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Crash the GAC is GAC-bound welcomed by CUNA

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MADISON, Wis. (2/10/10)--The Credit Union System is getting a little younger. A group of about 20 credit union professionals from the under-30 set have received special scholarships from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) to attend its 2010 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC), long the Credit Union System's largest get-together. The group called itself "Crash the GAC," but had hoped all along to work cooperatively with CUNA to accommodate the interest the younger professionals had in attending major credit union movement meetings such as the GAC. The group was organized by Brent Dixon, a young adult advisor at the Filene Research Institute and a consultant with REAL Solutions. "When Brent first approached us with this concept, we wanted to figure out a way to work with this young and enthusiastic group. Our Center for Professional Development stepped up to offer registration scholarships and other assistance. We are excited about connecting these first timers with their state leagues so they can get the full GAC experience, from league briefings to Capitol Hill visits to networking on-site," said Jill Tomalin, CUNA senior vice president, association services. "We keep talking about getting young people back, but too often they’re not on the ground at places like the GAC where tremendous opportunities to network and make connections occur,” Dixon added. "We appreciate the courtesy and assistance that CUNA extended to us.” To keep the group’s expenses for the event down, its members are paying their own travel costs and will lodge at nearby youth hostels courtesy of Palmetto Cooperative Services. The 20 in Dixon's group received scholarships from CUNA’s Center for Professional Development to attend the entire event. In addition to attending regular GAC sessions, the group has organized sessions of its own, led by influential credit union movement representatives who were drawn to the group’s passion for credit unions and desire to be involved. These and the session leaders include:
* Growth through good, Lois Kitsch, National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF); * Credit union differentiation, George Hofheimer, Filene Research Institute; * International perspectives, Pete Crear, World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU); * Grassroots activism, Larry Blanchard, CUNA Mutual Group, retired; * Acting on the Crash, Tom Decker, NCUF; * Welcome to the GAC, Tom Gannon, CUNA; and * A Conversation with the Regulators, Gigi Hyland and Gary Kohn, National Credit Union Administration.
Dixon is also talking with CUNA and WOCCU about replicating the same youth program for The 1 Credit Union Conference in Las Vegas, July 11-14.

Haiti funds hit 700000

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MADISON, Wis. (2/10/10)--Funds contributed by the credit union movement for colleagues in earthquake-stricken Haiti have reached another milestone--$700,000, reported the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions. Two New York credit unions and the Indiana Credit Union League helped the fund hit that total Tuesday, said the foundation, which is the international charitable arm of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). "We reached $700,000 today. A $50,000 gift from Melrose CU, Briarwood, N.Y., via CUAid.coop and a $20,000 gift to WOCCU from Municipal CU, also in New York, sure helped," said Valerie Breunig, executive director of the foundation. Also in the total: $100 contributed by the Indiana Credit Union League in the name of the Louisiana Credit Union League. The two leagues, whose states had teams in the Super Bowl Sunday, had engaged in a friendly pre-game wager, with the losing state's league contributing $100 to the Haiti relief fund on behalf of the winning state's league. New Orleans Saints won the contest, 31-17, over the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana league anteed up Tuesday. Haiti, which has an active credit union movement with 175 credit unions and 404,090 members, also is the site of a WOCCU project. To support Haiti's credit unions and members through the international credit union disaster fund, make payments, via check, credit card or wire to:

Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions Inc.

5710 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI 53705, USA

Donations also can be made online with a credit card at www.woccu.org/give. For wire transfer information, contact Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions at 608-395-2055 or via e-mail vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate the donation is designated for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. U.S. credit unions also can support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the National Credit Union Foundation's CU Aid system at www.CUAid.coop.

African-American coalition member drive ends Feb. 15

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MADISON, Wis. (2/10/10)--The African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) is aiming to increase the strength of the global credit union movement by offering members a Membership Drive Contest that runs through Monday. Prizes are offered to members who bring in the most new members to the organization (LoneStar Leaguer Feb. 9). To be counted in the contest, new members must acknowledge that they were referred to AACUC by an existing member. Also, a referral form must be filled out either online or in the form of the paper application. The grand prize is $100. As part of the AACUC, members:
* Receive professional training and mentoring; * Network with other professionals to share best thoughts and practices; * Receive up-to-date industry news and trends; and * Are offered scholarships for ongoing leadership development.
For more information, use the link.

