Program (The Missouri difference Dec. 10); * Kent (Ohio) CU provided new shoes for 230 disadvantaged Portage County children in partnership with the Salvation Army; * Belco Community CU, Harrisburg, Pa., collected 6,200 bears and stuffed animals that will be distributed to families and children in need; * A-K Valley FCU, Lower Burrell, Pa., donated $3,000 to help families purchase food and gifts for the holiday season; * The Pittsburgh Chapter of Credit Unions raised $1,800 for Children’s Miracle Network at its annual Christmas party; * Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif., is sponsoring holiday food and toy donation programs at all of its Bay Area branch locations; * Altura CU, Riverside, Calif., held a food drive at all of its branches; * Northeast CU, Portsmouth, N.H., gave $4,550 to the New Hampshire Food Bank. The check total was based on donating $25 for every employee, volunteer and board member; * Lakeview FCU, Ashtabula, Ohio, donated $5,000 to a local food bank; * Community Trust CU, Gurnee, Ill., donated $1,000 to the toy fund for the annual George Watson Memorial Rotary Children’s Christmas party; *Andrews FCU, Suitland, Md., provided $3,000 in gift cards to service members and their families at the Andrews AFG Fisher House. The house is a place for families and patients to live while receiving medical treatment at the Malcolm Grow Medical Center; * The St. Louis Chapter of Credit Unions coordinated the Warners’ Warm-Up effort to provide winter coats to low-income residents. The credit unions collected more than $2,000 in donations (The Missouri difference Dec. 3); * The Texas Credit Union League is offering its Adopt-a-Family program to help needy families. The league posted profiles of credit union families who need adopting on its website (LoneStar Leaguer Nov. 21); * The Credit Union Mortgage Alliance (CUMAnet) donated to Homes For Our Troops instead of sending cookies, candy and other gifts; * IC FCU, Indiana, Pa., sold its IC Cookbook with employees’ recipes to raise money for local families. All proceeds benefited Ginny’s Helping Hand, which helps low-income families; and * Heartland CU, Madison, Wis., in partnership with NBC 15 and Second Harvest Food Bank, will provide 131,300 meals to needy residents because of fundraising efforts at Madison-area credit unions.

N.C. league letter to editor on CU difference

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (12/26/08)--A letter to the editor from North Carolina Credit Union League President/CEO John Radebaugh sets the record straight in response to a banking association’s statement in an earlier article that large credit unions have grown beyond their original purpose. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Radebaugh’s letter. It was published in the Fayette Observer (Dec. 20) and was prompted by an article concerning Navy FCU’s expansion into Fayetteville, N.C. (Fayette Observer Dec. 16). In the original article, the North Carolina Bankers Association said large credit unions have grown beyond their original purpose and were masquerading as a “tax-free means of competition.” Radebaugh outlined credit unions’ not-for-profit structure, cooperative philosophy and their reason for existence--“to help their member-owners reach their financial goals. Meanwhile, banks are for-profit entities set up for the benefit of the shareholders who own them. “These key differences have been on display in the recent credit crisis,” Radebaugh said. “Some large banks recently received a taxpayer bailout for risky loans they made, and yet many of these same institutions have been curtailing lending to consumers. Meanwhile, credit unions have focused on lending to their members and have been a key source of credit to people unable to get loans from banks. They have done so with no taxpayer assistance,” he said.

IWall St. JournalI picks up CUNA comment on market

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NEW YORK (12/26/08)--The Wall Street Journal has picked up an article about the effects of the Federal Reserve’s rate cut on money-market funds. The article includes a comment by a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist. The Journal published the item on Monday. It originated with Dow Jones Newswires. In it CUNA senior economist Mike Schenk said other funds are nervous about breaking the buck. “They’re staying short term and avoiding credit risks. That’s driving yields down” beyond the effect of the last week’s Fed’s rate cut, he said. News Now reported on the original article last week.

Texas foundation disperses more than 1 million

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DALLAS (12/26/08)--The Texas Credit Union Foundation dispersed more than $1 million in grants, scholarships and programs during 2008. Nearly $400,000 of grants awarded went to provide specialized training for credit union professionals and allowed them to participate in community outreach initiatives to the unbanked and underserved, as well as deploy financial education in schools and communities. The foundation also provided more than $100,000 in free financial education training for teachers, community groups and credit unions. “These grants enable our credit unions to implement life-altering initiatives,” said Jill Pharr, executive director of the foundation. The foundation also dispersed $640,000 in emergency relief grants to nearly 1,000 credit union employees in Southwest Texas who suffered personal loss from Hurricane Ike, which struck Southeast Texas in September. “Many of these employees and their families literally lost everything but the clothes on their backs,” Pharr said. Since 2002, the foundation has awarded more than $4 million in grants to Texas credit unions and community organizations providing financial literacy.

LGFCU helps fire department with MBL

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (12/26/08)--Local Government FCU, Raleigh, N.C., provided a member business loan to the Swannanoa Volunteer Fire Department so it could purchase its first ladder truck, said the North Carolina Credit Union League. The loan also inspired the department’s firemen to join Local Government FCU, according to Fire Chief Anthony Penland. “Thirty-seven of our firefighters are members,” he said. “It’s just a great place to be.” It was much easier getting a loan with the credit union for the truck than it was with other financial institutions. “[At the other institution] we had to jump through a lot more hoops,” Penland said. “What a great loan, and what a great rate we got also.”

Swannanoa VFD Ladder Truck from Jeff Hardin on Vimeo. To see a video of Penland talking with the league about the loan, use the link.

Staatz Dzuris elected to CUNA Board

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MADISON, Wis. (12/23/08)--Rod Staatz, president/CEO of State Employees CU of Maryland, Linthicum, Md., and Pete Dzuris, CEO of Northland Area FCU, Oscoda, Mich., have been elected to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Board of Directors. Staatz will represent District 2, Class C credit unions. His opponent was Ron Collier, CEO of Indiana Members CU, Indianapolis. Dzuris will represent District 4, Class B credit unions. He ran against Bohdan Watral, president/CEO of Selfreliance Ukrainian American FCU, Chicago. The new board members will take office Feb. 27 for three-year terms to expire at the adjournment of the 2012 CUNA Annual General Meeting.

IAmerican BankerI notes CUs push for mortgages

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NEW YORK (12/23/08)--The American Banker reported that small to midsize credit unions and banks are pushing to boost their share of the mortgage market by taking applications online and training more staff to take applications at local branches during the economic downturn. Mark Wilburn, chief lending officer at 66 FCU, a $470 million asset credit union in Bartlesville, Okla., told the newspaper the credit union offers an online mortgage program because 70% of its members live more than 20 miles from any of its four branches (American Banker Dec. 22). He noted credit unions are making a big push into mortgages and now have 4.5% of the market, compared with 2% five years ago. This year, 66 FCU expects to originate $140 million in mortgages. Currently, it services under $500 million in loans, with another $125 million in its held-for-investment portfolio. 66 FCU installed several computers in the lounge area of its main branch, so potential borrowers could fill out applications there. Its completion rate is 50%--about 20% of the applications are denied and another 30% don’t make it to the closing stage.

CU System briefs (12/22/2008)

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* LIVONIA, Mich. (12/23/08)--Co-op Services CU has joined a consortium of more than 1,200 Midwest credit unions participating in the “Invest in America” campaign, a program offering cash discounts for credit union members from both Chrysler and General Motors as well as affordable financing on new vehicle purchases. The program includes all members in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Members will receive the GM Supplier Discount plus $250 cash on most new GM vehicles through Jan. 5. Chrysler’s program, “Credit Union Member Cash,” which runs through June 30, and offers rebates of $500 or $1,000 on eligible, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles. The Credit Union Member Cash rebates are also available in Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi … * BILLINGS, Mont. (12/23/08)—Two Montana-based credit unions plan to merge, pending state and federal regulator approval (Billings Gazette Dec. 11). If approved, the $58 million asset Summit CU of Billings, which is under new management after writing off $2.7 million in loans through September, would merge with the $135 million asset Avanta FCU, also located in Billings.(Billings Gazette Dec. 14). Avanta FCU President/CEO Rhonda Diefenderfer said the merger would lower expenses and enable the credit unions to offer diverse products and services. The remaining entity would keep the Avanta name … * HAVERHILL, Mass. (12/23/08)—The CEOs of Northeast Community CU and Haverhill Bank met Dec. 15 to sign documents sealing the merger of the credit union and the community bank (The Eagle-Tribune Dec. 18). CU Treasurer/CEO Peter DiBenedetto and bank President Thomas Faulkner met in Boston to officially complete the merger. All former credit union offices are operating under the Haverhill name. All branches will be closed on Jan. 10 to merge the two institutions’ computer files. The resulting bank will have roughly $260 million in assets … * CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (12/23/08)--Fort Campbell FCU, Clarksville, Tenn., announced that it will distribute a $1.5 million patronage dividend to its members (The Leaf-Chronicle Dec. 17). The credit union has distributed dividends totaling $5 million the past four years. Members will receive their share of the dividend based on the number of services each has and the amount of interest they pay on consumer loans. Fort Campbell FCU has $278.6 million in assets ... * ATLANTA (12/23/08)--CDC FCU, Atlanta, announced its participation in the “Buy and Build” mortgage program, which is a 203(k) streamline loan through the Federal Housing Administration. Homebuyers can finance up to an additional $30,000 on their mortgage to improve or upgrade their home before moving in. The product allows homebuyers to use the funds to pay for property repairs or improvements. Once the loan is written, homeowners have 90 days to complete the work. The loan has a low fixed rate for 30 years and the owner can put down a 3% down payment. CDC FCU has $163 million in assets ...

New Jersey league elects board officers (12/22/2008)

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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (12/23/08)--The New Jersey Credit Union League elected its board of directors for 2009 Dec. 15 with 56% of credit unions voting. All nine seats were up for election, the league said. This also was the first year credit unions could vote through the Internet (Weekly Exchange Dec. 15). The 2009 board for Tier A (credit unions under $25 million in assets) includes:
* Christina Olender, president/CEO, Parlin Dupont Employees FCU, Parlin, three-year term; * Tracy Sussman, president/CEO, Mid-State FCU, Carteret, two-year term; and * Calvin Jackson, manager, St. James AME FCU, Newark, one-year term.
Directors for Tier B (more than $25 million in assets) include:
* Shawn Gilfedder, president/CEO, McGraw-Hill Employees FCU, Hightstown, three-year term; * Lou Vetere, president/CEO, Garden Savings FCU, Parsippany, two-year term; and * Mike Reilly, president/CEO, Central Jersey FCU, Woodbridge, one-year term.
Tier C (at-large) directors include:
* Raymond Del Nero, president/CEO, Merck Employees FCU, Rahway, three-year term; * Leo Ardine, president/CEO, United Teletech Financial FCU, Red Bank, two-year term; * Steve Schlundt, president/CEO, Atlantic City Firemen’s FCU, Northfield, one-year term; and * Bob Steeves, president/CEO, Essex County Teachers FCU, one-year term.
Steeves and Schlundt are tied and that seat has yet to be decided, the league said.

Montana CUs offer alternatives to payday loans

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BILLINGS, Mont. (12/23/08)--Montana credit unions are teaming up to offer payday alternative loans to the state’s consumers, the Montana Billings-Gazette reported Monday. The Montana Credit Union Network recently partnered with Rural Dynamics Inc. to create Montana Credit Unions for Community Development. The program was designed to help low-wealth and underserved residents, said Tracie Kenyon, president/CEO of the network. Nine credit unions in the state offer the service and each credit union can create its own guidelines. Missoula FCU is offering 30-day loans up to $500 with a 12% interest rate. Application fees are $10. Park Side FCU, Whitefish, created a program that requires participants to take a financial stability class so they can open checking accounts and receive low-interest loans up to $300. Credit unions aren’t looking to profit from the loans, Kenyon said. They hope that the members using the payday loan alternatives will use other services as well. Many don’t realize that there are alternatives to payday loans. Credit unions need to help their members and consumers fill those needs, she added. Montana is seeking a 36% cap on the interest payday lenders charge, the newspaper said. Ninety percent of payday lending revenues are from fees charged to borrowers, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, the newspaper noted.

Texas Sunset Commission votes to continue TCUD

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (12/23/08)—The Texas Sunset Commission unanimously voted in favor of continuing the Texas Credit Union Department’s (TCUD) operations for 12 years during a final hearing on the issue last week. Commission members also voted in favor of an amendment, proposed by Rep. Dan Flynn and backed by the Texas Credit Union League, addressing two key league concerns: monetary fines and joint 990 filings (LoneStar Leaguer Dec. 17). The amendment strikes language that would have allowed TCUD to level monetary administrative penalties on credit unions. It also strikes language that would have removed TCUD’s authority to file joint 990s in the future. The commission also made a minor adjustment regarding providing member access to various types of credit union financial information at annual meetings. There was no dissent from the Sunset committee staff during the decision process, said TCUL.

IUSA TodayI Small FIs see more deposits from banks

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NEW YORK (12/23/08)--Credit unions are mentioned favorably in a USA Today article about smaller financial institutions receiving deposit inflows stemming from the problems of the nation’s larger banks. The nationwide newspaper reported that “as the top tier of the financial services industry faltered, small and regional banks, as well as credit unions, started seeing their cash deposits rise dramatically as nervous Americans shied away from big banks. And despite rampant headlines about a credit freeze and plunging housing market, they have even been writing more home loans this year than last year” (USA Today Dec. 22). Sebrina Verburgt, senior vice president of operations at United Heritage CU, Austin, Texas, told the newspaper that new members bearing cash are streaming into the $552 million asset credit union’s 11 branches. The deposits are from accounts at larger banks. In September, the credit union’s new checking accounts increased 52% from a year earlier. They also grew 35% in July and 43% in August. Verburgt, who said the increases were unprecedented, noted the account with the most growth offers an annual yield of 5.01%, compared with the nationwide average of 0.22% on bank checking accounts. USA Today also interviewed a United Heritage CU member, Clay Strange of Lakeway, Texas, who moved $20,000 into United Heritage from his money market account at Charles Schwab after reading that some money market funds were unstable. He told the newspaper he wanted his money in something that was “clearly insured.” The newspaper also interviewed Mina Worthington, CEO of Yakima Valley CU, a $240.9 million asset credit union based in Yakima, Wash. The credit union took in 433 new members in September, a 57% increase from a year earlier. It added 416 new members in October, a 22% increase. The balances on these accounts are higher, on average, she said. Washington is headquarters of Washington Mutual Bank, which became the largest bank failure in U.S. history. For the entire article, use the resource link.

Indiana leagueservicecorp take steps to help CUs

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INDIANAPOLIS (12/23/08)--The Indiana Credit Union League and its service corporation subsidiary are helping affiliated credit unions benefit financially and assisting with membership growth strategies. “Credit unions are working hard to deal with the impact of the economic downturn, while also seizing the opportunity for membership growth presented by the current financial services environment that consumers face,” said league President John McKenzie. “We have taken a number of extra steps to help Indiana’s credit unions meet financial challenges and pursue growth opportunities.” The league has:
* Announced a 2009 dues rebate of $93,570. “We are in a position, because of prior years’ successes, to operate next year at a deficit and provide a rebate to affiliated credit unions,” McKenzie said; * Launched a statewide advertising campaign titled “You Belong Here.” The campaign includes 129 billboards, 2,767 radio spots on 27 stations, and 1,195 spots on 16 network and seven cable TV stations; * Authorized financial assistance to help affiliates attend the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). Assistance will cover costs for 16 attendees, and one of the 16 scholarships will be funded by Indiana Members CU, Indianapolis; * Provided $1.5 million in incentives as part of a contract extension process for clients in the league’s Credit Union Card Center. The extensions included an aggregate reduced pricing of $400,000 for the group; and * Refunded excess premiums for CUCare group health insurance to credit unions--totaling $1.785 million. Another $1.5 million also will be refunded next year.
For more information about You Belong Here, use the link.

Louisiana CUs 3Q results strong

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HARAHAN, La. (12/23/08)--Louisiana credit unions experienced a 1% increase in assets in the third quarter--to $7.21 billion from $7.14 in June, the Louisiana Credit Union League said. Louisiana credit unions’ asset growth ratio is 9.86%, down from 12.46% in June. Net worth is 13.23%, up from 13.16% in June and higher than the national ratio of 11.18%. The statistics indicate the state’s credit unions are in a better position to ride out the economy, the league said. The total number of Louisiana credit unions is 234, down from 237 last year. The number of credit union branches increased by 1.6% to 433 as of June. Membership increased 0.8% in September to 1,139,995 members. Year-to-date membership growth is 2.08%, compared with 1.53% nationally. Other state-level results:
* Credit union loan growth is 7.25%, up from 5.71% in June; * Total loans increased to $4.46 billion from $4.35 billion; * Real estate loans increased 3.1% from June; * Delinquent real estate loans increased 18.3% from June 2008; * Net charge-offs are up 16% compared with last year; and * Louisiana credit unions’ yield on loans is 7.28%, compared with 6.60% nationally.
“In light of the current economic conditions and the future uncertainty, credit unions are being advised just to stay the course,” the league said.

Pa. CUs review personal finance resolutions

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/22/08)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) and the CEO from a Pennsylvania credit union reviewed personal finance resolutions for 2009 on Pennsylvania Newsmakers, which was filmed last week. Mike Wishnow, PCUA senior vice presidents of communications and marketing, and Ed Williams, CEO, Discovery FCU, Wyomissing, appeared on the show with host Dr. Terry Madonna, PCUA said (Life is a Highway Dec. 19). Wishnow and Williams reviewed five resolutions:
* Develop a written monthly and annual budget; * Establish a relationship with a credit union; * Review personal debt; * Develop a plan to save and invest; and * Teach children about finances.
The program, which is a part of PCUA’s monthly financial education sponsorship, will air Dec. 28 through Dec. 31 and on Jan. 3. For more information, use the link.

CUs for Kids gift cards order doubles from last year

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (12/22/08)--Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) announced Thursday that orders for Credit Unions for Kids gift cards more than doubled from last year. Credit unions can sell the gift cards to their members or any consumer while promoting their products and services. The average dollar amount on the cards ranges from $50 to $100. A portion of the sales benefits Children’s Miracle Network, a credit union-established charity benefiting children’s hospitals. The funds are used for new facilities, equipment, research programs and patient services. Gift cards are gaining popularity with all consumers, and more than 75% of consumers buy an average of three gift cards during the holidays, FSCC said. FSCC provides the credit union Shared Branch Network with more than 5,500 deposit-taking locations in the U.S. and overseas.

Survey reveals CU members preferences

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (12/22/08)--A recent survey by Coinstar, in partnership with Kelton Research, revealed some feedback from credit union and bank account holders regarding their preferences for financial institutions. Some of the answers contrast with long-held beliefs and practices of credit unions, said the Ohio Credit Union League (eLumination Dec. 17). The survey indicated:
* 42% of credit union members say they’d prefer a change of environment at their financial institutions, and would model the change on premium coffee shops or apparel stores known for personal shoppers and exceptional service; * 66% enjoy “personal touch” service, but 34% don’t want their credit unions to know them by name; * 68% of credit union account holders would rather stand in line for a teller than for an ATM; * 64% would take advantage of financial or related services not traditionally provided--including self-service coin counting, postal services and computer printing services; and * 46% say they have dreaded visiting their credit unions at some point.
Overall, bank customers and credit union members are satisfied with the experiences they receive when visiting their financial institution, according to the study. However, there are opportunities for financial institutions to better serve them in today's unpredictable banking environment. Credit unions should consider how the information revealed in this survey could be incorporated into their plans for 2009, the league said.

Connecticut league personally visits each member CU

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MERIDEN, Conn. (12/22/08)-- The Credit Union League of Connecticut’s management staff personally visited each member credit union in the past weeks to thank them for their membership, loyalty, and participation throughout 2008, offering holiday greetings, and hand delivering dues notices for 2009. It is imperative that credit unions strive to find a way to distinctively set themselves apart from the competition, Tony Emerson, president/CEO, said to credit unions. “The best way to accomplish this is through delivering great and memorable member service,” Emerson said. “In many cases, providing superior member service comes down to just good business, and may prove to be the only thing that sets an organization apart from the competition. “The league is no different,” he added. “We also must deliver this caliber of service to our member credit unions. First and foremost, we are a service organization.” In what was a transitional year for the league, broader communications, numerous innovative programs and services that garnered national attention, and more visibility within the state combined efforts to assist Connecticut credit unions in taking steps toward more successfully providing services and opportunities for their own members, the league said. Emerson and the management staff felt that the personal contact showed a deeper sense of appreciation sincerely felt by the league. “I can’t think of a more powerful way to thank someone for their loyalty than looking them in the eye and shaking their hand,” Emerson added. “It’s been a challenging year. Helping our affiliated credit unions grow and thrive is why the league is here. And by the same token, their loyalty is what gives us the strength and enthusiasm to continue moving forward.”

Video offers CUNA members advice on fin lit problems

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MADISON, Wis. (12/22/08)--Credit unions can provide quick financial literacy information and tips in the credit union lobby or at an outside event through a new continuous loop DVD from the Credit Union National Association. The Home & Family Finance Resource Center (HFFRC) DVD provides 25 short videos that discuss financial literacy issues, credit union products and services, and benefits of credit union membership. The videos, which were originally featured on the home page of the HFFRC, were compiled into a 41-minute continuous loop DVD. Topics include:
* Purchasing a vehicle--three transactions; * When times are tough your credit union can help; * Refinancing your mortgage; * Credit counselors can help balance the bills; * Use direct deposit and automatic transfers to simplify finances; * What to do when your arm is due; * Managing credit card debt; * Tap your home's equity; * Credit cards on campus; * How to prevent identity theft; * How to get a free credit report; * Buying a home; * Becoming creditworthy; * Build your best credit score; * Autos: new vs. used; * Getting a student loan; * Top 10 reasons to belong to a credit union; * Investing: dollar-cost averaging; * Guard your plastic cards; * Financing your new car; * Mortgages: prequalification vs. preapproval; * Phishing: don't take the bait; * Investing in an IRA; * Getting tax records organized; and * Money and travel.
For more information or to purchase online, use the link. To order by phone, call (800) 356-8010, press 3, and use the stock number as a reference.

CUNA Technology Council gives best of show award to Jwaala

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MADISON, Wis. (12/22/08)--The CUNA Technology Council presented its Best of Show Award to Jwaala for its MoneyTracker personal finance solution.
Members of the CUNA Technology Council present the Best of Show Award to Jwaala at the 2008 Bank Administration Institute’s Retail Delivery Conference in Orlando, Fla. From left: Rudy Pereira, chair of the CUNA Technology Council and senior vice president of operations and technology for Alliant CU, Chicago; Andrew Taylor, chief technology officer for Jwaala; Debbie Bianucci, president/CEO of the Bank Administration Institute; Kelly Dowell, business development director for Jwaala; and Jackie Buchanan, vice chair of the CUNA Technology Council and executive vice president and chief information officer for Genisys CU, Auburn Hills, Mich. (Photo provided by the Credit Union National Association)
The award was presented at the Bank Administration Institute’s (BAI) Retail Delivery Conference Nov. 18-20 in Orlando, Fla. MoneyTracker is a personal financial management application that enables online banking users to budget and track their accounts, spending habits, net worth, and other information. This solution can be added to any financial institution’s existing online banking solution. When announcing the Best of Show winner, Rudy Pereira, council chair and senior vice president of operations and technology for Alliant CU in Chicago, said he was impressed with Jwaala’s innovative products, including MoneyTracker. “With MoneyTracker, online banking applications can add an innovative personal financial management feature that members will find very useful and distinct from other online banking experiences,” he said. Kelly Dowell, Jwaala's director of business development said: “We feel we have a solution that can help credit unions of all sizes deliver something truly unique and valuable. Something that will not only improve member loyalty but something that can differentiate credit unions, all while fostering consumer financial literacy in a time of real need. The CUNA Technology Council's award lets us know that our vision of online banking is on target and shared by others throughout the credit union industry." Since 2001, the CUNA Technology Council has presented the Best of Show award to the exhibitor that demonstrates a commitment to delivering technology that will further the growth of products and services in the credit union marketplace. Vendors’ products are evaluated according to affordability, the benefit to credit unions and their members, a commitment to open standards, currently in use, and health of the company.

