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FORUM CU introduces SaveItUp program

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INDIANAPOLIS (2/4/09)--FORUM CU, based in Indianapolis, has launched a program designed to encourage people to save money, change spending habits, and become better money managers. The SaveItUp Program, which will run through Oct. 31, challenges participants to complete items in five different categories: budget, thrift, savvy, goals and education. Under the budget category, an example is to "create a realistic budget to help identify areas where you need to make a change." When participants complete an item, the credit union enters them in a drawing to win up to $5,000. "We realize that people are struggling to save money," said C. Andrew Mattingly, senior vice president of the $1.089 billion asset credit union. "Americans as a whole are spending more than they earn. It is our responsibility as a credit union to help our members and the community with their financial life. The SaveItUp Program encourages them to make a real change to improve their financial well-being," Mattingly said. Participants have access to information and tools through the SaveItUp website. Tools on the site include budget worksheets, savings blogs, and articles and resources from best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio show host Dave Ramsey.

Muslim woman accuses CU over no-hats policy

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SAN DIEGO and WASHINGTON (2/4/09)--The no hats, no hoods policy popular among some credit unions and banks trying to prevent robberies is being criticized by a national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group after a woman says she was denied service for wearing an Islamic scarf. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Monday called on the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether a Mission, Calif., branch of Vienna, Va.-based Navy FCU violated the Muslim woman's civil rights. The woman, Amal Hersi, told local media she was standing in line when an employee approached her and told her to follow her (10news.com Feb. 2). Hersi said she felt singled out and when she explained the scarf was mandated by her religion, she was still asked to remove it. Navy Federal said it is trying to contact her to apologize. "Navy Federal values and respects all its members. Working with the law enforcement community, we have recently implemented a policy to make sure we can positively identify everyone we serve in our many branches," the credit union said in a statement. It "weighed very carefully the need to accommodate religious and cultural customs, as well as medical conditions. Our policy does not prohibit nor discourage the use of headscarves, and we will make sure it's thoroughly understood to all employees," the credit union said. "We have taken immediate action to re-emphasize to all Navy FCU employees the need to exercise good judgment and sensitivity in implementing this new policy," it continued. The credit union said it "is a diverse organization with branches, members and employees around the U.S. and the world. We are in the process of contacting Ms. Amal Hersi to apologize for the recent incident. We will assure her it was a mistake and that we value her membership…We regret that this occurred, and we have taken immediate action to ensure that all…employees understand and follow the Safety and Security Guidelines with sensitivity and care." CAIR-San Diego Public Relations Director Edgar Hopida called the no hats policy unconstitutional. Under the policy, he said, "no Muslim woman wearing a head scarf, no Sikh man wearing a turban, no Jewish man wearing a yarmulke, no Catholic nun wearing a habit, no cancer survivor wearing a scarf, no Amish woman wearing a bonnet, and no blind person wearing sunglasses may enter a Navy Federal CU branch nationwide." He said CAIR offers a booklet, "An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," to help corporate managers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims. For more information, use the link.

Filene to pilot Virtual Finance in Ohio school

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MADISON, Wis. (2/4/09)--Students at Athens (Ohio) High School will be the first to experience a second life in the Filene Research Institute’s Virtual Finance program. Virtual Finance will be introduced to 100 Athens High School freshmen, sophomores and seniors in five classrooms this month, according to Filene. The program also will reach schools in Wisconsin, New York and Maryland this spring. Virtual Finance, created by the Filene i3 innovation group, offers financial education in a virtual classroom--specifically, an area called “Credit Union Island” located in the teen grid of Second Life. Second Life is the Internet’s largest user-created virtual world community, Filene said. “The Credit Union Island represents a commitment that credit unions made to consumers in the early 1930s--to improve their financial lives,” said Denise Gabel, Filene chief innovation officer. “What we see with this innovative i3 idea is a very modern way to deliver on that promise.” While on Credit Union Island, teens can interact with each other, send text or voice messages, play games, and build or explore the environment. Teens are represented by three-dimensional avatars that interact with car dealerships, open savings accounts and decide whether to rent or buy an apartment. “This has been a collaborative effort to enhance financial education for youth, while making it more engaging and more importantly more effective than traditional education methods,” said Scott Moriarty, project director. Credit unions involved with Credit Union Island include:
* Altra FCU, Onalaska, Wis.; * Members United Corporate FCU; * Ohio University CU, Athens, Ohio; * Point Breeze CU, Hunt Valley, Md.; and * Sunmark FCU, Latham, N.Y.
Moriarty is working with Members United Corporate FCU, Warrenville, Ill., to create a youth services company called Modoh. The company will become part of Nextworks, a credit union innovation and implementation company. To register, contact Moriarty at scott@nextworks.org or 804-366-7665.

