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Invest in America buys CUTS Performance Marketing

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LIVONIA, Mich. (2/15/11)--CU Solutions Group (CUSG) has acquired CUTS Performance Marketing to expand its Invest in America program. The acquisition, which took place Jan. 24, means greater access to offers that help credit unions with loan, membership and income, and card growth. Programs from CUSG, formerly CU Village, and CUTS will be delivered from a single source under the Invest in America brand. Credit unions will be able to leverage their combined suite of membership enhancement offers and members can take advantage of a richer offering of discounts. It also means clients can access the combined expertise and staff of both organizations. CUSG will receive CUTS' member discount programs, including a program for Intuit's TurboTax. CUTS discount programs will be offered through CUSG's partnerships with Sprint and General Motors, and will add value to the Invest in America program for its, 3,000 credit unions and their members. "CUTS will be fully integrated into CUSG," said David Adams, chairman/CEO of CUSG. He added that CUTS' San Diego-based staff will continue to support existing programs.

CU in Alabama sues over bond claim

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (2/15/11)--A credit union in Alabama has filed a lawsuit seeking $3 million over a bond claim regarding loan losses that was denied by CUMIS Insurance Society. The credit union also is seeking to get the case remanded back to an Alabama circuit court. Alabama Central CU, based in Birmingham, had submitted a claim to CUMIS over losses from loans approved by former credit union senior vice president William Kiser Jr. The credit union filed suit in Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Ala., on Jan. 3 against CUMIS Insurance Society and CUNA Mutual Insurance Society. CUNA Mutual Insurance Society and CUNA Mutual Group are improperly named in the lawsuit, said court records, because the bond was issued by CUMIS. CUMIS had the case removed to a U.S. District Court on Feb. 9, and the credit union responded Friday with a motion to remand the case back to the Alabama court, according to court documents. The motion to return to the original court is based on the fact that Kiser, also a defendant in the case, is an Alabama resident. "The lawsuit involves a faithful performance claim involving loans made by a former credit union vice president (not a CUMIS representative)," Phil Tschudy, CUNA Mutual Group media relations manager, told News Now. "The claim was denied because we believe it does not fall within the Faithful Performance coverage under the Bond. We hope this matter can be resolved in a fair manner for all parties," he added.

Interchange resolution moves through Mich. legislature

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LANSING, Mich. (2/15/11)--A resolution in the Michigan state legislature backing a delay in the implementation of the Federal Reserve's proposed interchange regulation was reported out of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee last week and awaits adoption today by the full Senate. Senate Resolution 14, sponsored by state Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evert), was unanimously reported out of the committee, said the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor Feb. 14). Earlier last week a companion bill, House Resolution 21, was adopted in the full House with bipartisan support after it was reported unanimously out of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee (News Now Feb. 11). "We continue to pull out all the stops on the debit card interchange issue," said league CEO David Adams in the Monitor. In addition to letters written to Michigan's three congressmen on the House Financial Services and to in-district meetings with lawmakers, the league also took "this unprecedented action of asking our state legislature to encourage Congress to address this serious issue." The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is working with the league to delay implementation of the Fed's interchange provisions. The provisions would cap debit card interchange fees paid by merchants to card issuers at as little as seven cents per transaction. Issuers with less than $10 billion in assets would be exempt from the changes. CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney recently urged the Fed to take the time to study the new interchange law, rather than forging ahead with new rules, so everyone wins, including consumers, merchants and financial institutions. The Fed should be given time to consider all interchange related costs and set a reasonable interchange rate to avoid unintended consequences such as elimination of debit card programs by credit unions, he said. Credit unions also may be forced to impose new fees on members' debit accounts to keep their card programs afloat, he said. In addition, he challenged retailer claims that any savings gained from the interchange fee cap would be passed on to consumers. The Fed proposal will be open for comment until Feb. 22.

Filene partners with CU Central of Canada

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MADISON, Wis. (2/15/11)--The Filene Research Institute and Credit Union Central of Canada have announced a formal partnership to extend their research. The new partnership, which becomes official in April, was created to help both organizations keep pace with market, regulatory and consumer change and provide information to credit unions in Canada and the U.S. Filene and Canadian Central are building on a relationship which began in 2009 and includes credit union access to Filene research reports and Canadian credit union system participants on Filene’s i3 innovation team and its Research Council. Through the partnership the organizations will work together and share costs for projects that are relevant to North American credit unions. All Canadian credit unions affiliated with Canadian Central will have access to Filene’s research library and innovation projects. As part of the agreement, Filene and Canadian Central will produce up to four joint research projects each year. The two organizations will host joint academic gatherings and appoint a Canadian member to the Filene Research Fellows panel. The Canadian credit union system will continue to participate on Filene’s i3 innovation team and on its research council. Filene and Canadian Central recently collaborated to share the findings of the study, “Credit Union Social Responsibility: A Sustainability Roadmap across Canada.” Both organizations said they are interested in credit union governance, public policy and innovation. The organizations will sponsor staff exchanges to further develop research and innovation sharing.