CU System briefs (12/19/2008)

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas (12/22/08)--Security Service FCU, San Antonio, Texas, collected more than one million pounds of food for the San Antonio Food Bank. From left are: Jessica Neal, Security Service FCU communications specialist; and Sarrich Scott and Sean Scott from a youth group from Calvary Hills Baptist Church. The group sorted the food during a 24-hour sort-a-thon at the San Antonio Food Bank. The credit union collected the food during a month-long drive in November. With 1 million pounds of food, the food bank will be able to provide about 1 million meals for thousands during the holidays and into next year, the credit union said. Security Service FCU has $4.6 billion in assets. (Photo provided by Security Service FCU) ... *
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (12/22/08)--CU Community CU adopted a second grade class at Boyd Elementary School for Christmas and provided gifts to the students. “It’s truly rewarding to be able to give to the children, especially those who may be in need,” said Mandy Shelton, CU Community CU loan officer. “They are just so appreciative of the smallest things, and the excitement on their little faces is enough to make anyone melt.” The credit union threw the students a Christmas party and the students had an opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and get their pictures taken. CU Community CU supports a different local charity each quarter. CU Community CU has $53 million in assets. (Photo provided by CU Community CU) ...

Christian Science Monitor Encourage use of CUs

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BOSTON (12/19/08)--The government should encourage the use of credit unions, the Christian Science Monitor said Thursday in an editorial piece titled, “A credit card where it’s due.” The Monitor also said the government should launch a thrift campaign for adults. And: “Now’s a good time for parents to teach children about thrift by giving them savings accounts,” the newspaper added. The Monitor’s op-ed piece was written in support of new credit card rules that were enacted Thursday by the Federal Reserve Board. One of the provisions of the rules aims to stop credit card companies from practicing universal default and make monthly statements easier to read, the newspaper said. For the full article, use the link.

Pa. Supreme Court reinstates community charter for CU

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/19/08)--The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Thursday reinstated Belco Community CU’s seven-county community charter for central Pennsylvania, reaffirming the Pennsylvania Department of Banking’s initial decision that was overruled in state court. In addition, the Supreme Court also remanded the case back to state court on a constitutional issue regarding the bankers’ rights to information contained in the credit union’s application and to public debate (Life is a Highway Dec. 18). "Throughout the litigation, there’s been a legal tug of war between the bankers’ desire to obtain information from Belco Community’s application and the credit union’s desire to maintain the confidentiality of information it deemed proprietary,” said Rick Wargo, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) executive vice president/general counsel. The issue will be addressed by the state court sometime next year. “This is a win for Belco Community CU and all Pennsylvania credit unions,” said Jim McCormack, PCUA president/CEO. “It’s unfortunate that this isn’t the end of the road on this matter. We will continue working with the Department of Banking as the case goes back to [state court].” PCUA staff is conducting further analysis on the ruling. The $268.6 million asset, Harrisburg, Pa.-based Belco Community CU; PCUA; Department of Banking; and bank parties presented oral arguments regarding the community charter to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on April 16.

NASCUS announces strengthening of state CU charters

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ARLINGTON, Va. (12/19/08)--Several state agencies recently signed a Regional Interstate Branching Agreement strengthening the state credit union charter’s ability to branch and serve members across state lines, National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS) Chairman George Reynolds (Georgia) announced Thursday. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee entered into the agreement to promote interstate commerce and cooperation on a reciprocal basis among state-chartered credit unions in the Southeast. Reynolds, senior deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, has made it a priority during his NASCUS chairmanship to bolster the state credit union charter’s ability to branch across state lines, NASCUS said. Other regions of the country are working on similar agreements and additional states are considering signing the Southeast agreement. “The signing of this agreement demonstrates state regulators’ commitment to strengthening the state charter and promoting opportunities for state credit union growth,” Reynolds said. “Federally chartered credit unions can branch without limitations, so it’s important to provide state-chartered credit unions with the parity to do the same.” The regional agreements are supplementary to the NASCUS’ Nationwide Cooperative Agreement for the Supervision of State-Chartered Credit Unions Operating in a Multi-State Environment, the document most state regulators use to facilitate interstate branching. NASCUS and state regulators are currently updating and revising the Nationwide Cooperative Agreement and facilitating the development of additional regional agreements.

Schenk tells paper what lower mortgage rates mean

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MADISON, Wis. (12/19/08)--A Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wednesday what lower mortgage rates will mean to consumers. The newspaper asked Mike Schenk, CUNA senior economist, how far he expects 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to fall during the next few weeks. “I don’t know about the next few weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see them down near 4.5%,” Schenk said. “That’s been a stated number. I think we are approaching about 5% on average, and I fully expect them to go lower yet.” Lower rates should help stimulate home building and buying, but if consumers are concerned about their job security and existing debt levels, then they are less likely to consider a big purchase, Schenk told the paper. Homeowners who can refinance will reap the biggest benefits of lower rates, he added. “If you tell me, ‘I can drop your monthly payment by $200,’ that will get my attention real fast,” Schenk said. Regarding the effect of lower rates on the foreclosure problem, Schenk told the paper, “Certainly lower rates will help in that regard.” As adjustable-rate mortgage reset, the rates won’t go up as high as people expected and might even drop in some instances. That, in turn, will allow more consumers to afford their monthly payments and remain in their homes, he added.

ICUL CUs give students 40 million in loans

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. and SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (12/19/08)--Thousands of Illinois college students can benefit this spring from $40.5 million in low-interest loans from eight Illinois credit unions. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) and the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) teamed up three months ago to offer $100 million in loans to students in a three-step deal. For the spring loan program, eight Illinois credit unions bought $40.5 million in securities issued by ISAC to finance loans for students. The Illinois credit unions are:
* Alliant CU, Chicago; * Baxter CU, Vernon Hills; * Citizens Equity First CU, Peoria; * Corporate America Family CU, Elgin; * Credit Union 1, Rantoul; * I.H. Mississippi Valley CU, Moline; * Motorola Employees CU, Schaumburg; and * Scott CU, Collinsville.
An additional $20 million will be made available in March for students attending schools on the quarter system who need funds for the spring quarter. The economic downturn and lack of liquidity, combined with rising tuition and textbook costs, have forced college students nationwide to question the affordability of the spring 2009 semester, ISAC said. “When private lenders turned their backs on Illinois students, these Illinois credit unions stood tall,” said Andrew Davis, ISAC executive director. “While college students across the nation will spend their holidays wondering if they can return to campus in January, Illinois students can focus on enjoying some family time and preparing for their spring classes.” “We view this as an investment in the state’s workforce and in strong communities,” said Dan Plauda, ICUL president/CEO.

CUNA Annual Survey to be sent to CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (12/19/08)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Annual Survey will be mailed out to all U.S. credit unions at the start of January. This year CUNA has added a special question on back office services that should enable it to help credit unions to find more sources for the services. The survey is used to track new trends in credit union service offerings not covered by the National Credit Union Administration 5300 Call Report. “It is our only source of information on the number of groups in credit union fields of membership,” said Marc Shafroth, CUNA director of data and statistics. “This year we have added a section to help us answer the frequently asked question: How many members join credit unions each year and how many leave? From the 5300, we only know the net gain.” The survey allows CUNA to answer questions from the public, government agencies and elected officials. It can be completed on the Web. Use the link. “The time required to complete the survey should be under 15 minutes,” Shafroth said. “We hope that you will be able to spare this time and this way help the movement collect the information it needs to prosper.” If you have any questions about the survey please contact Marc Shafroth at 608-231-4182 or mail mark.

REAL FCU Royal CU merger will create 1 billion-asset CU

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (12/19/08)--A merger between Edina, Minn.-based REAL Financial CU and Royal CU in Eau Claire, Wis., will result in a $1 billion-asset credit union serving 120,000 members. The merger is expected to be completed by Dec. 31. The credit union will have 14 branches and will be ranked as the sixth largest credit union in the two-state area. REAL will continue to operate under its brand name while operations are merged into RCU over the next year. REAL members will experience no operating changes in the immediate future, and no staff reductions are expected, according to Charles Grossklaus, RCU CEO. Dan Wickstrom, REAL’s current CEO, will continue to oversee REAL branches as regional manager. RCU will offer REAL’s members new products and services early next year. RCU will be able to use REAL’s 30 Twin Cities-area shared financial service centers in the second half of 2009, Grossklaus said. REAL’s board and leadership have been considering a merger for two years. “Our realtor members were on the frontline of the housing market crisis,” Wickstrom said. “They were the first to telegraph the drop in housing transactions and their incomes.” The $30 million-asset REAL serves employees of firms affiliated with the Minnesota Association of Realtors and members of the Western Wisconsin Realtors and their families. REAL has incurred $2.5 million in unpaid loans since 2006 due to members’ declining incomes. “RCU sees great value and opportunity in the realtor markets in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Wickstrom said. RCU has $909 million in assets.

Hampel to AP Credit cards less responsive to market

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WASHINGTON (12/19/08)--The Federal Reserve cut interest rates this week, but credit card companies may not necessarily do the same, because they are not as responsive to the market, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told The Associated Press Wednesday. Because more is left to the issuer’s discretion, credit card rates usually are less responsive to changes in market interest rates than rates for home mortgages and auto loans, Bill Hampel, CUNA chief economist, told the news agency. One reason is “floor” rates--pre-determined points below which issuers won’t let the interest rate drop, regardless of how low the prime rate falls--which are usually embedded in the fine print of card agreements, the news agency noted. If a card’s rate is based on prime plus 5%--for example--with a designated floor of 10%, the card’s rate would not drop below 10%, even if the prime rate fell below 5%, the news agency said.

WOCCU calls for distinguished service award nominees

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MADISON, Wis. (12/19/08)--The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has issued a call for nominations for the Distinguished Service Award (DSA), the highest honor bestowed by the international credit union system. Nomination forms are due March 2. DSA recognizes the global credit union movement's most distinguished achievements. The award is given to individuals and organizations that have offered exemplary service to the credit union movement and its practices. The DSA honor is not given every year; its presentation is governed by the viability and worthiness of candidates by award judges. All presentations are made at WOCCU's World Credit Union Conference, this year scheduled for July 26-29 in Barcelona, Spain. “I encourage global credit union leaders to search within their own credit union communities to see if they have candidates who have distinguished themselves while serving the needs of others,” said Ron Hance, chairman of WOCCU's awards committee, a member of its board of directors and president/CEO of Heritage Family CU in Rutland, Vt. “DSA offers a wonderful opportunity to showcase one's past credit union achievements among his or her peers,” he added. Recipients may be WOCCU and member organization officers, directors or representatives; international credit union pioneers; field technicians with a long and outstanding service record; or persons whose actions have benefited global credit union development. No more than three individual awards may be presented in a single year. Institutional recipients may be organizations or agencies that have provided financial and technical assistance to develop international credit union movements and their service infrastructures over an extended period of time. No more than one institutional award may be granted each year.

CU System briefs (12/18/2008)

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* ALBANY, N.Y. (12/19/08)--Sam Cardino, a former leader of the Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY), died Sunday. He became active in the credit union movement in 1946 by serving on the credit committee of Holy Angels FCU. In 1979, Cardino joined Erie County Employees CU and was elected to its board. In 1981, he became a Buffalo Chapter Council member. Cardino was then elected to CUANY’s board in 1990, where he served until 2001. He was awarded Outstanding Volunteer of the Year, and served with the New York Credit Union Foundation and CUANY’s governmental affairs and auditing committees. Cardino also chaired the Credit Union Legislative Action Council/Credit Union Political Action Council for New York. (Photo provided by the Credit Union Association of New York) ... * ATLANTA (12/19/08)--CDC FCU volunteers “camped out” for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Dec. 8 as a part of the credit union’s community service program, “Because We Care.” CDC FCU brought a camp experience to children in the hospital, providing arts, crafts and activities for patients and families. “The event shows that the main focus remains around the children and their families during a time of need in their life,” said Andy Anderson, CDC FCU marketing services manager. “We look forward to maintaining an ongoing relationship with Children’s in the coming years.” ... * MIRAMAR, Fla. (12/19/08)--About 50 volunteers from Eastern Financial Florida CU and Miramar Glades Middle School gave a makeover to one of the foster care cottages at His House Children’s Home in Opa-Locka, Fla. The credit union adopted House 30 and raised money for the project. Volunteers worked Dec. 6 to transform the basic living quarters into living space. The makeover provided a new paint job, new beds, dressers, couches, window treatments and kitchen appliances. Portraits of the cottage’s residents were framed and hung on the walls. Eastern Financial CU, Miramar, has $2 billion in assets ... * SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (12/19/08)--San Bernardino School Employees FCU is asking students for their help to launch a youth Web page for the credit union. High school and college students 21 years of age and younger can submit a design for the page (The Press-Enterprise Dec. 10). The winner will receive $500, and the design will be used for one year ...

CU System briefs (12/17/2008)

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* NILES, Mich. (12/18/08)--Two men convicted of robbing Berrien Teacher’s CU in Niles, Mich., were sentenced Friday. Travis Lamar Curry, 21, will serve 7 years in prison while Glenn Maurice Porter, 22, will serve 12 years. Both are from Elkhart, Ind. The two men robbed the credit union Jan. 18 with Deverance Kimbrough (States News Service Dec. 12). Porter and Kimbrough entered the credit union with handguns and fired at the credit union’s security guard, who fired back. Both Porter and Kimbrough were wounded and fled in a stolen car with Curry. Kimbrough died from his wounds ... * WHITTIER, Calif. (12/18/08)--Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal) awarded $33,600 in grants through the 2008 Student Impact Grant program. The $300 grants were given to 112 Southern California teachers in 26 school districts. Each fall, local teachers in eligible schools can apply for the grants by describing the activity the grant would be used for and judging the impact it would have on students. CU SoCal has $541 million in assets ... * CAMDEN, S.C. (12/18/08)--William Duncan Corbett, 87, founding member of May Plant CU in Lugoff, S.C., died Monday (The State Dec. 17). Corbett was a former DuPont employee and a U.S. Army World War II veteran ...

CDCU wins national community impact award

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (12/18/08)--Syracuse, N.Y.-based Cooperative FCU (Cooperative Federal) was awarded a 2008 Wachovia NEXT Award, according to the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. Cooperative Federal was one of six award recipients. The awards were presented at the 2008 Opportunity Finance Network Conference in Albuquerque, N.M. The award also includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. “I commend Cooperative Federal for winning this award in a very spirited competition against many high-performing community development financial institutions,” said Federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “This award highlights the vital role community development credit unions play in bringing affordable financial services to low- and moderate-income people across America.” Cooperative Federal won the award for its city-wide programs to counter predatory lending. Since 1982, the credit union has invested $70 million in city neighborhoods to promote homeownership, small business growth and financial strength. The credit union also made more than 100 payday alternative loans, lent more than $2 million in alternative-to-predatory mortgages and provided housing and credit counseling to more than 300 low-income individuals. “We share the mission of the nationwide community development financial institutions movement--to do the seemingly impossible work of strengthening neighborhoods and empowering under-resourced people,” said Ron Ehrenreich, treasurer/CEO and cofounder of Cooperative Federal. Cooperative Federal has $14 million in assets.

Best boss secrets revealed by CUNA webinar

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MADISON, Wis. (12/18/08)--Credit union professionals can learn the secrets to becoming the best bosses possible during a new Credit Union National Association (CUNA) webinar in the first quarter of 2009. “My Best Boss Ever” will feature Rory Rowland, consultant and author of “My Best Boss Ever: How the Best Bosses Earn Trust, Respect, and Admiration of Their Employees for a Lifetime.” The Jan. 14 webinar will reveal how the best bosses motivate their employees without money or bonuses, along with strategies and tips to improve leadership skills. Other webinars highlighted during the first quarter include:
* Members can be helped to understand what elements from their credit reports most affect their credit scores during “Credit Reporting--How to Use This Tool” Feb. 4. The webinar will also help lending professionals, financial counselors, and member service staff learn to identify issues their members need to address to improve creditworthiness. * Credit union professionals can learn how to improve credit union incentive plans during “Incentive Plans That Work.” The March 18 webinar will highlight incentive plans from credit unions and how they were implemented. It will also demonstrate how a good plan can mean success and growth for a credit union. * “Residential Mortgage Underwriting for Self-Employed Borrowers” will help lending professionals work through different income sources and multiple situations to qualify self-employed members for loans. The March 24 offering will also explore different types of businesses and how to use a worksheet to reconcile tax return figures.
More than a dozen webinars will take place during the first quarter of 2009 to educate credit union personnel about: finance and economics; human resources and training; security; lending and collections; management and leadership; marketing and business development; operations, sales, and service; and regulatory compliance. Archived versions of many recent webinars are also available. During a webinar, students hear and see a presentation, ask questions of the instructor, and refer to handouts. For a complete list of classes, additional information and registration materials, use the link.

RMJ Foundation donates to Calif. CU fin-lit. efforts

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (12/18/08)--The Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, the state foundation for credit unions in California and Nevada, recently gave out four grants totaling $138,850 for various youth financial literacy efforts. A community service grant of $100,000 went to Biz Kid$, while ByDesign Financial Solutions received $35,000. Sacramento District Postal Employees CU received a $3,000 grant and Travis CU, Vacaville, Calif., received $850. The Biz Kid$ grant will go toward funding the third season of the program. The new season will begin airing Jan. 6. Biz Kid$ is now airing on PBS stations in all 50 states, with 323 of the nation’s 343 PBS stations expected to carry the show next year. In addition to production of the television show, funding also supports the development of lesson plans that correspond with each episode. ByDesign Financial Solutions was provided a grant of $35,000 to continue its partnerships with credit unions in presenting its Financial Firsts program to at-risk youth. The grant will allow the organization to teach 170 at-risk youth throughout California at workshops delivered with credit unions. Financial Firsts is a youth financial education program targeted to youth preparing to make their first independent financial and employment decisions. It covers topics such as first checking account, first job, first car purchase, first credit card account, first home-away-from home, and first college degree. ByDesign Financial Solutions is a nonprofit organization based out of Los Angeles, with regional operations in Sacramento, Fresno and Stockton. The $3,000 grant to Sacramento District Postal Employees CU will help the Sacramento, Calif.-based financial institution continue its quarterly Young Member Matters newsletter. The newsletter is distributed to youth through branches, mailings, and at weekly onsite visits at postal facilities. It features financial education using resources, such as the National Endowment for Financial Education. The $850 Community Service grant awarded to Travis CU will help the credit union in continuing its program to educate local high school students about the Cal Grant program, and how to budget for college. While the Vacaville, Calif.-based credit union covers the costs related to the program itself, the grant will help cover the costs of busing the students from Yolo County, a local farming community.

CDCU changes lending for low-income business members

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BRONX, N.Y. (12/18/08)--Bethex FCU, a $15 million-asset community development credit union (CDCU) serving more than 10,000 low-income residents throughout the Bronx, and other underserved areas in New York City, Mount Vernon and Yonkers, recently announced a series of comprehensive changes to its lending practices. The move comes in response to the recent mortgage meltdown and subsequent contraction in the credit markets, in which mainstream financial institutions have been tightening their lending standards across the board, but especially to low-income consumers whom they consider to be high-risk. Bethex is a niche lender focusing on low-credit borrowers, many of whom have previously been turned down by banks. The credit union specializes in lending to small and micro-business start-ups, particularly those run by women and minorities. In response to requests from its business borrowers, Bethex has recently modified its business loan policy to include an interest rate reduction for business and micro-enterprise members. In some cases, the credit union may lengthen the term of a loan, resulting in lower monthly payments while extending the life of the loan. As an approved Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, Bethex’s reduced interest rate is based on the SBA’s permitted rate of prime plus 2½% (4% + 2½% = 6½%). By monitoring this rate on a daily basis, Bethex is able to offer its members the best possible rate for each loan that is approved. Bethex loan officers do not give much weight to credit scores, or employ risk-based lending in their loan decisions. Instead, loan approval is based on knowledge of the community they serve and the relationships they have developed with their members over the years, Bethex said. Raising capital is frequently a challenge for financial institutions working with impoverished populations, but over the years Bethex has been fortunate in receiving support from New York State, New York City, and from the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, the CDCU said. Now that the economy has continued to deteriorate, that support may not be as readily available. Bethex FCU said it hopes that the government rescue plans will look holistically at the nation’s economic problems and support community-based financial institutions that can effectively deploy resources to low-income population. Bethex FCU was chartered in 1970 by the federal government and designated as a low-income credit union. Its organizers were women receiving Aid for Dependent Children.

Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless collaborates with CU

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LATHAM, N.Y. (12/18/08)--Community Resource FCU’s Community Involvement Committee, a committee made up of employee volunteers, selected Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless as the recipient of its charitable activities for 2008-2009.
Click to view larger imageCommunity Resource FCU’s Community Involvement Committee presents 15 baskets of personal care items for the Sheridan Hollow Drop-In Center at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. Pictured from left are: Yvonne Vickery, Community Resource’s processing specialist; Janine Robitaille, executive director of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless; Amy Conners, loan officer at Community Resource; Kathy Leyden, program director of the charity’s Drop-In Center; Janice Kemp, Community Resource’s head teller; Elissa Chovan, loan officer at Community Resource; Rhonda Teal, Community Resource’s accounting manager; and Bonnie St. Onge, director of development at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. (Photo provided by Community Resource FCU)
“The committee selected Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless because the organization addresses a troubling and growing problem in our community,” said Amy Conners, Community Involvement committee chairwoman. “We also liked that they provide on-site access to services and counseling to help homeless people find jobs and affordable housing.” Located in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood of Albany, N.Y., Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless is a non-denominational charity that provides shelter, food, personal care services and counseling to homeless people. The committee’s first act of charitable giving was on Tuesday, when it presented 15 laundry baskets filled with personal care items, towels, socks, and sweatshirts to the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless for its Drop-In Center. The items were purchased with $500 of employees’ donations. Throughout the year, Community Resource will collect new or gently used socks, gloves, hats, scarves, towels, blankets, and pillows, as well as personal hygiene items including travel sized soap, shampoo and toothpaste, tooth brushes, laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet tissue. Also, the credit union will participate in the Pennies for Haven program and provide collection containers for Community Resource’s members to donate their loose change. “We’re so thankful to be working with Community Resource FCU to help us spread the word about our mission and what we need to accomplish it,” said Janine Robitaille, executive director of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. Community Resource FCU, Latham, N.Y., is a community credit union serving those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Albany County and their families. Community Resource has $62 million in assets and 5,700 members.

