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CU System briefs (04/16/2009)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (4/17/09)--Hidden River CU, Pottsville, Pa., hosted two separate interviews of candidates for the State House District 124th special election (Life is a Highway April 16). The candidates are Bill Mackey (D), retired pipe-fitter, and Jerry Knowles (R), former aide to then-Rep. David Argall. The seat is vacant because Argall was elected to fill the seat of state Sen. James Rhoads, who was killed in an auto accident last year. Hidden River Board Chairman Charles Lantz, and Christine Seitz, director of political affairs and fundraising for the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, asked each candidate about their thoughts on regulations imposed on financial institutions and maintaining the credit union tax-exempt status. Other business groups also participated as interviewers … * CLARK, N.J. (4/17/09)--FAA Eastern Region FCU announced that it has changed its name to Aspire FCU to "better reflect who we are now and to achieve a better fit for our future visions," said Thomas J. O'Shea, president/CEO. The credit union was founded 60 years ago by a small group of federal employees involved in aviation, according to the New Jersey Credit Union League. Today the credit union has more than $170 million in assets and serves roughly 200,000 members from 200 select employee groups (The Weekly Exchange April 13) …

Texas league meeting features Fryzel NASCARs Waltrip

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (4/17/09)--NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip may be thankful he didn't take his NAPA racing helmet to the Texas Credit Union League's Annual Meeting and Expo this week in Austin because National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Chair Michael Fryzel joked, "I might need it." It was Fryzel's first public speech since U.S. Central FCU and Western Corporate FCU (WesCorp) were placed into conservatorship in March. Waltrip and Fryzel were keynote speakers, addressing 650 credit union leaders, during the opening general session Wednesday (LoneStar Leaguer April 16). Fryzel called on credit unions to gain legislative support for NCUA's plan to replenish the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). He also described the agency's ongoing efforts to stabilize and improve the corporate network. "To say these are challenging times is an understatement," he said. "But this movement was built by people working together, and by working cooperatively, we will make it stronger." While the movement has been under serious stress due to the corporate dislocations, Fryzel assured attendees that the NCUA has been and will continue to be interested in hearing from any and all responsible voices with ideas on how to mitigate the costs and renew the corporate network. He urged credit unions to roll up their sleeves and use their tradition of grassroots activism to help enact the NCUA bill's plan. Texas league President/CEO Dick Ensweiler noted that credit unions "will continue to work together to mitigate the impact of the corporate stabilization program on credit union bottom lines, including seeking legislation in Congress to spread any costs out over several years." Waltrip told attendees he knew very little about the credit union movement when he was asked to headline the session. He said he was equally impressed with Fryzel's candor, as well as the passion that seems prevalent in those who serve credit unions. "It takes a lot of courage to face challenges head on," Waltrip told the crowd. "But through resilience, the right attitude, confidence and enthusiasm, I firmly believe you can come out ahead."

Irish league Many CUs may forego dividends

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DUBLIN, Ire. (4/17/09)--Although the financial health of Ireland's credit unions is "robust," a number of credit unions will not pay a dividend to members this year because of the poor performance of their investments, according to the Irish League of Credit Unions. League CEO Kieron Brennan said that typically more than half of the country's credit unions pay members a dividend. However, they would have to make substantial writedowns in the year to September 2009 on the value of investment assets, and this would effect dividends (Business and Finance Daily News Service April 16). Still, Brennan described the movement's financial health as "robust," and said there was no danger of credit unions suspending services. Loans by credit unions grew 6.7% to 7 billion euros (US$5.3 billion). The number of loans in arrears rose slightly, with 6.5% of outstanding payments more than 10 weeks late. Savings remained unchanged at 11.9 billion euros ($9 billion) and total assets grew 0.2% to 13.9 billion euros ($10.5 billion).

