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ASI FCU offers college savings plan for Ninth Ward

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HARAHAN, La. (3/21/11)--ASI FCU, Harahan, La., has teamed with two partners to offer "Bridge to Start," a savings program that addresses the growing gap between family income and higher education costs as well as helps low-income families develop a savings habits and invest in their children's future. ASI, KIPP Renaissance High School and the Keller Family Foundation developed the program for families with children enrolled in KIPP, located in the Ninth Ward, according to the Louisiana Credit Union League (eNews March 16). The credit union and school, with a grant from the Keller Family Foundation, will provide a 2:1 match, up to $50, for participating families. Those who save $50 can end up with $100. KIPP has pledged $30,000 of its own funds to participate in the match. ASI is encouraging families to open savings accounts for their students and make deposits as they can afford monthly. At the conclusion of the academic year, the families' accounts--including matched funds--will be placed into Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust (START) accounts through the State of Louisiana's 529 Program. START accounts are tax-free education savings accounts that allow families to earn interest on their college savings. The credit union noted the rising cost of higher education is an almost insurmountable barrier to low-income families, who remain underserved by the financial community. Many don't own bank accounts and resort to using fringe financial services such as payday lenders for basic financial tasks--which further reduces their ability to save for college. Such decisions prevent savings and asset accumulation and lead to a financial cycle of poverty that can have detrimental effects on first-generation college students struggling to balance attending class, studying and working part-time. One effect is an increase in college dropout rates. Over time, the "Bridge to Start" will strengthen the financial health of the families by equipping them with financial education and assisting KIPP Renaissance High School and KIPP New Orleans Schools in their goal to produce more than 1,000 first-generation college graduates by 2022. "The objective of this program is to give disadvantaged families an opportunity not only to save for college, but to help underbanked or unbanked families be brought into the financial mainstream," Mignhon Tourne, ASI FCU CEO, told the league.

Conway to lead MDDCCUA merger due diligence committee

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COLUMBIA, Md. (3/21/11)--Chris Conway, president/CEO of Educational Systems FCU, Greenbelt, Md., will chair a five-member committee to lead a merger due diligence review for the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association (MDDCCUA) related to its potential merger with the New Jersey Credit Union League. MDDCCUA Board Chairman Miguel Boluda tapped Conway to lead the ad hoc committee, said the association. Others named to the committee are:
* Rob Windsor, CEO of First Financial FCU, Lutherville, Md.; * Theresa Mann, CEO of The Partnership FCU, Arlington, Va.; * Marsha King, CEO of Library of Congress FCU, Hyattsville, Md.; and * Lois Profili, CEO of First Eagle FCU, Owings Mills, Md.
As part of the due diligence effort, Conway said he plans to hold a series of focus groups with the affiliated credit unions so that the committee may better understand what their concerns and desires are regarding the creation of a regional association. “This is all about listening to our constituents, understanding what the deal breakers are, and ensuring two-way communication as we negotiate our way to the final recommendations to the membership. My goal is to have a general idea of what this new association would look like and a clear understanding of the desire of Maryland and D.C. credit unions to move forward by our annual meeting in June,” Conway said.

Council speaker Build mind share to grow market share

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LAS VEGAS (3/21/11)--It’s more important than ever for credit union brands to capture members’ heads, hearts, trust, and loyalty. Credit unions are the “good guys” of the financial services industry, and they have a great story to tell. But credit unions won’t be able to exploit their “good guy” status to build market share until they build “mind share,” says brand strategist Libby Gill, speaking at the 18th Annual CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Las Vegas last week. She says it’s more important than ever for credit unions’ brands to cut through the clutter and capture members’ mind share--their heads, hearts, trust, and loyalty--after which market share will follow. Gill cites five ways credit unions can build member mind share:
* Define and deliver authentic value. Examine what you’re providing members and whether you’re meeting their needs. * Confirm your “go-to-authority” status. Establish your credentials and credibility by sharing your expertise with members, becoming a valued source by the media, and harnessing members’ testimonials. "Nothing sells a customer like another happy customer,” Gill says. “Don’t be the greatest best-kept secret.” * Create a “sticky” message. A tagline can be a powerful way to communicate your credit union’s unique value proposition to members. “Diamonds are forever,” for example, justifies the jewels’ high price point. And “That was easy,” from Staples, addresses the company’s efforts to make consumers’ shopping experience more convenient. * Create a “wow” website. This means having a website that illustrates your credibility up-front; has a clean, professional, and contemporary look; and includes calls to action. “Your site should tell people what to do once they get there,” Gill says. “It should lead people through.” * Implement a culture of Kaizen, or continuous improvement.
“The definition of a brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” says Gill, borrowing from Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos. Live the Kaizen concept, she concluded.