More CUs offered Super Bowl ads

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MADISON, Wis. (2/4/09)--More credit unions are reporting aired Super Bowl television ads to News Now. Heritage CU, Newburgh, Ind., broadcast 30-second spots during the Super Bowl XLIII--three spots during the pregame and two spots during the game, according to Lynette McClusky, Heritage marketing communications manager. The ad, “Fast Paced Life,” was designed to appeal to 25- to 40-year-olds, McClusky told News Now. The ad depicts consumers as they move through their quickly-paced daily routines. “We will be monitoring new members in this age group as well as increased product purchases from our existing members in this age group,” she said. “We will continue to run the ad in rotation with two other ads during our morning news schedule--10 spots per month--plus our cable schedule.” The ad cost $500 to produce, she added. Envision CU, Tallahassee, Fla., ran an ad that is part of a three-month campaign to acquire new members. The ad was one of three spots the credit union will use in the campaign, Al Hammock, Envision CU president/CEO, told News Now. The ad explains how credit unions are different from banks and leads viewers to the credit union’s website. “The campaign was created after we did extensive research using an online survey with members and a telephone survey with nonmembers,” Hammock said. “We wanted to take advantage of the credit union strengths during a time when banks are so shaky.” The spot cost $5,000, “but it was budgeted from the beginning. And considering the viewership, it was a good investment,” Hammock added.

Southwest Corporate reports December financials

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PLANO, Texas (2//09)--Southwest Corporate FCU posted its unaudited financials for December 2008, noting that it had realized more losses during the month. Its net losses for 2008 total $7.9 million. The corporate recognized $31.1 billion higher net interest income for the year ending Dec. 31, 2008,, compared with the year ending in 2007, which it attributed primarily to the historically wide spread between LIBOR and Effective Fed Funds rates resulting from the current market dislocation. It recorded a net loss of $78.5 million for the year, comprised of other-than-temporary impairments (OTTI) of $71.8 million, net loss on mutual funds of $7.8 million, offset by gains of more than $1 million related to the redemption of Visa stock and early redemption of U.S. Central share certificates, the financial report said. Of the OTTI funds, which are deemed not likely to recover to par prior to maturity, $29.7 million related to Lehman Brothers' unsecured corporate debt, and $42 million related to 12 residential mortgage-backed securities. Southwest Corporate anticipates recognizing recoveries of about $20 million over time as the forecasted credit losses are expect to be less than the OTTI charges. The OTTI funds are recorded to the fair value at the impairment date according to SFAS 115. The residential mortgage-backed securities are still performing. However, collateral losses are expected to impact those securities in one to four years, said the report. The corporate's regulatory capital position is at 6.47% , well above the 5% required by the National Credit Union Administration, and higher than the 5.57% recorded at the end of December 2007. It's 2008 retained earnings ratio is 2.88%, compared with 2.50% in 2007. To access the complete report, use the link and click on the December 2008 financials.

Retail ECU operating normally despite Macys cuts

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ATLANTA (2/4/09)--Retail Employees CU (RECU) is assuring its members that their deposits are safe and that the credit union will continue operating within its normal structure, after Macy’s Inc. announced it will cut jobs. Macy’s recently announced 7,000 job cuts nationwide. About 850 are in Atlanta, and the Atlanta division will close. RECU serves 7,800 members through 27 Macy’s stores located in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. “RECU remains committed to meeting the financial needs of our members,” said RECU President Jeanne Kucey. “We are a Georgia state-chartered credit union and will continue to serve our membership through various delivery channels, including a Georgia-based headquarters.” RECU members can conduct business at more than 3,500 credit union service center locations worldwide. Members also have access to more than 50,000 surcharge-free ATMs. “We are currently researching ways to provide our members with even more convenience through the addition of branch and ATM networks,” Kucey said. All funds on deposit with RECU are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), which covers shares on deposit at credit unions up to $250,000. “In the history of the NCUSIF, not one penny of insured savings has ever been lost by a member of a federally insured credit union,” Kucey said. “So RECU members can rest assured that their deposits are safe and sound. At RECU, we have been serving retail employees since 1938. We maintain one of the highest capital ratios in the entire state, with over two-and-a-half times the capital required by regulators. “We want to work with our members during these challenging times to improve their financial knowledge, increase their financial options, and provide peace of mind,” Kucey added. “While the rest of the economy is uncertain at best, RECU remains a safe harbor for our members.” Atlanta-based RECU has $29 million in assets.