2009 stats Maine CUs rose in popularity use

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WESTBROOK, Maine (2/10/10)--The Maine Credit Union League’s year-end statistics indicate that the Maine Credit Union System is strong and getting stronger, the league said. Year-end stats show that total assets at Maine credit unions grew 9% during 2009, and combined assets topped $5 billion. Loans grew by more than $106 million, or 3% for the year, while shares increased by 11%, or $450 million--nearly double 2008’s growth, said the league. Membership rose by 5,296 members, or 1%. John Murphy, league president, called the year-end statistics “even more impressive in light of the reports from others in the financial services industry. “Despite a challenging economy and a continued environment of uncertainty in the financial services industry, the performance of Maine’s credit unions validates the high level of satisfaction credit unions have amongst existing members,” Murphy said, adding that credit unions have become the preferred option for many consumers seeking new financial services relationships. “The increased awareness of the value and benefits that Maine’s credit unions offer provide plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the opportunities that exist for Maine’s credit unions in the year ahead,” he added. Credit unions have heard from consumers who are turning to them for quality, local financial services, Murphy added. “Word of the willingness and ability of Maine credit unions to help members who are facing economic challenges has spread in the past year, and it is resonating with consumers,” he said.

Golden 1 ads take banks to task

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SACRAMENTO (2/10/10)--The Golden 1 CU in Sacramento has taken its mega-bank competitors to task through an ad campaign that targets consumers’ frustration with the big banks and the bailout money they received. The campaign began with radio ads last fall and soon evolved into billboards, according to The Sacramento Bee (Feb. 9). One billboard asks: “Chased by high bank fees?” in reference to JP Morgan Chase and Co. Another says: “Bank in debt to America? Come on over.” The words “bank” and “America” are in blue and red, like Bank of America’s logo. Consumers are fed up with the mega-banks that took bailout money, Teresa Halleck, CEO of The Golden 1 CU, told the newspaper. The ads let consumers know they have another option--a credit union, she said. The billboard campaign was launched as the credit union experienced a 30% increase in checking accounts last summer--which the credit union attributes to consumers’ dissatisfaction with banks, the newspaper added. Overall, Sacramento-area credit unions experienced an increase in business last year, according to the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues. Membership in Sacramento County-headquartered credit unions rose by 2.13% to more than 1 million from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30. Deposits also jumped by 9% to $9.98 billion during the same time period, the newspaper said. Henry Kertman, league public relations director, told the Bee that the growth was probably because consumers are more frugal and because they are frustrated with big banks. The Golden 1 CU has $7 billion in assets.

