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Great Basin FCU to close Sparks branch

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RENO, Nev. (3/18/09)--Reno-based Great Basin FCU, which has four branches, will close one on April 15. The branch, located at a shopping center in Sparks, is two miles from a Sparks Crossing branch that opened last year. The credit union said that,--coupled with projected slow growth--contributed to the decision ( March 16). The credit union told members in a letter that its current size and expectations of minimal growth due to a declining loan demand mean closing the branch as soon as possible so it could maintain the best rates and free structure for members, said the article. Members who used the branch can use the branch's ATM until further notice. The branch operated for nearly two decades. Two employees will be let go, while others will be relocated. The credit union emphasized that it remains financially strong, well-capitalized and continues making sound and thoughtful decisions to ensure success.

IHuffington Post I writer Worst CU better than best bank

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WASHINGTON (3/18/09)--The worst credit union is better than the best bank when it comes to pricing loans and other products, according to an article in Huffington Post (March 17). That's a fact, says consumer advocate Remar Sutton, who wrote the item in response to an article that asked, "Why aren't credit unions taking advantage of the moral mess banks are drowning in?" The real question should be: "Why aren't you joining a credit union right now?" said Sutton, former Credit Union Magazine columnist on auto lending and author of Don't Get Taken Every Time. Credit unions feel obligated to find members the cheapest product rather than the most expensive, he says, adding, "You cannot say that about virtually any bank and definitely not about any for-profit 'specialty' loan company." Credit unions know the financial well-being of the member has a direct impact on the well-being of the credit union. he says. Credit unions aren't reacting as a group to the bank crisis for "a very charming reason. They aren't slick marketers on the whole," Sutton says. Small credit unions have smaller marketing budgets that are targeted to their members, not the general public. And some are involved in the most important aspect of recovery from the economy--teaching young people about money and the realities of the free enterprise system. To read the entire article, use the link.

Sunset data breach bills in Texas legislature

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AUSTIN, Tex. (3/18/09)--Key Texas Sunset bills that must pass the state legislature so the Texas Credit Union Department can continue operating until Sept. 1, 2021, have been filed, according to the Texas Credit Union League. State Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) sponsored Senate Bill 1012, and the identical House companion bill, House Bill 2735, is sponsored by State Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton). The bills embody the recommendations of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. The recommendations include continuation of the Texas Credit Union Department for an additional 12 years. Two areas of concerns--elimination of the department’s ability to file consolidated Internal Revenue Service 990s (which save credit unions $500 to $2,000 in filing costs) and new authority to impose monetary fines--are not in the bill. These concerns were raised by the league during the hearing process. The bill next heads to the Senate Committee on Government Organization, and the league is organizing key contacts for those senators. “This bill is our top priority,” said league President/CEO Dick Ensweiler. “We are hopeful that it will move through the process quickly.” Another measure of interest to the state’s credit unions involves data breaches. The Texas House Business & Industry Committee held a hearing on data security breaches on March 9, and meetings are underway with stakeholders attempting to negotiate a bill. Texas banking trades joined with the league in publicly supporting the legislation at the hearing, said the league. The hearing went very well, said the league, with lawmakers receptive to the view that merchants had a duty to safeguard the sensitive personal information they collect from plastic cards. The league continues to attend stakeholder meetings to negotiate a bill in order to move the legislative process forward. “We are especially grateful to the bill’s author and the Banking & Industry Vice-Chair State Rep. Gary Elkins (R-Houston) for his unwavering support for finding a solution to the data security breach issue,” said Ensweiler. Gary Davis, CEO of Chocolate Bayou FCU, Alvin, testified for the league, noting the hundreds of thousands of cards compromised at Texas credit unions alone in the Heartland Payment Systems breach.

Biz Kid on radar at two education conferences

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (3/18/09)--"Biz Kid$," the television program underwritten by America's Credit Unions to teach youth about money, was on the radar of educators at two recent conferences in New York City. According to Jamie Hammond, Biz Kid$ executive producer, the program was discussed at "Learning First Alliance," an invitation only meeting of educators, principals and education association directors from all 50 states, and at WNET PBS New York-hosted "The Celebration of Teaching and Learning," which registered between 7,500 and 8,000 teachers. At the first conference, said Hammond in an e-mail, "Biz Kid$ was on their radar, and they asked our education outreach director from WXXI and myself to attend and talk to them …It was very interesting …They feel Biz Kid$ teaches 21st Century skills that every child needs to learn." At the second conference, Biz Kid$ was the only PBS series invited to have a booth in the PBS Neighborhood at the conference's tradeshow. The other seven PBS booths emphasized teacher and documentary distribution services. "Over 1,000 teachers visited our booth," Hammond said. "Without exception, they were excited about Biz Kid$ and wanted to use it in their classes." The booth used the same banner that the group displayed at the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference in February. It included the America's Credit Unions and the program's logos with the message, "Working together to help kids to learn how to manage the business of their lives." Hammond said they shared received "very positive" responses from attendees about credit unions' involvement. "Many teachers are members of teacher/educational credit unions," she said, "and they were really happy that we are working together to teach kids financial literacy, entrepreneurship and life skills." She added that 387 educators answered a short survey and said they intended to use the program in their classrooms. That intended use, if materialized, would reach 48,338 students, said Hammond, who noted that librarians at the conference also said they wanted the series for their libraries. Other organizations, such as the Council for Economic Education and the National PTA also were interested. PTA President Jan Harp Domene invited them to present at that organization's conference in June. A producer from PBS "News Hour" also approached Hammond about developing a segment about Biz Kid$ for "News Hour" either on air or on the website. Biz Kid$ is broadcast on more than 334 PBS stations, roughly 97% of the U.S. public television market. It is underwritten by a coalition of America's Credit Unions, comprising more than 150 credit unions, credit union foundations and other supporting organizations. The largest funder is the National Credit Union Foundation.