CUs noted by ICBS NewsI

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NEW YORK (12/18/08)--Credit unions received a positive mention from CBS News Tuesday night during a story that aired about credit card practices. CBS interviewed a consumer whose Bank of America credit card’s interest rates ballooned, even though she told CBS that she pays all of her bills on time. The card’s rate jumped because the rate the consumer had on another card increased. Frustrated, the consumer closed her Bank of America account and joined Ascend FCU in Tullahoma, Tenn., where CBS said “she has a voice in making the rules.” Ascend FCU has $1.142 billion in assets. To watch the video, use the link.

Detroit area CU thrives in economically depressed city

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HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (12/18/08)--When Communicating Arts CU (CACU) of Detroit announced plans to open a branch in economically depressed Highland Park, some weren't sure it was a good idea.
Click to view larger imageCommunicating Arts CU’s Highland Park Branch, which opened in April, recently held a session to educate local high school students about credit reports. The credit union is located in the Detroit area. (Photo provided by Communicating Arts CU)
Highland Park is a small city surrounded by Detroit. According to 2000 census bureau figures, about 38% of Highland Park’s residents live below the poverty level. “But we wanted to be there,” Henry Hubbard, CACU president/CEO told News Now. “We thought it was the right place to be.” CACU is Highland Park’s only credit union. It opened the branch in April and has attracted 800 members. “It’s exceeded all of our expectations,” Hubbard said. “We’ve totally been embraced by the community.” CACU also was recently awarded with the Highland Park Business Association’s President’s Award. “It’s a huge honor,” Hubbard said. The $25 million-asset CACU offers products for low- to moderate-income members, including a payday loan alternative. About 500 members have taken advantage of the alternative so far, Hubbard said. Because Highland Park is located in a high-crime area, CACU was concerned for the safety of its members and staff. Many local businesses have retrofitted bulletproof glass windows, Hubbard said. To keep everyone safe, CACU installed a security vestibule with a metal detector. “A door behind you closes before the next one opens,” Hubbard said. Members who trigger the system are asked to put their metal objects on a tray. “Our members are comfortable with that,” Hubbard said. “It seems totally normal to them.” While local banks have installed bulletproof glass windows--which isn’t welcoming, according to Hubbard--CACU has managed to stay safe and inviting. “We can come out and hug our members--which we do all the time,” Hubbard said. “People say that this is nice, and they feel safe.” CACU also has reached out to the Highland Park community. On Thanksgiving, it provided food to 700 families. The credit union also will distribute 65 blankets to needy families on Sunday. The initiative was trigged in response to a house fire that killed a local woman and her grandchildren. The fire was caused by a space heater, so the credit union is encouraging residents to stay warm safely with the blankets. “We’re happy to be able to help,” Hubbard said.

CUNAs Schenk quoted in IMarketWatchI on housing starts prices

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MADISON, Wis. (12/17/08)--A Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist was quoted in two separate MarketWatch stories Tuesday regarding lower numbers of U.S. housing starts, and a falling consumer price index. New housing starts fell 18.9% in November to a seasonally adjusted rate of 625,000--the lowest rate since 1959 when the Commerce Department started keeping such records, MarketWatch said. “The market needs to be clear,” Mike Schenk, CUNA senior economist, told the newspaper. “But this is bad news; it’ll be a painful process, and many more people will be out of work.” Also, U.S. consumer prices dropped in November at the fastest rate since 1932, due to declining prices of energy, commodities and airline fares during the month, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. “This is scary stuff,” Schenk told the paper. “We are teetering on the brink of a massive downward spiral. Deflation is a threat.”

Hampel to IN.Y. TimesI Braking economy lowers prices

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NEW YORK (12/16/08)--With retail prices in November falling at their fastest rate on record, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told The New York Times Tuesday the economy has experienced an unprecedented slowdown in the past few months. “I’ve never seen the economy slam on the brakes as much as it has in the last three months,” Bill Hampel, CUNA chief economist, told the newspaper. “And as the tires are squeaking on the pavement, that’s pulling prices down too.” With oil prices falling, and retailers cutting prices to get business back from worried consumers, retail prices tumbled last month, analysts told the paper The drops in consumer prices piggyback reports of a downward trend in the wholesale sector of the economy, analysts added. The Labor Department last week said the price of finished goods dropped 2.2% in November--the fourth straight month of declines, the paper reported.

Pa. Foundation partners with CU to promote student branches

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/17/08)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation and Meadville (Pa.) Area FCU presented and promoted the benefits of student credit union branches to representatives of three school districts in northwest Pennsylvania-- Penncrest, Conneaut and Crawford Central. Joe Wambach, foundation executive director, discussed classroom education, Web site development, Train the Trainers, and student branch components that represent the foundation’s financial literacy portfolio (Life is a Highway Dec. 16). Heather Clancy-Young, CEO of the $43.2 million asset Meadville Area FCU, emphasized community benefits and the attraction of younger credit union members as reasons for credit union interest in developing a student branch program. Georgeann Chamberlain, CEO, Wacopse FCU, Warren, Pa., and a former association board member, discussed the two branches maintained by her credit union in Warren, as well as liability issues that can impact student branch development. The session was organized and coordinated by Christina Reynolds, business development representative for Meadville Area FCU. Decisions by the three school districts are expected during the first quarter of 2009. There are 17 student credit union branches in Pennsylvania.

Chrysler joins Invest in America CU partnership

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LANSING, Mich. (12/17/08)--After the launch of the “Invest in America” credit union loan partnership last week, Chrysler Corporation LLC announced it will join the alliance. This gives 1,295 credit unions in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois access to cash discounts for its members from two of America’s three domestic automakers and access to financing on new vehicle purchases. “Invest in America” is also one step closer to going nationwide; Chrysler will expand the pilot program in eight additional states, as well as the original four Midwest states. This will make available an additional $12 billion in auto loans for the program and bring discounts to another 14 million credit union members. The program started Tuesday and runs through June 30, 2009. It offers “Credit Union Member Cash” rebates of $500 or $1,000 on eligible Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles. The rebates will be exclusively for credit union members who also obtain their financing from a credit union, layering on top of other incentives. “The Invest in America” program will provide access to affordable financing options and special discounts for credit union members who want to purchase a new Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge vehicle,” said Steven Landry, Chrysler executive vice president of North American Sales. “We are confident that the ‘Invest in America’ program and 'Credit Union Member Cash' will provide significant value for our customers and the economy as a whole during these challenging economic times.” To gain access to the rebates, credit union members can bring proof of credit union financing to a Chrysler dealership. Credit union loan rates average 5.4% compared to 6.9% for bank rates according to Datatrac, a survey company that tracks auto loan rates. Participation requires that the consumer belongs to a credit union. Credit union members in the pilot states or those that would like to join can learn more about the special rebates by using the resource link. “‘The Invest in America’ vision is to create a win-win program in which credit unions pledge billions in low-cost credit union financing and strong marketing support in return for exclusive credit union member discounts and rebates,” said David Adams, Michigan Credit Union League president/CEO. “Credit unions have always focused on service to their members and communities. This program simply expands that vision to apply much needed financing assistance to help boost domestic auto sales.” Eight additional states taking part in the “Credit Union Member Cash” rebates are Oklahoma, Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi. “Invest in America” was created by CUcorp, a marketing company based in Livonia, Mich., and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Michigan Credit Union League. There are plans to bring “Invest in America” nationwide, possibly by the second quarter of 2009.

CU System briefs (12/16/2008)

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* RENO, Nev. (12/17/08)--Greater Nevada CU’s Carson City, Nev., branch recently offered 10 financial literacy presentations to Carson High School (Reno Gazette-Journal Dec. 12). The presentations were included as classroom material in a government class and were taken from the National Endowment for Financial Education’s high school program. The presentation topics focused on saving, credit, and budgets. The students were surprised to learn that Americans saved at a rate of 8% per year 20 years ago, compared to the current national average of -2%, the credit union told the newspaper ... * GREENSBORO, N.C. (12/17/08)--Latino Community CU, Durham, N.C., opened a new branch in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday. The public was invited to celebrate the opening of the credit union’s seventh branch, said the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update Dec. 12). Guest speakers included Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.). Several institutions, including the North Carolina Minority Support Center and the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, have supported the branch ... * CHICAGO (12/17/08)--LaVerne Orton, 86, of LaGrange, Ill., died Friday from Multiple Myeloma (The Chicago Tribune Dec. 14). Orton lead the Evergreen Park Teachers CU in Evergreen Park, Ill., and served on its board for 48 years. Evergreen Park Teachers CU has $9.8 million in assets ... * TEMPE, Ariz. (12/17/08)--Tempe (Ariz.) Schools CU was recently ranked 18th out of the top 25 winners in the category for companies under 100 employees in a 2008 “Best Place to Work” competition sponsored by the Phoenix Business Journal and BestCompaniesAZ. The credit union was acknowledged for creating an enjoyable culture and work environment. Winners were announced Thursday. Tempe Schools CU has $160 million in assets ...

Michigan league unveils CUBE TV

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PLYMOUTH, Mich. (12/17/08)--The Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL), with CU Village, has launched CUBE TV--an online video hub to provide credit unions with news, information and training. CUBE TV, or the Credit Union Broadcast Experience, covers national and state credit union issues and education for credit union staff, the league said (Michigan Monitor Dec. 15). Visitors can watch CU National Update, a weekly Webcast with national credit union news; the Michigan Priority Report, a state Webcast with information about credit unions and programs; video podcasts, special reports and training videos. Each sub-section of videos will be placed on its own channel. Credit unions can embed the videos on their own websites so members can view programs. “We want CUBE TV to be the place credit unions turn for the latest developments in the industry that affect them, analysis of credit union issues and valuable education that can benefit credit union staff from CEOs to tellers,” said MCUL President/CEO David Adams. “The MCUL is committed to delivering quality content that covers both national and Michigan-specific credit union topics,” he added. “I think credit unions will be impressed with the look of the video player and how easy it is to use. “It's our hope that credit unions will begin to utilize it regularly for credit union-related news,” Adams said. “We may also see credit unions wanting to stream the video content through their own websites for members in some cases, as well as internally for informing staff and volunteers.”

Charlotte Metro CU membership spikes 45

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (12/17/08)--Despite media reports of a troubled economy, Charlotte Metro CU has grown its membership by about 45% since the end of September. Many members have joined because they believed they would pay fewer fees than they had at their previous banks, Nathan Tothrow, Charlotte Metro CU marketing vice president, told News Now. The credit union also has doubled the total amount of deposits members have in money market accounts since 2006, Tothrow said. Charlotte Metro’s assets are at $181 million--a jump from $131 million three years ago. The credit union attributes its growth in part to a shaky economy. But a bigger factor was a branding effort Charlotte Metro launched in 2006. The credit union conducted focus groups, and ran television and creative ads to attract consumers. Charlotte Metro began using the word “banking” in its advertising, because many area consumers were not aware of what credit unions had to offer. “They didn’t understand credit-unioning,” Tothrow said. The credit union also was careful how it used the term “membership” so that it didn’t alienate any consumers. “Membership implies exclusivity,” Tothrow said. Charlotte Metro recently opened a fifth brand in West Charlotte, and hopes to expand to another location in South Charlotte next year. It also has plans for a new headquarters building. “We’re running out of room for staff,” he said. “We have new hires planned for 2009.”

2008 ELLy award winners announced

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MADISON, Wis. (12/17/08)--Exceptional credit union trainers and training programs were honored during an awards presentation at the 2008 Experience Learning Live (ELL) conference Oct. 26-29 in Tempe, Ariz.
Click to view larger imageThe Organizational Development Department of First CU, Chandler, Ariz., received the Training Professional of the Year Award at the 2008 Experience Learning Live conference. From left are: Kara Kirschner-Brooks, Lisa Krogstad, Lori Gallegos, Christina Adams, Heidi Kim, Patti Spino and Geary O’Donnell. (Photo provided by the Credit Union National Association)
The ELLys are the only national awards presented to credit union trainers who do outstanding things in the area of professional staff development. First place awards and awards of merit were presented in the following categories: Coach Award--Recognizes a trainer who has changed a person’s career and life through education, mentoring, and coaching.
* First Place (small credit union category): Michelle Greear, Technology CU, San Jose, Calif.; and * First Place: Roberta Smith, Missoula (Mont.) FCU.
Training Professional of the Year Award--Honors exceptional achievements in performance and learning by a credit union training professional or department.
* First Place: Organizational Development Department, First CU, Chandler, Ariz.; and * Award of Merit: Learning and Development, Affinity Plus FCU, St. Paul, Minn.
WOW! Award--Recognizes a credit union with the best overall training curriculum or event that energizes, empowers and excites participants.
* First Place (small credit union): O Bee and WSECU Chix, O Bee CU. Tumwater, Wash.; * First Place: Training Department, A+ FCU, Austin, Texas; * First Place: Denise Romanelli, Sun East FCU, Aston, Pa.; * Award of Merit (small credit union): Human Resources, Neches FCU, Port Neches, Texas; * Training Department, Award of Merit: Texas Dow Employees CU, Lake Jackson, Texas; and * Amanda Swartz, Award of Merit: Christian Community CU, San Dimas, Calif.
Training Champion Award--Singles out senior management staff in a credit union that go beyond the call of duty to support and develop the training in his or her credit union.
* First Place: Lori Gallegos, First CU, Chandler, Ariz.; * Award of Merit: Tammy Davis, The Golden 1 CU, Sacramento, Calif.; and * Award of Merit: Larry Keller, Apple FCU, Fairfax, Va.
Chi Phi Delta X II Award--This award represents the best development of a Credit Union University, and its effect on staff learning and performance, using the Credit Union National Association’s Center for Professional Development products as the foundation.
* Award of Merit: Training and Development Department, Apple FCU, Fairfax, Va.; and * Award of Merit: Tina Hall and Justin Martin, Verity CU, Seattle.
eLearning Award--Winners had to demonstrate how technology-based training was incorporated into, and enhanced credit union training programs.
* Award of Merit: Consumers Employee University, Consumers CU, Round Lake Beach, Ill.; and * Award of Merit: Training and Development Department, Apple FCU in Fairfax, Va.
Three CPD Energizer Awards were presented during the conference. The awards recognize credit unions with innovative training programs that support CUNA’s Center for Professional Development training products and its mission of helping individuals reach their personal and professional potential. Winners include:
* Small Market: Latino Community CU, Durham, N.C. * Medium Market: AEA FCU, Yuma, Ariz.; and * Major Market: Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla.

Pa. CU activates disaster plan after truck crashes into branch

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LEBANON, Pa. (12/16/08)--The Lebanon (Pa.) FCU branch activated its disaster plan after a pick-up truck crashed into it early Sunday morning, knocking a hole into a wall and damaging computers and the communications system. Police say a 24-year-old driver lost control of his Chevy Silverado about 12:45 a.m. The vehicle left the roadway and crossed both concrete islands at the drive-thru window before crashing into the southeast side of the building (Life is a Highway Dec. 15). No one was inside the building at the time of the accident. When police arrived on the scene, they found the driver and vehicle inside the credit union lobby. The driver was taken to the hospital, where a routine blood alcohol test was performed. Charges are pending the results of that test, police said. Glenn Rambler, Lebanon executive vice president, said the branch was closed Monday for repairs, although the credit union should be open in some capacity today. The $130 million asset credit union’s ATM is operating. Extra staff will be at two other branch locations in Myerstown and South Lebanon Township. The credit union activated its disaster plan and posted a notice on its website to alert members to the situation and encouraged them to use services at other locations.

Cross-dressing CU robber headed to prison

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (12/16/08)--A U.S. district court judge Friday sentenced a cross-dressing credit union robber to four years and three months in prison. Jimmy Lewis II, was convicted in August of robbing an Alabama CU branch in Decatur last November. Lewis wore women’s clothing and carried a purse when he took $9,600 from the credit union, prosecutors said (Associated Press Dec. 12). The credit union’s surveillance video and employees helped identify Lewis, who was arrested in January after returning on an international flight to the U.S. Alabama CU, based in Tuscaloosa, has $287 million in assets.

Texas CUs continue growth in third quarter

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (12/16/08)--Texas credit unions’ median assets grew by $1.1 million, or 9.2%, in the first nine months this year to $14.5 million from $13.4 million at the end of 2007, according to the soon-to-be released Texas Profile, Third Quarter Report. Today, combined assets in Texas credit unions are $56.6 billion, said the Texas Credit Union League. Since the year began, total loans by Texas credit unions have increased 7.7% to $38.3 billion (LoneStar Leaguer Dec. 10). Savings also have increased by 9% to-date to $47.5 billion. Membership has grown by 2.6% to 7.2 million owners this year. The strongest growth areas over previous years have been in used-car lending. New-car lending is still the largest portion of the credit unions’ portfolios, followed by used cars and first mortgages. Member business lending remains about 4% of the portfolio. On the savings side, growth has been experienced in money market shares, expanding by more than 17% in 2008. Also, regular shares have turned around a three-year decline cycle, growing 4.3% since 2007.

Average daily check image volume reaches all-time high

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NEW YORK (12/16/08)--The SVPCO Image Payments Network averaged a record 27.3 million daily check images in November, up 9.5% from October 2008, The Clearing House Payment Company reported last week. The U.S. Clearing House operates payment systems infrastructure and facilitates forums for the U.S. financial services industry. The Clearing House also reported the following network highlights for November 2008 (PR Newswire Dec. 8):
* Average daily volume of 27.3 million items, an increase of 70.3% compared with a year ago; * 492.3 million check images, an increase of 53.2% compared with a year ago; * $704.2 billion in dollar value, an increase of 39.4% compared with a year ago; and * About 18 processing days in November, compared with 22 in October.
In November 2007, monthly items totaled 321.2 million and monthly dollar volume was $505.3 billion. “November daily check image volume increased strongly as more banks connected to the SVPCO Image Payments Network and existing participants increased their total image exchange volume,” said Susan Long, senior vice president of The Clearing House, responsible for SVPCO. “Across the country, banks and credit unions are accelerating their plans to move from paper checks to check images to realize significant cost savings,” she added. “With check prices rising, now is the time to implement an image exchange strategy. Through November, 40 participants were connected to the SVPCO Image Payments Network. Through its connections with the Federal Reserve and Endpoint Exchange, the Image Payments Network can reach more than 10,000 endpoints and help financial institutions of all sizes use image exchange.

Nevada CUs feeling strains but ready to ride out economic storm

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LAS VEGAS (12/16/08)--Although two Nevada banks failed this year, no Nevada credit unions have failed or merged because of financial problems, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Delinquencies at Nevada credit unions were 1.5%--a number that banks and other financial institutions “would kill for,” Daniel Penrod, industry analyst for the California and Nevada Credit Union League, told the newspaper Friday. Nevada credit unions are feeling some economic strains, but Cumorah CU, Las Vegas, has put some money aside for a “rainy day” and is ready to ride out the storm, Tony Mook, Cumorah CU CEO told the newspaper. The credit union looks at the economic troubles as a time to “hunker down,” he added. The $14.9-million-asset Cumorah has experienced some losses due to loan delinquencies, but Mook said he hopes to reduce the credit union’s delinquency rate by the end of the year. Clark County CU, Las Vegas; Boulder Dam CU, Boulder City; and several other small credit unions received four of five stars for safety and soundness at Bankrate.com, the newspaper said.

CUNA adds new courses to CPDOnline

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MADISON, Wis. (12/16/08)--Several new self-study courses to help credit union staff understand the basics of personal finance were recently added to the Credit Union National Association’s Web-based training service, CPDOnline. The online interactive courses--available in English and Spanish--are designed to help staff become more knowledgeable decision makers with their own finances. The newest topics available include:
* New Car Buying--offers strategies for finding and buying a new car at a reasonable price. The course helps users research dealer costs, calculate payments for various prices and rates, and negotiate with dealers; * Home Buying--covers home buying basics to help users hone skills and make the best home choice. Explains how to make and use checklists, identify home-feature priorities, interview lenders, understand mortgage terminology and options, and calculate and decide on loan rates and terms; * Credit Management--teaches how to get in good financial shape by finding ways to reduce debt. The course details how to record expenditures, identify unnecessary costs, list and rank goals, improve credit rating, identify net worth and resources for credit counseling; * Checking Accounts--provides tips for protecting checks from fraud and keeping track of accounts. Allows users to identify checking demands and compare accounts, balance a checkbook, and benefit from electronic transactions; and * Identity Theft--reveals the warning signs of identity theft and how to become more aware of computer safety practices, e-mail precautions and online shopping safety.
Earlier this year, staff personal finance courses on used-car buying, and couples and money were added to the CPDOnline catalog. For more information, use the links.

N.J. CUs in good shape league says

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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (12/16/08)--Although New Jersey Credit Unions are “in good shape overall,” some likely will participate in a recently announced National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) plan to offer credit union low-interest loans to stave off mortgage foreclosures and spark lending, said the New Jersey Credit Union League. Any programs that help members stay in their homes will be embraced, said Paul Gentile, league president/CEO (The Record Dec. 12). The NCUA’s CU Homeowners Affordability Relief Program (CU Harp) will allow credit unions to borrow at favorable rates from the Central Liquidity Facility, and receive a 100- basis point spread on the funds if credit unions in return modify a similar amount of at risk mortgages, the Credit Union National Association said. This would be a two-year program, dispensing up to roughly $2 billion. New Jersey credit unions are not immune to the effects of the U.S. financial crisis and recession, John Fenton, president of the $1.8 billion asset, Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Affinity CU, told the newspaper. Although the credit union’s mortgage portfolio has no problems, the credit union is beginning to see some members falling behind on mortgage payments, he added. Affinity’s philosophy is that it doesn’t want to own foreclosed homes, Fenton told the paper. However, he said he wants to learn more about the program before deciding if Affinity will participate.

Southeast Corporate announces supervisory appointments

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (12/16/08)--Southeast Corporate announced Monday the appointment of three new members to the Supervisory Committee. The new members are: William Marquardt, Jerry Maughon and Richard Simonton Sr. They will join committee chair Debbie Jones, president/CEO of UT FCU, Knoxville, Tenn., and Robert Fertitta, chief financial officer of Navigator CU, Pascagoula, Miss. Marquardt, president/CEO, City County CU, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a board member of Florida Credit Union Shared Services. He also served on the board of the Florida Credit Union League, as a director of the Broward Chapter of Credit Unions, and has been active in the Credit Union Executives Society. Maughon, president/CEO of Okaloosa County Teachers FCU, Crestview, Fla., served as president/CEO of Mutual Savings CU and Circle 10 FCU in Atlanta. He also served as president/CEO of Delchamps CU in Mobile, Ala., and served on the board of directors of the Georgia Credit Union Foundation, Georgia Credit Union Affiliates Acceptance Corp., the Alabama Credit Union League and the Alabama State Credit Union Board. Simonton is president/CEO of Insight Financial CU in Orlando, Fla. He also served as chief financial officer for Community Educators CU, Rockledge, Fla., and as a financial institution examiner for the National Credit Union Administration in Atlanta. Southeast Corporate is based in Tallahassee, Fla.

