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Media interview CUs to localize economy stories

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MADISON, Wis. (2/4/08)--Credit unions' visibility has been heightened not only nationally but also in local media, with credit unions called on by reporters in their areas to provide comments about the economy. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has seen an increase in requests from national media for its experts' analysis on events such as the Federal Reserve rate cuts and the administration and Congress' economic stimulus package. Even local and state media are seeking out state leagues and credit unions to "localize" the national events for their area--something they would have approached banks for a decade ago. When the Federal Reserve cut the target for the fed funds rate last week, an Oregon newspaper said First Tech CU, based in Beaverton, Ore., was among financial institutions noting increased business (Statesman Journal Jan. 31). Bob Corwin, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the $1.6 billion asset credit union, said it did not drop its rates to adjust for the surprise Fed cut on Jan. 22 but planned a slight adjustment for last week's cut. The cut means it is a better time to refinance, Corwin told the newspaper, but he cautioned borrowers to consider other factors such as fees before rushing out to refinance. Two weeks before the last cut, First Tech's mortgage business was about 60% new mortgages and 40% refinancing. Now the ratio is even, but leaning toward 40% new mortgages and 60% refinancing. MaPS CU, Salem, Ore., dropped its standard rate on a certificate of deposit to 3.8% from 4.15%, Dan Penn, spokesman told the paper. The rates have not had a lot of time to hit consumers' pocketbook, said Mel Monroe, director of finance at MaPS. In Vermont, Opportunities CU CEO Caryl Stewart was among those interviewed by Vermont Public Radio's Jane Lindholm about the effects of a weakening economy on Vermont (Newslines Express Feb. 1). Stewart gave this opinion about the federal government's proposed economic stimulus package: "Anybody that we have any influence on, first of all, they need the money. And secondly, we will encourage them to put it aside, to pay down their credit cards, and to set a few dollars for their savings." To download a podcast of the interview or listen to it online, use the resource link.

CU System briefs (02/01/2008)

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* PHOENIX, Ariz. (2/4/08)--Arizona State CU donated a ticket package for an auction that sent two people to Sunday's Super Bowl. The auction proceeds will go to the Children's Miracle Network. The auction kicked off Thursday and Friday on the Darrell Ankarlo Show, the Mac Watson Show and the Gaydos After Dark Program on KTAR. The package included two tickets to the game and entry to a VIP party before and after the game. The pre-game party hosted celebrities such as Hall of Fame Defensive Back Ronnie Lott and 1979 Rookie of the Year Otis Anderson. The funds from the auction will support the 1 Darn Cool School, which meets educational needs of patients at the Phoenix Children's Hospital … * MADISON, Wis. (2/4/08)--CUNA Mutual Group has hired Steve Koslow as senior vice president and chief ethics and compliance officer. In the new position, Koslow will oversee company performance in compliance, corporate ethics and privacy, and will chair CUNA Mutual's Compliance Leadership Council. Previously, Koslow served as a director in the governance, risk and compliance group at PricewaterhouseCoopers. There he advised organizations on the design, structure, organization, and implementation of enterprise-wide ethics and compliance departments … * BATON ROUGE, La. (2/4/08)--LA DOTC FCU cut the ribbon on its third in-school branch Jan. 18 with a ceremony opening Cougar Union, inside Capitol Middle School in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. The credit union is run by 11 eighth-graders working under the supervision of LA DOTC FCU … * SEATTLE (2/4/08)--John Cruz Iglesias has been named president/CEO of Group Health CU, a $230 million asset credit union in Seattle. Previously, he was senior vice president and chief lending officer of Washington State Employees' CU for five years (Pacific Daily News Feb. 1) … * MONTGOMERY, Ala. (2/4/08)--MAX CU honored the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF), a conservation education group, with its MAX Community Achievement Award during the credit union's fifth Annual MAX Community Reception. The reception brings together business, political and community leaders to celebrate community successes as well as recognize organizations and individuals who make a significant difference in quality of life in the area. Pictured are, from left, Tim Gothard, executive director of AWF, and MAX CEO Greg McClellan. (Photo provided by MAX CU)… * GREENSBORO, N.C. (2/4/08)--Joel W. "Joe" Wallace, a board member of the Carolina FCU for 30 years, died Jan. 26 at home in Kings Mountain, N.C. He served on the board of the $19 million asset credit union from 1977 to 2007 and served as chairman from 1979 to 2006. The credit union is creating an annual scholarship for high school graduates in his honor, said the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update Feb. 1) …

Utah CUs seek three legislative changes

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SALT LAKE CITY (2/4/08--Utah credit unions are seeking three legislative changes to Utah’s state charter for credit unions that would ease restrictions and bring it more in line with the federal charter. Credit unions are seeking the following three changes to the state charter:
* Increase the amount a credit union can loan to its members to 10% of assets from the current 1%; * Eliminate a requirement that borrowers must be members of a credit union for six months before receiving a business loan; and * Raise the business lending limit to 12.25% of a credit union’s assets from its current lending limit of $250,000 per member.
If the state legislature does not make the changes sought by the Utah credit union industry, the credit unions may consider taking the matter to the public through a statewide “financial freedom” ballot initiative. This ballot initiative would ease state legislature-imposed lending restrictions on state-chartered credit unions. The initiative also would contain several consumer-friendly provisions (News Now Jan. 15). Talks among the state’s credit unions, banks and state legislature will continue, State Sen. Majority Leader Curt Bramble (R-Provo) said (Salt Lake Tribune Jan. 30). “I remain hopeful that there will be a legislative solution to this situation,” Scott Simpson, president of the Utah League of Credit Unions, told News Now. As for the financial freedom ballot, “it remains on the table, but it is premature to talk about it any more at this time,” Simpson said. Also, Utah credit unions want to retain favorable provisions of the state charter that allow them to cross county lines when defining their field of membership.

