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New Jersey leagues Gentile lays out new agenda

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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (2/28/08)--The No. 1 issue facing the New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) is the image of the league, according to new league President/CEO Paul Gentile who took over the top spot Dec. 3. “There has been a lot of turnover at the league CEO position and other positions that have led to some questions from credit unions in the state,” Gentile told News Now. “We need to bring leadership and stability to the league and build that back up.” Communication is another important issue for the league, Gentile said. “There has not been a great flow of communication from the league to the state’s credit unions in the past,” he said. “The Weekly Exchange” is a league newsletter e-mailed out every week to New Jersey credit unions to keep them informed about credit union issues, and it has been “a tremendous support” to the league and its member credit unions, Gentile said. Gentile’s No. 1 goal is to build trust between NJCUL and credit unions in the state. “Good communication goes hand-in-hand with that,” he explained. Awareness also is a key goal. There are 1.2 million New Jersey credit union members in a state with a population of eight million. That’s a 13% penetration rate, which is the second lowest in the nation, behind Arkansas, Gentile said. “Awareness, in the form of branding, is the key,” he explained. “I think there should be a national branding campaign for credit unions.” Gentile is tweaking the league’s “Difference You” campaign, making it a 10-month program, focusing primarily on radio, events and print ads, but avoiding TV, which Gentile said is too expensive. The NJCUL will air 16 spots a month on the statewide New Jersey radio network. Another goal: Enhancing state charters for credit unions. “Enhancing the dual charter helps by providing more options,” he said. Only 19 of the state’s 220 credit unions are state-chartered, representing only $470 million out of the total $10 billion in credit union assets statewide, he added. Gentile formerly served as the Credit Union Times editor/publisher. He had worked for the publication since 1997. So far there haven’t been too many surprises at his new job, Gentile said. “It’s very different from my life at the Credit Union Times, where I had to know about everything in the industry,” he said. “The background gave me a good broad base of knowledge. So the learning curve hasn’t been so steep for me in New Jersey. “I feel that I’m more a part of the credit union movement here than at my previous job. I have been pleasantly surprised at how helpful other state leagues and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) have been,” he continued. Gentile also mentioned that he’s working on strengthening the service corporation in the state to better help credit unions. He also is championing a small credit union task force to help 10 small credit unions in the state with under $10 million in assets. Each participating credit union commits to developing a strategic plan, conducting two membership surveys (one at the start of the program, and one after 18 months), and completing CUNA education programs. “Too many credit unions are not doing enough research and strategic planning,” Gentile said. A final item on Gentile’s agenda is empowering a 12-member league task force to review New Jersey credit union governance, which is likely to lead to changes in bylaws and the structure of the league board, he concluded.

Patelco Mission SF partner to assist unbanked

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SAN FRANCISCO (2/28/08)--Patelco CU and Mission SF FCU--formerly Mission Area FCU--joined forces to open a new shared branch in San Francisco Feb. 19 to serve the “unbanked.”
From left: Margaret Libby, executive director, Mission SF Community Financial Center; Anita Macias, senior vice president, Patelco CU; and Salvador Duran, manager/ CEO, Mission SF FCU, attend the grand opening of the Mission SF FCU’s new office in the Mission District of San Francisco. (Photo provided by Mission SF FCU)
The new office, located on the main cultural and commercial corridor of the Mission District, will house Mission SF FCU, its nonprofit affiliate SF Community Financial Center and its Youth Credit Union Program. “This new office makes us more visible to our community so we can reach our people and help them with their financial situations,” said Salvador Duran, manager/CEO of Mission SF FCU, an $8.4 million asset credit union with 2,500 members. “That is our mission--to help people. This would not have happened without the support of Patelco.” Under half of the Mission District population is foreign born, with two-thirds coming from Central America and Mexico. Roughly 34,000 people in the Mission District--about 56% of the district’s population--are unbanked or without a relationship with a mainstream financial institution, according to a recent Brookings Institute estimate. Mission SF Community Financial Center, with Patelco’s support, operates a nationally recognized Youth Credit Union Program (YCUP)--a leadership and savings program for children and youth. The YCUP has 500 members, $75,000 in assets and a staff of five young people. YCUP has recently added two new programs. One is a training arm, Youth Trainers for Economic Power, which employs eight youth trainers to teach community youth about smart money management and financial services decision-making. The other involves a market research firm, the Action Research Committee, which is conducting focus groups and surveys to identify youth attitudes and habits related to saving and spending.

