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NCUA panelists discuss corporates future at meeting

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (3/31/11)--The future of the corporate credit union network and Tier 1 corporate mergers were among the topics addressed by a panel at the 2011 Credit Union Reality Check in Atlantic City, N.J., last week. The event was sponsored by the New Jersey Credit Union League and some of its affiliates and attended by 194 credit union representatives from six states (The Weekly Exchange March 21). The panel featured Scott Hunt, director of the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) Office of Corporate Credit Unions; Charles "Chuck" Furbee, CEO of Members United Bridge Corporate; Robert Fouch, CEO of Corporate Central; Jay Murray, CEO of Mid-Atlantic Corporate; and Lee Butke, CEO of Corporate One. NCUA's Hunt told the group that allowing a Tier 1 merger between two corporates "would run afoul of our duties. Our board has categorically said no." A Tier 1 merger would "build the biggest competitor within the corporate system and we will not do that. The NCUA will not build a bigger corporate when [the bridges] are under control," he told attendees. However, he did not rule out the possibility of NCUA allowing bridge corporates that successfully gain independent status to merge, the league reported. The corporate CEO panelists said that one of the keys to the future of corporate credit unions was the viability of the corporates' recapitalization plans to move forward. Part of the plan for moving forward and rebuilding a strong, viable corporate includes asking its members to contribute new capital, the group said. Hunt reiterated NCUA's position that as regulator it would take all steps necessary to preserve a well-functioning system of corporate credit unions and to protect the assets of natural person credit unions and their members during the ongoing broader financial market dislocation.

MSNBC ATM-fees column strikes chord with readers

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NEW YORK (3/31/11)--A column in a popular MSNBC blog chronicled the demise of free checking services at banks, noted that banks' ATM fees are soaring, and suggested that "there's no reason not to open a credit union account." The column struck a chord with readers and generated 542 comments, with many readers extolling the virtues of credit unions. Bob Sullivan's "The Red Tape Chronicles" blog (March 29) discussed several traps banks are setting to generate fees they would lose in the debit interchange reform. He adds them up and estimates that five trends could cost a consumer $253 annually. The five trends:
* ATM fees are soaring to $5, $6 and $7 per withdrawal; * Consumers are running afoul of "movable" minimum balances that result in fees; * Banks are tricking consumers into opting into services consumers don't need (he named overdraft protection as an example); * Name changes in banks mean an acquisition--and new fees and restrictions; and * Minimum requirements on accounts mean parking money where it doesn't earn as much as an account with higher interest.
The point of the column, Sullivan said, is to get consumers to consider banking alternatives. "Credit unions and small banks still offer really free checking. In fact, just released a survey showing 38 of the 50 largest credit unions have free checking with no strings attached, and about half of them don't even require a minimum balance. Their ATM fees are, on average, half of traditional bank fees and one-quarter of the large credit unions charge no ATM fees at all. "That means there's no reason not to open a credit union account, even if it merely serves as a secondary checking account," Sullivan concluded. Several readers swore they would take their money out of their bank and put it into a credit union. Others commented that they had already switched to credit unions and were happy about the switch. "Best decision I ever made," said one reader. Credit unions are "the last of decent banking," shouted another in all capital letters. "Love love love my credit union!" was a third. Other readers told about the credit union difference and credit unions structure and why credit unions have tax-exempt status. Use the link to read the full blog and the 542 comments from readers.

