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Want to connect with members online Join the conversation

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LAS VEGAS (3/29/11)--Connecting with people online isn’t about hyping your credit union’s great rates; it’s about conversing with members, says Bo McDonald, president of Your Marketing Company, Roebuck, S.C. “People don’t care about your credit union; they care about its people, the work it does, and the community it serves,” McDonald told attendees at the 18th Annual CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference in Las Vegas. “People don’t trust advertising--people trust people. That’s why social media is so important. It’s about people talking to people online.” McDonald cites an unlikely example of a company that inspires passion in its customers: Fiskars, the global scissors maker. The company formed the “Fiskateers,” a nationwide group of “crafting ambassadors” who blog about what they’re doing with their scissors. “The scissors’ one-year guarantee doesn’t excite people; connecting with others does,” McDonald explains. “Find something your members can rally around.” He advises credit unions to join the conversation in social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and blogs. Some insights about using these tools:
* People like free stuff; * There’s a big difference between updates and spam; * Include photos, videos and links in addition to updates; * Make your fans and staff famous by highlighting them; * Let your fans go crazy--don’t censor their postings; * Give people something to look forward to, such as “freebie Friday,” when you regularly give away items; and * Don’t delete complaints. Instead, address them immediately.
The particular social media vehicle is less important than the conversation, McDonald says. “Remember when MySpace was the shiny new thing? It’s dead now. Facebook and Twitter will be in the same boat someday.”

Eight tenets of successful business development

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LAS VEGAS (3/29/11)--Who’s responsible for business development? Everyone at the credit union, says Celeste Cook, CEO/founder of CUStrategies, Montgomery, Ala., and a former credit union business development executive. She addressed the 18th Annual CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference earlier this month in Las Vegas. Cook offers eight tenets for successful credit union business development:
* Measure results, not activity. Cook spent so much time wooing a former select employee group (SEG) that her credit union CEO once asked her, “Why aren’t you on the golf course?” when she returned to the office. Cook’s putting paid off: The company, AT&T, rejoined as a SEG, giving the credit union access to thousands of potential members. "It doesn’t matter if you’re in the office; it’s about results,” she says. “If you show results, your CEO won’t complain about your expenses.” * Know what competitors offer. This helps credit unions differentiate themselves from others, particularly banks that employ predatory practices. Other points of differentiation: Credit unions have access to a network of 68,000 surcharge-free ATMs; they’re consumer advocates; they’re not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives; they have lower loan rates, higher dividends, and fewer fees; and they emphasize member education. * Develop relationships. Don’t call companies SEGs, call them “preferred partners.” “And you’re not the SEG’s credit union; you’re its partner,” Cook says. “If we can talk and connect with people, we can build relationships.” * Keep in frequent contact. Cook suggests contacting each SEG at least eight times a year. “Contacting SEGs once a year isn’t a relationship,” Cook says. * Pick the right business development goals. Measure member growth, loan growth, and use of checking accounts with bill pay and e-statements. Also, the number of potential members a SEG provides is a better success measure than the number of new SEGs a business development rep signs up. * Never ask a question that gives you a 50% chance of hearing “no.” This answer is too hard to overcome. For example, don’t ask a potential SEG, “Would you like to hear about our products and our low rates and fees?” Instead, ask the SEG about its business and whether it would be interested in helping its employees save money and improve their financial savvy. * No never means no. When Cook scored a meeting with Hyundai, the human resources person told her, “Before we get started, I should tell you that we’re not going to do business with you.” The company already had a relationship with Wachovia Bank. Cook replied, “I respect your loyalty” and explained in detail her credit union could save the company’s employees money. Hyundai consented to installing three credit union ATMs on-site. Eventually, 80% of its employees converted from Wachovia to the credit union. * Create a tagline that sends a clear message. One credit union’s tagline: We’re going to save our members $1 million this year—simple and effective.