Embrace bags fly free moment CUNA Council told

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LAS VEGAS (3/21/11)--The time is right for credit unions to grow market share. But it's up to credit unions to seize the day. Consumers’ disgust with banks’ predatory practices and the recent taxpayer-funded banking industry bailout gives credit unions the perfect opportunity to build market share, says Patrick Adams, president/CEO of St. Louis Community CU and master of ceremonies at the 18th Annual CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Las Vegas last week. “This is our ‘bags fly free’ moment,” says Adams, referring to Southwest Airline’s popular brand differentiating practice of not charging passengers for their first piece of checked luggage. “If we can stay here and hold our costs, we’ll gain market share. Don’t lose this opportunity.” Credit unions overall have sufficient capital to grow, he says. Before the recession, credit unions’ average capital-to-assets ratio was 11%. As the nation begins to recover, this ratio remains at a healthy 10%. “We can take on more growth." Lack of growth was one reason former beer monolith Anheuser-Busch was taken over by a Belgian beer company, Adams says. He says the failed suds supplier serves as a cautionary tale for credit unions, having made a “six pack” of mistakes:
* It underestimated its competition. “A 900-pound gorilla eats an 800-pound gorilla every day,” Adams notes. Apparently, “too big to fail” doesn’t apply to beer makers. * It underestimated the importance of relationships. Anheuser-Busch’s founder had a poor relationship with the conglomerate that eventually took it over. * It believed its own public relations. The beer maker’s CEO was surrounded by yes-men who didn’t challenge his decisions. * Lack of expense control. Severe inefficiencies played a big role in the decline of Anheuser-Busch. Companies today must partake in “expense management on steroids,” Adams says. * Lack of board independence. Like Anheuser-Busch’s management team, the company’s board didn’t raise important questions and issues. * Lack of growth. The company was complacent and lacked innovation. As a result, it didn’t grow.
“You can never be satisfied,” Adams says.

CU in St. Louis in 1M FHLB affordable housing grant

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ST. LOUIS (3/21/11)--St. Louis Community CU and Better Family Life Inc. received two grants totaling $1 million from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines' Affordable Housing Program to assist residents in buying their first home or repairing a home. Of the $1 million, half will be allocated to help first-time home buyers with a down payment and closing costs (St. Louis Business Journal March 17). It also will help provide home ownership education for St. Louis city and county residents. Qualified buyers will be determined by income guidelines set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They will receive up to $3,300. The other half of the grant will go toward repairing qualified homes in the 26th Ward. Up to $10,000 is available for each project. Both programs are forgiveable in five years. Each year the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines commits 10% of its annual net income to developing affordable housing.

Maine CUs expand in 2010

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PORTLAND, Maine (3/21/11)--More consumers continued to choose Maine’s credit unions for financial services in 2010, as assets, savings, loans, and membership all reflected increases, according to year-end statistics of Maine’s 64 credit unions reported the Maine Credit Union League. Combined assets at Maine’s credit unions rose to $5.39 billion, an increase of 3.8%; loans grew 2.3% to nearly $83 million; savings increased 4.5% to more than $206 million; and membership grew 0.7% for a net gain of 4,115 members. Membership at Maine’s credit unions now stands at 610,720. As Maine consumers strive for financial stability in a recovering economy, they can trust that credit unions will remain safe, strong and growing in the many ways they work to serve their members, said John Murphy, league president. “Now more than ever, Maine consumers can save on financial services thanks to lower fees and better rates on savings and loans offered by Maine’s credit unions,” Murphy said. “Maine credit unions have also demonstrated their commitment to helping members through tough times, from offering special loan programs to help with the high cost of heating their homes, to taking an active role in consumer protection and education efforts, making it all contributing factors why membership grew in 2010.” Maine’s credit unions also increased accessibility in 2010, with nearly 215 ATM locations throughout the state with the surcharge-free ATM network (SURF), and a shared-branch network that enables credit union members to conduct most financial transactions at nearly 140 locations in Maine. That is more than two-and-a-half times more than any other financial institution in the state. Also, Maine credit unions continued to offer new technology, including mobile banking, so members can deposit checks at home, as well as other tools and resources. “Using a Maine credit union has never been more convenient with enhanced access online, in-person and statewide,” Murphy added.