CUNAs HandFF Radio show to mark 200th broadcast Sunday

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WASHINGTON (3/31/11)--This Sunday, April 3, will mark the 200th broadcast of Home & Family Finance Radio, the weekly personal finance radio show that the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) launched to help foster financial literacy and build the credit union brand. The one-hour program airs Sundays on the Radio America network and is “presented by America’s credit unions.” Each program offers three to five interview segments featuring experts on a wide range of personal finance topics, and responds to questions e-mailed from listeners. The show, which is aimed at a consumer audience, was launched in September 2006 and began airing in 29 media markets. Today it airs in nearly 60 markets nationwide, including Washington, Phoenix, St. Louis, Cleveland, Portland, and Sacramento. Home & Family Finance Radio is also carried each week by the American Forces Radio Network, which beams it to U.S. military bases around the world. The show’s podcasts are downloaded more than 5,000 times a month from CUNA's and Radio America’s websites, iTunes and other podcast libraries, and its Twitter page has more than 700 followers. “Each week our program addresses the kinds of pocketbook issues that people discuss around the kitchen table--how to save money and be smarter about their family finances,” said Mark Wolff, CUNA senior vice president of communications and the show’s executive producer. “Over the course of 200 broadcasts, we have provided an extraordinary amount of practical information and guidance to help with basic money management, and in doing so, we are building on the bond of trust that consumers feel toward credit unions. Reaching our milestone 200th broadcast is evidence that our show is resonating with its listeners,” he said. Wolff credited the show’s producer, Marta Trinkl; its host, veteran broadcast journalist Paul Berry (whom credit unions also know as emcee of CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference or GAC) ; and the staff of CUNA’s Center for Personal Finance for the work they do each week to identify topics, line up experts as guests and organize program segments. He also thanked presenting sponsor Co-op Financial Services and national sponsors Cabot Creamery Cooperative and the Defense Credit Union Council for financial support that has enabled CUNA to produce the show. Last year Home & Family Finance Radio was considered for a Peabody award. Prominent guests who have appeared on the program include House Financial Services Committee members Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), (now its chairman); Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Judy Biggert (R-Ill.); NBC "Today Show" personal finance editor Jean Chatzky; ABC "Good Morning America" consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy; MSN Money personal finance columnist Liz Pulliam Weston; Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine personal finance writer Janet Bodnar; Los Angeles Times’ columnist Kathy Kristof; Consumer Federation of America Executive Director Stephen Brobeck; National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board members; the Comptroller of the Currency; and senior officials from the U.S. Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service. Over the years CUNA has also produced the show live from annual meetings of the Ohio, Georgia, and Texas credit union leagues, the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council, and the CUNA GAC. Guests on this Sunday’s 200th broadcast, which focuses on April as financial literacy month, include NCUA Board Member Gigi Hyland on the importance of financial education; Jeannine Glista, co-creator and executive producer of Public Broadcasting System’s Biz Kid$ on teaching kids about money and business; consumer advocate Remar Sutton on the social cost of financial illiteracy; and Pam McClelland, senior policy analyst, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, on the personal finance issues currently having the biggest impact on military personnel.

CU System briefs (03/30/2011)

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* SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (3/31/11)--Robert Koss, 68, of Ludlow, Mass., a former director of Western Mass. Electric Co. CU (WMECO), was sentenced Tuesday to four years' supervised probation for embezzling more than $225,000 from the credit union between 1999 and 2006, when he retired. The probation includes one year of home confinement. Koss pleaded guilty last year to embezzlement and filing a falsified tax return from the credit union, which he ran for three decades (The Republican March. 30). Judge Michael A. Ponsor also ordered Koss to write a letter of apology to the credit union and pay full restitution within 30 days. Most of the funds have been repaid. The judge said a younger person would have received a two-year sentence. However, his decision considered that Koss is confined to a wheelchair … * WHITEFISH, Mont. (3/31/11)--A former branch manager of Whitefish (Mont.) CU has pleaded guilty to embezzlement and money laundering after she admitted stealing $676,000 from the Polson branch of the credit union, which she managed. Kathleen Louis Sammons, 52, of Charlo, Mont., entered her guilty plea Tuesday in Missoula federal court before U.S. Magistrate Jeremiah C. Lynch. Sammons told investigators she used the stolen money to donate to local charities, buy a house, pay for high school sports banquets and trips, and cover thefts of cash from other employees at the $1.2 billion-asset credit union, according to documents submitted by the U.S. District Attorney for Montana ( and Associated Press March 30) … * COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (3/31/11)--Randy Bernstein has been promoted to president of Ent FCU from his position as the credit union's executive vice president. Bernstein has been with the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based credit union for 14 years, first as its senior operations executive. He has 34 years of credit union experience. Charles Emmer, Ent's CEO, said the promotion is to acknowledge "the importance of [Bernstein's] role in running the day-to-day operations of the credit unions." Bernstein will continue his oversight responsibilities for operations, lending, information technology, business and corporate banking, and Ent Investment Services and Wealth Management. He previously directed operations at Bethpage FCU, Long Island, N.Y., and served as vice president of D. Hilton Associates Inc., a credit union management and research consulting firm … * PORTLAND, Ore. (3/31/11)--Jim McCarthy has been named president/CEO of Northwest Resource FCU, Portland, Ore., effective April 4. For the past eight years, McCarthy served as vice president of strategic planning at TwinStar CU in Olympia, Wash., where he oversaw asset liability management, new program development, mergers, member/customer information files, and the credit union’s annual strategic business plan. McCarthy was employed by TwinStar CU for 13 years. He will be the fifth CEO in Northwest Resource's 76-year history … * WARMINSTER, Pa. (3/31/11)--Theresa Chletcos has retired from the board of Freedom CU, Warminster, Pa., after 39 years of service. Her retirement was effective Dec. 31. She served as both vice chair and chair during her time on the board. After obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, Chletcos began working for the Philadelphia School District in 1934 and was promoted to elementary school principal in 1952. She also taught at St. Joseph University and LaSalle University. Freedom CU has more than $470 million in assets … * DOVER, Del. (3/31/11)--Mary Frey-Foss, director of Dover (Del.) FCU for 43 years, has retired, announced the board chairman, Charles W. Miller, at the $330 million asset credit unions' annual meeting on March 19. Frey-Foss served as secretary to the board during most of her tenure. She served on numerous committees, including the building, executive, membership, personnel policy, youth membership, 401(k), marketing, and product and select employee group development committees. Frey-Foss helped shape the credit union's growth from one office at Dover Air Force Base to seven locations through the state. She also was selected twice to represent the credit union as an alternate delegate to the Delaware Credit Union League …