150 members get 10 gal. free gas ID theft advice

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PHOENIX (3/29/11)--Desert Schools FCU in Phoenix partnered with three local gas stations Friday to give 10 free gallons of gasoline to each of 150 members, and also used the promotion to educate members on identity theft protection. The first 50 members to show up at each of three locations in the Phoenix area and provide proof of their membership at the $2.8 billion-asset Desert Schools FCU, along with a non-personal identification number (PIN) purchase receipt and valid driver’s license, received free gas (abc15.com March 26). The purpose of the non-PIN receipt is to reduce the risk of debit-card skimming by scam artists, the paper said. Skimmers are devices placed on machines where customers swipe their debit or credit cards and allow thieves to steal personal information and PINs to perpetrate financial fraud. The credit union urges members to use the credit option at gas pumps and other retail locations because the non-PIN transaction is covered through Visa’s Zero Liability protection program, which provides additional layers of coverage on losses, Cathy Graham, Desert Schools’ assistant vice president of marketing, told the paper. The credit union’s gas giveaway to members was part of Desert Schools’ year-long “Skip the Pin and Win’ promotion.

NCUA sues to recover defunct CUs land development losses

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LAS VEGAS (3/29/11)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), as liquidating agent of the former Ensign FCU, Henderson, Nev.,has sued developers and individuals who entered into real estate construction loans with the credit union in 2007, two years before the credit union was shuttered due to declining financial condition. NCUA filed suit Thursday in a U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, Las Vegas, to recover losses stemming from the developers and guarantors' failure to pay on the $1.9 million borrowed from Ensign. The suit centers on a condominium development, Habitat Center II LLC, which entered into the construction loan agreement with the credit union on May 30, 2007, according to court documents. Defendants in the case are loan guarantors Perry Chamani, also known as Pirooz Perry Chamani: Fay Chamani; and Environmental Landscape Inc. NCUA also included unknown corporations identified as Doe and Roe Corps, which may be added to the lawsuit once identified. Habitat Center failed to make payments on the promissory note and construction loan agreement on property in Clark County, Nev., and NCUA foreclosed the property on Nov. 1, 2010, said NCUA's complaint. The proceeds from the foreclosure sale of the property did not pay the full amount of the defaulted debt, and NCUA is seeking action based on breach of guaranty and a deficiency judgment to recoup losses, the complaint said. Ensign FCU had 7,900 members and $98 million when it was placed into involuntary liquidation on Nov. 13, 2009, said NCUA. EDS CU of Plano, Texas, purchased and assumed Ensign's member share accounts (News Now Sept. 25, 2009).

In Glee-like ad members sing praises of CU

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RICHMOND, Va. (3/29/11)--Virginia CU (VACU), Richmond, Va., has created some buzz with an ad campaign that features the singing and acting talents of its members. The television ad began running March 21 in the Richmond market. More than 75 VACU members auditioned to be in the commercial, which takes a visual approach similar to the popular television program “Glee.” The program also borrowed some ideas from “American Idol.” Credit union members auditioned for the commercial before a panel of local celebrity judges. The campaign capitalizes on the popularity of television shows such as “American Idol,” America’s Got Talent” and “Glee” by using the credit union’s own members to convey the message that “We belong together.” VACU’s advertising agency, Elevation, came up with the concept and wrote songs for the campaign. The ad features lyrics that emphasize the cross-section of people who are members of the credit union and communicates that point by featuring those members--rather than trained professionals. The campaign has captured the attention of the local media. News stories about the commercial have appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and in a supplement to the Virginian Pilot. The campaign has also hit the social media world. Clips from the auditions, rehearsals and final performance have been posted on YouTube. Links to the campaign from Twitter and on Facebook have ensured that the campaign reaches beyond its targeted television-viewing audience, VACU said. To view the ad on YouTube, use the link.

CDCU launches fund-raising drive to boost reserves

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TOLEDO, Ohio (3/29/11)--A Toledo, Ohio, community development credit union (CDCU), Toledo Urban FCU, will hold a fund-raising drive to bolster its shrinking cash reserves. The credit union will accept individual donations, with the rationale that no contribution is too small, said Suzette Cowell, Toledo Urban treasurer/CEO (toledoblade.com March 28). The credit union, which will begin sending out letters to the community next week to explain its situation, hopes to raise $250,000 by late September, the newspaper said. Toledo Urban is making the move to put in abeyance potential orders by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to improve its financial condition, the newspaper said. NCUA requires credit unions to have capital reserves of 7% of their total assets. Following an audit of its financial condition, Toledo Urban determined it had a 4.6% capitalization rate, the paper said. The credit union’s capital reserves have diminished because the poor economy has caused members to become delinquent on their loan payments, and adversely affected the $3.6 million-asset Toledo Urban’s reserves, Cowell told the paper.