CU System brief (02/14/2011)

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* FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (2/15/11)--Framingham (Mass.) Municipal FCU has a new charter and a new name, MetroWest Community FCU (MWCFCU), the more than $86 million asset credit union announced. Founded in 1944 to serve municipal employees of the Town of Framingham, the credit union has been granted a community charter by the National Credit Union Administration. Anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in the Metro-West Communities of Middlesex County is eligible to join. "Our new charter will allow us to compete more aggressively with the banks," said MetroWest President John Gallinaugh. "People everywhere are looking to credit unions as a good alternative, and now all our neighbors throughout the MetroWest community can look to us." Gallinaugh noted the credit union is eliminating monthly checking fees and fees for Internet banking while Bank of America is raising fees for checking. The credit union also will offer mobile banking, shared branching and enhanced online services, he said. "Plus, we're looking to improve rates on products like credit cards and deposits …

Gov. officials to address Iowa legislative conference

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DES MOINES, Iowa (2/15/11)--Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller will be the keynote speakers at the Iowa Credit Union Legislative Issues Conference today in Des Moines. Branstad will share his legislative priorities, and Miller will discuss hot topics and priorities for this year. Newly appointed Superintendent of the Iowa Division of Credit Unions JoAnn Johnson, Iowa Economic Development Director Debi Durham and a state legislative panel also will discuss key issues facing state lawmakers. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration will provide an overview of agricultural lending in the state. An informal evening reception will be held tonight.

Grant funds fin-ed workshops for refugees in S.D.

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HURON, S.D. (2/15/11)--Tailored financial management workshops and individual counseling sessions have helped Dakotaland FCU, based in Huron, S.D., to make a difference with the population of Karen refugees, political refugees from Burma now calling the city home. The city of 12,000 experienced a tripling of its immigrant population after the refugees fled their homeland because of governmental unrest in Burma, said Dawn Mutchelknaus, vice president of marketing at Dakotaland FCU. Most fled to Thailand and some have come to the U.S. "The Huron community as a whole has strived to assist our immigrant population in transitioning to their new home," Mutchelknaus said.
Click to view larger image Sah Lay Lay Wah, right, shown with her family, is instrumental in Dakotaland FCU’s providing services to Huron, S.D.’s population of Karen immigrants from Burma. (Photo provided by the National Credit Union Foundation)
In 2009, the credit union partnered with Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota to provide financial management classes targeted to the Karen community, with translated materials and an interpreter. With a grant last year from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), the credit union expanded these workshops. Almost 200 Karen-speaking people attended six classes in 2010 that dealt with basic financial management, checking and savings accounts, home ownership concepts and credit cards and borrowing. They also learned to manage a budget, save for future expenses and develop a positive credit history. Through individual credit counseling, the credit union is assisting families with establishing a budget, buying Governor's homes, helping them get approved for U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing loans and for real estate loans with the credit union. The credit union opened 275 to 300 new accounts with the Karen population. These accounts have at least a savings account, direct deposit and ATM card, with most also having checking accounts and credit card and debit card services. It also hired Sah Lay Lay Wah, a Karen refugee, who translates and interprets for other Karen residents who have opened accounts, purchased cars or bought homes through the credit union. Wah was born in Thailand in a camp called Hway K' lot. She and her siblings grew up at the camp, knowing that leaving the camp would mean capture by Thailand soldiers or jail or worse. When Wah was 14, Burmese soldiers and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army burned the camp and returned later to kill those who remained. Her family moved to Mae La, a second camp, where she attended school and higher education courses there and learned English. At 23, she left for the U.S. Her husband Blue secured employment with Dakota Provisions, and Wah joined Dakotaland FCU's staff. They were recently approved to buy their first home. Owning property was not possible in Thailand, she said. "I feel safe in Huron," she said. "This is a great example of a credit union helping members of the community reach financial independence," said Tom Candell, NCUF deputy executive director and chief operating officer/chief financial officer. NCUF grants are made possible by supporters of the foundation and the Community Investment Fund.

New WOCCU anniversary fund to aid farmers

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MADISON, Wis. (2/15/11)--World Council of Credit Unions' newly established 40th Anniversary Fund will help provide financial products and agricultural training for small-scale farm families in rural Africa and Latin America.
Click to view larger image World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is celebrating four decades of global service this year by rededicating itself to helping small-scale farm families in rural Africa and Latin America. Here, Brian Branch (left), WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer, joins small-scale Kenyan farmers in examining their crop. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Stability gained through loans from WOCCU-supported credit unions will help farmers to better grow their farming enterprises and seek out the best prices for their crops, WOCCU said. “Financial stability and food security are two key issues facing the rural poor in developing countries,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Donations to the fund will enable small credit unions to assist small-scale farmers to increase their yield, plant more profitable crops and better meet the food and nutrition needs of their families and their communities.” Supported by donations from individuals and organizations, the fund is aimed at supporting farmers having two acres or less of land under cultivation in Africa and Latin America. With assistance provided by credit union development and agricultural extension staff, farmers will learn better crop production methods and receive financial support to maintain cash flow and benefit from micro-business development strategies. Farmers will realize greater profits from higher crop yields, which in turn will help increase food availability to the community. Participating credit unions will see increased membership and more lending, which will help them grow and ultimately serve more members without the need for outside financial support, according to Branch. The fund helps celebrate the 40th anniversary of WOCCU, which was incorporated on Nov. 9, 1970, and opened its doors for business on Jan. 1, 1971. WOCCU evolved with the support of the global credit union movement from Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) World Extension Department, first established based on the recommendation of U.S. credit union pioneer Roy Bergengren and approved by CUNA's board on May 15, 1954.