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Hoosman explains CU difference to ISt. Louis Post-DispatchI

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ST. LOUIS (2/11/08)--Vantage CU President/CEO Hubert Hoosman Jr. turned a personal profile into an opportunity to tout the credit union difference in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Feb. 8). Friday's article, "Credit union chief follows a democratic formula," started with the personal background, including Hoosman's leadership in the $2 million statewide campaign for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. But he was soon talking about what makes his credit union unique: its not-for-profit, member-owned structure. "It doesn't matter if you have $1,000 or $1 in your account, you have the same right as other members of the credit union," Hoosman told the newspaper. "You have the ability to take major action on decisions of the credit union. With a bank, you don't." A bank, he said, is "all about the bottom line and returning a profit for its investors." Among the points he made:
* Credit unions have the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund and have never had to ask the government for anything while banks and savings and loans have had bailouts on several occasions. * Community banks are the main competition. "With community banks, you get four or five investors who pool their money and open a small bank. They want to build their assets for a major bank to buy them out in five years." A director wanted to know why the credit union didn't have such a plan. "Because we are not setting ourselves up to be bought. We can't be bought. Our charter doesn't allow it." * The volunteer board structure means board members have "no advantage over other members. No perks, no year-end bonuses, nothing. I think it's the best model of democracy that exists in the country. We walk the walk."
Hoosman told the newspaper that credit unions "are the Southwest Airlines of the consumer financial world." Vantage CU is a $509 million asset credit union in Bridgeton, Mo. Use the link to access the full article.

Banks to hike rates opportunity for CUs says PCUA

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (2/11/08)--Credit unions, get ready to take advantage of an opportunity. Many banks have started raising fees on their services to offset losses from the collapsing real estate market. Banks will want to make up the income and will be much more aggressive at raising prices, according to William McCracken of Synergistics Research. Everyone will see some price increase unless they have perfect credit, he told USA Today (Feb. 7). That means an opportunity for credit unions to step in and provide services, according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) (Life is a Highway Feb. 8). "This presents an opportune time for credit unions to promote their services and low rates and fees to attract new members and build member loyalty through account relationships," said PCUA in its newsletter. Bank of America says it is raising rates on some card accounts based on a periodic review of consumers' risks, reported USA Today. Other banks are raising rates on some credit cards, boosting late fees, lifting caps on balance-transfer fees and increasing ATM fees for foreign transactions. Lenders collected $18.1 billion in penalty fees last year--on credit cards alone, a 69% increase since 2003, consulting firm R.K. Hammer told the newspaper. The fees likely will increase an additional 5.5% this year because many consumers struggling to pay bills are hit with late fees. For an example of how credit unions can take hold of the opportunity, ready "Fairwinds' expansion result of 'flight to quality'" in System News.

Financial literacy theme of Ohios consumer protection week

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DUBLIN, Ohio (2/11/08)--The Ohio Credit Union League is partnering with Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann and other consumer service entities to host events during National Consumer Protection Week March 3-7. The league is reserving tables at each of the week’s events to distribute information about its MoneyandStuff initiative and local credit unions. It encouraged credit unions in the state to participate by scheduling volunteers to work at the tables and provide information. Events will be held:
* March 3, Tolles Career and Technical Center, Plain City; * March 4, Wright State University, Dayton; * March 5, Colerain Township Senior Center, Cincinnati; * March 6, Tower City Center, Cleveland; and * March 7, Jewish Community Center, Youngstown.

CU relocated after members die in City Hall shooting

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ST. LOUIS (2/11/08)--Kirkwood (Mo.) Municipal CU hoped to be back in its City Hall location today after it had temporarily relocated following a deadly shooting at the Kirkwood City Hall Thursday night. Three of the people killed were members of the credit union, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) (CourierNet Feb. 8). The credit union was closed when Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton arrived at a City Council meeting and began shooting. Police say he killed five people, including two police officers and three Kirkwood city officials, before police returned fire and killed him. Two others were injured. Kirkwood Mayor Mike Swoboda was shot in the head and is in serious condition. A reporter attending the meeting was shot in the hand. Three of the people killed, including Kirkwood Police Officers William Biggs and Tom Ballman, and Public Works Director Kenneth Yost, were members of the credit union. "Thanks to everyone for their concern and support and prayers for the victims," said Bob Dielschneider, credit union president. Dielschneider said Friday he hoped the credit union will be back in its City Hall by today.