Ice storm disrupts communications in New England

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CONCORD, N.H. (12/15/08)--An ice storm Friday that knocked out power to more than a million homes and businesses in New England and New York created some intermittent communications problems for some area credit unions. “We had weird electrical problems and problems with phone lines and the Internet,” said Rob Kimmett, senior vice president of public relations and marketing at the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Credit Union Leagues. “It was more of a nuisance, rather than any severe communications problems,” he told News Now. While it rained in metro Boston, the areas west and north of Central Massachusetts and New Hampshire got one to two inches of ice. The areas hit included Manchester, N.H., home of the nation’s oldest credit union; and Worcester, Mass. The governors of New Hampshire and Massachusetts declared emergencies. They predicted it might take several days to get power back to all customers. The storm toppled trees and power lines in those states, as well as Maine and Vermont.

Rhode Island CUs to help raise capital for small biz

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (12/15/08)--Eight credit unions and banks in Rhode Island have pledged $165 million for loans to small and midsize businesses during the next two years as part of a state economic stimulus package announced Thursday by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri. The six-part stimulus package aims at assisting smaller businesses with the recession and credit crunch (The Providence Journal Dec. 12 and Providence Business News Dec. 11). The credit unions’ and banks’ efforts will be monitored by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (EDC). Another $2.4 million from the same credit unions and banks will be placed into an existing small-business loan fund, monitored by EDC. In addition, the plan will:
* Provide an increase of $240,000 to $700,000 in the amount that EDC’s small-business loan fund sets aside for micro loans of less than $50,000 for very small businesses run by young, new entrepreneurs. * Offer state-backed guarantees for certain small-business loans to supplement loan guarantees by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), to help reduce loan risk to lenders. * Restore a state tax credit to help small businesses cover the cost of fees paid on SBA-guaranteed loans. * Offer $5 million in loans pledged by the Business Development Co. of Rhode Island, a non-bank lender, for businesses needing more financing than their senior lenders are willing to provide.
The credit unions and the sums they are pledging include Navigant CU, Smithfield, pledging $5 million; and Coastway CU, Cranston, $25 million. Banks in the program include Bank Newport, Bank Rhode Island, Citizens Bank, Webster Bank, The Washington Trust Co., and Randolph Savings Bank.

Mississippi Maxwell Desjardins awards go to Keesler FCU

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JACKSON, Miss. (12/15/08)—Keesler FCU received first place in the Mississippi state Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award and Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award competitions. The awards were sponsored by the Credit Union National Association and the Mississippi Credit Union Association. The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award recognizes a credit union for its community involvement in an activity that helps others or strengthens the structure of a community. Biloxi-based Keesler participated in the 2008 American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life--as it has the past four years--and is a repeat recipient of the “Team Spirit” award. Keesler also received special recognition for being the top overall fundraiser. The Desjardins Award considers all activities supporting the personal financial education of youth. Keesler provides classroom presentations and conducts activities to spread financial education to the youth of the Mississippi Gulf Coast area. Keesler FCU also designed a four-week in-depth financial education program, MoneyTalks, which provides financial education to area high school juniors and seniors. “Our goal is to help students realize their financial dreams while managing money responsibly,” stated Dawn Power-Pernaciaro, Keesler FCU community education specialist. Keesler has $1.6 billion in assets.

SECUs temporary location returns to its roots

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RALEIGH, N.C. (12/15/08)--State Employees’ CU (SECU) recently relocated its Salisbury Street branch to the site of the original 1937 SECU location in the basement of the State Agriculture Building in downtown Raleigh.
Click to view larger imageState Employees’ CU, Raleigh, N.C., has temporarily relocated to the site of its original 1937 location at the State Agriculture Building in downtown Raleigh while its new facility is built. (Photo provided by State Employees’ CU)
The historic move paves the way for a new state-of-the-art credit union facility, providing SECU with a permanent footprint in North Carolina’s State Government Complex, SECU said. While the move to the agriculture location is temporary, it offers SECU and its members an opportunity to reflect on the humble beginnings of their cooperative, SECU said. Starting with 17 members and $437, the credit union now serves 1.5 million members with nearly $17 billion in assets. SECU’s growth has resulted in the need for a larger facility in the downtown state capital area. The building is expected to positively impact the growth of the downtown area, helping to boost North Carolina’s economy. In conjunction with SECU’s privately funded expansion, the state also will expand the nearby North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and other state government offices. Ninety-five-year-old Mary B. Lassiter, who joined SECU in the 1930s, said she was excited to hear of the recent relocation back to the State Agriculture Building. She recalls when nearly all North Carolina banks had been liquidated, and SECU was established as an alternative for state employees. “SECU began in a tiny room in the Agriculture Building, and my first deposit was around 50 cents,” she said. “It is amazing to see the power of a cooperative and how our credit union has flourished throughout the years, but always remained true to its roots--providing loans for those who need it most and giving North Carolina’s state employees financial services at fair and reasonable rates.”

MCUA new official meet on CUs fin-ed role

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ST. LOUIS (12/15/08)--Missouri State Treasurer-elect Clint Zweifel (D-78) met with Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) representatives recently to discuss financial education efforts in the state and opportunities for credit unions to assist with the efforts, said MCUA.
From left, Missouri State Rep. Clint Zweifel (D-78) and staffer Jon Galloway meet with Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) President/CEO Rosie Holub and Peggy Nalls, MCUA senior vice president of public/legislative affairs, to discuss financial education. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association)
Zwiefel and staffer Jon Galloway visited MCUA’s office in St. Louis Dec. 5 to meet with MCUA President/CEO Rosie Holub and Senior Vice President of Public/Legislative Affairs Peggy Nalls (The Missouri difference Dec. 10). The group discussed the importance of financial education and the possibility of introducing state legislations to increase the financial education requirement for high school graduation. “We are pleased that the Treasurer-elect has reached out to the Missouri Credit Union Association as a knowledgeable consumer finance resource, and we look forward to working with his office in the coming year,” Holub said. Zweifel, who is finishing a term as state representative, has been supportive of credit union issues, said MCUA. He takes office as State Treasurer Jan. 12.

Illinois foundation awards 178253 in 08

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (12/15/08)--The Illinois Credit Union Foundation (ICU Foundation) awarded $178,253 in scholarships during 2008, as well as Community Service, Marketing and Business Development, Small Credit Union Development (SCUD), and Financial Independence and Revitalization Effort (FIRE) grants. The ICU Foundation also provided financial support for the Illinois Credit Union League’s (ICUL) Small Asset Size Credit Union Conference and for Bank Secrecy Act training sessions for small credit unions. The awards and their corresponding amounts for 2008 included:
* Community Service grants totaling $16,500, awarded to five chapters, seven credit unions, the Washington Credit Union Foundation for underwriting support of Biz Kid$, and the World Council of Credit Unions for general support. This program is designed to encourage and reward chapter or credit union participation in local community projects. Credit unions and chapters can qualify for grants by hosting an established event, creating an event, or volunteering at an established event. * FIRE grants totaling $20,000, awarded to two credit unions. The FIRE Program provides assistance so credit unions can expand their ability to build and maintain viable communities by providing credit and financial services to residents and businesses in low-income and underserved areas of Illinois. The goal of the program is to enhance membership services for credit unions located in economically disadvantaged areas. * Marketing and Business Development grants totaling $16,300 awarded to five credit unions. Established in 2006, these grants help credit unions with assets of up to $30 million to start or expand outreach efforts. The maximum grant award is $5,000 per credit union, per year. * SCUD grants totaling $80,710, awarded to 37 credit unions. The grants are designed to help credit unions with assets of less than $10 million remain competitive in an increasingly complex marketplace. Grant funds can be used for items such as computer equipment, software, new products and services, and planning sessions. * Scholarships totaling $39,305, awarded to 46 credit unions and six chapters. Individuals and groups (such as a chapter or group of credit unions) can apply. Scholarships may be used toward ICUL’s educational opportunities and Credit Union National Association schools.
“The foundation was able to provide these scholarships and grants thanks to the generosity of credit unions and individuals who provide financial support," said Vicki Ponzo, ICU Foundation executive director. For 2009, grant application review deadlines will be March 31, July 31, and Oct. 31. The main scholarship application deadline is March 31. Grant and scholarship seekers should complete and return the application form to the foundation as early in the year as possible, since both are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, said the foundation. Online and downloadable ICU Foundation grant request forms are available via the league's website. Eligibility is limited to Illinois credit unions and chapters.

IN.Y. TimesI CUs part of Bank on California effort

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (12/15/08)--Several California credit unions are participating along with banks in a new program announced Friday to create 100,000 accounts over two years to allow the poor and immigrants to open and maintain accounts at financial institutions. The program, Bank on California, will be funded with grants from the William J. Clinton Foundation and will be implemented in five cities: Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. The program is modeled on a Bank of San Francisco program that has been running for two years, resulting in 31,000 accounts opened by first-time users (The New York Times Dec. 12). Currently, 12 credit unions have signed up to participate in the program and another eight to 10 are exploring the possibility, Rita Fillingane, director of research and information for the California Credit Union League, told News Now. “The league has encouraged credit unions to get involved,” she said. “The object is to bring unbanked consumers into the mainstream banking ranks. Credit unions have done that all along anyway, so it’s a perfect fit for them to participate.” The five cities chose to participate because they have high unbanked populations, Fillingame said, adding that the program will be rolled out to other California cities in the future. She said financial institutions are asked to offer starter accounts through the program with baseline features, including:
* Low-cost accounts; * No monthly minimum balance requirements; * The waiving of one set of non-sufficient fund fees; * Acceptance of alternative forms of identification for account holders; and * Tracking of accounts, so credit unions and other financial institutions can report back to the governor’s office regarding the success of the program.

CU CEOs letter notes CUs difference in credit climate

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (12/12/08)--A credit union CEO’s letter to the editor at a Virginia newspaper points out a difference between credit unions and banks at a time of credit crisis. The letter, from Chris Anuswith, president/CEO of $35.8 million asset Guardian FCU in Portsmouth, Va., was published Thursday in the Virginian Pilot. In it, Anuswith points out an “interesting juxtaposition” of articles on the front page of the newspaper’s Dec. 6 business section. On article discussed credit unions stepping up to make consumer loans when other financial institutions won’t, he said. Next to it, a second article reported about two local banks in line for infusion funds from the Treasury. “On a daily basis we hear the drumbeat about the impact of the credit crunch,” Anuswith wrote. “Isn’t it interesting that credit unions continue to lend based entirely on their own resources while the banks apparently aren’t or won’t without government and taxpayer help?” he asked. For the full letter, use the resource link.

ITimeI reports on NCUAs corporate CU plan

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NEW YORK (12/12/08)--Time magazine’s website Wednesday featured an article about the National Credit Union Administration’s (NCUA) plan to assist corporate credit unions during the nation’s credit crisis. It noted that in January, NCUA will tap a $41.5 billion in funds approved by Congress to boost liquidity. For the full article, use the link.

National media report CUs deal with GM

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MADISON, Wis. (12/12/08)--National media coverage has resulted from Wednesday’s announcement that credit unions in four Midwestern states are teaming up with General Motors Corp. (GM) to offer low-cost auto loans. Articles were published about the “Invest in America” plan in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, and U.S. News & World Report. Automotive industry publications Automotive News, Automobile Magazine and Cars.com reported the incentive. That’s just for starters. Both the Washington Post and the The New York Times steered articles about other topics—namely GM’s financing company, GMAC, hitting a roadblock in its effort to transition into a bank holding company--to the topic of credit unions and GM’s incentive plan. Some media welcomed the positive news. For example, the “Rankings and Reviews” section of U.S. News & World Report (Dec. 11) reported, “We’ve had nothing but bad news to report about the state of the automotive credit industry for months, but this morning we’ve got something good to report. If you live in the Midwest and need a new car, try joining a credit union. They’ve got new money to lend.” Many had positive headlines about credit unions. “Credit unions come to Aid of Troubled Automakers,” reported Consumer Affairs (Dec. 10). “GM looks to credit unions to help finance new vehicles,” said Automotive News (Dec. 11). “Looking for a new car? Credit unions, GM team up to offer,” wrote The Flint Journal (Dec. 10). “Credit Unions to Offer Deals to Spur Auto Sales” appeared in The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 10). The story also hit newspapers globally. Global Insight Daily Analysis reported on it, as did The Toronto Star in Canada. Newspapers and broadcast media in the four states involved—Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana—also covered the announcement. News Now spotted articles in The Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Lansing State Journal, The Flint Journal, Toledo Blade, and Crain’s Cleveland (Ohio) Business. Many picked up the article from Associated Press and Dow Jones Newswire. For more details about the program, use the www.lovemycreditunion.org resource link or refer to the News Now article (Dec. 11).

AlabamaFlorida leagues announce plan to consolidate

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala., and TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (12/12/08)--The boards of the Alabama and Florida Credit Union Leagues have voted to submit a consolidation plan of their organizations to a vote by their memberships. If approved, the consolidated entity--called the League of Southern Credit Unions (LSCU)-- would represent 332 credit unions with a combined assets of $55 billion. The Alabama league board voted Monday and the Florida league board Tuesday to propose the consolidation. League members will vote in March at specially called membership meetings. Credit Union National Association President/CEO Dan Mica congratulated the leadership of both leagues. “This proposed consolidation has the potential for serving the credit unions of Alabama and Florida with a more efficient system offering an even stronger array of services,” he said, adding that “over the long run, there is the promise of additional innovative programs and services that will give their member credit unions a more competitive posture in the markets that they serve. “I know that the credit unions in the both states will make the best decision for their members and their future in considering blending these two great leagues into the new LSCU,” Mica added. The league boards fully support the creation of LSCU, said Rich Helber, Florida league chairman, and Steve Swofford, Alabama league chairman. Both said the combination would give credit unions a bigger voice in the political deliberations in Montgomery, Ala.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Washington, D.C., while providing members a wider selection of business services. It also would create efficiencies of $1 million or more per year, they said. For the past five months, the leagues have undergone a due diligence process that included financial audits, a review of dues structures, and a market analysis of existing and potential new products. The decision was confirmed by an external accounting firm--Carr, Riggs and Ingram--which concluded the consolidation would benefit both leagues from a financial and tax standpoint. The consolidation was partly driven by external factors such as the meltdown on Wall Street, according to Alabama league President/CEO Gary Wolter. “We are faced with what could be the most sweeping financial regulation since the 1930s, and the consolidation would make it possible to expand and strengthen the localized advocacy programs for both leagues,” he said. “As every day passes and the economic landscape narrows, it becomes more and more imperative that we enhance our advocacy capabilities to continue our fight against the well-funded banking lobby,” Wolter said. The consolidation also would create opportunities for additional, expanded league programs and services that would “enable member credit unions to be more competitive, he said. The next steps in the process entail communicating the plan’s details via town meetings and face-to-face meetings with individual credit unions in both states. The leagues set a goal of touching every credit union member in their respective states in January and February to prepare for the vote in March. “In this time of economic turmoil and the continuing reduction of the numbers of credit unions, an extraordinary opportunity exists in Alabama and Florida to create a new model for future delivery of services and even stronger localized advocacy programs,” said Florida league President/CEO Guy M. Hood. He noted the leagues made a thorough analysis of the opportunity and “the benefits to both leagues were apparent.” Alabama and Florida credit unions have “a long history of close working relationships,” and the creation of LSCU, if approved, “will provide an even greater opportunity for member credit unions to grow, prosper and impact the credit union movement,” Hood added. Long-time league presidents Wolter and Hood have both announced upcoming retirements.

SunCorpWesCorp merger still pending

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WESTMINSTER, Colo. and SAN DIMAS, Calif. (12/12/08)--An application for a merger of SunCorp CU into Western Corporate FCU (WesCorp) that was submitted in December 2007 was retracted in January 2008, but remains poised to be formally resubmitted. Westminster, Colo.-based SunCorp, along with San Dimas, Calif.-based WesCorp and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) collectively agreed to put the merger application on standby to wait for the market to stabilize, the two corporates told News Now. “We’re still anticipating a positive outcome from NCUA,” said Dennis Toda, vice president of enterprise strategies for WesCorp. “NCUA is aware of our desire to pursue the merger. We remain ready to favorably submit the application. “We continue to maintain and refine the application and are poised for formal submission at a mutually agreed upon time with NCUA,” he added. “The boards and members of both corporates are committed to the merger,” Mark Schieffer, SunCorp chief investment officer, said. “The broader market dislocation is what is resulting in the merger still being in a pending state. “WesCorp and SunCorp are still working together on the process,” he added. “Members know we are still committed. It’s just that the world was turned upside down by financial developments.”

CCUE designations awarded to 34 execs

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MADISON, Wis. (12/12/08)--Certified Credit Union Executive (CCUE) designations were awarded in November to 34 individuals from 12 states, bringing the total designations nationwide to 2,615, according to the Credit Union National Association. CCUE, instituted in 1975, is designed for managers and those aspiring to credit union leadership. It teaches advanced credit union management and operations techniques. Twelve individuals also earned the Certified Financial Services Professional (CFSP) designation. CFSP began in 1999 as a designation targeted at educating credit union professionals specializing in financial services. The Certified Executive Program (CEP) awarded specialty certifications to 17 credit union professionals. These certifications require in-depth courses in compliance, lending, financial management, marketing and human resources. CEP is recommended for college credit by the American Council on Education. The classes and materials are tailored to those working within the Credit Union System. For a full list of CCUE recipients, use the link.

Financial planners to see new renewal requirements

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GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (12/12/08)--Credit unions may want to note new requirements announced Wednesday for individuals with certified financial planner or other designations from the College for Financial Planning. Starting in spring 2009, anyone holding one of the college’s professional designations must complete continuing education, adhere to revised ethical standards and pay a renewal fee every two years to continue using the marks. The changes result from the college’s efforts to strengthen the credibility of its designations and the financial professionals who hold them, and stay ahead of a shifting regulatory environment, said the college. “The new requirements enhance the investment students have made in their professional education,” said John Sears, College for Financial Planning president. “The requirements will help assure the public that financial professionals using our designations are continually expanding their knowledge and adhering to a strict code of ethics.” The continuing education requirement comprises 16 hours of education that, in some cases, can be fulfilled by courses offered by financial firms, the college said. The college provides degree, non-degree and continuing professional education programs to professionals nationwide. It also offers the certified financial planner certification. More than 50,000 professionals nationwide have earned the designation.

29 freshman legislators attend Missouri CU breakfast

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (12/12/08)--Missouri credit union representatives statewide traveled to Jefferson City to meet with newly elected legislators on Dec. 9. Nearly 30 state representatives attended the credit union breakfast as part of a freshman orientation bus tour, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association (The Missouri difference Dec. 10). “Some of the new lawmakers aren’t familiar with credit unions,” said Rolla (Mo.) FCU President/CEO Janet Honse. “It was great to have one-on-one time with the lawmakers before they are confronted with all the new responsibilities in January.”
Missouri State Rep. Shelley Kenney, left, (R-156), talks with Rosie Holub, president/CEO of the Missouri Credit Union Association, at a credit union breakfast as part of a state freshman legislator orientation bus tour. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association)
“It was great meeting the legislators in an informal setting,” said Serri Helm, Kansas City-based CommunityAmerica vice president of corporate affairs and general counsel. “Visiting with them over breakfast provided a wonderful opportunity to learn more about their personal interests, careers, and passions--allowing us to build a relationship and hopefully a foundation of trust for future conversations,” Helm added. Roughly 29 Missouri state representatives attended, and 16 credit unions participated.

CUs on the Tube Missouri Homes for Our Troops

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ST. LOUIS (12/12/08)--A video featuring Army Specialist Scott West and the Missouri Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) is available online, says the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA). MCUA, which posted the video on its website, will make copies and distribute it to all credit unions in Missouri so they can display it in their lobby, and show it at boards’ annual meetings and in the community, said Amy McLard, vice president, public and legislative affairs with MCUA. “They can use it in any way to get the message across,” she told News Now. Missouri’s credit unions have teamed up with HFOT—a nonprofit group that builds specially adapted homes for severely disabled members of the military—on a home for West, a resident of Branson. West lost his legs below the knee in Iraq when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded beneath the humvee he was driving. He spotted the IED and jerked the vehicle to the right. As a result, it exploded underneath him, instead of his fellow soldiers. The video and a radio public service announcement (PSA) were created by HFOT. “We’re providing the PSAs to credit unions who may have radio stations they typically work with,” McLard said. MCUA’s website has a link to the video. The fundraising goal is $100,000 for the project. “We’ve had a phenomenal response from credit unions,” McLard said. “One credit union—HealthCare Family CU of the St. Louis area—decided to forego its annual holiday party and donate the funds.” “A lot of credit unions are responding in the face of a tough economic year,” she added. “We just got a contractor, and we have an architect. Now we need to finalize the land, and then it will be a race against Mother Nature as to when there will be a groundbreaking,” she said. “As soon as we get all the ducks in a row, then we can set a groundbreaking date.”

CU System briefs (12/11/2008)

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* EDMONDS, Wash. (12/12/08)—Former Herb Wegner Memorial Award recipient Carol Schillios and volunteers from the Fabric for Life Foundation have opened Fabric of Life, an outlet for projects made by indigenous Africans, in Edmonds, Wash.. The project trains women in a skill and sells the results to generate financial resources and provide shoppers with an education. In a video about the project, Schillios says the store is about changing lives and giving people access to resources to develop their skills. Schillios was a 2007 recipient of the Wegner award, presented by the National Credit Union Foundation. (Video provided by Western Corporate FCU) … * RALEIGH, N.C. (12/12/08)—State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) employees, via the SECU Foundation, donated more than $57,000 for the 2008 State Employees Combined Campaign (SECC), a giving campaign that makes donations to charities. The donations represent an 8% increase over donations in 2007, said the credit union. SECU members, also via the foundation, supported the campaign by funding publication costs of the SECC resource guild distributed to more than 250l000 active and retired state employees across North Carolina. That support is the second year of a three-year commitment representing total funding of nearly $200,000, said SECU …

MCUA CEOs letter to editor highlights trust

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ST. LOUIS (12/11/08)--A letter to the editor of the St. Louis Business Journal from the Missouri Credit Union Association President/CEO Rosie Holub highlights credit unions’ trustworthiness at a time when the “blame game is rampant to seek out and punish contributors to this economic meltdown.” The item, entitled, “Credit unions put trust before profit,” appeared in the Dec. 5-11 issue. Holub wrote that “the public trusted the advice of advisors who acted with monetary self-interest,” securities regulators “to carefully scrutinize the underpinnings of complex financial investment instruments” and policymakers to ensure special interest pressures “would not influence their actions at the expense of economic stability. “Many Americans are seeking financial services providers that will renew their faith and trust in a faltering financial system,” Holub wrote. The “good news is that there are providers that put earning and preserving the trust of those they serve before profit—they are called credit unions—a life raft in a sea of economic turmoil.” Holub discussed credit unions’ conservative money management, their federal insurance, and their conservative investments “in the form of loans to their members.” “As others make credit difficult to obtain, credit unions have money to lend because that is their primary purpose—to pool members’ savings and make loans,” she wrote. She noted their People Helping People philosophy and their advancing credit during the Great Depression. “Credit unions were there for people then, and they are there for people today.” Despite today’s economic stress and uncertainty, credit unions continue to maintain public trust. Holub cited yearly independent national surveys that “confirm that credit unions are trusted to consistently act in the consumers’ best financial interests. “Perhaps it isn’t so bad to be a little conservative, and perhaps it is time to take a look at a segment of the financial services industry you can trust,” she concluded. For the full article, use the resource link.