New Iowa law earmarks IDAs for disaster recovery

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DES MOINES, Iowa (2/4/09)--Iowa Gov. Chet Culver Monday signed state legislation that appropriates $250,000 for disaster recovery efforts through Individual Development Account (IDA) savings accounts. Nine credit unions, in partnership with the Iowa Credit Union Foundation (ICUF) , are offering IDA accounts to help qualified members build assets and recover from last summer's floods and tornadoes. The Rebuild Iowa legislation would send the funds to the Iowa Department of Human Rights as matching dollars for the IDAs. An IDA is a matched savings account in which a participant's savings are matched by a grant from another organization. The funds must be used to purchase a specific asset, such as a home, start or expand a small business, pay for education or job training, or purchase a vehicle to get to work. The nine credit unions in the Credit Union Family Partnership IDA Program working to open IDAs are:
* Affinity CU, Des Moines; * Ascentra CU, Bettendorf; * Cedar Falls Community CU, Cedar Falls; * Community lst CU, Ottumwa; * Dupaco Community CU, Dubuque; * Dutrac Community CU, Dubque; * Employees CU, Estherville; * Linn Area CU, Cedar Rapids; and * Veridian CU, Waterloo.
"Iowa credit unions are in a unique position to offer no-cost savings accounts to families and individuals needing help to recover from last year's floods and tornadoes," said Marybeth Foster, executive director, ICUF. "Our immediate goal is to offer a method of saving for a specific asset, and financial education, especially during this time of economic hardship." The credit unions work with ICUF, the Iowa Credit Union League, the league's subsidiary Coop Consulting, and other statewide partners to advance the IDA program. The overall goal: to help demonstrate to low-income Iowans the importance of savings in an effort to end poverty and to help working Iowans become financially independent.

In-school branches continue growth CUNA reports

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MADISON, Wis. (2/4/09)--The number of credit union branches in schools continues to rise nationwide, according to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). As of the end of last year, 218 credit unions in 34 states and the District of Columbia maintained branch offices in 746 schools. These numbers reflect increases from 2007 of 29%, 13% and 34%, respectively. “In-school branches can be the best way to influence young savers,” said Philip Heckman, director of youth programs in CUNA’s Center for Personal Finance. “The school is the workplace for K-12 students, and credit unions with a prominent presence where students spend so much time, gives the credit union message and the credit union brand special power.” In-school branches by venue include:
* Elementary school, 312; * Middle school, 86; * High school, 318; and * Other (K-12 school, youth center, college) 30.
States with the most in-school branches are:
* Michigan, 328; * Wisconsin 80; and * Virginia, 68.
Credit unions with the most in-school branches are:
* CP FCU, Jackson, Mich., 48; * Apple FCU, Fairfax, Va., 35; and * Education First CU, Southgate, Mich., 28.
Credit unions should report their in-school branches using CUNA’s online form and keep their directory entries up to date, Heckman said. “The credit union movement is rightfully proud of its financial literacy efforts,” he added. “But to be able to quantify that involvement is vitally important in convincing lawmakers that credit unions are, indeed, different and uniquely committed to improving members’ lives.”

Minnesota young CU pros meet young lawmakers

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (2/4/09)--Attendees of the third annual Minnesota Young Credit Union Professionals (MYCUP) at the Capitol traveled to the Minnesota State Capitol Jan. 27 to meet with young legislators and learn about the legislative process.
Click to view larger imageAt the Minnesota Young Credit Union Professionals at the Capitol event Jan. 27, State Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph) encouraged young credit union professionals to engage their representatives in issues important to them. (Photo provided by the Minnesota Credit Union Network)
About 20 credit union professionals attended the event, which was geared toward credit union professionals under the age of 35. MYCUP is a networking group for credit union professionals of all levels. Held in conjunction with the Minnesota Credit Union Network’s (MnCUN) Credit Union Day at the Capitol, MYCUP at the Capitol provided young credit union professionals the opportunity to hear firsthand about life in Minnesota politics. State Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph) and State Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport), both under the age of 35, spoke at the event. Both speakers encouraged attendees to develop relationships with their elected officials and to share information with them. “Your representatives are in no way the experts at everything,” Hosch said. “You are experts, and you should always engage your representatives in the issues important to you, your family, and your community.” Sieben agreed, saying that she always enjoys hearing from constituents and noting the issues important to them. Sieben provided her perspective on the state budget, which was released Tuesday. “We need all types of innovative ideas to help get us through this tough time,” Sieben said. MYCUP attendees also learned about the importance of credit union advocacy and ways to become involved in Minnesota’s GrassRoots Education & Action Team. MnCUN “needs all credit union professionals, regardless of their age or position, to be engaged in our grassroots efforts,” said Mark D. Cummins, MnCUN president/CEO. “The accomplishments of Rep. Hosch and Sen. Sieben illustrate that a person’s ability to be effective in politics is not dependent upon their age. These young legislators serve as an inspiration to MYCUP attendees to get involved in politics in their own way.”