Fairwinds expansion result of flight to quality says CEO

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ORLANDO, Fla. (2/1//08)--Fairwinds CU unveiled a $25 million expansion plan expected to add eight branches across Central Florida this year, as members are increasingly seeking better quality in their financial services, the credit union said. The $1.463 billion asset, Orlando, Fla.-based credit union, the state’s sixth largest, will increase its operations by more than 20% with the expansion. This is the second year in row that Fairwinds has expanded, as it opened seven branches in Central Florida in 2007 (Orlando Sentinel Feb. 8). Fairwinds has benefited from turmoil in the U.S. financial sector, and has seen a “flight to quality” as the credit union has gained members who became unhappy with services offered by other financial institutions--particularly mortgage and savings needs, said Fairwinds President Larry Tobin. Despite the spike in new business, Fairwinds’ branching strategy is primarily constituted to provide greater convenience to its existing members, Tobin said. The new branch locations were selected based on their proximity to current members, he added. Fairwinds remains a conservative credit union and does not think its expansion is risky, given the nation’s economic slowdown, Tobin said. The credit union’s high capital ratio suits it well in providing the best services possible to its members through branch expansion, he added.

Wisconsin league 3 CUs receive governors fin lit awards

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MADISON, Wis. (2/11/08)--Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle’s Council on Financial Literacy selected the Wisconsin Credit Union League and three credit unions to receive its 2008 Governor’s Financial Literacy Awards. They were among 10 organizations receiving the awards. The winners were selected from nominations by the council’s awards committee. Evaluations were based on: innovative implementation, demonstrated measurable results, collaboration with partners, and scope. Credit union winners included Altra FCU, Lacrosse; Community First CU, Appleton; and CoVantage CU, Antigo. “Credit unions have done a tremendous service for Wisconsin by providing teachers with free resources that accomplish the financial learning goals the state has defined as critical for future financial independence,” Gov. Doyle said. “The future of our state relies on the financial self-sufficiency of each new wave of graduates." Credit unions also "are enhancing Wisconsin’s economy by making people more knowledgeable about their own money,” he added. “We all benefit from that.” The council was created in 2005 to advise Doyle on how to improve the financial literacy of Wisconsin citizens.

Nominations open for annual CUSO innovation award

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NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (2/11/08)--The National Association of Credit Union Service Organizations (NACUSO) is now accepting nominations for the 2008 Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO) Collaboration and Innovation Award from NACUSO members. The third annual presentation to the winning CUSO will take place April 28 during the NACUSO 2008 Annual Conference in Las Vegas. March 28 is the deadline for receipt of award nominations at NACUSO’s Newport Beach, Calif. office. NACUSO will acknowledge all CUSOs that submitted nominations at the annual conference. “NACUSO understands that collaborations and innovation are key success factors that can build strength and vitality in the credit union industry,” said Judy Sandberg, senior vice president of Gateway Service Group LLC and NACUSO board member. “We want to identify and recognize all examples of organizations that successfully used the collaborative model to advance the goals of our industry.”

Colorado CUs caucus participation up 300

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ARVADA, Colo. (2/11/08)--The Credit Union Association of Colorado (CUAC) reports that on “Super Tuesday,” state credit unions’ caucus participation was up by 300% statewide. With both Democratic and Republican caucuses taking place Feb. 5, CUAC coordinated volunteers throughout the state to either participate in the caucus process with their party or serve as an association caucus observer in their home precinct. The volunteers helped monitor the progress of the caucuses throughout the evening, giving local grassroots advocates insight into the happenings at caucus meetings statewide. “It was exciting to see the number of credit union grassroots advocates participating in their caucuses Tuesday night,” said Timothy Dore, CUAC senior vice president of government affairs. “The enthusiasm and interest of our membership was high and will continue to grow throughout the campaign season of 2008 as it progresses.” Precincts are the smallest political unit in the state and typically are held in homes, schools, churches or other locations within a neighborhood. There are nearly 4,000 precincts in Colorado.