Russian CUs prepare for new law

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MOSCOW (2/10/10)--A multinational credit union delegation visited with Russian credit unions last week to help the country's budding movement prepare for new regulatory legislation.
Click to view larger image Participants in the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) visit to Moscow to help Russia’s nascent credit union movement prepare for new regulatory legislation included (from left): Russian Credit Union League (RCUL) CEO Alexander Solomkin; Irish League of Credit Unions Foundation Executive Director Alan Moore; WOCCU Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Branch; RCUL Chairman Valery Kasatkin; Polish Credit Union Foundation representative Pawel Grzesik; and Louisiana Credit Union League President/CEO Anne Cochran. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
The new law, signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2009, requires all Russian credit unions to register with the government and meet new federal financial standards by August 2010. World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Branch headed the delegation, convened by the Russian Credit Union League (RCUL), a WOCCU member organization. Under the new guidelines, credit unions must meet certain financial standards affecting share capital, capital reserves, loan portfolio concentration limits, deposit concentration limits and investment limits. RCUL is training credit unions to meet criteria for registration, said Valery Kasatkin, RCUL chairman. “Our first priority is to help credit unions prepare for the new law and create the required regulatory structure,” Kasatkin said. The delegation's role was to provide input and offer guidance in support of those training efforts, he added. In addition to WOCCU’s Branch, the multinational delegation included Anne Cochran, president/CEO of the Louisiana Credit Union League; Alan Moore, executive director of the Irish League of Credit Unions Foundation; and Pawel Grzesik, representing the Polish Credit Union Foundation. Last week’s delegation mapped out assistance strategies to support the Russian credit unions’ transition to the rigors of the new regulatory regime. “By working together, we can gain greater leverage and efficiency in supporting the Russian league's preparation for the new regulatory framework,” Branch said. All delegation members have prior experience with RCUL. The Louisiana league, which maintains an ongoing exchange with the Russian association through the WOCCU International Partnerships Program, provided past assistance to RCUL in the form of training programs. The Irish foundation previously supported credit unions and their provincial federations in the St. Petersburg, Karelia and Dubna regions. The Polish foundation assisted Moscow-based RCUL for several years. By August 2011, a year from the new law’s implementation, all Russian credit unions must be affiliated with self-regulatory organizations (SROs)--non-commercial entities that oversee deposit-taking financial institutions. The SROs will monitor member cooperatives to ensure continued compliance with standards required under the legislation. RCUL will prepare an SRO for its member credit unions, while some regional provinces will organize their own SROs. It is likely that up to 10 SROs will exist in Russia by year-end. Each organization will register with and report credit union conditions to the Ministry of Finance, which now serves as Russia's credit union regulator. Legislation prior to 2009 limited credit unions to no more than 2,000 members, severely constraining the institutions’ ability to grow, said WOCCU. Credit unions that exceeded the 2,000-member limit had to convert to civil code organizations, putting them on equal footing with other not-for-profit and commercial entities, or run the risk of regulator intervention. The new law no longer limits the size of membership. Credit unions that serve more that 5,000 members must report to both their SRO and the Ministry of Finance. RCUL has 142 member credit unions serving roughly 250,000 members.

IWash. PostI chronicles CUNA-CU quest for biz loans

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WASHINGTON (2/10/10)--As U.S. credit unions seek to remove the small-business lending cap of 12.25% total assets per credit union and push it up to 25% of assets, they have experienced huge growth in the sector since 2003, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist told the Washington Post Tuesday. Credit unions' small business lending shot up from less than $10 billion at the end of 2003 to more than $35 billion as of the end of September, Bill Hampel, CUNA chief economist, told writer Binyamin Appelbaum. But CUNA warns that the growth isn’t likely to continue, as 180 credit unions already are bumping up against the federal cap. “That limit was largely hypothetical until regulators lifted a number of the limitations on business lending in 2003,” wrote Binyamin Appelbaum in an article titled “Credit unions seek larger share of business loans.” The article also mentioned Mid-Atlantic FCU, a $244 million-asset, Germantown, Md.- based credit union that owns and funds most of Mid-Atlantic Financial Partners--a credit union subsidiary that lent $32 million to small businesses in 2009. It plans to lend $50 million in 2010, according to the newspaper. To read the article, use the link.

Vote for ICU Day theme

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MADISON, Wis. (2/10/10)--Credit unions can select the U.S. credit unions’ entry for this year’s International Credit Union (ICU) Day theme. Participants can vote for one of the five theme semi-finalists by Tuesday at cuna.org/icuday. The top two themes will be passed on to the World Council of Credit Unions’ committee to select a worldwide theme. The U.S. choices are:
* Lend a Helping Hand; * Credit Unions--Switch and Save; * People Helping People--the Better Place to Be; * Local, Loyal, Serving You; * Join Today, Prosper a Lifetime.
ICU Day was established in 1948 and celebrates the history, tradition and spirit of the international credit union movement. It is held annually on the third Thursday of October. This year’s celebration will be on Oct. 21. For more information or to vote, use the link.