Students to launch Web page for CU

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (12/11/08)--High school and college students in graphic and Web design can submit a design for a new youth Web page on the San Bernardino School Employees FCU website. The credit union is inviting San Bernardino County students age 21 and younger to submit the design. The contest winner will receive $500 and the design will be used for a year (The Press Enterprise Dec. 9). The winner’s school also will receive $500. So far, the credit union has received 30 entries. The $60 million asset credit union plans to announce the winner next month. Isaac Ramirez, marketing and training specialist at San Bernardino School Employees FCU, told the newspaper the credit union tries to reach out to include the community and the contest encourages ties with the schools.

State program to invest in Michigan FIs including CUs

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LANSING, Mich. (12/11/08)--Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced a new program that would invest state money in Michigan financial institutions--including credit unions—for lending to businesses and consumers. The Michigan CD Stimulus Program aims to help stimulate lending to consumers and businesses, said the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor Dec. 10). The program involves the state buying certificates of deposits (CDs) of six or 12 months in duration and purchased at below-market rates, with a minimum offer of $100,000 and a maximum of $10 million per institution. The goal is to loan up to 80% of the funds deposited with participating credit unions and banks to Michigan businesses and consumers. The funds will be available until Feb. 6. The Michigan Department of Treasury, Bureau of Investments, posted final guidelines for the program last week.

Hearing set on Wisconsin auto dealers lawsuit

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MADISON, Wis. (12/11/08)--A hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 16 in a lawsuit brought by a Wisconsin auto dealers trade against the state credit union regulator over an agreement it made with a credit union to divest its auto sales business (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Dec. 9). The Wisconsin Automobile and Truck Dealers Association had petitioned the Dane County Circuit Court to overturn an agreement made by the state Office of Credit Unions. The agreement gave Racine-based Educators CU (ECU) 18 months to divest its auto sales business unless a state law regulating vehicle sales by credit unions is changed before then. The business involved is Educators Auto & Lease, which is a division of ECU Financial Services. It provides used-car sales, new- and used-car leases, and new-car referral services (News Now Dec. 3). The Department of Justice, which is handling the defense of the Office of Credit Unions, has asked that the dealers association lawsuit be dismissed. The regulator, Suzanne Cowan, earlier this year ruled that retail auto sales by credit unions aren’t allowed under the state statute. The situation was prompted by a complaint from an unknown auto dealer in the area about Educators CU’s auto sales. The dealers association filed a complaint saying the credit union charter doesn’t allow credit unions to offer auto sales service (News Now Nov. 4).

Scott Burt named presidentCEO of CMN

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SALT LAKE CITY (12/11/08)--Scott Burt has been appointed as Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) president/CEO. Burt previously served as interim president/CEO and chief operating officer of CMN. He joined CMN as the controller in 1986. Burt has been involved with partnerships including Credit Unions for Kids, a collaboration of credit unions, chapters, leagues and business partners that work to benefit CMN-affiliated hospitals. He also served for many years on the board of Mountain America CU in Salt Lake City. CMN is an international nonprofit organization that raises funds for more than 170 children’s hospitals.

Midwest CUs GM team up on 10 billion auto loan pilot

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LANSING, Mich. (12/11/08)--General Motors Corp. (GM) and credit unions from four Midwestern states have teamed up to help credit union members obtain vehicles with a purchase price discount from GM. Credit unions from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois also have pledged $10 billion in the “Invest in America” low-cost auto loans program to their more than 12 million members. The purpose of the six-month pilot program, which runs through June 30, 2009, is to assist both consumers and the auto industry in dealing with the nation’s economic stress and to help move America forward. “Credit unions have a long history of helping hard-working Americans in troubled times,” said Daniel A. Mica, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association. “In this period of severe economic stress, we are pleased credit unions can be a part of a program that utilizes one of their primary services—auto loans—to make auto purchases more affordable for millions of consumers and, in the process, help energize our nation’s economy,” Mica noted. According to David Adams, Michigan Credit Union League president/CEO, “Roughly 1,295 credit unions in the four states account for $90 million in assets and $23 billion in liquid funds that are available for loans.” Credit unions are able to make the offer because they haven’t been hit as hard by subprime lending and problems with capital markets, “so we’re in a position to help,” he said. Adams and Mark LaNeve, GM vice president, North America Sales, Service and Marketing, announced the program in a press conference Wednesday. Invest in America will provide value to consumers who take advantage of a GM Supplier for Friends price discount program on purchases of eligible new Buick, Cadillac, Hummer, Saab, Chevrolet, GMC, Saturn and Pontiac cars and trucks. An additional $250 bonus cash is offered between now and Jan. 5 on their eligible purchase. Depending on the individual credit union, total incentives could run between 5% for just the dealer program to 10%-20% when combined with other offers. Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm praised the initiative. “The purchase of a new car is one of the most significant investments citizens make,” she said. “Providing them access to the funds they need not only helps them, but provides a much-needed boost to our domestic automakers and our struggling economy. I applaud Invest in America for investing in our citizens and our state,” Granholm added. LaNeve noted that the Michigan league and GM began talking about a partnership three or four months ago. The arrangement “creates a tremendous value for GM and for thousands of credit union members. We appreciate the credit unions’ promotional support and are pleased to make this offer. “As GM maps its future, one thing is clear,” LaNeve said. “Americans are resilient and willing to step in and show confidence in each other. This is a great example of that spirit.” He added that $10 billion could finance up to 400,000 to 500,000 vehicle loans in an average price range of $20,000-$30,000. Adams noted that many credit unions in the pilot serve occupational groups such as auto manufacturers’ and suppliers’ employees, and their members are affected by what is happening in the auto industry and economy. “It’s a gesture that the credit union movement wants to be helpful in moving America forward.” He also said credit unions are less affected by the credit crisis and have strong capital ratios and liquidity positions. Credit unions also typically offer better rates than banks. He cited an October Datatrac survey in which credit unions’ rates averaged 5.4% compared with 6.9% at banks. The program will be piloted in the four states, with the potential to go nationwide in early 2009. The discount is available to credit union members in the four states no matter where they choose to finance their vehicle purchase. CUcorp, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Michigan league, will coordinate the program with GM. CUcorp also is in talks with Chrysler and Ford Motor Co. For more details or to obtain an authorization number to take to any GM dealership, use the resource link.

CU reps elected to Virginia Jumptart board

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HERNDON, Va. (12/11/08)--The Virginia Jump$tart Coalition has selected two credit union representatives to serve on its board of directors. The board Tuesday appointed Shannon Tackett, Northwest FCU Foundation communications officer, and Cherry Hedges, Virginia CU financial education director. Tackett and Hedges will work with schools, local governments, community organizations and businesses to advance financial education in Virginia. The coalition is a non profit, volunteer-driven organization representing more than 100 individuals and organizations in business, government, association and education who aim to improve the financial literacy of Virginians.

CU System briefs (12/10/2008)

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* MERIDEN, Conn. (12/11/08)--The Connecticut Credit Union Charitable Foundation has raised more than $38,000 for needy people in the state. Half the proceeds will go to the Connecticut Food Bank and Hartford FoodShare. The other 50% will go to Operation Fuel, an organization assisting families with fuel and electric bills. Mary Ann Pollaro, executive director of the foundation, said the fundraising not only helps the needy but increases awareness of the credit union philosophy of “People Helping People.” The funds raised will “help feed thousands of needy Connecticut residents and keep them warm this winter,” she said … * MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (12/11/08)--The board of Digital FCU (DCU) has
announced the upcoming retirement of President/CEO Carlo Cestra this spring and the selection of Jim Regan, DCU’s long-time chief financial officer (CFO), as his successor. A 40-year veteran of the credit union movement, Cestra has been CEO at DCU since April 1995 and led the credit union through more than 10 years as the fastest-growing large credit union in America, according to Callahan & Associate consulting firm. Cestra is a former CEO at AT&T Employees FCU, Bedminster, N.J., and Suffolk (N.Y.) FCU. The board selected Regan after a year-long search that considered more than 700 candidates. Regan began his career at DCU in 1991 as an internal auditor and became vice president of finance in 1995, then senior vice president/CFO in 1996. He is a member of the Credit Union National Association’s Accounting Task Force …

CU System briefs (12/09/2008)

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* ST. LOUIS (12/10/08)—A former policeman was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and three years on parole stemming from evidence tampering charges related to the theft of money in evidence after a credit union robbery. Mickey L. Dooley, 48, a police officer and evidence technician, was found guilty of evidence tampering, fraud, receiving stolen property, tax evasion and theft. The stolen money in evidence was from robberies at Olin CU and U.S. Bank. Dooley, who was evidence custodian at the time, was ordered to pay restitution of more than $48,748. He also was ordered to pay a $650 fine and a $725 special assessment (Belleville News-Democrat Dec. 9) … * Asheville, N.C. (12/10/08)—The Carolinas Credit Union Foundation presented an $11,000 Micro Community Grant last week to Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County. The grant will be used to purchase furniture, supplies and equipment for the group’s Project MARCH homework clubs. MARCH offers a safe haven for children to complete their homework, exercise and socialize after school until parents and guardians are available. The proposal was put together with the assistance of the Western Chapter of Credit Unions and United Services CU, a $43.2 million asset credit union in Asheville (Asheville Citizen-Times Dec. 60 … * LAKELAND, Fla. (12/10/08)--MidFlorida FCU, a $1.331 billion asset credit union based in Lakeland, has acquired A.H. Realty Inc., a real estate brokerage company in a deal completed Dec. 3. The brokerage firm will be renamed MidFlorida Real Estate Sales LLC. The acquisition means MidFlorida FCU can enter and expand a real estate business in central Florida, said Datamonitor (Financial Deals Tracker Dec. 3) …

Carolina minority center awards 3.65 million to CDCUs

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DURHAM, N.C. (12/10/08)—The North Carolina Minority Support Center has awarded $3.65 million to its affiliate community development credit unions (CDCUs) to provide for their operational, business lending and expansion needs. Recipients, who will receive the awards by year end, include:
* First Legacy Community CU, Charlotte, $28.3 million in assets; * Greater Kinston CU, Kinston, $9 million assets; * Latino Community CU, Durham, $66.4 million assets; and * Generations Community CU, Durham, $20.3 million assets.
Funding for the award cycle was provided by North Carolina’s General Assembly to support CDCU services and their efforts to serve low- to moderate-income members (CarolinaNewswire.com Dec. 8). The CDCUs’ requests “demonstrate that even in the midst of a down economy, CDCUs across the state are experiencing tremendous demand for their products and services. Not only are they working to meet the needs of their current members, they actually have an opportunity to reach a greater number of low-moderate income families,” said Avani Parekh-Bhatt, development and program director at the support center. The support center is a statewide advocate that partners with CDCUs to provide technical assistance, grants and loans to help them build generational wealth and create opportunities for individuals, families and communities.

Economy prompts Members United Corporate changes

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WARRENVILLE, Ill. (12/10/08)—Members United Corporate FCU Tuesday announced general budget reductions, a 20% reduction in staff and a return to a “back-to-basics” business approach—all stemming from the continuing market dislocation and a weakening economy. The staff reductions include Members United President David A. Preter, former CEO of Mid-States Corporate. “Members United has seen a reduction of approximately $6 billion in assets from its peak of $15 billion in March of this year due to the continuing market dislocations,” said Corporate CEO Joseph P. Herbst. “Members United has funded the liquidity needs of our members and will continue to do so,” Herbst said. “However, this reduction in the size of our balance sheet affects our ability to cover expenses at current levels and grow retained earnings. Clearly, we need to make changes to protect member value. “Following the merger between Mid-States and Empire corporates, Members United experienced tremendous growth,” Herbst stated. “Responding to that growth, the corporate assembled an extremely talented staff to support its operations and to position it for further growth in the future. But as 2008 draws to a close, that situation has changed.” The corporate will reduce its operating budget from initial 2009 projections by roughly $10 million through reduced spending on programs, infrastructure and product development, outside commitments and direct subsidies. Staff reductions, which will occur at all levels and locations, will trim expenses by about $5 million. Commenting on Preter’s departure, Herbst said, “Along with the other employees who will be departing, Dave will be sorely missed. I am sure he will remain a force in the credit union industry. I have no doubt he will make a great CEO in the future.” Preter said, “I leave Members United knowing that this decision is in the best interest of the members and that they are in very capable hands. I am very proud of the people at Members United and of the organization we have built over the years.” Members United also will look at its business operations in general. Its back-to-basics approach will focus more on its core markets and traditional product offerings. While these changes are still being finalized, Members United expects to implement them in the near term. While the corporate expects 2009 to be a challenging year, Herbst assured member credit unions in a letter announcing the changes, “While this is a difficult time, we remain committed to providing you the high level of service that you have become accustomed to.”

IN.Y. TimesI writer recommends CUs for small biz

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NEW YORK (12/10/08)—A columnist in The New York Times Tuesday advises small businesses how to increase their efficiency and cut costs, citing advice from Entrepreneur magazine, which recommends credit unions as an inexpensive benefit small business can offer their employees. Paul B. Brown’s column, which notes that times are tough for small businesses too, picked up three suggestions from the magazine. Among them: “Sign up with a credit union. This is ‘one of the most appreciated, but most overlooked,’ benefits. Employees will probably ‘increase their savings rates especially if you offer automatic payroll deduction, have access to lower loan rates and pay lower fees—if any—for services.’” For the full article, use the link.

IWall St. JournalI Look into CUs to improve credit rating

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NEW YORK (12/10/08)--Consumers can find several opportunities to rebuild the wealth they lost this past year due to failing banks, plunging home prices and the turbulent market. One way is to protect credit ratings. If consumers can’t improve their rating, they should look into credit unions. So says The Wall Street Journal in its Sunday issue. “These lenders are more inclined to look past your credit score to see whether other circumstances, like job history and other assets, make you creditworthy,” said the Journal’s “SmartMoney” column of credit unions. The article lists a number of ways consumers can recoup losses including:
* Working past their planned retirement date, to boost income from Social Security and investment returns by as much as 6.4% for each year worked. * Staying in the stock market and riding out the downturn. * Protecting their credit score. * Renting out their home if they must move elsewhere. * Bargaining with national chains for discounts on a variety of purchases.
For the complete article, use the link.

Illinois league announces statewide award winners

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (12/10/08)--The Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) honored several Illinois credit unions for their efforts through the Desjardins, Dora Maxwell, and Louise Herring award programs, including one that placed second in the national competition. In the Desjardins Youth Financial Awards program, first-place winners in their asset categories are:
* Prairie Trail CU, Joliet, $35 million to $75 million assets; * NuMark CU, Joliet $75 million to $250 million; and * Great Lakes CU, North Chicago, more than $250 million.
In the Dora Maxwell Award for Social Responsibility competition, first-place winners are:
* Rock Valley FCU, Rockford, $50 million to $100 million assets; * Financial Plus CU, Ottawa, $100 million to $200 million (also second-place national award winner); * Scott CU, Collinsville $200 million to $500 million; and * Consumers Cooperative CU, Waukegan, more than $500 million.
In the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action, the first-place winners are:
* GCS FCU, Granite City $50 million to $250 million assets; and * Consumers Cooperative CU, Waukegan, more than $250 million.
Each credit union will be recognized during ICUL’s 79th Annual Convention to be held April 16-18 in Chicago and will be presented a plaque at the chapter level. “We sincerely appreciate everything all of our credit unions do for their communities, and this is just one small way we can recognize them for their efforts,” said Dan Plauda, ICUL president/CEO.

World CU Conference offers strategic planning facilities

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MADISON, Wis. (12/10/08--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is inviting credit union boards and executive management teams to conduct strategic planning sessions in conjunction with the 2009 World Credit Union Conference. The conference convenes July 26-29 in Barcelona, Spain. Due to current economic challenges, many credit unions are seeking new ways to keep their leadership engaged and their member service levels high. Alternative approaches to strategic planning and team building exercises, such as meeting in conjunction with the World Credit Union Conference, can more effectively bring an organization's leadership together, WOCCU said. While attending the conference, board members will interact with their credit union peers from around the globe. They can gain new ideas and different insights into credit union management techniques and strategies that can become focal points of their strategic planning meetings, WOCCU said. “Your board will once again understand why they volunteer and how credit unions change people's lives, both at home and in communities worldwide,” said Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO. “It's an investment that will return dividends to your credit union for years to come.” Also, attendees can participate in educational breakout session and networking opportunities, and gain a global perspective on the credit union movement. WOCCU can help boards secure meeting space to plan and conduct their strategic planning sessions. For more information, contact Sue Sabatke, WOCCU's meetings manager, at ssabatke@woccu.org or call 608-395-2089. For more information on the World Credit Union Conference, use the link.

Georgia CUs kick off safetysoundness campaign

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DULUTH, Ga. (12/10/08)--Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA) has created a media campaign to make Georgians aware of the safety and soundness of credit unions to assure state residents they still have options for a safe place to put their money. The statewide campaign kicked off in November with billboard, print and radio advertising in cities throughout the state, reaching millions of Georgia consumers. “This has been a prime opportunity for credit unions to get the word out about the unique position that credit unions have in the financial services industry, and how people can rest assured that Georgia credit unions are safe, secure and ready to lend,” said Eric Jenkins, GCUA senior vice president of credit union growth services. GCUA enlisted the support of financial guru Dave Ramsey of the nationally syndicated “The Dave Ramsey Show.” He endorsed Georgia credit unions in a 30-second spot that aired statewide for several weeks throughout his consumer financial advice show and during other radio programs. Capturing the attention of Georgia sports fans, GCUA had a presence at the sold-out opening game for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team when they played the Philadelphia 76ers. Credit union representatives gave away T-shirts, stress relievers and other materials to tout the credit union message. Also, messages were displayed on the score board throughout the game to inform fans about credit unions. The campaign continues to reach Georgians throughout the month of December by displaying messages to commuters on metro Atlanta’s MARTA transit system. MARTA logs over seven million passenger trips per month, and travelers to the city’s most popular entertainment, transportation and business areas view messages on 134 digital boards located in all 38 MARTA rail stations. These messages include tag lines such as “Nearly 2 Million Georgians Belong to a Credit Union. Do You Belong?” and “Belonging to a Credit Union is Easy. Your Money Will Thank You.” Each of the messages reminds viewers that deposits at credit unions are federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration and directs them to the Georgia credit unions’ website. Credit unions have enhanced the affiliates’ statewide awareness efforts by spreading the word locally about credit unions’ safety and soundness. They have displayed posters in their lobbies, distributed stuffers and tent cards to members, and added Web banners to their websites, and sent HTML e-mail messages to their members.

WOCCU takes PDA transaction technology to Mexico

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MORELIA, Mexico (12/10/08)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has teamed with Caja Morelia Valladolid, one of Mexico's largest credit unions, in a pilot project to use personal digital assistants (PDAs) to perform financial transactions during field visits to its members.
A credit union representative (right) conducts a transaction with a member in rural Mexico, using new handheld technology now part of World Council of Credit Unions’ semilla cooperativa program. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
The effort is aimed at expanding efficient and secure financial services to people living in rural, marginalized areas of Mexico. The PDAs enable credit union field officers to transmit account data through cell phone towers to the credit union's central database in real time while visiting members in remote rural communities. The new technology reduces the risk of error in manual record keeping on field visits, helps provide faster, more secure service and builds member trust, said WOCCU. “In rural areas of Mexico, people have few options for access to financial services," said Brian Branch, WOCCU's executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Branch offices and ATMs do not have the population density or infrastructure to support them, but cell phone signals extend deep into the rural areas. The use of PDAs enables the credit unions to reach much deeper into the rural areas to provide financial services to people who have previously never had access.” Field officers previously recorded transactions manually in Caja Morelia's accounting books and in members' passbooks, then took the records back to the credit union to process. Through PDA technology, handheld printers immediately produce receipts while member accounts are updated in real time. PDA applications shorten transaction times, which reduce the length of waiting time for members and enable credit union representatives to serve more people during field visits. The technology, introduced in November, is a new addition to the semilla cooperativa (cooperative seed) rural outreach methodology WOCCU pioneered in the states of Michoacan, where Morelia is located, and Veracruz five years ago. Funding for that project came from the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (SAGARPA). An additional US$24.8 million from SAGARPA's Proyecto de Asistencia Técnica al Microfinanciamiento Rural (PATMIR) project has allowed WOCCU to expand its outreach approach to rural markets through 55 credit unions in 22 Mexican states. Through semilla cooperativa, credit unions train rural field officers from the area to regularly provide credit union services to communities up to 19 miles from branch offices. The service approach involves attracting new members, extending financial education, approving small loan applications and bringing credit, savings and remittance services directly to people living in remote rural areas. It is the first service of its kind offered by Mexico's financial institutions, WOCCU said. The program allows rural members to save money on transportation and put more time and resources into income-generating activities rather than spending a day traveling to the nearest branch office. The PDAs are designed to make the service more efficient and secure. “The PDAs will help credit unions minimize the risk that exists in providing this service by transmitting data to the financial institution online so that field officers can see members' up-to-date balances in their accounts," explained Luis Jara, director of WOCCU's program in Mexico. “The field officer also reduces personal risk by not having to transport as much money among the communities.” WOCCU plans to increase its PDA distribution to other credit unions participating in the program during the next year. The technology will enable representatives to reach people from more than 11,000 villages in 22 states. The WOCCU program also will implement the use of point-of-sale (POS) devices in semilla cooperativa communities in the coming year, allowing members and field officers to make credit union deposits at local shops and outlets. The POS devices also further reduce the field officers' risk of transporting funds and will allow members to access their accounts on a daily basis in their own communities. “The field officers’ services are becoming even more valuable to the communities they serve," Jara said. “The new technology will enable credit unions to more efficiently and effectively serve the growing ranks of rural members.”

Michigan regulators hold town meetings with CUs

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LANSING, Mich. (12/10/09)--Michigan’s Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) conducted two town hall meetings Dec. 3 for credit unions in the state.
Commissioner Ken Ross, left, of Michigan’s Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation conducted two town meetings for Michigan credit unions Dec. 3. He is shown here at Option 1 CU in Grand Rapids. (Photo provided by the Michigan Credit Union League)
OFIR Commissioner Ken Ross met with credit unions at Community Choice CU in Farmington Hills and at Option 1 CU in Grand Rapids. The meetings aimed to create an open dialogue between OFIR and credit unions on state regulatory issues, said the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) (Michigan Monitor Dec. 9). “This was a great opportunity for me, as commissioner, to get out and talk to Michigan credit unions and get their impression on what is happening out in the Michigan environment, and also to hear about the job that we are doing,” Ross said. “It was interesting to hear the difference in perspectives from different managers. There is a rich diversity in Michigan credit unions,” he said, adding that it was “important not only for credit unions to hear from the commissioner directly on a regular basis, but also to be able to speak directly and candidly about what they’re seeing out in the field.” The meetings focused on issues for state-chartered credit unions, although federal credit unions also could attend, said the league. “It’s a good chance to hear about the concerns some credit unions are having in this economic environment, with both foreclosures being at all-time highs and with what’s going on in the auto industry,” Patrick LaPine, MCUL executive vice president, told Michigan Monitor.

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.