Warren initiates meeting with San Diego CUs

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SAN DIEGO (3/29/11)--Elizabeth Warren, the Obama administration's point person for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), took time out from a community bankers’ national convention to meet with California credit union leaders last week. Warren, in the San Diego area for the Independent Community Banks National Convention, met with local credit union executives at the headquarters of $4.9 billion-asset San Diego County CU. Nine credit union representatives attended the meeting, including Diana Dykstra, president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues. Warren initiated the meeting and emphasized the integrity of credit unions in the wake of a financial disaster created in part by dishonest financial services companies, Dykstra said. Dykstra told News Now that Warren is intent on building regulation from “the inside out” with the CFPB, focusing on regulations that work for financial institutions with a history of serving consumers’ needs. “The idea that resonated is that credit unions are the good guys here,” Dykstra said. “We do a lot of things well and we do things the right way. The bureau isn’t there to punish us. She is saying let’s start with the financial institutions that are doing things the right way and work out from there, instead of creating a long list of regulations that primarily focus on a few big players, but make life difficult for the smaller players.” Warren stressed that the CFPB was created to serve consumers first, Dykstra said. Warren said the bureau’s most immediate areas of focus are making the Credit Card Act and Truth in Lending navigable for consumers. “At the end of the day she wants consumers to have a clear understanding of the credit products they are offered and the ability to compare products from competing financial institutions,” Dykstra said. “That is not currently the case.” Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney has asked Warren to join those who are requesting a delay in implementation of the Federal Reserve's interchange fee changes. CUNA representatives and Warren have also discussed the regulatory burden faced by credit unions and other issues. Cheney has recommended that Warren consider adding a formal regulatory-burden-monitoring function to the CFPB's pending Office of Community Banks and Credit Unions. Warren spoke at CUNA’s 2011 Governmental Affairs Conference in early March.

Maine CUs have Day at the State House

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AUGUSTA, Maine (3/29/11)--More than 80 representatives from nearly two-thirds of Maine’s credit unions participated in the Maine Credit Union League’s Annual Maine CU Day at the State House Thursday.
Click to view larger image More than 80 Maine credit union representatives participated in the Maine Credit Union League’s Annual Maine CU Day at the State House Thursday. Here, staff and volunteers from New Dimensions FCU, Waterville, Maine, visit with Speaker of the House Robert Nutting, who represents part of the credit union’s field of membership. From left, Ryan Poulin, president/CEO of New Dimensions FCU; Nutting; Jeannine DeRosby, board member; and Jerome Allen, board chair. (Photo provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
With many new faces and leaders in the legislature, the league said it was pleased with the strong turn out. During the morning, about 125 of the 186 members of the Maine Legislature visited credit union and league representatives. Among those who stopped by were Speaker of the House Robert Nutting (R), Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing (R) and Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins (D). Four credit union board members--serving dual roles as credit union volunteers and members of the Maine House--visited with the group. The league provided legislators with credit union statistics, a newsletter and a new flyer highlighting the leadership and participation of Maine’s credit unions in youth financial education efforts. “We were able to discuss some of the issues of interest to credit unions and to educate new legislators about the benefits that credit unions provide to Maine consumers,” said John Murphy, president of the league. Also, both legislative chambers passed a joint resolution recognizing the Maine Credit Union League and Maine’s credit unions for the positive and significant contributions they have made to Maine citizens for more than 89 years.