Another text-messaging scam hits St. Louis area

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ST. LOUIS (2/28/08)--Another credit union is reporting its members and nonmembers are receiving e-mails and text messages on their cell phones that attempt to capture personal identification information. Arsenal CU, in St. Louis, and the Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon are warning consumers in St. Louis about the scheme. The e-mails and messages are in Arsenal's name and began arriving on Feb. 15, said the Missouri Credit Union Association (CourierNet Feb. 27). Nixon said the messages claim there is a problem with recipients' account. Consumers receiving the messages may or may not be members of the credit union. They are customers of several different cell phone companies (US Fed News Feb. 26). The bogus messages instructed recipients to provide information about their credit union account, and debit card and credit card numbers. The thieves created a false replica of Arsenal's online account access page and set up a phone number that connected callers to an automated voice message from "Arsenal CU" asking for the card information. The phone number was deactivated on Feb. 24. As soon as Arsenal became aware of the situation, its phishing attack response plan went into action. Several staffers went in to work Sunday afternoon to respond to calls and e-mails. The credit union also posted phishing alerts on its website and in its lobbies, and reported the incident to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. "We are all over it, and our members told us they appreciate that," said Ken Moser, Arsenal vice president of marketing. "We will continue to provide ongoing education to our members to let them know that we would never ask for their personal information via e-mail." Text-messaging scams are the latest of the more sophisticated techniques used by phishers to capture consumers' identity information. On Tuesday, Keesler FCU in Biloxi, Miss., reported that its members and some nonmembers received cell phone text messages related to a scam using the credit union's identity (News Now Feb. 27).

Jackson County CU hit by Katrina dedicates new home

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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (2/28/08)--Credit unions' cooperative nature received the credit for helping Jackson County CU (JCCU) rebuild after Hurricane Katrina hit the Pascagoula, Miss., area in 2005. The credit union held its official rededication Tuesday at its new home. Hurricane Katrina dumped 312 feet of water inside JCCU's office. The credit union didn't have flood insurance because it wasn't required, said President/CEO Lora Michael (Gulflive.com and Mississippi News Feb. 27). In the wake of the storm, Michael and her staff used the back of her SUV in the parking lot to give members their money after the storm. In November, JCCU will celebrate its 48th anniversary, thanks to a few credit union friends:
* Singing River FCU and Singing River Hospital Systems CU allowed JCCU to share their drive-through windows. * Keesler FCU helped place a trailer on land JCCU had bought for a new branch a year before Katrina hit. * The Mississippi Credit Union League arranged for Bellco CU in Colorado and Bethpage FCU in New York to "adopt" JCCU. They created an account for JCCU at Office Depot to get whatever it needed and to purchase office furniture and rebuild.
"You can see all the hands the credit unions gave us," Michael told the local newspaper. She noted it was a "privilege and a blessing" to be part of the nonprofits' fellowship with family-oriented business practices. The new branch houses four employees, two teller windows and a drive-through service. The credit union serves about 660 members, including members from the U.S. Post Office, SupShips and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