SECU adds 500 million to 1.1 billion student loan funds

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RALEIGH, N.C. (12/8/08)--State Employees’ CU (SECU) will provide an additional $500 million in funding for student loans to North Carolina students, it announced Friday. The $500 million is in addition to a previous SECU investment of $1.1 billion for student loans it announced in June, bringing SECU’s total commitment to student loans to $1.6 billion, the Raleigh, N.C.-based credit union said. The new funds are part of an agreement SECU has entered with North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) and College Foundation Inc. (CFI). The funds will provide dollars for federally insured Stafford and Plus Student Loans. The funds were made available because the turbulent economic times has resulted in other providers of education loan funds pulling out of the market, said SECU. Its funding ensures that there will be funds available for students’ 2009 spring semester needs.

Iowa league Challenges bring opportunities for CUs

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DES MOINES, Iowa (12/8/08)--The Iowa Credit Union League believes that the current economic challenges and changes present credit unions “with a significant opportunity to be part of the solution,” says Patrick S. Jury, league CEO. They can do that by “serving the underserved Hispanic market--the largest, fastest-growing and most-underserved ethnic group in America,” Jury said. “Amid the current economic challenges and political changes, credit unions are working diligently to increase their membership, comply with increasing regulatory pressures, serve a growing number of underserved communities, and combat a predatory financial industry,” he said. Nearly one-third of the U.S. population will be Hispanic by 2042, he said. “This growth will not be a product of immigration, but of U.S.-born children and grandchildren of immigrants. Hispanics demonstrate a high work force participation rate, increasing household income, collective purchasing power, booming entrepreneurship, and it is one of the youngest populations that are largely unbanked and in need of financial services. “Credit unions have an opportunity to serve this market while increasing membership, portfolio and asset growth,” he added. ICUL’s subsidiary, Coopera Consulting, is helping Iowa credit unions and system partners such as Credit Union National Association, World Council of Credit Unions, U.S. Central CU and state leagues explore how they might best integrate strategic Hispanic outreach, he said in a press release. “Credit unions’ success, in part, is tied to developing the right mindset to reach unexplored areas of membership and growth.,” Jury said. “As credit unions realize that they need to serve this market, they also need to ask how they can do this effectively. As they establish this foundation, strategic planning can help align efforts and provide accountability. He advocated a “comprehensive approach” to adapt to this market rather than waiting for it to adapt to the credit unions. “This involves analyzing the credit union’s personnel, products, processes, and promotion strategies. It is not sufficient to merely translate materials, to implement a few scattered marketing campaigns, or to hire bilingual tellers. These steps are important, but should be components of a broad, pre-determined, proactive strategy in order to experience success more quickly and efficiently,” he urged. He compared the pursuit of the Hispanic market to “a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time, commitment and dedication to reach the Hispanic population. A successful effort will incorporate a deliberate and comprehensive approach that will ultimately result in a true partnership with the Hispanic community.”

CUNA Board election ballots due Dec. 19

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (12/8/08)--Credit unions in some districts/classes still have time to vote for their respective Credit Union National Association (CUNA) director representatives on CUNA’s board. Credit unions can still vote in two districts. For District 2, Class C, candidates are:
* Rod Staatz, president/CEO, State Employees CU of Maryland, Linthicum, Md.; and * Ron Collier, CEO of Indiana Members CU, Indianapolis.
For District 4, Class B:
* Bohdan Watral, president/CEO, Selfreliance Ukrainian American FCU, Chicago; and * Pete Dzuris, Northland Area FCU, Oscoda, Mich.
Ballots are due to an independent auditing firm by Dec. 19. Results will be made known Dec. 22.

CU System briefs (12/05/2008)

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* DURHAM, N.C. (12/8/08)--Self-Help CU is offering a $2,500 reward for information about an attack Nov. 24 by four men its CEO and founder, Martin Eakes. The credit union’s reward is in addition to one offered by CrimeStoppers for information leading to an arrest. Eakes was beaten repeatedly and robbed in a parking garage adjacent to the credit union. The men took his wallet, cash and two cell phones (The News & Observer (Dec. 4) … * MOBILE, Ala. (12/8/08)—A man who fired a gun during a credit union robbery and stole a manager’s car was sentenced to seven years and 11 months in prison by a federal judge Thursday. Jarvis Latron McAllister, 22, fired a shot into the ceiling of Mobile-based New Horizons CU on May 9 and yelled, “Everybody get on the ground.” Another man jumped the teller counter and stuffed money from teller drawers into a trash bag. Richardo Eason faces robbery charges in the incident (al.com Dec. 4) … * MODESTO, Calif. (12/8/08)—Four men at a Merced, Calif.-based auto dealer were arrested Wednesday in connection with an auto financing scam involving half a million dollars. Federal agents raided Auto Expo USA and arrested Abdel “Fred” Baset Jawad; Abdul “Manny” Muniem Mohamad Jawad; Najeh “Alex” Kamal Jawad, and Armand Fathic Abdallah, also known as Armando Souza. The indictment alleges that the suspects operated a scheme to enable customers to obtain financing, even if they didn’t qualify, by preparing false financial documents and forwarding the falsified information on loan applications to Modesto, Calif.-based Valley First CU. Based on the incorrect information, the credit union granted financing to about 60 people who were not qualified for a loan (Merced Sun-Star Dec. 4) … * DALLAS, Texas (12/8/08)--Three Tulsa, Okla., men have been charged in federal indictments with a series of burglaries in four states, including a June 30 burglary of $168,000 at Euless, Texas-based Southwest Airlines CU. The affidavit is four Matthew G. Moreland, 20; Jerry Clyde Stephenson Jr., 39; and Victor Revilla Jr., 39 (Fort Worth Star-Telegram Nov. 29). Burglars used power tools to cut through the front-door lock, disabled the alarm and outside lights, and drilled through the safe ... * BURLINGTON, Vt. (12/8/08)--Vermont FCU, a $215 million asset credit union based in Burlington, has named Bernard J. Isabelle as its new president/CEO, announced Board Chairman Curran “Spike” Robinson last week. Isabelle succeeds Joseph M. Finnigan, who served as president/CEO since 1978. Finnigan announced his retirement plans earlier this year and will assist in the transition through first quarter 2009. Isabelle previously served as senior vice president/chief financial officer and senior vice president/chief investment officer at Greylock FCU, a $1 billion asset credit union in Pittsfield, Mass. He also served in senior level positions at several northeast financial institutions including Sikorsky FCU and First Federal Savings & Loan of East Hartford … * ARLINGTON, Va. (12/8/08)--Drema Isaac, president/CEO of Central Macomb Community CU, Mt. Clemens, Mich., has been appointed as a director on the Credit Union Executive Council of the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS). The announcement was made by NASCUS Credit Union Advisory Council Chairman Mendell Thompson. Isaac has been president/CEO of the credit union since 2002. Before that, she served in key executive positions at Northland Area FCU, Oscoda; and was chairperson of the Community Reinvestment Initiatives Future Vision Committee; vice chairperson of the Metro East Chapter of Credit Unions; and a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Michigan Credit Union League. She will represent District I, filling the unexpired term of Mary McDonald of Genisys CU, Troy, Mich., who retires at the end of the year. Isaac’s term will end in September 2010 …

Members United Wisconsin CUs offer college savings plan

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WARRENVILLE, Ill. (12/8/08)--Wisconsin credit unions can participate in their state’s EdVest college savings program as result of a partnership between Members United Corporate FCU, Wells Fargo Fund Management LLC, and Primary Financial Company LLC. EdVest, a 529 college saving program, recently introduced a credit union certificate of deposit (CD) portfolio. The portfolio invests in underlying share certificates issued by Wisconsin credit unions. Primary Financial Co. is the corporate credit union service organization (CUSO) that provides the SimpliCD program, which allows credit unions to invest funds in federally insured certificates of deposit without the hassles, time and expense of finding and making investments on their own. Through SimpliCD, credit unions can issue certificates to raise liquidity by accepting investments from the EdVest program. “Members United, the Wisconsin Savings Program Board and Wells Fargo worked diligently to bring this program to fruition,” said Mike Lee, president of Members United’s Midwest region. “As a result, EdVest is the first 529 plan in the country to include credit union certificates. Working with the Wisconsin Credit Union League, we’ve engaged multiple local credit unions to participate in the program.” Warrenville, Ill.-based Members United, in partnership with the league and the CUSO will locate credit unions willing to participate. “Credit unions are in business to help members, and this program does just that by giving EdVest access to credit unions’ most competitive rates statewide,” said Brett Thompson, league president/CEO. “EdVest is an under-tapped resource that Wisconsin credit unions can use to help members reach their educational savings goals,” he added. The league worked on the project for two years before it became available to the public.

Connecticut league launches small CU support program

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MERIDEN, Conn. (12/8/08)--The Credit Union League of Connecticut’s Small Credit Union Support program was launched Wednesday with its first educational session for small credit unions.
Jay Friedland of M&M Consulting addresses regulatory issues raised by a credit union manager during the Credit Union League of Connecticut’s Small Credit Union Support Program educational session on Red Flag Identity Theft compliance. (Photo provided by the Credit Union League of Connecticut)
Jay Friedland, compliance professional for M&M Consulting, a league strategic partner specializing in compliance, audit and commercial loan review and risk management services, presented a two-part session on Identity Theft Red Flag guidelines to management groups representing 31 small credit unions throughout the state. The morning session focused on M&M’s Identity Theft Compliance Management Program, featuring regulatory issues, variances, approaches and potential consequences for noncompliance, and also methods and procedure for abidance. The interactive afternoon session provided a sampling of model situations during which Friedland addressed specific issues raised by attendees. The league’s program is part of a Strategic Process it launched in 2008 and is designed to provide smaller credit unions with free, appropriate information and regulatory compliance guidance.

Apartments for homeless vets funded by SECU

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RALEIGH, N.C. (12/8/08)--State Employees' CU (SECU) members, through the SECU Foundation, are providing permanent financing for transitional housing for homeless veterans in Durham, N.C.
State Employees' CU (SECU), through the SECU Foundation, Raleigh, N.C., is helping develop the Maple Court Apartments, to provide permanent financing for transitional housing for homeless veterans in Durham, N.C. Pictured is the construction site. (Photo provided by State Employees' CU Foundation)
The initiative is a partnership with the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. The new facility, known as Maple Court Apartments, is being developed by Volunteers of America of the Carolinas, with support from the City of Durham and the Veterans Administration (VA). The project responds to a large number of homeless veterans served by the VA Hospital in Durham. The vets are disabled or have chronic health problems exacerbated by the lack of safe, decent, affordable housing, said SECU. “The individuals served by Maple Court Apartments are citizens who have graciously served our country and are now suffering very difficult times,” said SECU board Chairman Shirley Bell. “This SECU Foundation project, which is a true example of the ‘People Helping People’ cooperative spirit, is providing assistance to these veterans on a much larger scale than we as individuals could begin to accomplish.” Maple Court Apartments will offer 24 rental units on a 1.6-acre site in North Durham. The Travis Porter Veterans’ Resource Center at Maple Court will be available for residents and for other veterans living at the adjacent LIFE House, developed by Volunteers of America for persons with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities. The Travis Porter Center will be staffed by supportive services coordinators and offers space for other community services providers. Services include life skills, education, employment, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, general health and dental care. SECU, based in Raleigh, N.C., has more than $15 billion in assets.

New Mexico association board freezes dues

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PHOENIX (12/8/08)--The Credit Union Association of New Mexico (CUANM) Board of Directors has voted to freeze the membership dues again for 2009. The announcement was made Friday by William Jacobs, president/CEO of White Sands FCU, Las Cruces, and CUANM Board chairman. The current dues schedule has not been raised since 2004, CUANM said. “While our organizational costs continue to increase, CUANM’s non-dues related activities help to absorb the impact normally passed on to member credit unions in the form of dues increases,” said CUANMN President/CEO Sylvia Lyon. “We are delighted that our financial performance affords us the opportunity to return this savings to our credit unions for the fourth straight year,” she said. “We realize how difficult it is for our members to sustain their earnings in these uncertain times, and we hope that this will be another signal of how much we appreciate their support year in and year out,” Lyon added.

WesCorp plans holding investments through recovery

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (12/5/08)--WesCorp FCU has changed its benchmark pricing model on its assets to improve reductions on its balance sheet in light of the turmoil in the economic marketplace, according to its October 2008 Financials Summary. WesCorp’s net income for the first 10 months of 2008 totaled $48.6 million, said the summary. During October, it experienced a $7.4 million increase to retained earnings, comprised of $13.4 million in net interest income and $2.8 million in other operating income offset by $8.4 million in operating expenses and $0.4 million of PIC dividends. That’s $3.2 million above budgeted levels, WesCorp said. Third-party adjustments to the benchmark pricing model resulted in a modest improvement—to $1.7 billion from $1.8 billion in September--of WesCorp’s aggregate unrealized losses in its securities portfolio and hedge positions—a reflection of the markets remaining in turmoil. “We believe the depressed fair values of these investments are largely attributable to the dislocation in the securities market caused by the current illiquidity and credit conditions, and do not accurately reflect the underlying credit quality and likely performance of our holdings,” said the report. The majority of WesCorp’s portfolio continues performing well and retaining high ratings. “Since WesCorp has the ability and intent to hold those investments most impacted until a price recovery occurs or until maturity, those investments are not considered by management to be other-than-temporarily impaired,” said the summary. In March, WesCorp redesignated $9.7 billion in “available for sale” securities to a “held to maturity” classification. As of Oct. 31, these securities amounted to $9.3 billion. Of the $1.7 billion in unrealized losses, $653 million was related to held-to-maturity securities. The reclassification reflects WesCorp’s intent and ability to hold the securities to maturity, as well as the lack of an active market in the specific securities, the corporate said. WesCorp said it is continuing to conduct monthly cash flow analysis on its holdings and performing impairment testing quarterly, and is being proactive in seeking external validation of its due diligence. It noted that collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) still are returning principal and interest in full, but credit support has eroded. “As a result, we may record other-than-temporary-impairment related to certain of our CDO holdings at some point in the future, given the continuing deterioration and the stressed market environment.” WesCorp owns 10 CDO securities totaling $550 million--slightly more than 2% of its portfolio. WesCorp also moved to Level 3 pricing on some portfolio sectors at the end of March, in accordance with SFAS 157, and those conditions still persist, the corporate said.

CU System briefs (12/04/2008)

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* HAVERHILL, Mass. (12/5/08)--Northeast Community CU, a Haverhill-based credit union whose merger with Haverhill Bank was approved last month, is expecting an easy transition. Peter L. DiBenedetto, CEO of the credit union, told The Boston Globe (Nov. 30) he anticipates the transition will go smoothly because both institutions already use the same computer and home banking computer systems. He also noted both have “deep local roots in the community and hold similar values.” The credit union will convert to a bank before its merger into the bank. Haverhill Bank will retain its name. DiBenedetto will become president of the bank, while the current bank president will become CEO … * MADISON, Wis. (12/5/08)--Filene Research Institute is inviting credit union professionals who are 30 or younger to participate in an online survey to gauge ways to attract more potential young adult employees into the credit union movement. It will publish the results in early 2009. For more information, check out the headline, “A Survey for Whippersnappers,” on Filene’s website … * NORWOOD, Mass. (12/5/08)—A school vice principal who serves as the treasurer of Norwood School Employees FCU has resigned and is on paid leave while police and the National Credit Union Administration are investigating the credit union’s finances, according to The Boston Globe (Dec. 4). Stephen Shinnick’s resignation will be effective Dec. 20. Paul Bishop, information officer of Norwood’s Police Department, said accounting practices are being investigated and that an audit will begin Monday … * WAYNESBORO, Va. (12/5/08)--Louis Hausrath, former president and board member of the former Waynesboro (Va.) DuPont CU, died Nov. 29 in Waynesboro at the age of 87. Hausrath was a former president and a board member of the Central Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Credit Union League and on the board of the Association of DuPont Credit Unions (Daily News Leader Nov. 30) …

Flight to safety means deposits to Mississippi CUs

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JACKSON, Miss. (12/5/08)--Credit unions in Mississippi are seeing more deposits and members as consumers exit the stock market for more conservative investments, according to the Clarion-Ledger (Dec. 2). Mississippi Credit Union Association President/CEO Charles Elliott told the publication that the state’s credit unions have received additional deposits as a result of consumers’ “flight to safety.” Membership rose about 2% in the state and nationally, he said. Deposits at Mississippi Telco CU, a $99 million asset credit union in Pearl, rose $14 million to more than $88.5 million between January and the end of November, said President/CEO, Kevin Long. He told the publication the largest amounts came from existing members who pulled money from other investments and financial institutions. The deposits at Telco averaged $100,000 to $150,000, although Elliott noted some deposits at credit unions have topped several hundred thousand dollars. The newspaper also interviewed Steve Pollman, CEO, Magnolia FCU, Jackson, who explained the $82 million asset credit union’s growth was from new accounts, rather than large deposits, and a hairdresser who said she would move her accounts to the credit union. She had considered moving to Wachovia Bank, but when it was taken over by Wells Fargo, she became more leery. “I think my money will be more secure in the credit union,” she told the newspaper. The article also discusses the credit union difference in terms of structure and better rates and lower fees.

U.S. Central investments strategy firm

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LENEXA, Kan. (12/5/08)--U.S. Central has a strategy firmly in place for weathering the economic downturn’s impact on its balance sheet. While patience is a key part of that, it is not a “wait and see” strategy. “The Fed and the Treasury are consistently introducing new programs because the market continues to be frozen. As a result, U.S. Central is still reluctant to sell its securities while the market value is dislocated or not rational,” said David Dickens, executive vice president of asset liability management at U.S. Central. “This is evidenced by the continual rollout of new programs from the Fed and Treasury.” As of Oct. 31, U.S. Central had $37 billion of assets on its balance sheet. That’s off by $9 billion compared with October 2007, which had $46 billion on the balance sheet, Dickens told News Now. “We have let the investments mature off at 100 cents on the dollar. We can sell them early for 60 cents to 85 cents on the dollar, but we’re being very patient, letting the investments mature off instead,” he said. U.S. Central is making a “conscious decision not to reinvest so we can shrink our balance sheet. We’re projecting over the next 12 months additional maturities of about $5 billion more. That’s assuming we don’t sell bonds in addition to what matures. If we sell them, the reductions would be larger.” So what is U.S. Central telling credit unions and corporates to do to ease the impact of the economy on their own balance sheets? Individual, natural-person-based credit unions are making a lot of loans to their members, who can’t get them from other financial institutions in a tightening credit market. “Credit unions have a long history of making high-quality loans,” Dickens said. Corporate credit unions make few loans, but “they are very attuned to the liquidity environment,” Dickens said, adding, “They have a similar strategy (to U.S. Central’s). They are holding their balance sheet size steady or shrinking it.” The advantage of shrinking the balance sheet is that it raises capital ratios because there are fewer assets supported by capital. The past year has seen “a significant reduction in balance sheet size,” Dickens said. “But, we talk about the patience involved with investments we have that are good. It would be a very bad financial decision to sell into a dislocated market. A more prudent move is to let good investments pay down as they are scheduled to do,” Dickens said. The $9 billion reduction in the investment portfolio is not all due to repayments and paydowns. “We’ve also sold about $1 ½ to $2 billion in bonds, so we’re not just taking a passive strategy. We’re actively reducing holdings as opportunities allow. It’s not a wait-and-see approach,” he told News Now. And next year, it will be $5 billion smaller than today’s asset size. That’s part of our strategy. We have enough liquidity to weather through until the economic recovery arrives,” he added. U.S. Central’s financials for the month of October recorded net income of nearly $30 million, with year-to-date earnings at $75.9 million, according to the monthly financials report on its website. Net losses for the month totaled $1.4 million, with net unrealized losses on securities classified as trading, jumbo mortgage loans held for sale and SFAS 133 hedge ineffectiveness comprised most of the loss.

Branch gives hands-on experience to elementary students

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (12/5/08)--Community CU, based in Gadsden, Ala., has opened its fifth in-school credit union branch, this one at Albertville Elementary School, to provide hands-on financial experience to youngsters on how to make their savings accounts grow. They’ll also get experience at online banking.
Click to view larger image Working together on Gadsden, Ala.-based Community CU’s newest in-school branch in Albertville Elementary School are, on the left, Albertville teachers, principals and school board members and the mayor of Albertville, and on the right side, the credit union’s employees and AES students who will be branch tellers and runners as part of a class. (Photo provided by Community CU)
The 1,700 students at the school “will be able to make deposits at school each week, but can only make withdrawals at our main offices with their parents,” said Brenda Gunnells, Community CU branch manager. “We hope by learning how to deposit money into savings accounts, they will learn the value of saving money and be better prepared for when they become adults.” Once the money is deposited, the students can see it grow when they receive statements or go online to www.netccu.com. Students can mouse over to the CU-e icon and use their account number and password to log into their account, beginning their electronic banking education, Gunnells said. Students are trained as tellers, are led by a teacher and assisted by parent volunteers. At the end of each deposit session, students must tally the day’s deposits and reconcile them with receipts. The program is beginning with fourth graders, but other grades will be added in the next few months, said the $222.6 million asset credit union. According to the Alabama Credit Union League, Community CU is one of the league’s first REAL Solutions credit unions. “We are pleased to see the credit union making what will be a long-lasting impact with area students, as well as building relationships, and the league will continue to help the credit union with its outreach in the future,” said Adena Whitman Zamora, league director of public and political affairs. REAL Solutions is an Alabama league initiative in conjunction with the National Credit Union Foundation and other leagues.

Kansas CUs report strong quarter

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WICHITA, Kan. (12/5/08)--Kansas credit unions reported a strong third quarter, according to a Kansas Department of Credit Unions report issued this week. The report indicated that assets, loans and net worth were higher for the state’s 85 credit unions for the quarter, despite an increase in delinquencies (The Wichita Eagle Dec. 4). Kansas credit unions overall are strong and performing well in tough financial times, John Smith, department administrator, told the newspaper. Kansas credit union assets in the quarter totaled $3.29 billion--nearly a 12% rise from the third quarter of 2007, the paper reported. Total loans increased more than 9% to $2.29 billion in the same period. The net worth of credit unions also went up 5.7% to $388 million. Credit union membership climbed to 514,523 compared with 506,629 a year ago. For the complete story, use the link:

New York league announces marketing awards

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ALBANY, N.Y. (12/5/08)--The Credit Union Association of New York announced the winners of its 2007 Pinnacle Marketing Awards. The awards recognize credit unions that have designed the most successful and creative marketing campaigns throughout 2007. Campaigns are judged on clarity of their goal, creative execution, quality of production, and campaign results. “From calendars to college survival kits to annual reports, this year’s award winners clearly demonstrated how marketing planning, originality and results are key components to credit union success and growth,” said Camille Aleixo, association vice president of marketing and communications. Pinnacle awards were given in four categories: Membership Kits, Product Penetration, Annual Reports, and Best in Show. Membership Kits award winners:
* Polish & Slavic FCU, Brooklyn, for 2008 Calendar, non-agency--more than $501 million assets category; * CCSD FCU, Elmira Heights, for College Survival Kit, non-agency--$51 million to $100 million; * OPCS FCU, Orchard Park, for Membership Brochure, non-agency--$21 million to $50 million.
Product Penetration award winners:
* Quorum FCU, Purchase, for Spread the Wealth, agency--more than $501 million assets; * Buffalo (N.Y.) Metropolitan FCU, for Who Knew?, agency--$51 million to $100 million; * Oswego (N.Y.) County FCU, for Join Our Growing Family, agency--$21 million to $50 million; * Providers FCU, Syracuse, for Proud to be a Part of the Community, agency--under $20 million.
Annual Reports award winners:
* Quorum FCU, for Center of the Universe; * Sperry FCU, New Hyde Park, for Putting the Pieces Together, agency--$101 million to $500 million; * Capital Communications FCU, Albany, for Commitment, non-agency--more than $501 million; * Polish and Slavic FCU, for 30th Anniversary.
The Best in Show award winner was Quorum FCU for Spread the Wealth.