Mich. league unveils Save My Free Checking campaign

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LANSING, Mich. (3/29/11)--In an attempt to stave off federal implementation of changes to the debit interchange system, the Michigan Credit Union League & Affiliates (MCUL) is launching a public campaign to support bills that would delay the changes. The bills are in the U.S. House (HR 1081) and Senate (S 575) (Michigan Monitor March 28). Using the theme “Save My Free Checking,” the campaign includes a radio ad blitz and asks listeners to contact lawmakers to advocate for Congress to stop the proposed rules and instead study the negative effects on consumers. The campaign will work along with SaveMyFreeChecking.com, which includes a petition to channel members’ voices toward their elected representative and turnkey materials for credit unions to use to supplement the campaign. Retailers already have started a radio ad campaign in Montana to intimidate one of the sponsors of legislation to delay the debit interchange rule, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), MCUL said. It is important for credit unions, not only to encourage more support for the legislation, but also to show their appreciation for those who have shown political courage by sponsoring these bills, the league said. Congress is realizing the unintended consequences of the debit interchange amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act, and the credit union industry needs to show its unity and support for the new bills, their sponsors and their co-sponsors, MCUL said. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) opposes the cap on interchange fees and has told federal lawmakers that such action would harm consumers by driving up costs of debit cards, limiting consumer options, competition and technological innovation. Interchange fees allow business costs, including the risk of consumer nonpayment, to be shared by the payments participants, CUNA says.

Pa. foundation announces grants nominates board members

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/29/11)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation (PCUF) board approved several grants and nominated two board members to serve as at-large members for three-year terms during a meeting Friday. Those nominated as at-large members are George Nahodil, executive vice president of Members lst FCU, Mechanicsburg, and Jeff DeBree, CEO of Penn East FCU, Scranton. The nominations are subject to approval from the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) board (Life is a Highway March 28. Also appointed were PCUA board members Louise Lingenfelser and Maria LaVelle to serve additional three-year terms. The PCUF board also approved:
* A $2,000 grant to the American Red Cross for Japan earthquake relief; * A $2,000 grant to Westmoreland Community FCU for tornado disaster relief; * The formation of a Haitian task force to recruit volunteer members; * Inclusion of PCUF in the National Credit Union Foundation's funding to provide Reality Fairs in Pennsylvania; and * Thirteen grants totaling $49,512, granted between Nov. 5, 2010 and March 24, 2011.
PCUF also approved the first four grants under its small credit union webinar training grant program, Credit unions with assets up to $20 million can apply for a grant up to $1,000 or the cost of four training webinars, whichever is less.

CU System briefs (03/28/2011)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/29/11)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) will match the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation's $2,000 grant for a local relief fund to aid victims of last week's tornado in Westmoreland County. The funds will go to those who suffered loss of homes and personal possessions, said PCUA Board Chairman Ray Brunner (Life is a Highway March 28) … * MADISON, Wis. (3/29/11)--Former teller Elizabeth R. Simonis, 29, of Custer, Wis., was sentenced Wednesday to one day in jail and fined $1,000 for embezzling $29,220 from Bull's Eye CU's Stevens Point, Wis., branch. Simonis embezzled the funds from two members' accounts to pay for medical bills for her ill husband. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb said during sentencing that she factored in Simonis's lack of prior convictions and the medical issues. Simonis was also placed on three years' supervised release and must pay restitution of $26,930 with a minimum of $250 a month. Bull's Eye is based in Stevens Point and has $118 million in assets … * EL PASO, Texas (3/29/11)--The Security Service FCU's (SSFCU)
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Security Service Charitable Foundation donated $10,000 to Homes for Our Troops (HFOT), a national group that builds specially adapted homes for soldiers who have been severely injured or disabled. From left, Derrick Aguilar, SSFCU assistant vice president for member services in the greater El Paso, Texas, area, presents the foundation's check to El Paso native and Army SPC Adrian Garcia on site at a "build brigade" for his future home. The credit union also provided volunteer support at the build and serves as the official financial institution for the HFOT El Paso area builds. Its four service centers in the El Paso area also have collected more than $500 deposited in an HFOT account to contribute to current and future builds in the area. (Photo provided by Security Service FCU) … * BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (3/29/11)--GHS FCU has named Daniel Leclerc as president/CEO, effective April 18, announced Patricia Clark, GHS FCU treasurer of the board and chair of the search committee (NewsChannel34.com. Leclerc has nine years of credit union experience. He most recently served as senior vice president/chief financial officer of Aventa CU, Colorado Springs, Colo. He began his credit union career in 2002 with Park Side FCU in Whitefish, Mont., where he advanced to executive vice president. He serves as vice chair on the executive committee of CUNA's CFO Council …