Ohios new regulator meets with league committee

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (3/31/11)--Ohio Division of Financial Institutions Superintendent Chuck Dolezal and Deputy Superintendent for Credit Unions Mike Wettrich recently met with the the Ohio Credit Union League’s Ohio Government Affairs Committee.
The Ohio Credit Union League’s Ohio Government Affairs Committee met with state financial institution regulators on March 17 to discuss issues of impact to credit unions. Pictured from left: Catherine Herring, CEO of Communicating Arts CU, Cincinnati; Jennifer Ferguson, CEO, Bay Area CU, Oregon; Chuck Dolezal, Ohio Division of Financial Institutions Superintendent; Steve Behler, president/CEO, Kemba CU, West Chester; and Mike Wettrich, Deputy Superintendent for Credit Unions. (Photo provided by the Ohio Credit Union League)
During the hour-long meeting, Dolezal and the committee discussed small business and student lending, opportunities to work with the department on partnership opportunities and the state budget deficit and its potential impact on credit unions (Ohio Credit Union League eLumination March 23) Dolezal emphasized the importance of credit union board education and oversight as it applies to CAMEL rating, said the league. He acknowledged credit unions’ difference in structure and mission, and said he was impressed with the capital levels of Ohio credit unions and their loyalty to the communities they serv. “Meeting with Superintendent Dolezal was an excellent opportunity to discuss emerging issues with him that could have long-term effects on credit unions,” said Paul Mercer, president of the league. “We look forward to continued meetings regarding small business and economic initiatives, and burdensome laws and regulations.”

Award winners announced by Ohio league

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (3/31/11)--The Ohio Credit Union League announced its Leadership Recognition Awards for 2011. The awards are the state’s top awards for leadership, political action, youth financial education, social responsibility, philosophy and marketing. Eileen Meeker, vice president of business development for AurGroup Financial CU, Fairfield, was named Professional of the Year (eLumination Newsletter March 23). Tom Furrey, CEO of Western CU, Columbus, and Greg Kidwell, CEO of Members First CU, Columbus, were winners of the Claude Clarke Political Inspiration Award. Classic FCU, Amelia; Fiberglas FCU, Newark; and Harvest FCU, Heath, won the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award for their leadership on behalf of youth financial education. Wayne County Community FCU, Smithville, and KEMBA Financial CU, Gahanna, received the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award for their campaigns to assist local residents and organizations. Communicating Arts CU, Cincinnati, received the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action for extraordinary practical applications of the people helping people philosophy. Ohio University CU, Athens, and Ohio HealthCare FCU, Dublin, won the Cutting Edge Marketing Brilliance Award for agency and non-agency entries. The winners will be honored at the league’s annual conference, InVest48, April 5-6.

ASI FCU named SBA regional champion

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HARAHAN, La. (3/31/11)--Mignhon Tourné, CEO of ASI FCU, Harahan, La., has received a regional Financial Services Champion of the Year Award from the Small Business Administration (SBA). ASI was recognized for its commitment to serve the underserved, promote economic empowerment, and provide financial products and services to people with little or no credit at affordable rates (eNews March 30). With 14 branches, one dedicated to low-income Spanish-speaking members and one dedicated to low-income Vietnamese-speaking members, the $293 million-asset ASI remains true to its mission by concentrating efforts in neighborhoods and communities plagued by entrenched poverty, said the Louisiana Credit Union League. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ASI FCU under Tourné's leadership, deployed almost $20 million in grants and provided 0% to 4% interest loans to disadvantaged small-business owners. The credit union is an approved SBA lender and has piloted its own Web-based peer-to-peer micro-loan fund in the past. National Small Business Week 2011 will be celebrated during the week of May 15. Tourné and the other business champions will be honored at a reception at the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion. During the week, SBA will highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small-business owners and entrepreneurs, and those who support and champion small business nationwide.