Mortgage broker bankruptcy hearing creditors set

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NEWARK, N.J. (3/18/09)--A federal bankruptcy court in New Jersey took two actions related to the U.S. Mortgage Corp. (known as CU National Mortgage) bankruptcy case: it appointed seven credit union representatives to an Unsecured Creditors' Committee and set a hearing date for May 11. U.S. Mortgage filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey, listing more than $200 million in debts to Fannie Mae and 19 credit unions, among others (News Now March 2). Nearly 300 creditors are listed in the petition, with 19 credit unions among the top 20 unsecured creditors. According to documents filed with the court March 11, the Unsecured Creditors' Committee includes:
* Chairperson, Chris Conway, Educational Systems FCU, Greenbelt, Md. * Lisa Mingoia, Suffolk FCU, Medford, N.Y.; * Robert N. Squillante, Picatinny FCU, Dover, N.J.; * Alfred Scipio, Treasury Department FCU, Washington, D.C.; * Harry R. Jacobson, Pinnacle FCU, Edison, N.J.; * Ann M. South, Novartis FCU, East Hanover, N.J.; and * Ronald P. Roy, Energy FCU, Rockville, Md.
Attorney for the committee is Carollyn Callari of Venable LLP, New York, N.Y. According to documents filed Monday, a hearing on a motion for relief from a stay and order granting Sovereign Bank relief from an automatic stay will begin at 11 a.m. EDT on May 11 in Newark.

CU places no hats policy on hold

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VIENNA, Va. (3/18/09)--A credit union that received objections based on religious grounds to its "no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses" policy has suspended the policy until its officials can decide how it could be applied fairly. The policy is popular among many credit unions and other financial institutions because it acts as a robbery and identity theft deterrent. Navy FCU told employees to stop enforcing the new policy, according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post (March 17). The Post said the memo tells employees not to approach anyone wearing the items, but also says not to remove the signs prohibiting the items. The $36.5 billion asset Navy Federal had complaints from at least two Muslin women wearing Islamic head scarves who were pulled out of line and told they had to be served in a back room at branches in Maryland and California. The head scarves did not cover their faces, and the credit union said they were clearly identifiable (News Now March 12, March 11 and Feb. 4). Putting the policy on hold will enable the credit union time to determine training needs to ensure the policy is enforced consistently.

Diamond Award winners honored at council conference

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MADISON, Wis. (3/18/09)--Spelled in all lowercase, riverset cu in Pittsburgh was named “Competition’s Best”--the highest “Best of Show” award in the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council’s Diamond Awards competition. The winners were acknowledged during the council’s 16th annual conference, held Wednesday through Sunday in San Diego. Entered in the Branding/Corporate Identity category, riverset underwent a branding transition centered on its name change. The $93.3 million asset credit union sought to increase its electronic audience and create traction for its among members and the underserved community. Also, riverset hoped to attract more young people and those that share the credit union philosophy. This year’s awards competition received nearly 1,200 entries. Judges awarded four entries as Best of Show, along with 125 Diamond Awards and 198 Awards of Merit. Other Best of Show honorees included:
* Best Association Entry: Florida Credit Union League, Tallahassee, Fla., for its league marketing campaign, “Your Porthole to Credit Union Growth and Longevity,” promoting the league’s annual convention as the premier networking opportunity for Florida credit union executives. The campaign also advanced cooperative efforts toward the common goal of securing a place for credit unions within the financial services industry; * Best Use of Art: DHCU Community CU, Moline, Ill., for its “13th Avenue,” entry in the Retail Merchandising category. The artwork for the $358 million asset credit union was designed to create a product-focused sales environment to motivate current and potential members to use the credit union as their financial partner; and * Best Use of Humor: Community Choice CU, Johnston, Iowa, for its “Don't Dance Around Your Bills” television spot. The spot for the $224 million asset credit union created a buzz for the “Bills” marketing campaign while growing home equity line of credit (HELOC) volume. The campaign surpassed its $3.5 million goal and generated $4 million in HELOCs.
The Diamond Awards, presented for credit union marketing and business development, feature 34 categories, ranging from direct mail and website marketing to public relations and political action. Judges evaluated entries based on strategy, design and production, creative concept, copy and communication, and results. For a complete list of award winners, use the link.