CUs on the Tube Victory Junction Gang touts CUs

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (2/4/08)--The Carolinas Credit Union Foundation was recently recognized by the Victory Junction Gang Camp for its support of the camp, which serves chronically ill children. A video shows scenes of the camp, including activities from NASCAR Week in 2007. The foundation provided funding so children with Spina Bifida could attend the camp free. Volunteers from the foundation also helped staff the camp during sponsorship week (Weekly Update Jan. 29). Credit unions also are commended for their five-year commitment to the camp, which is located in Randleman, N.C. The camp’s founders, Kyle and Patti Petty, who created the camp in memory of their late son Adam, thanked credit unions for their support.

Make waves. Vote advocacy tools available

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MADISON, Wis. (2/4/08)--Credit unions can encourage their members to vote in the 2008 elections with a new statement stuffer and courses from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, and presidential candidates will be trying to get delegations in 22 states. The events serve as a reminder for credit unions to urge their members to vote. With the upcoming elections, credit unions also will be stepping up their advocacy efforts. A new CUNA statement stuffer, “Make Waves. Vote” is available and provides information on why members should vote, how to register to vote or how to get an absentee ballot. The CUNA is offering “Communicating the Credit Union Difference” and “Direct Lobbying at the Grassroots Level” for credit union professionals. The courses are free and online. Also CUNA has a slew of free Get-Out-The-Vote materials, designed to help credit unions spur their members to the polls. Forty-four percent of registered voters are credit union members, says CUNA. Use the resource links for more information.

NFCDCUs workshop to include foreclosures session

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NEW YORK (2/4/08)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions will conduct a two-day workshop in March that features classes on foreclosure prevention and homeownership counseling. The federation’s mortgage lending workshop, titled “Mortgage Lending Strategies in Uncertain Times,” will be held March 18-19 at the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, N.C. The workshop is designed for credit unions, housing professionals, and other community-based mortgage lenders. National Credit Union Administration Chairman Rodney Hood will highlight the role played by credit unions as affordable and responsible lenders. Program topics include Lending in the Current Housing Market and The “Self-Help Model.” Other sessions will address mortgage underwriting, marketing, compliance, servicing, and the effect of future changes in market conditions. For more information or to register, use the link.

CO-OP posts record daymonthyear transactions

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (2/4/08)--CO-OP Financial Services, which operates CO-OP Network with 25,000 ATMs nationwide, posted record transactions in 2007 for day, month and year. Records set include: transactions for a single day (6,278,731 on Dec. 24), month (154 million in December), and year (1.6 billion), according to the company’s website. 2007 was the 15th consecutive year that CO-OP set an annual transaction record. The previous record of 1.3 billion was established in 2006. CO-OP also provides volume discounts on products and services that include risk management, debit and deposit access to 2,800 credit union clients and 25 million cardholders. CO-OP has evolved from solely an ATM network to the nation’s largest credit union electronic funds transfer network and processor, said Stan Hollen, CO-OP Financial Services president/CEO. “While the ATM business is still at the heart of our organization, nowadays, our electronic funds transfer services, strategic partnerships and growing membership also play a significant role in allowing us to achieve [the 2007] transaction figures,” he added.

Man tries to kidnap CU employee during heist

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ALBANY, Ore. (2/4/08)--Police officers arrested a man toting a .45 caliber hand gun and duct tape, who they say intended to kidnap a credit union employee during an attempted robbery of Linn-Co FCU. An alarm thwarted his plans at the $56.9 million asset, Lebanon, Ore.-based credit union, and Lawrence Beckner, 30, was nabbed by authorities (Associated Press Newswires Jan. 31). Beckner allegedly grabbed a credit union employee as she opened the Albany branch office Thursday morning and forced her inside the building, activating the alarm, police said. When police confronted Beckner minutes later, he relinquished an unloaded gun and a three-inch knife, and surrendered. He had cased the credit union for several days, and planned to abduct the employee, bind her with duct tape and use her car as a getaway vehicle, police said. Beckner was booked on multiple counts, including kidnapping and robbery, authorities said.

A.M. Best affirms CUNA Mutuals A rating

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MADISON, Wis. (2/4/08)--CUNA Mutual Group’s financial strength rating has been affirmed as “A” or excellent by ratings agency A.M. Best. The “A” rating was assigned to the principal companies of CUNA Mutual Group, including CUNA Mutual Insurance Society and CUMIS Insurance society--the company’s U.S. property and casualty subsidiary. The company’s outlook has been listed as stable, and the agency recognized CUNA Mutual’s “excellent risk-adjusted capitalization, overall operating profitability and conservative balance sheet.” CUNA Mutual’s underwriting results in 2007 and its support of credit unions were cited as strengths by A.M. Best. The agency noted expansion plans into new product areas, which also was noted. “Management continues to expect that enhanced product offerings and joint-venture opportunities will provide growth opportunities for future expansion, as evidenced by its 45% quote share participation in crop insurance produced by Producer’s Ag Insurance Group,” A.M. Best said. This year, CUNA Mutual will “develop new markets and new products that help CUNA Mutual grow--at the same time, we will provide more value to credit unions and their members,” said CUNA Mutual President/CEO Jeff Post. CUNA Mutual is a provider of financial services and products to credit unions and their members worldwide.