Cameroon CUs membership quadruples

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MADISON, Wis. (3/31/11)--Cameroon’s credit union movement has taken off, growing from 78,000 credit union members in 1993 to more than four times that figure by 2010. With 212 credit unions, a combined membership of 336,187 people and $240 million (all amounts are in U.S. dollars) in assets, the Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League (CamCCUL) has a long history of success in the Central African country of Cameroon, said the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Adherence to credit union philosophy and a continued dedication to member service has helped the small movement prosper.
Click to view larger image Praxedes Banseka of the Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League visits with World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) President/CEO Pete Crear on a recent visit to WOCCU headquarters.
“Our smallest credit union has $4,000 in assets, and our largest has $34 million,” said Praxedes Banseka, a CamCCUL field supervisor, on a recent visit to WOCCU headquarters in Madison, Wis. “We don’t care how much money a credit union has, as long as it’s serving its members well.” CamCCUL was founded in 1968 and worked closely with WOCCU in the 1980s and 1990s to implement several programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The programs provided technical assistance to CamCCUL that furthered its institutional and management development, created a central liquidity facility, started a small farmer production credit program, expanded credit unions to new areas and provided the first computerized systems to Cameroon’s movement. WOCCU’s programs in Cameroon ended in 1994. CamCCUL became a direct WOCCU member in 2007. "The Cameroonian credit union system represents one of the great success stories in WOCCU’s 40 years,” said David Grace, WOCCU senior vice president of association services. “Based on long-term and intensive development programs in the 1980s and early 1990s, a strong foundation was established. We’ve seen this in many other countries, and that positions credit unions for strong membership growth in subsequent years.”
Click to view larger image More than 5,000 help celebrate International Credit Union Day in Cameroon. Cameroon’s credit union movement has taken off, growing from 78,000 credit union members in 1993 to more than four times as many members by 2010 (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions).
Cameroon has a history of staging some of the world’s largest International Credit Union Day celebrations, turning out more than 5,000 people to march in streets of local communities with thousands more observing. Collaborative radio and TV ads, cell phone programs and shared branching services have helped the movement grow. Cameroon’s credit unions also face many challenges, including competition from banks and informal lending groups. While 95% of the credit unions that are computerized share a common platform operated by CamCCUL, many small credit unions still are not computerized. “We don’t have the equipment or the infrastructure in place to provide Internet access in many areas,” Banseka said. Banseka, the daughter of a Cameroon movement founder and a 13-year credit union veteran herself, is studying in the U.S. as part of the U.S. Department of States Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. The 10-month-long program takes future leaders from foreign countries and provides experiences in the U.S. During this time, Baneska has completed an internship at Gabriels Community CU in Lansing, Mich., and plans to complete another internship in Minneapolis before returning to Cameroon.

Federation launches first of regional conferences

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NEW ORLEANS (3/31/11)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions last week launched its new series of regional conferences, Credit Unions and Community Development: Lessons and Impact, in New Orleans. The Mid-South Regional Conference was organized in collaboration with the Louisiana Credit Union League and Metairie, La.-based Jefferson Financial CU. The event was held at the credit union. It was designed to help credit unions:
* Learn about innovative programs and products to meet the needs of low and moderate income consumers; * Identify resources to implement high-impact programs; * Develop community partnerships to leverage and expand credit union service to the underserved; and * Better understand benefits of community development financial institutions (CDFI) certification and the low-income designation.
Click to view larger image Speaking at the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions’ first regional conference in New Orleans are, from left, Connie Major, executive vice president of the Louisiana Credit Union League; Kristen Reedy, vice president of operations at Jefferson Financial CU, Metairie, La.; and federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. (Photo provided by the Louisiana Credit Union League)
"Among our primary goals for these regional conferences is to reach out to credit unions who might not consider themselves CDCUs, but who may in fact be doing a lot to serve their low- and moderate-income members," said federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. "Often, these so-called 'mainstream' credit unions are doing outstanding community development work in their communities, and our hope is that these meetings will help us identify those that are already engaged in this work and provide them with additional resources and information to better meet their mission," he added. Joe Arnold, chief financial officer at Carter FCU, a $200 million asset credit union in Springhill, La., said he learned "that low-income-designated credit unions and CDFI-certified credit unions can be exempted from the member business lending (MBL) cap. We've been actively involved in the industry's efforts in increasing the MBL cap, but little did I know that our credit union already possesses the ability to increase MBL through our CDFI certification." The conference also included a track on foreclosure prevention strategies. League President/CEO Anne Cochran said the turnout for the first joint venture "was overwhelming and the presentations have generated a lot of interest in moving forward."