CU System briefs (02/03/2009)

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* HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (2/4/09)--The New Jersey Credit Union League has unveiled its new logo, which plays on the cooperative nature of credit unions. Designed by Greylock Marketing Group, a credit union service organization of Greylock FCU, the logo features colorful, equally sized blocks overlapping each other. "It really represents a variety of pieces coming together to form something that's bigger than the sum of all the parts," said league President/CEO Paul Gentile, noting the state has the league, large and small credit unions and leaders of all types. The logo also will also appeal to younger consumers, he said. The logo will be used in the league's advertising campaign, "New Jersey's Credit Unions, Banking You Can Trust." The league's service corporation, Professional Services Group, will deliver the message, "Services You Can Trust" in the tagline. The league also is rebranding its education department to EDGE (Education, Development, Growth and Essentials) … * COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (2/4/09)--ENT FCU employees raised $101,371 for the United Way campaign during 2008, beating its $95,000 goal, according to President/CEO Charles Emmer. Ent has supported Pikes Peak United Way for more than 15 years. It raised more than $90,000 during the past three years. The credit union's fundraising included creating themed gift baskets for an online auction. Each department and service center create a basket. Other activities included jeans days, barbeques, and tickets sold to a breakfast cooked by Ent's management staff. Pictured with baskets are Ent's 2008 campaign co-chairs, Gregg Caulfield and Liz Finn (Photo provided by Ent FCU)… * DES MOINES, Iowas (2/4/09)--A Des Moines man was sentenced to 58 years in prison for robberies of three financial institutions, including two credit unions. Michael Carlos Cooper Wiest, 20, who was convicted by a jury on Dec. 14, 2007, will also be on supervised release for five years after serving the sentence. He was also ordered to pay $600 to the Crime Victim Fund and $29,805 in restitution to the three institutions. The robberies, which occurred in 2006, were at Affinity CU on Dec. 18; Liberty Bank on Dec. 20; and Financial Plus CU, Dec. 22 (States News Service Feb. 2) …

NCUF Board approves additional grants for Biz Kid

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SEATTLE (2/4/09)--The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) Board approved additional grants for the "Biz Kid$" series on national public television. The action comes as "Biz Kid$’"new season airs on 334 PBS stations--97% of the U.S. public television market.
Click to view larger imageYoung actors and entrepreneurs share financial lessons in the "Biz Kid$" PBS series underwritten by America's Credit Unions. (Photo provided by the Washington Credit Union Foundation)
Throughout the first quarter of 2009, viewers of the show’s third season will see more complex lessons. Featuring sketches with young actors and real entrepreneurs, new episodes will demystify 13 topics including financial institutions, credit scores and economic cycles. The lessons are then translated into a curriculum for each episode. The curriculum is free to download from the Washington Credit Union Foundation (WCUF) website for credit union educators to promote financial literacy. Outreach Extensions, the creator of educational materials for "Bill Nye the Science Guy" and other public television series, developed the "Biz Kid$" curriculum using national financial literacy standards. Outreach Extensions has also developed a national campaign--including grants--that will be offered to PBS stations to extend the series’ reach into communities. Stations are encouraged to partner with local credit unions for volunteers to implement their projects. Outreach Extensions has secured $15,000 from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to fund two first-tier grants. Other station grants will be awarded this month. “We strongly encourage all credit unions to support this important project,” said WCUF Director and "Biz Kid$" Project Manager RoxAnne Kruger. “This can be either a monetary contribution or by volunteering to teach the curriculum at local public schools or after-school programs.” Every episode of "Biz Kid$" begins and ends with the narrator reminding viewers that “Production funding for "Biz Kid$" is provided by America’s Credit Unions, where people are worth more than money.”