Three named Unsung Heroes by California league

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA (2/10/10)--Three people--Peggy Holliday, Stan
Click to view larger image At the Unsung Hero Award presentation are, from left, Dalia Bieltz, CEO, Clearpath FCU; Judy Hurst, former CEO of Unocal FCU; Mark Klinkert, California Credit Union League senior vice president of professional development/chief operating officer; Unsung Hero Award recipient Stan Abrams, former CEO of Partners FCU; Linda Walsmley, director of compliance and administration, First Entertainment CU; and Chuck Bruen, CEO, First Entertainment CU.
Click to view larger image Mal Sinclair, former CEO of Famco FCU, receives the California Credit Union League's Unsung Hero Award from Mark Klinkert, league senior vice president of professional development/chief operating officer. (Photos provided by the California Credit Union League)
Abrams and Mal Sinclair--have been named 'Unsung Heroes' by the California Credit Union League. The awards are presented for service "above and beyond" to those who have served the credit union movement more than 20 years. Holliday, CEO of Burbank FCU for more than four decades before her retirement Jan. 29, set up the first student credit union west of the Mississippi. She served on several league committees and also as board member of the league's San Fernando/Antelope Valley Chapter. Abrams, in the movement for 33 years, worked for the league and also served 21 years as CEO of Partners (formerly VISTA) FCU, which serves Walt Disney Co. employees. He was a charter member of the Credit Union Presidents Association and Western CUNA Management School Alumni Association. Mal Sinclair, a native of South Africa, became CEO of Famco (formerly Ameron) FCU in 1977 and retired in 2001. He served as vice president/program chairman of the league's Southwest Chapter and led the group's letter writing campaign in 1970 to support legislation to preserve share draft legislation for credit unions. It was the first chapter to do so and other chapters followed, generating more than 10,000 letters. He also served on the board of Western Corporate FCU.

CU System briefs (02/09/2010)

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* NILES, Mich. (2/10/10)--Three northern Indiana men were sentenced to a combined 32 years for an Oct. 11, 2007, takeover armed robbery at Berrien Teachers CU, Niles, Mich., said the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan. Travis Lenois Allen, 27, and Antiowan Devon Loftin, 26, each received seven years in prison, and Chester Darnell Higgins, 31, was sentenced to 18 years. After their release, all three will service five years of supervised release and were ordered to pay restitution. Higgins' sentence will be served consecutive to an 18-year sentence in another bank robbery. The robbers brandished handguns, gathered employees in the lobby and forced them to lie on the floor, while they stole more than $207,000. A fourth man involved in the heist, Devarence Kimbrough, 22, was shot to death in a second robbery at the credit union on Jan. 18, 2008. At the second robbery, he and two others were confronted by a security guard, who shot two of them. The other two men were sentenced to a combined 19 1/2 years in prison for that incident (States News Service Feb. 5) ... * HARRISBURG, Pa. (2/10/10)--U$X FCU has issued $585,000 in loyalty rewards to its members for 2009, the eight straight year the credit union has issued the reward (Life is a Highway Feb. 5). Since the rewards' inception, the Cranberry Township, Pa.-based credit union has returned $5.3 million to members. "We believe that when the credit union is successful, it's not only a sound business practice to reward the owners of the credit union and share our surplus, but that this practice clearly demonstrates the credit union difference," said David Ackerman, president. The credit union has more than $161 million in assets ... *MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (2/10/10)--MiddConn FCU has established a fund for the families of the victims in Sunday's gas explosion at Kleen Energy Systems power plant in Middleton, Conn. Five people were killed and at least a dozen injured in the explosion (USA Today Feb. 8). The fund was established through the city's mayor's office and donations can be sent either to the mayor's office or to: Families of Kleen Energy Tragedy, c/o MiddConn FCU, 213 Court St., Middletown, CT 06457 (The Middletown Press Feb. 8) ... * EAST SYRACUSE, N.Y. (2/10/10)--A CORE FCU branch building in East Syracuse sustained significant damages after a car driven by Alec Hanreck, 19, of DeWitt, struck the building early Saturday morning. Officials say alcohol and speed were involved. Hanreck was injured and had to be extracted from the car and taken to the hospital. He was charged with driving while intoxicated, said police. The building sustained damage outside and inside, including cracked walls up to the ceiling. However, code officials deemed the building as secure and the credit union opened for business Monday (The Post-Standard Feb. 6) ... * ROSEVILLE, Minn. (2/10/10)--SPIRE FCU has selected Dan Stoltz as its new president/CEO, the board of directors announced. Stoltz had been serving in the dual role as interim president/CEO and executive vice president since the October resignation of former President/CEO John Gisler. Stoltz served as SPIRE's chief financial officer for more than 10 years and alsoy served as executive vice president the last two years. The also served on city councils of Circle Pines and Lino Lakes for 12 years. The more-than $565 million asset credit union is based in Roseville, Minn. and serves 62,000 members ... * GREENSBORO, N.C. (2/10/10)--Lori Thompson has been named president/CEO of Greensboro, N.C.-based Premier FCU, the $113 million asset credit union announced Monday. Thompson began her career at Premier in 1990 as a loan officer. During the past 19 years, she has worked in all areas of the credit union's operation, most recently as executive vice president. She has held that position since 2001 ...

