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Accounting adjustment helps Wisconsin CUs

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MILWAUKEE (2/12/10)--Like credit unions throughout the U.S., some Wisconsin credit unions realized big increases in net income for 2009 because of adjustments in funds previously allocated to stabilize the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, says an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Feb. 9). Suzanne Cowan, director of the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions, told the publication that the office is still getting aggregate numbers but that the state's credit unions' net income seemed "pretty solid, considering the economy." The article gave two examples of credit unions whose net income increased after changes were made in the way the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) accounts for their insurance premiums, which rose dramatically after corporate credit unions began struggling in the recession. Instead of a huge premium due all at once, NCUA is allowing credit unions to pace the assessments over seven years. Landmark CU, based in New Berlin, had a net income of $17.5 million and assets of more than $1.4 billion, making it the state's largest credit union, said the article. Landmark spokeswoman Patricia Ransom told the publication that it experienced great mortgage demand but bolstered reserves in 2008. It took a conservative approach, so it was prepared for any rise in delinquencies and charge-offs. An NCUA report shows Landmark recaptured $4.7 million that it had previously allocated toward the NCUSIF stabilization, the newspaper said. It also said Educators CU, Racine added $5.3 million in income in 2009 when it got back part of its 2008 lump sump payment to the stabilization fund, its chief financial officer, Robert Stepien, told the newspaper.

Alabama CUs high ratings noted by IBirmingham NewsI

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (2/12/10)--Alabama's credit unions are gaining new members and receiving stellar performance ratings, especially in the Birmingham area, according to The Birmingham News (Feb. 9). The article spotlighted 18 credit unions in the area that received five-star ratings from Bauer Financial, a Florida-based ratings agency. That's nearly half the credit unions with a presence in the area, and much better than local banks did--one only one bank in the area received the five-star rating. Alabama credit unions on average are performing better than banks and credit unions nationally, Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com, said in the article. And University of Alabama Birmingham finance professor noted that credit unions have been more careful with their lending. Alabama's credit unions are gaining new members as the banking industry struggles, Patrick La Pine, president/CEO of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, told the publication. The state's 134 credit unions added $1.1 billion in assets combined and 60,000 new members during 2009, the league said. The article attributes credit unions' performance to their local, community focus. Alabama Telco CU, one of the five-star credit unions, just opened its ninth area branch. New members have helped its assets climb by $70 million this year to more than $457 million, CEO Linda Cencula told the newspaper. "We saw people come over to us from banks in record numbers last year," she said. Use the link for the full article.

Texas league poll Perry leads in governors race

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AUSTIN, Texas (2/12/10)--The Texas Credit Union League Poll of Texas Primary Voters, released Thursday, shows incumbent Gov. Rick Perry close to a majority, holding a 22-point lead over Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican primary race for governor. And most voters indicate they would back a candidate who is a public supporter of credit unions. Perry leads with 49%, Hutchison holds 27% and Debra Medina rose to 19%, according to the poll of likely primary voters. In the Democratic primary race for governor, Bill White reached 51%, with Farouk Shami holding a distant 19%. Held a little more than a week before the start of early voting, pollsters questioned likely primary voters about top national and state issues, favorability rankings of state-elected officials, and more, all broken out in terms of demographics including area of the state, income, ethnicity and party affiliation. The league has garnered press attention throughout Texas for the polls. Other key findings:
* In a hypothetical run-off between Perry and Hutchison, Perry prevails 58% to 34%; * Of Republican primary voters, 62% say they are “much more” (36%) or “somewhat more” (26%) likely to support a candidate who considers themselves to be a “tea-party” activist; * The poll indicates that incumbents of either party should not take this election for granted if they have an opponent; the lead for incumbents is remarkably low, said the league; * For state legislators, Democratic primary voters prefer the incumbent to a challenger by a 39% to 29% margin (a 10-point spread), with 32% undecided. * Concerning Republican state legislative incumbents, voters prefer the incumbent to a challenger--44% Republican incumbent to 37% Republican challenger (a seven-point spread), with 20% undecided; * About 76% of Democratic primary voters and 65% of Republican voters surveyed say they would be “much more likely” or “somewhat more likely” to support a public supporter of credit unions.
Every two years, the Texas Credit Union League commissions primary- and general- election voter surveys on politics and key issues important to the state’s credit union members. Two surveys were conducted by nationally known Republican and Democrat research firms between Feb. 3 and Feb. 6, and reached 400 likely Republican primary voters and 400 likely Democratic primary voters. Each survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%.