SECU launches estate planning program with loan feature

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RALEIGH, N.C. (3/21/11)--State Employees’ CU (SECU) in Raleigh, N.C., recently piloted a successful Estate Planning Essentials Program to volunteers and has now launched the program to members statewide--this time with an added loan feature. SECU began offering the program to fill member needs for basic estate planning, including a will, a critical element of any financial plan. The new loan product will help members who do not have a will and are deterred by the expense of having one prepared. The loan, offered at a 10.75% rate, provides members up to 12 months for repayment, for an average monthly cost of about $32. More than 3,000 members, including employees and volunteers, participated in the program. Through the program, a member’s estate planning package can include a will with possible trust provisions, a durable power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney and living will, and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Authorization--all prepared by an estate planning attorney who has agreed to complete the documents at a set member price. Services included in this basic program are priced at $250 for an individual and $350 for a couple with substantially similar estate plans and whose documents are prepared at the same time. Members who require more complex planning can work with SECU trust representatives and a local attorney of the members’ choice.

NASA FCU to aid members if government shuts down

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UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (3/21/11)--In response to a possible federal government shutdown on April 8, NASA FCU, with $1.6 billion assets, Upper Marlboro, Md., has said it will provide aid for its members employed by the federal government. If Congress does not approve the federal budget, or fails to extend its current continuing budget resolution, the $1 billion asset credit union will offer federal government members, including contractors, a 0% interest Paycheck and Furlough Relief Loan to cover delayed paychecks or furloughs PR Newswire March 17). NASA FCU services--online, mobile, in-person and over the phone--will be available despite any possible shutdown. “We’re standing by in the event of a federal government shutdown,” said NASA FCU President/CEO Doug Allman. “We’ve always been here for our members, especially in times of financial uncertainty.” The program is also available to new members who join the credit union and meet the program’s criteria. The loans will cover federal employees’ net wages interrupted by a federal government shutdown. For members with delayed paychecks, the 0% interest loans will be offered up to 30 days. After 30 days, loans would convert to a 12-month signature loan at the current annual percentage rate. For furloughed federal workers, a 12-month signature loan will be available with preferred rates, including 0% interest for the first 30 days.

N.C. CUs join builders on home-efficiency standards

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (3/21/11)--North Carolina credit union representatives joined leaders in the home-building industry on Tuesday to discuss home energy-efficiency standards at the Inaugural North Carolina Energy Efficiency Alliance (NCEEA) Summit in Cary, N.C. The event was hosted by the North Carolina Energy Office, Appalachian State University, Advanced Energy and Southern Energy Management, said the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update March 18). The NCEEA Summit brings together leaders from the home building industry to discuss ways to bring affordable, energy-efficient housing to North Carolinians. Its goal is to create at least 2,500 Energy Star-rated homes in the next 12 months. Representing the mortgage lending industry at the summit, three credit union representatives told how the NCEEA can market “green loans” to new home buyers. The representatives were: Spencer Scarboro, senior vice president of mortgage lending at State Employees’ CU, Raleigh; Melissa Malkin-Weber, green initiatives manager at Self-Help CU, Durham; and Mickey Fanney, director of political affairs with the North Carolina Credit Union League. The summit focused on what is going right and wrong in home buying, and what can be done to help promote energy-efficient housing to new home buyers. Others that were represented included: home appraisers, mortgage lenders, real estate agents, home energy raters, builders, utilities and NCEEA partners. Self-Help CU has been a longtime advocate for affordable energy efficiency building practices for low- and moderate-income homeowners, said Malkin-Weber, adding there is great value in promoting energy-efficient housing. “These are folks who often pay a disproportionate amount of their income towards utility bills,” Malkin-Weber told the league. “I hope the industry will take a lead in this really important sector.” The group will provide results to summit participants soon.