Commonwealth CU reports bogus checks

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (12/5/08)--Counterfeit cashiers checks bearing the name of Commonwealth CU are being used in various scams. The $827.8 million asset, Frankfort, Ky.-based credit union received calls from banks and credit unions in Pennsylvania, Iowa and Tennessee for verification on checks from Veridian Research drawn on the credit union. The amount of these checks is $3,590, said Gloria Thomas, Commonwealth fraud and loss prevention officer. The checks were payment for work performed from a research job to locate individuals who were entitled to uncollected (escheat) funds from the government, she said. The job was advertised in the local newspaper, and participants were instructed to call a telephone number for instructions to get started. This was followed up with a letter and the check. The scam is being run from Ontario, Canada. The address the scammers are giving is P.O. Box 978, Frankfort, KY 40622. The phone number they provided is 1-866-439-1658. The envelope has a postmark from Canada. The credit union also has received calls from Georgia for cashier’s checks in the amount of $1,998, which are part of a mystery shopping scam with a fake-check mailing. The check used carries the name and routing number of Commonwealth CU. The counterfeit checks have an incorrect logo and incorrect signatures.

Online-shopping hike means CUs may see more member debt

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MADISON, Wis. (12/4/08)--While holiday shopping from Black Friday are indicating consumers are pulling back their spending for the holidays, Cyber Monday saw the second heaviest shopping day on record. That means shoppers are using debit and credit cards to pay for those online purchases. And because online sites usually don't take checks or cash, the purchases--and their shipping fees--are added to consumers' credit and debit card debt. Even with the economy, credit unions can expect members to have increased debt for these purchases. Online shoppers spent $846 million on Monday--a 15% increase over the Monday after Thanksgiving last year, according to comScore Inc., a research firm. Only the $881 million spent on Dec. 10, 2007, tops that Web sales figure (ComputerWorld Dec. 3). The sales were made even though websites of several national retailers failed during the four day-weekend. So far for this year's holiday season, which began Nov. 1, the $12 billion in 2008 online purchases is 2% less than last year, said comScore. The firm had predicted this year's holiday sales would be flat, compared with last year's. The state of the economy is influencing consumer shopping habits, according to a recent PriceGrabber.com survey (LoneStar Leaguer Dec. 3). About 61% of consumers surveyed between Oct. 24 and Nov. 10, expected to cut back this holiday season, but 97% expected to purchase something online this year, and 55% intended to purchase more than half of their holiday gifts online--a 10% increase from last year. Purchasing online is a cost-cutting strategy, said PriceGrabber.com. In addition to planning to stick to a budget to control impulse buying (53%); shop at discount or outlet malls (43%); and purchase only sale items (35%), roughly 37% said they would use comparison shopping websites. Cardtrack.com predicted credit card spending would increase 3% during this year's holiday season, compared with a 10% increase for the period in 2007. It noted that the holiday shopping season is shorter this year, consumers are spending less, and credit card issuers are less likely to extend more credit, which means for slower card spending. Some shoppers shifting to a cash lifestyle to gain financial control will find that several websites will offer a cash payment alternative through eBillme, a payment option that leverages online banking for eCommerce checkout. eBillme allows shoppers to choose the option at checkout. Their order is confirmed with an eBill sent to their e-mail address. Consumers pay the eBill through their online checking or savings account. The transaction clears with no personal or financial information required. Either way, consumers are still adding to their debt.

Report Phishing incidents up fewer entities targeted

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BEDFORD, Mass. (12/4/08)--Although phishing incidents are on the increase, fewer entities are being targeted by them, according to the October Global Online Fraud Report from RSA's Anti-Fraud Command Center. The total number of attacked entities decreased in October, to the lowest level since November 2007, despite an overall increase in the number of phishing attacks, said RSA. That's because fraudsters are focusing efforts on launching a large number of attacks against a smaller number of organizations, likely with the intent of targeting those with more customers and assets, the company said. Some credit unions and banks are finding themselves targets of recurring phishing attacks with members and nonmembers receiving e-mails, automated robotic phone calls and text messages purporting to be from the credit union. The bogus messages attempt to collect personal information such as account numbers and personal identification numbers. News Now has reported on these incidents as they occur, usually several times a month. Attacks against regional banks accounted for half of the total attacks against U.S. financial institutions, while those against nationwide banks dropped slightly during October, said RSA. While the U.S. continues to retain its position as the top country hosting more than half of the world's phishing attacks, Russia's percentages decreased, dropping that country to seventh place from fourth place. The U.S. and the United Kingdom remained the most widely targeted banking brands, with 73% of all attacks. Poland also entered the list for the first time, and Mexico replaced Columbia as the most targeted Latin American country.

CU in school helps students avoid check cashers

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TAMPA, Fla. (12/4/08)--Suncoast Schools FCU has opened a branch and installed an ATM at Bowers/Whitney Career Center in Tampa, Fla., to help students keep more of their paychecks by avoiding check cashers. The move was made to help working students, said school Principal Tony Colucci (Tampa Tribune Dec. 3). Because the school is a career center, many students have part-time jobs and have had to take their paychecks to check cashers, which charge fees that take sizeable portions out of checks, Colucci told the newspaper. Some students were paying up to 18% just to cash their check. For a $100 check, that amounts to almost $20 lost, he added. After Colucci approached the credit union about opening an in-school branch, the $6 billion asset Suncoast took action and set up a place where students can conduct transactions with a teller once a week. They also can use the credit union-installed free ATM on campus. Students can open an account with a minimum of $5 and can take out as little as $1. Students have told Colucci that being able to conduct financial transactions on campus has made them feel safer and allayed fears of being robbed after cashing their paychecks. The credit union branch also has helped students budget and save, he told the paper.

Employee perceptions of CUs have operations implications

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MADISON, Wis. (12/4/08)--A Filene Research Institute study concludes that employees' perceptions of their credit union may have implications for management about the credit union's operations in six areas. The study, "Employee Perceptions of Credit Unions: Implications for Member Profitability," was the topic of a News Now story Sept. 24. Further implications of the study's findings for senior management are also discussed, according to a review by the Texas Credit Union League (LoneStar Leaguer Dec. 3). The six implications are:
* Credit unions are different. If employees commit to what a credit union is, member outreach should be more successful. "It is one thing to claim, 'We have low interest rates on loans,' but is quite another to be able to say why." * Employees are "almost there." They are fairly committed to the idea of a credit union, and they almost unanimously agree that knowing about credit unions is important. Still, the shared understanding remains mostly implicit and is not readily articulated. When asked to explain credit unions in a face-to-face context, employees generally offer only small parts of the whole. * "Ours is not to reason why." Most employees do not see the credit union's characteristics as logically or causally connected. They associate different features with these but not in a clear fashion. The study suggests embedding causal ideas within a story or mythic framework to reach rank-and-file employees. This would give them a template for explaining credit unions to nonmembers. * Trust may be a hidden strength. "Trustworthiness" describes a credit union, but it did not figure prominently in the way employees talk about credit unions in face-to-face interviews--a missed opportunity for credit unions to build on trust as a primary differentiator. Trust may be a feature best expressed tangentially but it is an asset that should not be ignored, the study said. * Some employee groups are not as 'on board' as others. One such group is the most educated group. Many of these employees may see credit unions as substituting ideology and emotion for performance. They are more negative about credit unions' future, see more "dead wood" among fellow employees, and see deficiencies in efficiency, competence and professionalism. * Local institutional cultures matter. Employee commitment, consensus score, degree of trust and wanting to know about credit unions vary significantly by local credit union. That means local management styles and education programs can make a difference; these indicators rise and fall together, suggesting each influences the rest; and all are to some degree contagious in the sense that levels of commitment, trust and so one are self-propagating among employees.
The study is available at the resource link.

California bill proposes consolidating state regulators

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (12/4/08)--A California bill--Assembly Bill 33--proposes to consolidate all state financial industry regulators into one department, which is causing some concern for credit unions in the state. Current law provides for the licensing and regulation of banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions by the Commissioner of Financial Institutions; for the licensing and regulation of residential mortgage lenders and finance lenders by the Commissioner of Corporations; and for the licensing and regulation of real estate brokers by the Real Estate Commissioner. The bill would require the Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing, in conjunction with the commissioners from the three agencies, to develop a plan to consolidate the operations and licensing frameworks of the three departments into a single department by Jan. 1, 2015. The plan would be submitted to the state legislature by Jan. 1, 2012. The bill would make legislative findings and declarations in that regard. Although the California Credit Union League doesn’t have an official position on the matter at this time, it does have some concerns, Keri Bailey, league director of state government affairs, told News Now. “Up until the late 1990s, all state financial regulators were consolidated under one group--the Department of Corporations,” Bailey said. “The league worked to make separation a reality in the late 1990s--to help make sure there were some firewalls [between regulations of credit unions and other financial institutions].” With that separation, the Department of Financial Institutions regulates about 400 entities--including credit unions--and the Department of Corporations regulates about 1,130 entities, Bailey said. With consolidation, “some issues would be of concern to credit unions; we’re different animals,” Bailey said. “Our folks like a regulator such as DFI that understands credit unions and how they function,” she added. “If there is just one ‘super regulator,’ that could be problematic. That move could create a risk of the uniqueness of credit unions being misunderstood or diluted, just through the sheer numbers [of entities regulated].”

CUNA blogging live from Yes Summit through Friday

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TAMPA, Fla. (12/4/08)--The 2008 Your Essential Strategies (Yes) Summit kicked off Wednesday and runs through Friday, and anyone who is not there can still attend through the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) live conference blog. The CUNA YES Summit focuses on serving 18- to 30-year-old credit union members. The CUNA YES Summit aims to:
* Provide information for attendees to better understand the demographic; * Educate attendees on Gen Y’s four basic financial needs and how credit unions successfully address those needs; * Foster meaningful interaction with young adults and collaboration with credit union professionals; * Generate ideas and action through interactive sessions; and * Offer information about innovative initiatives throughout the movement focused on Gen Y.
The blogs are posted by Christopher Morris, CUNA Councils Web manager, and Philip Heckman, CUNA’s director of youth programs. Credit unions can respond to the blogs by clicking “comment” to any of the postings. Also, Josh Jones, Yes organizer and CUNA manager of young adult programs, has posted a welcome video on the blog site. Participants in the blog can take part in discussions, post questions and comments and follow the key points that Summit speakers make.

CU System briefs (12/03/2008)

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* MANCHESTER, N.H. (12/4/08)--St. Mary's Bank, the nation's first credit union, has named Ronald H. Covey Jr. as the eighth president/CEO in its 100-year history, says the credit union's website. Covey has more than 30 years in banking, most recently as executive vice president of commercial banking for Ocean Bank in New Hampshire and Maine. He will succeed Ronald J. Rioux, who will retire at the end of January after serving the credit union since 1993. Board Chairman Ovide Lamontagne said Covey "understood our core values of community-oriented and member-focused service." Covey also has senior management experience at Citizens Bank, Numerica Savings Bank and BankEast. Rioux was instrumental in creating America's Credit Union Museum, which opened in 2002 at the credit union's original site. Covey will join the credit union in mid-December and work with Rioux and the board on a transition. Covey's priorities will be to continue the credit union's commitment to making loans available to members, particularly in the struggling economy; building on St. Mary's mission to serve a diversifying immigrant population of greater Manchester, and expanding technology to increase member convenience … * PHOENIX (12/4/08)--The Arizona Credit Union League and its affiliates raised more than $9,700 for local charities through its annual co-ed softball tournament Nov. 15. This year, CO-OP Financial Services matched the amount raised, bringing the total to $19,400. Proceeds will benefit CUs For Kids, which supports Children's Miracle Network hospitals, Phoenix Children's Hospital's One Darn Cool School program and Tucson Medical Center's Hand on Therapy program. Funds were raised through ticket sales, registration fees, and operating a hot dog stand provided by Enterprise Car Sales. Forty credit unions participated. Desert Schools FCU won the "Competitive" tournament, beating SunWest FCU. In the "Just for Fun" tournament, Bashas' Associates FCU earned the title in a game against Altier CU. Hughes FCU won the Spirit Award for the tournament with the most ticket sales and cheerleading … * BURLINGTON, Mass. (12/4/08)--On April 20, the Credit Unions Kids at Heart program will mark its 10th year in Boston Marathon on behalf of Children's Hospital Boston. The program has raised $2.9 million since 1996 for efforts such as a patient-family lounge for the hospital and fetal research. Since 2000, the program has sponsored a marathon team of credit union volunteers, members and employees. This year's 55 credit union sponsors expect to present a check that will put fundraising "over the top" of the $3 million mark, with 2009 expected to bring in roughly $300,000 through a combination of the marathon, annual Credit Union Invitational Golf Tournament, a raffle, and credit unions' activities. Next spring's 11 team members will be paired with a patient for the marathon event … * LAPLACE, La. (12/4/08)--Louisiana FCU President/CEO Rhonda Hotard has been named chair of the River Region Chamber of Commerce, effective in February 2009. Hotard has served on the board of the chamber since the organization's inception in 2004. She has been with the credit union for 14 years. She was comptroller at the credit union before being named president/CEO in 2000 …

Global economic crisis worries African CU regulators

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PRETORIA, South Africa (12/4/08)--The growing global economic crisis was one of many topics discussed by financial regulators gathered for the World Council of Credit Union’s (WOCCU) second annual African SACCO Regulators' Roundtable last week.
Click to view larger imageAfrican credit cooperative (SACCO) regulators gathered in Pretoria, South Africa, last week to discuss issues facing the continent's credit unions. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
However, fallout from the global recession could have an impact on members of the continent's rapidly growing number of credit unions, known as savings and credit cooperatives, or SACCOs. “Africa is a dynamic environment for SACCOs today,” said Dave Grace, WOCCU's vice president of association services and roundtable coordinator and host. “This factor, combined with the current global economic slowdown, presents regulators with a series of challenges few regions have to face.” In Africa, 11,849 SACCOs serve 15.1 million members, up from 2006, when 8,237 SACCOs served 13.1 million members, according to WOCCU's 2007 Statistical Report released in June. The recession, coupled with other social challenges such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, raises the stakes on the importance of SACCOs to their members and the SACCOs' continued ability to serve in the face of such crises, Grace said. Some 40 regulators from seven African nations, Canada and the U.S. gathered in Pretoria, South Africa, for the two-day roundtable sponsored by WOCCU, the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA) and the National Treasury of The Republic of South Africa. Impact from the global recession could severely affect food prices, which already are rising, Grace said. Also, economic downturns in developed countries often result in declines in economic aid and reductions in charitable giving, all of which could present unforeseen challenges for Africa's SACCOs, he added. Regulatory and economic issues topped the agenda, which included opening comments by National Treasury Deputy Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Musa Nene, who read a letter from WOCCU President/CEO Pete Crear to finance ministers of the G-20 countries. The letter, submitted prior to the Nov. 15 G-20 meeting in Washington, D.C., asked for recognition of financial cooperatives’ lack of culpability in any regulatory steps taken to address the global economic crisis. Other agenda topics included reviewing lessons learned in legislative development, designing supervisory systems appropriate for financial cooperatives and building service capacity among the continent's SACCOs. Roundtable participants included representatives from Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, all of which have SACCO-specific legislation in development.

Texas leagues Adopt-A-Family program deadline Friday

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (12/3/08)--The Texas Credit Union League's Adopt-A-Family program has a waiting list of donors eager to help spread holiday cheer to Southeast Texas credit union employees affected by Hurricane Ike and who are still displaced from their homes. Friday is the deadline for completing an online application for assistance through the league's "Adopt-A-Family" program. The program launched two months ago, with the league appealing to those experiencing personal hardship from the hurricane. To date, more than 10 employees have been added to an "angel" tree and all have been adopted. The Texas Credit Union Foundation has awarded more than 900 emergency grants to credit union employees in the affected area, but it says other families likely could benefit from the "Adopt-A-Family" program. To be eligible, one must be a credit union employee, have at least one child and have suffered tremendous personal loss, said the league's LoneStar Leaguer (Dec. 2). To protect adoptees' privacy, adopters will receive only first names of the employee and children, the children's ages, the family's wish list, and the name and address of the place of employment.

Date set for Texas Sunset Commission hearing

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (12/3/08)--During its next hearing Dec. 15-16, the Texas Sunset Commission will make its final consideration of staff's recommendation to continue the Texas Credit Union Department (TCUD). The department is listed on the schedule for Dec. 16, said the Texas Credit Union League (Life is a Highway Dec. 2). During a preliminary hearing on Sept. 23, the commission staff recommended that TCUD continue operating for 12 years. A bill to continue TCUD must pass the legislature before the department can continue supervising credit unions. Two other issues recommended by the commission staff are of concern to the league. They are: allowing the commissioner to impose fines on credit unions and removing the option of the TCUD to continue consolidated filings of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from 990 form the statute. The league is working with the commission on credit union concerns regarding these recommendations.

SECU offers housing assistance through agency

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RALEIGH, N.C. (12/3/08)--State Employees' CU (SECU) members, through the SECU Foundation, are teaming up with the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) to provide 0% construction financing for supportive housing through local non-profits. NCHFA provides permanent financing to help non-profits build housing for persons with disabilities and special needs. SECU Foundation's loans will generate savings averaging about $50,000 per project. Permanent financing previously committed to the project will repay each construction loan. This allows the funds to be recycled and available for future housing projects, said SECU Foundation. The initial housing facilities will be located in eight counties and will represent housing for a variety of disabled and homeless individuals and families in North Carolina, including initiatives to address domestic violence and substance abuse. "The SECU Foundation's partnership with NCHFA will allow SECU members to assist many North Carolinians who are desperately in need of housing. 'People Helping People' is the philosophy our foundation was founded upon and these join housing projects embody the spirit of this philosophy, said foundation Board Chairman David King. "Individually it can be difficult to make a difference, but collectively, SECU members can accomplish great things in our state." According to NCHFA Chairman Lucius S. Jones, the partnership is the first of its kind. SECU Foundation's investment "makes it much easier for local organizations to produce housing for people with disabilities and special needs. People around the state will benefit from their initiative," Jones said.

Washington CUs create jobs expand access in 3Q

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (12/3/08)--As Wall Street collapsed and Washington banks received access to more than $700 billion from the government, the state's credit unions remained bailout free, created jobs and expanded access to affordable financial services during third quarter 2008. For the three months ending in September, the state’s credit unions added 469 new jobs, increasing total credit union employment over June by 6.2% to 7,593 full- and part-time employees. During the same period, they also added 17 new branches, expanding access to affordable financial services for the state’s 6.5 million consumers. “Washington’s credit unions were formed during tough times to withstand, and even thrive during tough times,” says Washington Credit Union League President/CEO John Annaloro. “To experience this growth in the face of a massive economic pullback reaffirms the strength of the credit union movement.” Year over year, from September 2007 to September 2008, the state’s growing rank of 2.5 million members increased savings in their share accounts by more than $2 billion (9.5%). Total deposits in Washington-based credit unions now stand at more than $23 billion. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) estimates that Washington credit unions provide nearly $321 million annually in direct financial benefits to members--equivalent to $130 per member or $248 per member household. “In addition, every Washingtonian benefits indirectly from the competition provided to banks from credit unions,” says Annaloro. “And, credit unions have never received a single dollar of public bailout money to provide this competition. We do it gladly and can say with pride that America’s credit unions have been bailout free for all of the 100 years they’ve been in existence,” he added. The same is not true for America’s banks, the league said. The estimated price tag for the subprime banking crisis of 2007-08 is $1.8 trillion, which includes last week’s announcement of an additional $800 billion government bailout plan. The current crisis is eclipsed as a single expenditure only by the $3.2 trillion (adjusted for inflation) Americans spent on World War II, said the league. “It’s a pretty simple equation,” says Annaloro. “Banks take money out of the taxpayer’s pocket; credit unions put money into the taxpayer’s pocket.” And it appears as though that trend will continue. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in its most recent quarterly report said there are currently 171 problem banks. This is the highest number since 1995 and represents $115.6 billion in assets, the league said.

CU loans and savings both up in October

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MADISON, Wis. (12/3/08)--The U.S. entered a recession in December 2007 that continues to this day, the National Bureau of Economic Research reported Monday. So far this year, credit union members have responded to the recession as expected by increasing their savings balances, said Steve Rick, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) senior economist.
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October’s statistics show that with payday falling on the last day of the month, credit union savings balances increased 1.5% to $695 billion from $685 billion in September, according to the CUNA monthly sample of credit unions. Share balances increased 6.6% during the first 10 months of 2008. Share drafts increased 7.2% while one-year certificates grew 1.5%, and individual retirement accounts rose 1.2%. Regular share and money market accounts declined 0.3% and 0.03%, respectively. “During the first 10 months of 2008, credit union savings balances rose 6.6%, faster than the 3.7% reported for the similar period in 2007,” Rick said. “Regular share balances rose 5% so far this year, up from a 5.2% drop for the similar period in 2007. Recessionary fears are encouraging members to increase their ‘precautionary’ regular share balances,” he told News Now. Money market account balances rose 13.5% for the period, up from 8.9% for the similar period last year, he added. “Low market interest rates are encouraging members to increase their ‘speculative' money market account balances,” Rick said. “Members are placing their investment funds in liquid money market accounts rather than illiquid low-rate share certificates. “Members are speculating that market interest rates are nearing their bottom and will move investment funds back to certificates of deposit once interest rates head back up,” Rick said. “With this recession expected to last for another six to 12 months, credit unions should expect both regular share and money market account growth to increase in 2009, while share certificate balances to actually decline.”
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Credit union loans outstanding increased 0.5% in October from September, and 6.6% over the first 10 months of 2008, compared with increases of 0.7% and 5.6% during the same period last year. Home equity loans led loan growth with a 1.4% increase, followed by a 1.1% rise in adjustable-rate mortgages, a 0.6% increase in used-auto loans, and a 0.4% increase in fixed-rate first mortgages. Unsecured personal loans declined 1.2%, followed by a 0.3% decline in new-auto loans, and 0.2% decline in credit card loans. Fixed-rate first mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages had the highest year-to-date increases, rising 15.4% and 11.8%, respectively. With savings growth outpacing loan growth, the loan-to-savings ratio decreased to 83.4% in October from 84.3% in September. The liquidity ratio--the ratio of surplus funds maturing in less than one year to borrowings plus other liabilities--grew to 15.7% in October from 14.7% in September. Credit unions’ 60-plus-day delinquencies remained constant at 1.1%. The movement’s overall capital-to-asset ratio remains at 11%, with the total dollar amount capital at $90 billion, according to CUNA’s sample.