ICNNMoney.comI says to Take this bank and shove it

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NEW YORK (2/12/10)--Angry consumers' big-bank bashing over bailouts, bonuses, and nickel-and-diming continues in the media, with credit unions singled out as a haven from fees. In "Take this bank and shove it," CNNMoney.com discusses consumers' disenchantment with banks and highlights several people who switched from banks to credit unions. Abel Collins of Rhode Island switched from Bank of America to a local credit union to protest banks that had become "too big to fail" and lack of action in Washington, he told the publication (Feb. 10). CNNMoney.com notes that Americans are more willing to switch to smaller institutions, and cites Forrester Research that found big banks as the least-trusted U.S. financial institutions. (The same research found that 70% of those survey said credit unions are the most-trusted financial institutions.) Tom Q. of Minnesota told the publication he ended his 17-year relationship with Wells Fargo after learning he could open a checking account that earned a 4.10% annual percentage yield at a nearby credit union. "Wells Fargo just laughed and the banker said he would probably do the same," he said. It also noted that businesses are fed up with practices of the big banks. John Anderssen of Portland, Ore., whose photo appears with the article, closed his carpet cleaning business's account at KeyBank and opened an account at Sunset Science Park FCU, a $27 million asset credit union that makes loans that benefit the local community. "I'm very happy," he said. "It is like the banker in the movie 'It's a Wonderful Life.' It really is that way." For the full article, use the link.

Washington state CUs see 10 membership growth

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (2/12/10)--Washington state residents are moving their financial accounts to credit unions in a big way, which has led to 10% membership growth in the state’s 119 credit unions, according to the Washington Credit Union League. “Move Your Money”--a national campaign designed by the Huffington Post to get depositors to move their money to credit unions and community banks--seems to be helping Washington credit unions. The campaign is a protest of the government bailing out large banks instead of bolstering smaller financial institutions (Bellingham Business Journal Feb. 1). “Media reports on problematic banks seemingly have made Washingtonians suspicious of profit-driven financial institutions, especially big Wall Street banks,” John Annaloro, league CEO, told the Journal. “Ten percent yearly growth was unheard of prior to this extraordinary migration to credit unions.” Until recently, average growth for credit unions in the state has been about 2% annually, Terry Belcoe, CEO of North Coast CU in Bellingham, Wash., and league board member, told the publication. A key differentiator for credit unions is that they don’t have investors demanding a return on their investment the way traditional banks do, the Journal said. “We don’t have that kind of pressure,” Belcoe told the publication. “We don’t have the incentive to go out and do anything stupid. We get paid to take care of our members’ stuff, not to make them rich.” Whatcom Educational CU, Bellingham, also was interviewed by the Journal.

Wright-Patts video contest spreads CU message

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FAIRBORN, Ohio (2/12/10)--Wright-Patt CU (WPCU), Fairborn, Ohio, began hosting a video contest after members received a collective $4 million special patronage dividend from the credit union on Jan. 4. The credit union is asking members to create a video about the dividend and what it means to belong to WPCU. The entry deadline is Monday. Winners will be determined by online votes. The first place winner will receive $2,009 and the second-place winner $1,000. So far, 28 videos have entered the contest, generating 7,800 votes. “The videos highlight the many reasons our members choose to belong to WPCU,” said Tracy Fors, director of marketing. “One video that was especially compelling was from a member in Wilmington, Ohio, a small community that has been hit hard by the recession after losing its largest employer and 10,000 jobs. He thanked WPCU for giving back to his community instead of to Wall Street executives as banks have.” In addition to attracting new members, the contest aims to:
* Create awareness about the dividend among non-members and emphasize the difference between credit unions and banks; * Build the credit union’s prospective member e-mail database by requiring voters to enter their e-mail on the voting page; and * Use social media to drive traffic to WPCU’s website and increase the number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. As of Feb. 4, WPCU had gained 193 more Twitter followers and 232 fans on Facebook.
WPCU is sending press releases to politicians, local media and national news outlets about the contest. The credit union will donate $1 for each new Facebook fan or Twitter follower to A Kid Again, a local non profit serving children with life-threatening illnesses. WPCU has $1.7 billion in assets.