Mexican CU expands remote branch network

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ZONGOLICA, Mexico (2/10/10)--Rural Mexican credit union Caja Zongolica celebrated the grand opening of two expanded rural branches Monday, an effort expected to double membership in one branch and increase financial services access among Mexico’s rural poor.
Click to view larger image Pablo Gonzalez, right, a furniture maker, applies for membership at Caja Zongolica’s Xoxocotla branch in Mexico. His membership enables him to apply for a loan to invest in tools, materials and transportation to bring his goods to market
The new branches will improve capacity of the credit union, which operates as part of World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) Mexico program, to grow and diversify its membership in the sparsely populated regions it serves. “Caja Zongolica’s expansion of these branches is exemplary of its tiered strategy to extend access to high-quality, affordable financial services to people living in marginalized rural areas,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “By mapping its service territory by population density, the credit union knows whether to establish brick-and-mortar branches, reach out to members through personal digital assistants or place point-of-sale technology with retail agents.” The expanded branches are located in Atlahuilco and Xoxocotla, high in the mountains where coffee production and hand-made wooden furniture are the principal industries. In Mexico, an estimated 15% to 25% of the urban population and as little as 6% of the rural population have access to financial services, according to recent studies. There is considerable demand for affordable savings and credit products from rural merchants, workers and small business owners, services sometimes difficult to deliver without a branch in the area, WOCCU said. WOCCU’s development program in Mexico is funded by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food through its Proyecto de Asistencia Técnica al Microfinanciamiento Rural project. It works closely with Caja Zongolica and more than 50 other credit unions to extend financial services to marginalized rural areas. Branch expansions like Caja Zongolica’s facilitate the extension of these services, WOCCU said.
Click to view larger image From left, Tomasa Castro, Altahuilco, Mexico, branch manager explains the branch’s expansion plan to Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Unions executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Dolores Rivera Ramirez, Caja Zongolica CEO. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
“Most important, we will be able to improve member service by hiring more personnel, providing a more comfortable environment, increasing service distribution and shortening members’ waiting time,” said Tomasa Castro, manager of Caja Zongolica’s Atlahuilco branch. “We were often confused with the government’s municipal office because we had been located in the same building. Now we will be seen as a completely independent institution.” The Atlahuilco branch has expanded from a single room with one teller window, a member service desk and a outdoor waiting area, to a full-size branch with three teller windows, separate desks for credit officers, an indoor waiting area and an upstairs board room that will help expand the youth financial education program at other branches. It serves 1,500 members and plans serve up to 3,000 members by year-end. Caja Zongolica’s expansion also will involve connecting all of its branches through a proprietary satellite network that operates in the absence of local Internet access or consistent cellular phone coverage in some villages. The credit union uses radios to communicate among branches, and daily financial reports are delivered on disks to credit union headquarters each night. In Xoxocotla, another one-room Caja Zongolica branch also opened its new, full-service office Monday. The town is home to nearly 3,000 inhabitants, but the Xoxocotla branch also serves the greater region populated by around 20,000 people, making the expansion key to improving member service and drawing in new business. The credit union’s only competition, microfinance bank Compartamos, operates but does not have a physical office in the region, and is known for prohibitively high interest rates. “It is very striking how strong Caja Zongolica’s community development efforts are,” Branch said. “All credit unions invest in the development of their members and their members’ families, but Caja Zongolica has a strong commitment to support the economic base of the communities it serves, and their continued rural expansion is a reflection of that commitment.”