CUs largely unaffected by Florida power outage

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (2/28/08)--Though some reported losing power, credit unions in Florida were largely unaffected by a blackout Tuesday afternoon that left roughly three million people in the state without electricity. GTE FCU, Tampa, lost power at four of its branches--Hudson, Lake Mary, Brandon and Bradenton. The outages lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to almost three hours, said Traci Germain, GTE senior vice president of marketing. The branches did not have generators, so they closed during the time they were without power, she added. Miami Postal Service CU experienced a power outage of about 20 minutes but was up and running soon after, CEO Jace Reyes told News Now. Achieva CU, Largo, lost power but the credit union’s generator kicked on immediately, said Sharon Woods, executive assistant to CEO Debbie Rogers. The credit union used the generator for about 30 minutes before power was restored. Southeast Corporate FCU received a handful of calls regarding some service interruptions from its member credit unions, “but nothing major,” said Sandy Baker, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Southeast Corporate. The corporate handled some transactions manually but it was no problem, she said. “We saw no serious impact,” she said. “There were no major issues. They were all up and running this morning.” The phone and e-mail volume was very low, she added. “Had it been a major business disruption, we would have heard a lot more.” No credit unions contacted the Florida Credit Union League (FCUL) with problems regarding the blackout, said Amy Jowers, FCUL vice president of communications. The blackout was a “small inconvenience” for Florida credit unions compared with the natural disasters they normally prepare for, such as hurricanes, Jowers said. “It was a little blip on their radars,” she said. “Now they’re back on course.” News Now also contacted Fairwinds CU, Orlando; Florida Central CU, Tampa; and State Employees CU, Jacksonville, but the credit unions reported no major problems. Tuesday’s blackout affected residents in Southern Florida--including Orlando, Miami, Tampa and several other cities. It was caused by a fire at a Dade County transmission substation operated by Florida Power and Light Co. The problems caused transmission lines and substations to stop service, resulting in the shutdown of two major power plants (The Wall Street Journal Feb. 27).

Industry groups form CU Risk Council

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (2/28/08)--Nine credit union industry institutions and groups have formed the Credit Union Risk Council to help credit unions develop and deploy effective risk management activities. Participants include the Card Services for Credit Unions, Credit Union Card Center, Credit Union 24, CUNA Mutual Group, The Members Group, Pemco Technologies, Pennsylvania State Employees CU (PSECU), PSCU Financial Services and TNB Card Services. The Credit Union National Association, Federal Bureau of Investigation, MasterCard, The National Association of Federal Credit Unions, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Secret Service will be advisory participants. “The cooperative environment is the best way to combat fraudulent activities and allow the credit union industry to develop effective deterrents that ensure lower risk for the credit unions, as well as the safety of members’ account and financial information,” said Jeff Russell, vice chairman of the Risk Council and chief innovation officer for The Members Group. The council’s membership also will include a small number of credit unions, such as PSECU, that perform in-house risk management and data security processing, Russell added.

Norlarco Public Service CU merger expected to close Friday

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (2/28/08)--The purchase and assumption of Norlarco CU by Public Service CU, a $637 million asset, Denver-based credit union, is expected to close Friday. More details about staffing will be made available Friday, David Maus, Public Service CEO, told News Now. Public Service is finalizing staff plans and positions, and expects most people who work with members in branches to remain in their jobs, Maus said. “This is a historic day for Public Service Credit Union and the ‘New Larco,’” Maus said. “It’s ironic that the purchase and assumption should be consummated on Leap Year Day, because it’s a giant leap for both organizations.” Colorado state regulators placed Norlarco into conservatorship in May after a number of construction loans it issued in Lee County, Fla., became delinquent. In July, the National Credit Union Adminstration took control of the credit union and removed its board of directors (News Now Sept. 20). Norlarco's delinquent loans total more than $65 million, said a Colorado newspaper. Bellco CU, Greenwood Village; Ent CU, Colorado Springs; and Public Service CU, Denver, had allegedly submitted bids to the NCUA (Coloradoan Nov. 27).

Columnist tongue in cheek CUs have got their nerve

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SAN ANTONIO (2/28/08)--Poor banks. They're having to fight credit unions who have the audacity to try to serve their members with small business loans. That's the tone of a tongue-in-cheek article written by the San Antonio market's top business columnist. David Hendricks' article, "Man, credit unions have really got their nerve," appears in the San Antonio Express-News (Feb. 26). It notes that "those darn credit unions" are "at it again, trying to lure business away from banks." Credit unions are just trying to take advantage of banks, he says, "now that banks are crying big tears after being wounded by all the securities they bought that were tainted with subprime mortgages." Banks have had to raise rates and loan standards, leaving small businesses out of the picture, he notes. "Oh wait. Many small businesses were already out of the picture," he said. He then proceeds to explain why "those darn credit unions became too popular" and grew, and why they want Congress to lift the asset limit on small business lending. The article is one of the results of a media tour the Texas Credit Union League and local credit unions conducted last week in San Antonio. The group also succeeded in getting an op-ed piece, and credit unions hit talk radio Tuesday. For the full article, and a few chuckles, use the resource link.