Mass. data protection reg takes effect March 1

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BOSTON (2/12/10)--A new Massachusetts data protection regulation that goes into effect March 1 impacts all credit unions doing business in the state, said the Massachusetts Credit Union League. The regulation, 201 CMR 17.00, is designed to ensure the security and integrity of personal information for all Massachusetts residents and to combat the threat of identity theft. It establishes standards for storing and protecting consumer data and employee data ( Feb. 10). The regulation also:
* Defines “personal information”; * Mandates the designation of a data security coordinator; * Requires the development of a written information security plan that outlines administrative, technical and physical safeguards to protect personal information; and * Extends its protections to personal information that is shared with third parties.
Each credit union needs to identify its paper, electronic and other records, computing systems and storage media--including laptops and portable devices--that contain personal information, said the league. It also must develop procedures to include how one retains and destroys personal information data and records and for the ongoing monitoring of this information. Credit unions already comply with many features of this regulation that protect consumer personal financial information through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the National Credit Union Administration’s Rules and Regulations, Part 748. However, the new data security regulation does pose additional requirements for credit unions and extends data protection to employee and former employee records, said the league. The regulation also requires due diligence to ensure that third parties with access to the personal data of credit union members or employees comply with the new regulation.

CUNA changes Desjardins Awards forms available

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MADISON, Wis. (2/12/10)--Information about the 2010 Desjardins Award for Youth Financial Education--including all necessary forms and instructions--is now available on the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) website. There are changes in three areas for this year: 1. Asset size categories for credit union entries
* Credit unions with less than $50 million in assets; * Credit unions with less than $50 million in assets; * Credit unions with $50 million to $150 million in assets; * Credit unions with $150 million to $500 million in assets; and * Credit unions with more than $500 million in assets.
2. Membership size categories for league entries
* 75 or fewer affiliated credit unions; * 76 to 150 affiliated credit unions; and * 151 or more affiliated credit unions.
3. Entry fee for state-winning credit union and chapter entries submitted to CUNA for national judging will be $60. As always, there is no charge for league entries. The deadline for league entries and league-determined state-level winning entries is Aug. 27. Credit unions should consult their league for its state-level judging deadline. 2009 Desjardins winning and honorable mention entries will be on display at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, Feb. 21-25 in Washington, D.C., and award recipients will be feted at an invitation-only reception. 2009 winners include:
* Arapahoe CU, Centennial, Colo.; * Beach Municipal FCU Partnership, Virginia Beach, Va.; * Indianhead CU, Spooner, Wis.; * Maine Credit Union League; * Rogue FCU, Medford, Ore.; and * Unison CU, Kaukauna, Wis.
2009 honorable mentions include:
* American Partners FCU, Reidsville, N.C.; * Credit Union Association of Oregon; * Dakota Plains CU, Edgeley, N.D.; * DuPont Community CU, Waynesboro, Va.; * Greater Minnesota CU, Mora, Minn.; * Ohio University CU, Athens, Ohio; * Sunflower U.P. FCU, Marysville, Kan.; * Virginia Educators CU, Newport News, Va.