Bergeron Credit insurance licenses affect all Vermont CUs

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (2/11/08)--Association of Vermont Credit Unions (AVCU) President Joe Bergeron informed state credit union CEOs and managers last week that credit insurance licensing regulations are about to be implemented. The regulations come after more than two years of work from the insurance arm of the state regulator--the Banking, Insurance, Securities, and Health Care Administration (BISCHA). BISCHA sent a final version of the regulations to the Secretary of State for official filing. A review by the statehouse’s Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) is all that remains before the planned April 1 effective compliance date (Newslines Express Feb. 8) . Under the new regulations, credit unions, banks, car dealers and others selling credit-related insurance would be required to attain a limited line license for their entity and/or employees--such as loan officers--involved in the sale of insurance. Previously, financial institutions were exempt from licensing requirements. Additional disclosure requirements and employee training also are part of the new regulatory mandate. CUNA Mutual Group’s (CMG) legal department has worked closely with AVCU during the past two years to influence the impact of BISCHA’s credit insurance license regulations on credit unions. Following the Feb. 20 LCAR review, credit unions will have one month to prepare for compliance. On behalf of credit unions, AVCU has sought from BISCHA an extension of time for initial compliance. AVCU has provided to member credit unions these details:
* An overview and Q&A of the limited Lines License Regulations; * Copies of the actual regulations from BISCHA; and * AVCU’s letter to BISCHA, requesting additional time for credit union compliance.
CMG is developing a compliance training program for all Vermont credit unions. AVCU continues to seek final details from BISCHA and will coordinate and provide compliance assistance. Soon, pending final release of the regulations, CUNA Mutual and AVCU likely will schedule a teleconference to provide further details to member credit unions.

Pet insurance expected to double by 2012

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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (2/11/08)--PetFirst Healthcare, a nationwide provider of health insurance policies for dogs and cats, said it expects the $250 million pet insurance industry to double by 2012. A few credit unions offer this type of insurance. Operating similarly to human health insurance, pet insurance covers the costs associated with veterinary expenses. PetFirst plans include routine care such as yearly exams, vaccinations, flea control, and spay/neuter services. Also covered are x-rays, surgeries and hospitalizations that result from illness or injury (PR Newswire Feb. 7). PetFirst insurance plans are available to hundreds of thousands of employees through the $727.5 million asset Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly CU, the American Humane Association and Kroger Co. PetFirst announced a partnership in January with National Benefits Partners--a benefits wholesaler that provides voluntary benefits to more than 3,000 employers and three million employees. Pet insurance trends are imitating the human health insurance industry with obesity, cardiac arrest, hypertension and hypothyroidism seen as growing problems, PetFirst said. Two Colorado credit unions--Ent FCU and Air Academy FCU--began offering pet insurance in 2003 (News Now July 23, 2003).

Report CUs a safe haven notes cautious mortgage lending

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BOSTON (2/11/08)--Credit unions are a safe haven in today's volatile consumer loan market, says an article in TheStreet.com (Feb. 7). Credit unions have avoided much of the subprime lending crisis by not offering exotic loans and teaser rates, it added. The article, "Credit Unions Give Banks a Run for Their Money," is based on a report by the Aite Group, a Boston research firm. It discusses the credit union difference, and notes that credit unions are expanding in membership while consolidating in numbers. Credit unions also are expanding in services, such as mortgage loans. Credit Union National Association Chief Economist Bill Hampel told the publication that credit unions are being more cautious with their loans as a result of the crisis that developed in recent years in an easy lending era. Of credit unions offering mortgage loans, 91% say they are seeing greater overall volume growth in mortgage lending than in any other consumer loan, the article noted. Bethpage (N.Y.) FCU, told the publication that offering a Home Loan Payment Relief mortgage (HLPR) helps it expand. The loan targets first-time homebuyers with good credit and who make less than 120% of the median income in the area. Another area of expansion addressed: credit cards. It quotes CUNA's midyear report, which said credit card loan flows grew steadily over five years until they reached 12.2% in June 2007. Another way credit unions grow is by offering innovative products to attract members. Fairfax County FCU discussed its Gen Y Extreme Checking Account, which offers a free rewards debit card and six free foreign ATM transactions, and more. The credit union promoted it through a YouTube video contest. Use the link to access the article.