AVCUs contest winner rebuilding life after fire

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WINDSOR, Vt. (3/21/11)--The Association of Vermont Credit Unions (AVCU) helped a woman and her husband rebuild their life after their home was destroyed by a fire brought on by a severe windstorm. AVCU named the couple the winners of the CU CheckCard Family Land “Winter” Fun Edition promotion.
Donna Limoges (right) has been a member of Covered Bridge CU in Windsor, Vt., for 15 years. She told Bryan Kent (center), vice president of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (AVCU) that the credit union has “been there” for her so many times that she refers to CEO Linda Kidder (left) as the “George Bailey”--the main character in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”--of Windsor. AVCU recently helped Limoges and her husband after a fire destroyed their home--by naming the couple the grand prize winner of an AVCU contest. (Photo provided by the Association of Vermont Credit Unions)
Donna Limoges has been a member of Covered Bridge CU in Windsor, Vt., for 15 years. She told Bryan Kent, vice president of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions (AVCU) that the credit union has “been there” for her so many times that she refers to CEO Linda Kidder as the “George Bailey”--the main character in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”--of Windsor (Newslines Express March 18). A violent February windstorm caused a tree to crash through the roof of the Limoges’ Cornish, N.H., home. The falling tree then landed on their wood stove, starting a fire that quickly raged throughout the home, destroying it and virtually all of their possessions. Having no other alternative, her husband converted a large shed, which had escaped damage from the storm and fire, into living quarters where the couple has been living on limited resources ever since. When Kidder finally reached Limoges to inform her she’d won not only the prizes in the giveaway, but also $1,500 in cash, Limoges and her husband were overwhelmed, said AVCU. In addition to the cash, they now have a new 32-inch LCD TV, a surround-sound entertainment system with a Blu-Ray player, and a Wii game console, to fill the living room of their new home once they begin rebuilding this spring.

Three CU CEOs on New York Feds advisory council

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NEW YORK (3/21/11)--Three credit union representatives are among the 11 members appointed to the newly formed Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council (CDIAC) for the Second Federal Reserve District, announced the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The credit union representatives are:
* Robert G. Allen, president/chief executive officer, Teachers FCU, Farmingville, N.Y.; * Michael J. Castellana, president/chief executive officer, SEFCU, Albany, N.Y.; and * Mary D. Madden, president/chief executive officer, Hudson Valley FCU, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The purpose of the council is to provide information and insight to the New York Fed from the perspective of community depository institutions. The council will replace the New York Fed’s Thrift Institutions Advisory Panel. The New York Fed president and first vice president will meet with the council twice a year to discuss regional economic and financial conditions, and other issues confronting community depository institutions. The board of governors of the Federal Reserve System has created a national CDIAC to broaden the scope of input on economic credit conditions. To complement the national effort with regional perspectives, each Federal Reserve Bank is establishing a district council comprising representatives from that district’s community banks, thrifts and credit unions. The New York Fed oversees the Second Federal Reserve District, which includes New York state, the 12 northern counties of New Jersey, Fairfield county in Connecticut, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Though it serves a geographically small area compared with those of other Federal Reserve Banks, the New York Fed is the largest reserve bank in terms of assets and volume of activity.

CU System briefs (03/18/2011)

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* ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (3/21/11)--PSCU Financial Services has named Michael J. Kelly as the organization's new president/CEO, announced Board Chairman Craig Esrael, president of First South Financial CU, Bartlett, Tenn. Before joining the credit union service organization, Kelly was general manager of Payments Network for Fiserv Inc. in Morris Plains, N.J. There he was instrumental in creating and implementing payments strategies now used by thousands of financial institutions nationwide. He also was responsible for identifying new markets and delivery channels for the payments network. PSCU Financial Services is owned by more than 680 credit unions … * BATON ROUGE, La. (3/21/11)--E FCU CEO Ken Bordelon has announced he will retire, effective July 1. Tyler Grodi has been selected to succeed him as CEO. Grodi will take the reins May 1, and will work with Bordelon during his last two months. Bordelon made his formal announcement to the board and staff last October, said the Louisiana Credit Union League (eNews March 16). Bordelon has worked with credit unions since 1981, when he became manager of Alexandria (La.) USDA FCU. He joined E FCU in 1996 and was promoted to CEO in 1998. He led the credit union from a single-sponsor credit union with $81 million in assets to a full-service, community credit union with more than $250 million in assets. In 2007, the former president of the Baton Rouge Credit Union Chapter was awarded the league's Lifetime Achievement Award … * CLAREMONT, Calif.(3/21/11)--Economist and market analyst Dwight Johnston, formerly with WesCorp FCU, announced he is launching a company, Dwight Johnston Economics. Johnston has more than 35 years of experience in the investment industry. His company produces commentaries, forecasts, media and personal appearances for the public at dwightjohnson.com. His Telly-award winning podcast on iTunes, "OnDeck with Dwight Johnston," is now in an updated version and posted on his homepage, soon to be available on iTunes … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/21/11)--Robert H. Moyer, a former board member and past chairman of Hershey (Pa.) FCU, died March 10 in Lebanon, Pa., according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association. He worked for the Hershey Foods Corp. for 37 years and served on the credit union's committees and board from 1976 to 2000, when he retired from the board. Since then, he has served as director emeritus and attended many HFCU board meetings and functions. He was instrumental in opening a branch in Lebanon County in 1998 (Life is a Highway March 17) …