FSCC awards CUs for stopping over 1.1M in fraud

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ONTARIO, Calif. (2/12/10)--Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) announced that it gave awards to 12 credit unions for stopping more than $1.1 million in fraud activity during 2009. The credit unions garnered about 50 Fraud Buster Awards. The awards were presented to credit unions on a quarterly basis during 2009. Award recipients included credit unions that participate in the FSCC Shared Branching Network. The recipients of the Fraud Buster Awards were recognized for protecting their credit unions, their members, and members of other credit unions from fraud. FSCC maintains an Operations Advisory Committee comprising of stockholder credit unions. The committee reviews activity and looks at ways to prevent and detect fraud through rule changes, training, products and services. In the nine years the awards have been presented, credit unions have stopped more than $7.5 million from fraudulent activities. FSCC has presented more than 280 awards. Financial institutions in the U.S. lose about $12 billion a year in check fraud, and the retail industry loses a similar amount resulting in losses of $24 billion as a result of check fraud. The Federal Trade Commission also reports that financial institutions and businesses lose more than $48 billion annually from fraudulent activities, according to statistics FSCC cited from U.S. News and World Report. FSCC is a credit union Shared Branching Network providing about 6,300 full-service deposit-taking locations in the U.S. and abroad.

Bank on Illinois program kicks off in second city

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (2/12/10)--The Illinois Credit Union League is helping spread the word about Bank on Illinois, a relatively new program for the unbanked initiated by Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. The program recently kicked off in Aurora, the second city to offer the program in the state.
Click to view larger image Bank on Illinois, a relatively new program initiated by Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, recently kicked off in Aurora, the second city in which it is currently operating in the state. After listening to a presentation stating the need for the program, attendees of the meeting hosted by the state treasurer’s office then broke into committees to begin taking the next steps for the program. (Photo provided by the Illinois Credit Union League)
The two participating credit unions in the program include Earthmover CU and Fox Valley CU. Bank on Illinois aims to offer unbanked residents from underserved and minority communities free and/or low-cost accounts with mainstream financial institutions. The first host city for this program was Rockford, which recently wrapped up its first quarter of implementation. Bank on Illinois is modeled after a similar program launched in 2006 by the San Francisco Treasurer’s Office. Illinois is home to roughly 368,600 unbanked households, including 5,300 in Aurora, which means these households rely on alternative financial services, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. These alternative bank services are costly, Giannoulias said. The average unbanked household in Illinois pays $574 a year just to cash payroll checks, leaving just $22,376 in remaining annual household income. “Too many Aurora residents are ripped off by check cashers and payday lenders, and become trapped in an endless spiral of debt,” Giannoulias said. “Having access to traditional checking and savings accounts will translate into financial independence and empowerment.” Nationally, 65% of unbanked residents are employed full-time and another 24% work part-time, Pew reports. However, more than half of unbanked households say they’ve never had a checking account because of their misperception and distrust of banks. “By participating, credit unions and financial institutions can promote mainstream banking and financial literacy training,” said Laura Page, policy adviser for the Illinois State Treasurer. “Studies show that distrust of financial institutions keeps many qualified individuals from opening accounts and ‘Bank on’ programs are successful because of the engagement of nonprofit organizations that equip clients with the tools to succeed.” Bank on Aurora has a target launch date of April 1 for the public to begin signing up for the program. Partner organizations, which include local not-for-profit agencies and financial institutions including credit unions, aim to sign up 1,200 individuals in the area in the next year. To participate in Bank On Illinois, financial institutions must offer free or low-cost checking and savings accounts, “second chance” accounts for people with negative histories and accept tax identification numbers, matricula consular and other foreign IDs in place of Social Security numbers. To qualify for an account, residents must have a history free of identity theft and fraud, and enroll in financial literacy training courses.