CU System briefs (02/08/2008)

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* MIRAMAR, Fla. (2/11/08)--Stephen C. McGill has tendered his resignation as president/CEO of the $2.115 billion asset Eastern Financial Florida CU, effective immediately, announced its board Friday. Gary Lanier, senior vice president of finance and administration, will assume interim duties and report to the board's Executive Committee while the credit union conducts a search for a new CEO. McGill was with the credit union for 24 years and had been chief executive since 2004. During his tenure, the credit union increased its branch network, launched a commercial lending operation and expanded products and services. Board Chair Peterjohn Plummer thanked McGill for his service and wished him good luck, adding his contributions "will always be appreciated" … * MOLINE, Ill. (2/11/08)--An e-mail phish attempt offering members $50 to $80 to take an online "survey" has been shut down by IH Mississippi Valley CU, based in Moline. The fraudulent e-mails instructed recipients to answer a few questions, then asked for credit or debit card information. The $552 million asset credit union said the e-scam, which originated in Korea, began surfacing Thursday morning and was shut down immediately. The credit union does not initiate e-mails requesting confidential information, it told the Quad-City Times (Feb. 8) … * ROCKVILLE, Md., and WASHINGTON (2/11/08)--Rockville-based Montgomery County Teachers FCU has informed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) that counterfeit checks related to a European lottery scam are circulating with the credit union's name. The bogus checks display its routing number but do not resemble authentic checks. Counterfeit items are tan with ornate design borders with brown squares in each corner. Authentic checks are pink and gray with dark gray borders. The fake checks have the statement "The face of this document has a colored background on white paper" embedded in the top border and "The back of this document contains an artificial watermark--Hold at any angle to view" embedded on the bottom border. It also contains a padlock icon and an erroneous logo (a darkened rectangle with a tree image and "MCT Credit Union," said FDIC in its scam alert … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (2/11/08)--Pennsylvania Credit Union Association Board Chair Diana Roberts has announced that Paula Nihoff and Mike Kaczenski have been re-elected to their seats on the board. Nihoff, CEO of Healthcare First CU, Johnstown, represents District 5. Kaczenski, CEO of Sun East FCU, Aston, represents District 6. A mail ballot election will be held in District 9 to fill the seat held by Fran Muto, who is not seeking re-election. Nominees are Louise Lingenfelser, CEO of UGI Employees FCU, Wyomissing, and Rick Stipa, CEO, TruMark Financial CU, Trevose (Life is a Highway Feb. 4) … * WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (2/11/08)--Purdue Employees FCU has launched a mobile account service called PEFCU2Go. The Web-enabled service is powered by MShift and allows members to check account balances, transfer funds and pay bills using their cell phone or other mobile devices. Bill Connors, CEO of the $461.2 million asset credit union, said the credit union is committed to making financial transactons as easy and convenient as possible … * LOUISVILLE, Ky. (2/11/08)--An employee of Beacon Community CU has been charged with identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office (Kentucky.com and WHAS-TV Feb. 5). Jorge Felitas, 25, allegedly stole personal information from members at the $33.8 million, Louisville-based credit union. Then he and an accomplice, Yohan Villafana, 26, allegedly use the information to obtain credit cards in the members' name. They allegedly bought thousands of dollars of merchandise at Best Buy and made cash advances at ATMs. Arraignment is scheduled for later this month …