N.J. state funds legislation clears Senate 37-0

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TRENTON, N.J. (3/18/09)--Legislation to temporarily expand the range of investment vehicles for New Jersey Cash Management Fund and state pension fund moneys so credit unions have equal footing with banks passed the Senate Monday, 37-0. The legislation (S-2552), sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-3), authorizes the director of the state Division of Investments for the funds to invest in any obligation guaranteed by either the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). Existing statutes do not recognize NCUSIF insurance. Similar to Government Unit Depository Protection Act of 1970 (GUDPA) legislation pending in both state houses, S-2552 marks only the second time it's been proposed that credit unions be given equal footing with FDIC-insured depositaries for state and local government funds. Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee Chairman Gary Schaer (D-36) introduced a companion bill, A-3817, in the Assembly earlier this month. However, Schaer held the measure just before it was to be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week. The New Jersey Credit Union League submitted a formal statement of support to the Senate committee and will do the same on the Assembly side when consideration is rescheduled. Although they have not filed formal statements or testified, both the New Jersey Bankers Association and the New Jersey Business and Industry registered their support when the Senate committee considered the bill. They are expected to do the same for the Assembly bill, said the league. The legislation is intended to spur economic growth by creating additional lending capacity among New Jersey depositories, enabling them to make more and less expensive capital available to small businesses and individual borrowers. Sen. Sweeney is sponsor of legislation to amend GUDPA to enable credit unions to become eligible depositories for New Jersey's counties, school boards and municipalities as well. The league expects the municipal deposits measure, pending in both houses, to receive committee consideration when the legislature returns from its annual budget break in early June.

Are CUs better than banks topic on Philly TV

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PHILADELPHIA (3/18/09)--It is worthwhile for consumers to consider the advantages of being a member of a credit union versus being a bank depositor, a financial expert said on a Philadelphia Fox TV affiliate. Although credit unions are a “member-only type of organization,” they are community based, and there are many ways available for consumers to join them, Joe Murray of First Financial Group, said on Fox TV Station 29. “It’s a totally different experience being a member of a credit union versus being a depositor at a bank,” Murray said. Murray compared rates of loan increases in 2008, loan delinquencies, certificates of deposit and home equity loans of credit unions and banks, showing the advantage credit unions have. Because credit unions keep their loans in their community and know the people to whom they are lending, credit unions experience fewer loan delinquencies than banks, he explained. “Because credit unions are nonprofit, they can give more money back to depositors instead of paying money out in taxes like banks do,” Murray said. “Credit unions are not a bad place to take a look; they do a lot of good things for their members.” “They watch their dollars carefully; they’re very good,” he concluded. To view the TV segment, use the link.

Two CDCUs recognized for community impact

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NEW YORK (3/18/09)--Two community development credit unions (CDCUs) recently received accolades for their innovative work in serving the underserved. Both CDCUs are members of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, which welcomed the recognition
William Bynum (left), CEO, Hope Community CU, Jackson, Miss., is congratulated by Cliff Rosenthal, president/CEO of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, for innovative work in serving the underserved.
for the role that CDCUs play in the lives low- and moderate-income Americans. Hope Community CU, a $68.7 million asset, Jackson, Miss.-based credit union, which serves members in four Mississippi Delta states, is one of the fastest growing CDCUs in the country. The credit union and its non-profit sponsor, the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (referred to jointly as ECD/Hope), were honored with the Credit Union Times 2009 Trailblazer Award for Outstanding Service to the Underserved. Founded in 1995 to serve a single congregation in Jackson, Miss., Hope Community CU has grown thanks to its partnership with ECD. Beginning with members of a small church and a vision, the credit union grew to nearly $69 million in assets with nearly 10,000 members in low-income communities across Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee. A few hundred miles to the north, Gregg Brown, founder and CEO of South Side Community FCU, Chicago-based credit union, was featured
Gregg Brown, founder/CEO of South Side Community FCU, Chicago, was noted by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions for a commitment to empowering low-income members in its community. (Photos provided by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions)
as one of 15 Chicago Matters Global Visionaries by Chicago Public Radio. Brown also serves on the federation’s board of directors. Founded in 2003, South Side Community FCU serves nearly 1,400 low-income residents in Chicago's South Side community. In four years, the credit union has grown to more than $4.1 million in assets, and provides its members with savings and checking accounts, personal loans, low-cost payday loan alternatives, car loans, financial literacy education and counseling, matched-savings individual development accounts, and a burgeoning youth credit union program. Both credit unions share a common mission and commitment to empower the low-income communities they serve. “ECD/Hope is a leading innovator among CDCUs and community development financial institutions,” said federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “The collective efforts of the two affiliates have allowed them to expand to serve low-income and minority communities across the entire Mississippi Delta in a very short period of time.” “Similarly, what South Side Community FCU has accomplished in four short years has been tremendous,” Rosenthal said.