How Louisiana CUs celebrated Super Bowl win

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HARAHAN, La. (2/12/10)--Louisiana credit unions celebrated the New Orleans’ Saints first trip to the Super Bowl by dressing in black and gold, the team’s colors, and by hosting parties, and Super Bowl-themed contests and promotions at their branches.
Layfette (La.) Schools FCU was one of several credit unions that dressed up in black and gold to celebrate the New Orleans Saints’ win at Super Bowl XLIV. (Photo provided by the Louisiana Credit Union League)
The Saints’ win at Super Bowl XLIV over the Indianapolis Colts garnered a record 105.97 million viewers, beating out the historic record previously held by the M*A*S*H TV series finale on Feb. 20, 1983. The game was especially important for New Orleans because it is the first time the Saints have been to the Super Bowl, said the Louisiana Credit Union League (eNews Feb. 10). Also, the city is recovering from Hurricane Katrina, which struck in 2005, and the Saints’ quarterback, Peyton Manning, sought a second super bowl ring. CSE FCU, Lake Charles, celebrated with a “Get Back in the Game” promotion celebrating the products the credit union offers members. Every Friday before the Super Bowl game, the credit union promoted “We Believe in the Saints” by dressing to support the team and offering treats in the lobby. CSE FCU also gave away a 32-inch flat screen TV. Shell New Orleans (La.) FCU shot a 10-second mini-commercial for the Saints, which will air several times on a local radio station. Employees dressed in Saints attire and tailgated during lunch on Friday. The staff also had a poster decorating contest and the winner, Keith Fontcuberta, received a $50 gift card. The posters are displayed in the credit union’s lobby. Heart of Louisiana CU, Pineville, employees wore Saints National Football Conference championship shirts provided by the credit union for the week leading up to the Super Bowl game. The credit union also hosted a party with food the Friday before the game at all of its branches. Lafayette (La.) Schools FCU dressed in black and gold for the week leading up to the game and decorated its lobby. Employees at ASI FCU, Harahan, dressed in black and gold attire. Greater New Orleans FCU decorated in Saints regalia and employees donated $15 to disaster relief for Haiti so they could wear black and gold.

CU System briefs (02/11/2010)

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* SULPHUR, La. (2/12/10)--Access of Louisiana FCU's Sulphur, La. branch was hit twice within 24 hours by thieves, first in a robbery that resulted in a lockdown at a nearby middle school, then by "smash and grab" thieves who failed in their attempt to steal an ATM. The first incident occurred at around 1:46 p.m. Tuesday when a man wearing a hoodie, white mask and sunglasses entered the branch and demanded money. An employee placed an unknown amount and a dye pack in a bag and gave it to the suspect, who fled on foot. Police locked down Maplewood Middle School but lifted the lockdown at 3:25 p.m. Officers remained in the area while children walked home from school. The second incident occurred at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. Police located the credit union's ATM machine about one block from the branch. Information obtained from a surveillance video led to a stolen vehicle. The money was recovered in both incidents, said police (kplctv.com Feb. 9 and Feb. 10) ... * SAN DIEGO (2/12/10)--San Diego-based Mission FCU has contributed $50,000 to The College of Business Administration at California State University San Marcos, announced the university. The gift is to provide building and program upgrades not supported through state funding. The donation was part of the college's naming opportunity for Markstein Hall. As a result, the hall's classroom 203 has been named after the credit union. Two gift plaques are hung near the entrance of and inside the 23-seat classroom. Mission Fed "was founded by educators nearly 50 years ago, and we continue to be a dedicated community partner who supports the not-for-profit organizations in the areas where our members live and work," said Jeanine Dodman, first vice president, branch network, at the $2 billion asset credit union ... * CHANDLER, Ariz. (2/12/10)--First CU, based in Chandler, Ariz., has
Click to view larger image Click for larger view
raised $50,000 in Credit Unions for Kids fund-raising campaign for the 2009 Children's Miracle Network. The money raised by the $400 million asset credit union's members, employees and vendors was donated to Tucson Medical Center's Pediatric Unit and Phoenix Children's Hospital's "One Darn Cool School," an in-hospital K-12 education program for hospitalized patients. First CU participated in CO-OP Financial Services Miracle Match Program, which matched 150% of the money raised. The photo includes the check presentation to staff and patients at the Phoenix hospital. (Photo provided by First CU) ... * ANCHORAGE, Alaska (2/12/10)--An Anchorage man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for robbing a branch of Alaska USA CU of $600 in August. Jarell Paul Arnold, 34, who had pleaded guilty to one count of credit union robbery, was sentenced in a U.S. District Court in Anchorage. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Arnold entered the branch and asked for the balance on his account. The teller asked for his name, account number and ID, which he gave. Arnold then told the teller he had a gun and wanted money. When the robbery occurred, Arnold was on supervised release for a prior robbery conviction (Associated Press Newswires and KTUU.com Feb. 8) ...

