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CU Direct Corp. pays dividend for 7th consecutive year

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ONTARIO, Calif. (2/10/12)--CU Direct Corporation, parent company for the CUDL, Lending Insights, Lending 360 and CUDL Retail brands, Thursday announced the company's board of directors approved a 3% cash dividend. This is the seventh consecutive year that the credit union service organization (CUSO) has paid dividends to their credit union and credit union organization shareholders.

The dividend--on the current share price of $1,000--totals $1,395,450 million, paid to its 94 shareholders for the 2011 calendar year.

CU Direct, which has 10 regional offices nationwide, signed new agreements with 128 credit unions in 2011 to maximize their process and cost efficiencies. At year's end, 990 credit unions, serving 28 million members, were using the CUSO's lending solutions to enhance their lineup of member product offerings and services.

In a year that saw credit unions gain back marketplace momentum in a challenging economic climate, 1.75 million loans were processed through the CUDL lending platform in 2011, generating 484,000 loans at dealerships nationwide for $877.5 billion in credit union auto loans. This ranked CUDL credit unions as the eighth largest vehicle lender in 2011 in the U.S.  The CUSO also reported that 33% of the loans generated through the CUDL system in 2011.

"Our continued goal is to provide credit unions with a member centric delivery channel and financial services tools that add value to credit unions' relationships with their members and also helps them grow their loan portfolios," said Tony Boutelle, CU Direct president/CEO.

Among the credit unions that signed agreements with CU Direct in 2011 to incorporate the CUDL brand's auto lending solutions and services were:

  • Bethpage  (N.Y.) FCU;
  • Trumark Financial FCU, Trevose, Pa.;
  • University of Virginia CU, Charlottesville, Va.;
  • University of Michigan CU, Ann Arbor, Mich.;
  • Genisys CU, Auburn Hills, Mich.;
  • Greenwood CU, Warwick. R.I.;
  • Arizona State CU, Phoenix;
  • New Mexico Educators FCU, Albuquerque;
  • Weokie CU, Oklahoma City; and
  • Meridian Trust FCU, Cheyenne, Wyo.
CU Direct's Lending Insights brand continued to experience growth in 2011 by signing new agreements with 55 credit unions. Credit unions that integrated the brand's best-in-class analytical tools and business intelligence solutions included:

  • Grow Financial FCU, Tampa, Fla.;
  • Members Choice CU, Washington, D.C.;
  • Mazuma CU, Kansas City, Mo.;
  • Credit Union Student Choice Partners, LLC;
  • PrimeWay FCU, Houston;
  • Sierra Central CU, Yuba City, Calif.;
  • Members Cooperative CU, Cloquet, Minn.;
  • Kauai Community FCU, Lihue, Hawaii;
  • Big Island FCU, Hilo, Hawaii; and
  • SB1 FCU, Philadelphia.

WOCCU program provides financial access to farmers

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VERACRUZ, Mexico (2/10/12)--Through a coffee value chain financing program being implemented in rural Mexico with the support of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), farmers gain access to new financial and agricultural tools that enable them to improve their organic coffee crop, sell it at higher prices and increase their personal financial returns.

A financing program in rural Mexico, supported by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), helps farmers improve their organic coffee crop, sell it at higher prices and increase their personal financial returns. Caja Zongolica General Manager Dolores Rivera Ramírez (center) explains the workings of a coffee bean dehydrator to Barry Lennon (left) and Brian Branch (right), WOCCU's senior vice president and president and CEO, respectively. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
The five-year Cooperative Development Program (CDP), launched in late 2010 with $4 million in funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, focuses on creating and testing agricultural and financial tools to improve rural economic and financial sector development, personal income and food security. The resulting "toolbox" for credit unions includes a replicable and scalable methodology to meet the financial service needs of small farmers and increase their access to markets, inputs and technical assistance for production. In addition to Mexico, the CDP program also is being implemented in Guatemala.