WOCCU issues call for 2009 WYCUP nominations

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MADISON, Wis. (12/3/08)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has issued a call for nominations for the WOCCU Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) Scholarship Program. The deadline for nominations is June 15. WOCCU is committed to ensuring the future sustainability of the international credit union system by recognizing and promoting its next generation of leaders, WOCCU said. The WYCUP Scholarship Program seeks individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of their credit unions, regional or national credit union systems, and who have demonstrated the potential to employ their talents at the international level.
Click to view larger image World Council of Credit Unions Chairman Melvin Edwards, left, and President/CEO Pete Crear, third from left, congratulate 2008 WYCUP winners, from left: Joe Agro, Anna Corona, Rafal Sokolowski, Nicholas May and Rachel Milan at the 2008 World Credit Union Conference in Hong Kong. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
WOCCU encouraged credit unions and credit union organizations that are WOCCU members to nominate their next generation of credit union leaders to compete for the WYCUP Scholarship. “My experience at the WOCCU Conference in Hong Kong was inspiring,“ said 2008 WYCUP Award winner Anna Corona from AEA FCU, Yuma, Ariz. “It was amazing to be around other young professionals who share the same passion for credit unions and strongly believe in the credit union philosophy of People Helping People.“ To be eligible for the scholarship, nominees must:
* Be sponsored by their credit union or credit union organization to attend WOCCU's 2009 World Credit Union Conference in Barcelona in July; * Be 35 years of age or younger on Jan. 1, 2009; and * Submit a completed nomination form with all supporting materials to WOCCU by June 15, 2009.
The WOCCU Scholarship, which consists of an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2010 World Credit Union Conference, will be awarded to five recipients at 2009 Barcelona conference. All WYCUP nominees, regardless of award status, will be formally recognized in Barcelona and invited to take part in events organized specifically for participants under age 35, including a networking session. Conference registrants age 35 and under also qualify for a discounted registration fee regardless of whether they compete for the scholarship. For more information on the WYCUP Scholarship program and to download a nomination form, use the resource link. For more information on the WYCUP program, contact Liliana Tangwall, credit union analyst, at ltangwall@woccu.org or 608-395-2043.

Auto dealers petition court on CU deal with regulator

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MADISON, Wis. (12/3/08)--The Wisconsin Automobile and Truck Dealers Association has filed a court petition to overturn an agreement a credit union had with the state regulator that allowed 18 months for the credit union to divest its auto sales business. The petition was filed Nov. 12 in Dane County Circuit Court and names as defendants the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions (OCU); the state Credit Union Review Board; Racine, Wis.-based Educators CU (ECU); and ECU Financial Services (The Journal Times Dec. 2). The credit union owns Educators Auto & Lease, which is a division of ECU Financial Services. It provides used-car sales, new- and used-car leases, and new-car referral services (News Now Nov. 4). At issue is the OCU's decision to settle a dispute brought by the association against Educators CU's auto dealership by offering the 18-month grace period to divest the business. The newest petition asks for a court judgment that the agency did not have the authority to offer ECU the deal. Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesman Bill Cosh told the newspaper that the attorney general's office will defend the other agency in court. The situation was sparked by a complaint from an unknown local auto dealer about Educators CU's auto sales. The dealers association filed a complaint saying the credit union charter does not allow credit unions to offer auto sales service (News Now Nov. 4). OCU initially ruled that the state's credit union law allows credit unions to own only auto leasing services,--not retail car sales. The credit union appealed that ruling. Educators CU told News Now in November, when the deal to divest was made, that it had 18 months to have the law clarified or to divest the business to a third-party. A credit union spokesman told the local newspaper last week that the credit union will pursue both getting the law changes and divestiture. The court case centers on the question: if auto dealers can offer financing along with a vehicle, can a financial institutions sell cars along with the financing? The $900 million asset credit union's prices for cars averaged $3,000 to $5,000 below sticker price, said the article.

CUs in Florida Wisconsin halt foreclosure for holidays

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., and MADISON, Wis. (12/3/08)--Florida credit unions and a credit union in Wisconsin are suspending foreclosures over the holiday season in attempts to give people time to find a way to stay in their homes. Florida credit unions and bankers said Monday they will suspend foreclosures for the next 45 days (The Miami Herald Dec. 1). Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced the halt in foreclosures at a press conference with the Florida Credit Union League and Florida Bankers Association. He could not say how many consumers this move would help. Following the lead of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which announced Thursday they will suspend foreclosures until Jan. 9, Black Hawk Community CU, a $303 million asset, Janesville, Wis.-based credit union, announced it would have a moratorium on foreclosures over the holidays--for the next six weeks (15 WMTV Nov. 25). The rationale for the moratorium is that new programs geared to helping people stay in their homes could be announced in the next couple weeks, Lyle Wermund, spokesman for Black Hawk, told the TV station. The programs might lower interest rates, extend terms and even forgive debt, Wermund added.

First Techs U-Turn Challenge prize is 10000

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (12/3/08)--First Tech CU is running a promotion in which households seeking to make a “U-turn” in their financial lives can participate in the First Tech U-Turn Challenge and compete for a $10,000 grand prize. The prize goes to the household that achieves the most financial success in four pre-determined categories: debt reduction, savings increase, overall net-worth increase, and overall level of participation. The First Tech-selected households will participate in the challenge through 2009, documenting their financial successes and challenges on their blogs posted on the challenge website. Participating households will be assigned a team of First Tech financial experts, who will help them get on track to achieve a better financial life and potentially win the competition. The First Tech team will focus on every aspect of a household’s financial situation, including budgeting, managing credit, home buying, paying for college, planning for retirement, insuring for the future and more. First Tech is a $1.849 billion asset, Beaverton, Ore.-based credit union.

Morrow Ingram named presidentCEO of Oklahoma league

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TULSA, Okla. (12/3/08)--The Oklahoma Credit Union League Board of Directors has named Debra J. "D.J." Morrow Ingram as president/CEO. Morrow Ingram has served as the interim president/CEO since June 2007. "D.J. performed well as the interim president/CEO these past 18 months under some very difficult circumstances," said Michael D. Kloiber, board chair. "The continuation of this leadership was deemed an important reason for the board's decision. "We are now positioned to complete the move to our new office in the Oklahoma Credit Union House in Oklahoma City and the partnership agreement with the Texas Credit Union League." Under D.J.'s leadership, we look forward to a very successful transition," Kloiber added. Calling it a privilege to work with the Oklahoma credit union movement, Morrow Ingram said, "I look forward to the many opportunities ahead for the Oklahoma Credit Union League and its members, and am committed to promoting continued growth and development of Oklahoma credit unions through innovative products and services, education and advocacy." Morrow Ingram joined the league in February 2006 to oversee the league's advocacy efforts. She had previously worked for the league as government relations director in the late '90s. An attorney, she has 28 years experience in media and public relations, marketing, corporate communications, government and community relations, and association management. Her prior employment includes positions with the Tulsa Area United Way, Sunoco Inc., Oklahoma Bankers Association and Security Bank and Trust in Ponca City. She is a former assistant attorney general for the state of Kansas.

CUNA Board members safety editorial in IKansas City StarI

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KANSAS CITY (12/3/08)--Credit unions are a safe course to take in the troubled waters that constitute today’s world of finance, a Credit Union National Association Board member wrote in an editorial published Tuesday in The Kansas City Star. “When faced with choices, close to home is usually a safe course,” wrote Dennis Pierce, CEO of the $1.689 billion asset, Lenexa, Kan.-based CommunityAmerica CU. “In the financial services industry, credit unions are about as close as you can get to home. “Credit unions were formed by people with common interests, who pooled funds to help each other,” Pierce added. “Friends and neighbors banded together for mutual financial benefit. And credit union membership is much more open than in the early part of the 20th century, meaning Kansas Citians have more options than they may know in the way of credit unions. “It’s worth noting that the credit union principle has worked for nearly a century, and it’s even more relevant today, especially amid one of the biggest financial crises in U.S. history,” he continued. “It’s a long way from Wall Street to Main Street. When seeking safety, keeping your money close to home, in the company of the money of your friends and neighbors, is a good choice in these times,” Pierce concluded.

CU System briefs (12/02/2008)

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* FAIRBORN, Ohio (12/3/08)--Wright-Patt CU is paying out a special patronage dividend totaling more than $3 million to its membership, its board announced Monday. The dividend will be paid on Jan. 15 and will be distributed to more than 160,000 members. "In a year when earnings are stronger than needed to pay for operations and maintain healthy reserves, the board of directors feels that money should be paid back to the members," said Doug Fecher, president/CEO. The dividends will range from at least $5 to several hundred dollars … * MERIDEN, Conn. (12/3/08)--Members CU and the Stamford, Conn., chapter of credit unions provided a dose of reality to about 90 students at Greenwich High School Nov. 19 with their "Making Ends Meet," a REAL Solutions Financial Reality Fair. The one-day financial decision-making simulation teaches basic personal finance management skills such as having a job, meeting living expenses, and trying for luxury items. Members CU CEO Kathy Chartier asked the students if they knew the difference between a bank and a credit union. After a moment's hesitation, one student responded, "Well, it's more for the people. You know, like 'power to the people!'" Here, financial counseling station advisers review students' life station choices and expenses, and offer possible reconsiderations. (Photo provided by the Credit Union League of Connecticut) … * MADISON, Wis. (12/3/08)--Chuck Hamilton has joined CUNA Mutual Group as senior vice president of business finance, announced the company Tuesday. Hamilton will provide leadership to the company's business finance teams, which include product, sales, customer operations and asset management. He has served in several strategic business finance and oversight roles in insurance and financial services companies for most of his 29-year career, including several years as chief financial officer for North American operations for Willis, an insurance broker …

Media roundup CUs have money to lend

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MADISON, Wis. (12/2/08)--From The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch to the Los Angeles Times, from TheStreet.com to the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) Press Republic to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the word is that despite the economy, credit unions have money to lend. The newspapers all published reports in the past week about credit unions offering loans at a time when credit has dried up elsewhere. The Columbus Dispatch Sunday noted that "as many financial institutions have struggled, credit unions promote themselves as a safe alternative to 'regular' banks." In the article, Ohio Credit Union League President Paul Mercer said that despite what people read about other parts of the financial industry, "we're in a good position and have money to lend." The article outlined the history, philosophy and expansion of credit unions, discussed their tax exemption and featured three Columbus area credit union executives: Brett Shearer, a board member of the State Transportation Employees CU; Gerald Guy, CEO of Kemba Financial CU; and James Riederer, CEO of CME FCU. TheStreet.com Friday advised that "if you need a loan, consider skipping your local bank and checking out your neighborhood credit union." Author Peter McDougall learned from Credit Union National Association senior economist Mike Schenk that credit unions' loan growth is increasing. Loan growth during recessions in the '80s and '90s were around 3%. "We're more than double that today," Schenk says, adding there is "still a lot of lending going on. McDougall wrote that credit unions may be the best bet because they have different management, offer the same loans but with better rates, have kept their standards relatively steady and avoided the subprime mortgage woes, and offer broader memberships today. The Plattsburgh Press Republic Sunday noted that area credit unions and community banks "didn't listen to the siren's song" that produced problems for many financial institutions. "Credit unions and community banks still have liquidity and adequate money to lend," said the publication. Last Thursday's Los Angeles Times discussed falling mortgage rates and how many borrowers still will have trouble qualifying for a mortgage loan in today's tighter underwriting standards because they bought homes during the real estate bubble and now owe more on their homes than the homes are worth. The article quotes California Credit Union League economist Terrin Griffiths, who expects refinance activity to increase, but not dramatically. Many are trying to get out of adjustable-rate mortgages that are resetting to higher rates next year. And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Nov. 25) featured BECU (formerly Boeing Employees CU), which is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn through declining earnings, rising delinquencies and higher provisions to reserve for future loan losses. Even with the downturn, BECU is "decently profitable." Loan delinquencies, while double year-ago delinquencies, are still less than 1% of the credit union's total portfolio. BECU is still providing loans, with 2008 mortgage originations already topping $1 billion for the year. Its CEO, Gary Oakland, advocated the Credit Union Homeowners Affordability Relief Program to help stabilize housing markets and provide confidence. The credit union has a debt relief program for members and could assist more under the program. For the full articles, use the resource links.

Indiana ignite initiative ready for CU adoption

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INDIANAPOLIS (12/2/08)--Indiana Credit Union League's ignite initiative is making progress, and innovations begun at the start of the year by the ignite working group are ready to be implemented in credit unions, says the league. Several Indiana credit unions have committed to offering the innovations, and working-group members are seeking additional credit unions to adopt them, the league said. "To stay in touch with all that is happening with ignite, we have established a website, www.ignitecu.org," said Doug True, league director and leadership team member, and senior vice president technovation at FORUM CU and president of FORUM Solutions. The site serves as an information center for ignite projects and as a social networking site. The credit union community nationwide can join the network to keep up with the developments, True said. One credit union that has adopted an ignite innovation is Lafayette-based Purdue Employees FCU, whose CEO Bob Falk, is a member of the ignite leadership team. Purdue is implementing DriveUp Savings, which allows borrowers to open a matching-rate savings account at the same time they close on their auto loan. "This product has merit not just for our members, but for credit union members everywhere who need a little extra incentive to save money," Falk said. "All the ignite innovations are open source, meaning that there is no cost to a credit union wanting to use the ideas," said Nan Morrow, vice president of corporate development at Centra CU, Columbus, Ind., and a member of the ignite leadership team. "Any of the ideas an be adapted or modified to fit the needs of any credit union wanting to use them, so while the working groups have provided templates for implementation, the specific implementation plans can be as individual as the credit unions using them," Morrow said. "The leadership team and the working groups have done a remarkable amount of work in the year since ignite was introduced," said league President John McKenzie. "In addition to the efforts of the leadership team to make ignite so successful from the very beginning, the recent addition of the new website developed by Doug True is a tremendous enhancement." The working groups made presentations at the league's convention in September. They summarized two sets of projects: Connect U and CU Through Life, and DriveUp savings and FYI Savings--For Young Individuals. Connect U and CU Through Life are Web-based approaches that allow current and potential members to network, exchange information, seek advice and make the credit union's website an information hub and peer-to-peer resource. Connect U is a social networking site credit unions can use to communicate with and engage 18- to 34-year-old members and prospective members so they can share ideas and learn from each other. CU Through Life is a modern-day, Internet version of the "party line," where multiple conversations can occur on common situations affecting different stages of members' lives. DriveUp Savings and FYI Savings are savings-focused, with one tied to a vehicle loan/savings product combination that offers the same rate, and the other set up similar to a 401(k) plan for young people, with funds used for major life events after age 18. In the DriveUp Savings product, members open a savings account, such as a certificate, at the same time they close their auto loan. The loan officer and member agree on a monthly contribution amount and through automated electronic transfers, the DriveUp Savings is funded at the same time the auto loan payment is made. More information can be found at the link. FYI Savings is designed for credit unions to help their youngest members learn the basics of saving money. For more information, use the link. The ignite initiative is a joint venture between the Indiana league and three Indiana credit union representatives associated with the Filene Research Institutes i3 program. The three representatives are True, Falk and Morrow.

Massachusetts CUs grew through third quarter

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MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (12/2/08)--Massachusetts' credit unions saw growth in assets, deposits, loans, and membership during third quarter, according to data compiled from reports released last week by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The 226 credit unions in the state hold roughly $26 billion in assets. The Massachusetts Credit Union League's newsletter (E-Weekly Nov. 26) said NCUA reported that the state's credit unions had 5.95% aggregate growth in assets--to $26 billion from $24.6 billion at the first of the year. The national growth rate was 5.7%. Savings for the state's credit unions are up by 3% since January, compared with a national savings growth of 5%. Some of the funds may have been deposited by new credit union members. Massachusetts credit unions added roughly 54,000 new members in 2008, a 2.2% increase to date. Loans outstanding at Massachusetts credit unions grew by more than 6%, or $1.1 billion, since January. That is more than the national overall loan growth of 5.6%.

MarylandDC safety ad campaign ends

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COLUMBIA, Md. (12/2/08)--The fall 2008 Safety and Soundness media campaign for Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Western Maryland credit unions ended Nov. 23, according to the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association (I>Focus Newsletter Dec. 1). The campaign statistics indicate:
* 632 ads were broadcast on 12 top-rated radio stations in the Baltimore, Washington metro and Western Maryland media markets. About 3.5 million consumers heard the ads a minimum of 14 times; * 65 metro bus ads reached 2.6 million consumers in the Baltimore and Washington metro markets and were seen a minimum of eight times; * With the radio and transit ads, 95% of the target audience (3.85 million consumers) heard and/or saw the ads a minimum of 16 times; and * A Google ad words and search engine optimization plan was implemented to drive consumers to the WhatsInItForMe.org website. On the site, consumers can learn more about the safety of credit unions and locate one to join. The final report is being prepared, the association said.
Many credit unions participated in the campaign by using the metro bus ad artwork and safety and soundness articles on their websites and in newsletters, statement stuffers and emails. The association encouraged credit unions to continue to feature the messages on communications to their members. Forty-four credit unions contributed to the Community Outreach Fund that made the campaign possible.

CUAO elects new board of directors

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (12/2/08)--The Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO) seated its new board of directors at its recent Annual Business Meeting. Gene Pelham, president/CEO of Rogue FCU, Medford, was elected to serve as board chairman, representing District 2. Shirley Cate, president/CEO of Providence Health System FCU, Portland, and the previous board chair, will remain on the board representing District 3. Also returning are:
* Bill Anderson, president, Mid Oregon FCU, Bend, District 2, serving as treasurer; * Cameron Dickey, vice president of retail sales and service, Advantis CU, Milwaukie, District 3, vice chair; * Kevin Cole, COO, MaPS CU, Salem, District 5, secretary; and * Bob Newcomb, president, SELCO Community CU, Eugene, District 4.
Newly elected to the CUAO board are:
* Stan Baron, president/CEO, Chetco FCU, Harbor, District 4; * Steve Canfield, executive vice president, NW Preferred FCU, Tigard, District 1; * Rob Stuart, president/CEO, OnPoint Community CU, Portland, District 1, and * Jean Wheat-Palm, president/CEO, Valley Health and Postal Employees CU, Salem, District 5.

Self Help CU CEO Eakes injured in attack

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DURHAM, N.C. (12/2/08)--Martin Eakes, the CEO of Self-Help CU and the Center for Responsible Lending, was robbed and severely beaten by four men in a parking garage as he left his Durham, N.C., office Nov 24. He suffered multiple bruises to the head and face, a gash to his forehead that required 15 stitches and a torn bicep that likely will require surgery (The Herald-Sun Nov. 30). The incident occurred at about 8 p.m. as he was about to enter the parking garage used by employees of Self-Help. The men delivered between 20 and 30 blows, targeting Eakes' head and face. They took his wallet and cell phone. Eakes told the publication he did not know the men or whether they were waiting for him in particular. The city-owned parking garage, located in Durham's center city, has generated several complaints about safety. Eakes and the Center for Responsible Lending are strong advocates in the fight against predatory payday lending tactics in North Carolina. The center helped pass the nation's first anti-predatory mortgage lending law in 1999. Eakes has received national attention from a variety of media, including Forbes.com and The Wall Street Journal about the center's lending philosophy.

Cliff Rosenthal to receive national Gramlich award

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NEW YORK (12/2/08)--Cliff Rosenthal, CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, will be presented the second annual Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award for Responsible Lending by the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN). He will be presented with the industry's highest award, named for the late Federal Reserve Board Gov. Edward "Ned" Gramlich, on Dec. 10th at the OFN Conference in Albuquerque, N.M. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, in congratulating Rosenthal, said, "Cliff has dedicated an illustrious career to expanding economic opportunities for lower-income households and communities. His considerable contributions toward this end exemplify Ned's legacy as an advocate for policies and practices that help families at the lower levels of the income scale improve their financial well-being." OFN President/CEO Mark Pinsky said Rosenthal "is a leader among leaders in a critical segment of the financial services industry. The award honors one person each year who achieves remarkable susscess in promoting and implementing responsible financial services for low-income and low-wealth people. Rosenthal's achievements include:
* Growing the community development credit union (CDCU) sector to more than 200 institutions in 46 states managing more than $4 billion and serving more than one million people; * Inspiring the federal CDFI Fund in the U.S. Treasury Department, which has made almost $1 billion in equity and debt investments into CDCUs and other types of community development financial institutions (CDFI); * Creating and leading the New York State CDFI Coalition to a major victory--the creation of a New York State CDFI Fund; * Building the successful Community Development Investment Program at the federation, which provided more than $60 million in financing to more than 150 CDCUs nationwide; and * Founding the CDCU Institute, a professional development program for staff and officials at CDCUs.

Tom Glatt to be CEO of new REALTORS FCU

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WASHINGTON (12/2/08)--Thomas Glatt Sr. has been named the first CEO of the new REALTORS FCU (RFCU), effective Dec. 15, the credit union's board of directors announced Monday. A 20-year veteran of the credit union movement, Glatt is currently CEO of Continental FCU, Tempe, Ariz., which serves airline industry employees. He also served in executive positions with OnPoint Community CU (formerly Portland Teachers CU), Portland, Ore.; First Financial FCU, West Covina, Calif; and 66 FCU of Philips Petroleum, Bartlesville, Okla. For 16 years, he headed a credit union consultancy that advised some of the nation's largest credit unions. He also has been a member of the boards at USA FCU, San Diego, and Kaiperm FCU, Oakland, Calif. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is providing the credit union as a member benefit, said NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokers in Dallas-Ft. Worth. He noted the new credit union is tailored to the work habits and lifestyles of realtors, most of whom are independent contractors compensated by commissions. According to NAR CEO Dale Stinton, the new credit union will be open 24/7 and is Internet-based. RFCU is scheduled to open for business in mid-2009. Those eligible to become members of the credit union include: realtors and their families; NAR's institutes, societies and councils; NAR staff; and the staffs of state and local boards and associations. NAR clients, such as home buyers and home sellers, are not eligible.

CU System briefs (12/01/2008)

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* BARRE, Vt. (12/2/08)--Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (center) and other local and state dignitaries were on hand Nov. 10 for the ribbon cutting ceremony of Granite Hills CU's new 4,800 square foot facility in Barre. Douglas spoke for a few minutes about the state of the economy and how encouraging it is that Granite Hills CU is successfully providing a viable financial resource to the community, said the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (Newslines Express Dec. 1). The facility has two drive-up lanes, a 24-hour drive-up ATM and a night depository. The $29 million asset credit union continues to have a branch in a National Life Building in Barre. (Photo provided by the Association of Vermont Credit Unions) … * BALTIMORE (12/2/08)--MECU of Baltimore has signed a partnership agreement with Capital CU of Edinburgh, Scotland, to work together for the betterment of their memberships. Capital CU Board President John Cormack and CEO Marlene Shiels have visited Maryland credit unions twice in the past several years, spending time with MECU leaders and staff each time. Both credit unions started out serving municipal workers and have strong commitments to their communities. Through the partnership, they will share ideas and initiatives; identify mutual ways for each to grow and better serve members; enhance the knowledge base of their boards and staff; and increase international brotherhood among credit unions, they said. From left are: Bert J. Hash Jr., president/CEO of MECU; Herman Williams Jr., MECU board chairman; Shiels; and Cormack. (Photo provided by MECU) …