WOCCU G-10 members meet on growth reg influence

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MADISON, Wis. (2/12/10)--Worldwide credit union growth and complex changes that may drive smaller institutions to merge to seek strength critical to addressing new regulations topped the agenda for World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) G-10 members at a meeting last month in Florida.
Click to view larger image Attendees at the World Council of Credit Union's (WOCCU) G-10 meeting included, from left: (Front row) Barry Jolette, U.S.; Bill Knight, meeting facilitator; Manfred Dasenbrock, Brazil; and Carilus Ademba, Kenya; (second row) Yvonne Ridguard, Caribbean; Kieron Brennan, Ireland; and Louise Petschler, Australia; (third row) Victor Fierro Robio, Mexico; Ramón Imperial, Mexico; Mark Bailey, Ireland; and David Phillips, Canada; (fourth row) Dave Grace, WOCCU, U.S.; Ralph Wharton, Caribbean; and Pete Crear, WOCCU, U.S. Not pictured: Dan Mica, U.S. (Photo provided by WOCCU)
Credit unions worldwide last year experienced positive growth in savings and membership, indicating the movement's increasing strength, said WOCCU. However, economic and regulatory changes brought complexity that can sometimes drive smaller institutions to merge in hopes of gaining strength critical to addressing new regulations. The WOCCU G-10, comprised of the world's 10 largest member credit union systems, meets each January to discuss issues affecting financial services in general and credit unions in particular. This year's topics fell under the shadow of last year's global economic crisis, from which many systems are still recovering. "None of us have gone untouched by the recession, but some of us were able to better weather the storm than others," said Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO. "The G-10 meeting affords a unique opportunity for the largest credit union systems from around the globe to gather and share solutions to such problems." All participants shared a concern that new regulations must be appropriate for credit unions in the countries they serve. The impact of new laws in Kenya and South Africa have yet to be felt, while other countries proactive in regulatory development, often with WOCCU's help, had insights to share about best approaches to offer lawmakers assistance. The extent to which the experiences can be shared with government bodies in the formative stages of drafting legislation may help credit unions better serve members, particularly as financial markets change and institutions continue to grow, WOCCU said. "The U.S. credit union movement can and does learn a great deal from the burgeoning worldwide movement, particularly with regard to building wealth for members," said Dan Mica, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association, WOCCU's U.S. member and a G-10 organization. "Sharing success stories and even challenges among our respective organizations helps ensure that no ideas are overlooked, and that all challenges may be addressed." In addition to Mica, WOCCU G-10 members in attendance included Manfred Dasenbrock, Confederação Interestadual das Cooperativas Ligadas ao SICREDI, Brazil; Carilus Ademba, Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives; Yvonne Ridguard and Ralph Wharton, Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions; Mark Bailey and Kieron Brennan, Irish League of Credit Unions; Louise Petschler, Abacus Australian Mutuals; Victor Fierro Robio and Ramón Imperial, Caja Popular Mexicana, Mexico; and David Phillips, Credit Union Central of Canada. In addition to Crear, WOCCU officials and executives participating in the meeting included Chair Barry Jolette, U.S.; and Dave Grace, WOCCU vice president of association services. The two-day meeting was moderated by Mark Sievewright, corporate senior vice president, strategic marketing, for Fiserv Inc., and Bill Knight, president of Hebb, Knight and Associates. Representatives from the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions, Poland, and the Federación de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Costa Rica, the remaining two G-10 nations, were unable to attend this year's meeting. "As a member of the U.S. Congress, where I served on the Foreign Relations Committee, I learned the value of international cooperation and communication," said Mica. "The G-10 gathering reinforces my commitment and belief to both of those values."