"The CDP program applies an innovative approach that addresses both the financial needs and market barriers for rural producers in a more integrated way than methodologies used in the past," said WOCCU President/CEO Brian Branch, who this week led a delegation that visited program implementers in the rural highlands of Mexico's Veracruz state. "The result will be higher levels of personal income that will benefit both participating farmers and their communities."

Part of the strategy currently being implemented by Caja Zongolica, one of two pilot credit unions involved in the CDP program in Mexico, involves helping farmers switch to organic production methodologies that result in coffee that commands a higher market price. Certified organic products require stringent growing requirements for three years prior to certification, which increases production costs. The value chain financing supported by the credit unions provides farmers with financial stability throughout the field-to-market process to produce the organic coffee.

Currently, about 25% of the 122 farmers participating in the program who have switched to organic production also work as promotores, or internal inspectors who provide peer-to-peer technical assistance and guidance to other farmers interested in organic production. Participants see value in making the switch, which all but ensures a higher price for their crops, as well as the inherent strength in working collectively as part of the WOCCU-supported program.

Caja Zongolica, established 15 years ago to serve coffee farmers, for several years has been implementing the Semilla Cooperativa [Cooperative Seed] program, which sends credit union representatives by motorcycle and on foot to conduct credit union transactions where the farmers live and work.

Later this year, the credit union will update the personal digital assistant (PDA) mobile transaction technology developed by World Council that allows field officers to remotely conduct loan monitoring, evaluation and approval processes in real time.

The past success of Caja Zongolica technology applications was the inspiration for a similar program launched last year by California's Ventura County CU, which remotely serves farm laborers and others at their respective worksites. Both initiatives will be the focus of this year's engagement study programs sponsored by World Council's Global Women's Leadership Network.

"Participating credit unions are strengthened when farmers become part of the program, but this is also about making linkages that enable members to earn more stable and higher incomes," Branch said. "It's about supporting a move to more sustainable crop production, which means more stability for the community itself."

Public funds bill for CUs introduced in Ohio

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COLUMBUS (2/10/12)--Legislation that would allow credit unions to become eligible depositories for public funds was introduced Tuesday in the Ohio Senate, according to the Ohio Credit Union League.

"The legislation was introduced in response to many public officials' request to have community credit unions as a choice in public depositories," said John Kozlowski league general counsel (eLumination Newsletter Feb. 8).

Jointly-sponsored by State Sens. Scott Oeslager (R-North Canton) and Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati), Senate Bill 292 will provide Ohio's schools, local governments, communities and businesses with greater choice by removing a current restrictive state mandate preventing them from using community-based credit unions as public depositories, the league said.

Similar companion legislation, House Bill 441, was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives, co-sponsored by State Reps. Terry Blair (R-Washington Township) and Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus).

The league said it will soon issue a call to action to build support for the legislation.

CUNAs Cheney addresses account access on iFoxi

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MADISON, Wis. (2/10/12)--Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney promoted consumer access to credit unions during an appearance on the "Willis Report" on Fox Business News Wednesday.

During an appearance on the "Willis Report" on Fox Business News Wednesday, CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said credit unions are willing to work with consumers who have experienced previous financial problems.
Cheney told host Gerri Willis that credit unions are willing to work with consumers who have experienced previous financial problems.

Cheney said that for many of these consumers, credit unions can be a viable option.  "Yes, there are people who can't have a checking account temporarily because of problems they've had in the past, but they are still able to open a savings account at a credit union," Cheney said.

Most credit unions are willing to work with members who have experienced past problems, often starting the member with a savings account and providing opportunities to earn the privileges of opening checking and credit accounts, Cheney said.

Cheney directed consumers seeking to join a credit union to to aSmarterchoice.org.

"There are ways to get a hand up and help to find an account," Cheney said.

Texas league CUROAR initiative boosts advocacy

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (210/12)--CU:ROAR, a new initiative at the Texas Credit Union League, provides a template for engaging all employees at every level in the issues facing credit unions in the political sphere. It is based on the successful grass roots legislative team model developed by Shell FCU in Deer Park, Texas.

The vision of CU:ROAR is to harness a third of the 20,000 credit union employees working in Texas and put them to work in advocacy efforts in the industry, according to the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) (LoneStar Leaguer Feb. 9).

CU:ROAR stands for Credit Unions: Ready, Organize, Activate, Respond. CU:ROAR's structure and tenets mirror much of what the Shell PIT crew has done within their credit union--provide the training and purpose to motivate and organize staff and get them politically engaged on behalf of the credit union.

"Staff understands that they are standing up for principals of the movement, and, frankly their chosen career path," said Jim Phelps, TCUL assistant vice president of advocacy and. "We focus on effective strategies to build connections with lawmakers locally, connections that will make a difference when there is a call to action."

This year, TCUL plans on establishing a minimum of 20 CU:ROAR teams in Texas. For more information on CU:ROAR, use the link.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) represents a full spectrum of credit union and league interests in Washington D.C. and state capitols to define and enhance a legislative environment and public awareness which benefits members and amplifies the credit union difference. Those areas include legislative affairs, state government affairs, political affairs and regulatory advocacy.

For more information, use the link.

N.J. league Hikes with small biz for MBLs

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WASHINGTON (2/10/12)--During a small business Hike the Hill initiatives in Washington Wednesday, New Jersey credit union leaders and small business owners joined hundreds of others from across the country to take the member business lending (MBL) message to the halls of Congress.

New Jersey credit union leaders and small business participated in a special member business lending Hike the Hill event Wednesday. Pictured, from left, Chris Abeel, New Jersey Credit Union League (NJCUL) director of government affairs; Marc Sovelove, senior vice president of lending, Financial Resources FCU,  Bridgewater; Paul Gentile,  NJCUL President/CEO; Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7); Jason Parker and Steven Parker of K9 Resorts, Fanwood, N.J.; and Peter Bruno, Financial Resources FCU board member. (Photo provided by NJCUL)
Credit union advocates from Financial Resources CU and two of their small business borrowers joined Paul Gentile, New Jersey Credit Union League President/CEO and Chris Abeel, NJCUL director of government affairs, for the hike.

Two of Financial Resources FCU's small business borrows who benefitted from credit union business lending, Jason and Steven Parker representatives of K9 Resorts, a daycare and luxury hotel for dogs with three locations across Central and Northern New Jersey, shared their message with lawmakers.

"The fact is we would not have achieved what we have today with our company without the capital we received from Financial Resources FCU," said Jason Parker, founder and president of K9 Resorts. "If Congress doesn't work to raise the 12.25% cap, businesses like ours, which was at a dead end with banks, will not be able to grow and add jobs to the economy."

K9 Resorts has sold two franchises in New Jersey and is working on expanding nationwide.

The credit union and small business representatives met with the offices of U.S. Reps Scott Garrett (R-5) and Leonard Lance (R-7) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's legislative counsel.

Garrett is a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and Menendez serves on the Senate Banking Committee.

"We are always well-received and our record stands on its own merits, but it's time we see more progress by Congress," said Gentile. "This isn't a bank vs. credit union issue; this is about helping our struggling economy add jobs. I urge Congress to look beyond banker rhetoric and do what's right for the economy."

During the Hike, Financial Resources FCU Senior Vice President of Lending Marc Sovelove stressed that banks and credit unions work together closer than Congress might realize.

"Community banks refer loans to us that they don't want to do, typically smaller loans. And we'll routinely refer larger loans we may not be able to do. It's about serving the business. The notion that banks are against this is more about trade politics than real world facts," said Sovelove.

The Credit Union National Association and credit unions have been pressing for Congress to raise the member business lending limit to 27.5% of assets from the current 12.25% of assets. Doing so would provide $13 billion to lend to small business owners. Injecting that amount into the economy would create roughly 140,000  new jobs at no cost to the taxpayer.