Warn members about skimmers Grandma its me scams

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MADISON, Wis. (4/17/09)--Credit unions may want to warn their members about two types of scams circulating recently: ATM skimmers and scammers preying on older consumers by posing as a grandchild in trouble. ATM skimmers, which are attached to ATMs or terminals to read unsuspecting consumers' card data as they use the machines, have seen attention the past two weeks. Skimmers at three JPMorgan Chase & Co. ATMs--two Chase-branded ones in New York and a Washington Mutual-banded one in West Hollywood, Calif.--were discovered and reported by consumers using the machines (American Banker April 15). The Chase-branded skimmers mimicked the translucent green material used to make the card slot in the NCR Corp. machines. The one in the WaMu machine was made from opaque gray plastic. Since the cardholder's data personal identification number (PIN) isn't stored in the card's magnetic stripe, the skimmer must be paired with a camera on or near the ATM to record the numbers the consumer types on the keypad. One consumer, who didn't spot the skimmer until his card snagged on it, found a camera behind a mirror stuck on the ATM (Bank Technology News April 13). The latest scam circulating in Ohio is the "Grandma, it's me" scam, says the Ohio Credit Union League (eLumination Newsletter April 15. Scammers call unsuspecting seniors and in a highly excited or anxious voice say, "Hi Grandma/Grandpa, it's me." The senior will reply with the name of their grandchild (for example, "Oh, Johnny, what's wrong?") The scammers pick up on whatever name the victim uses and pretend to be a grandson. The "grandson" claims to be in trouble and needs money wired immediately to bail him out of jail or for a hospital bill. "This is a financially and emotionally devastating scam and has occurred throughout Ohio," said the league. "Routinely educate your staff and members about circulating scams to avoid others falling victim."

Despite economy CUs opening new branches

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MADISON, Wis. (4/17/09)--The economy hasn't dampened some credit unions' plans for expanding. A number have announced new branches recently, despite the recession. Most of the branch openings are the result of long-time planning; others are acquired through mergers. The latest comes from Denver, where Public Service CU (PSCU) has announced it will open two new branches--in Brighton and Greeley. One is the result of an April 1 merger with Brighton Cooperative FCU. The other had been planned for some time. "We are excited to now have the opportunity to serve these two communities," said David Maus, president/CEO of the more-than-$1 billion asset credit union, in a news release (PRNewswire April 16). "It's important to provide people a safe and secure choice in these troubled economic times." Tyndall FCU, Panama City, Fla., announced Wednesday it will expand into Dothan, Ala.--its first physical presence outside of Florida. The $940 million asset credit union had received approval earlier this year from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to expand into Houston County, which includes Dothan and surrounding communities. It now has the ability to serve 10 counties in two states. Tyndall plans to enter the Alabama market with two branches, ATMs and drive-through banking along with its full service website. Its goal is to have the branches operating this summer. The two Dothan branches will join branches in nine Florida cities (WMBB News 13 April 15). Catholic CU, a $169 million asset credit union based in Yakima, Wash., has signed an agreement to open an in-store branch at a new Wal-Mart in West Valley. The new branch will have extended hours, including hours on Saturday ( April 16). Texans CU, based in Richardson, Texas, recently held the grand opening of its Carrollton branch, an event that attracted more than 300 people (LoneStar Globe April). In January, the New Mexico Educators FCU opened its 14th branch office to better serve members in Albuquerque's South Valley, according to the Credit Union Association of New Mexico's newsletter, CUANM Network (March). The full-service office replaced a former branch two miles away. It held its grand opening on March 7 with about 300 members and prospective members. Polish & Slavic FCU, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., opened its sixth branch in New Jersey to keep up with members' mobility--many are moving out of the Brooklyn area.. The Trenton branch will serve Central New Jersey and the Philadelphia area. In Franklin, Ohio, MidFirst CU Inc., is opening its first office, a full-service location that will employ five people--in Kettering ( April 16). The Kettering office will help MidFirst continue to expand into the Dayton area, James Miles, president/CEO, told the publication. "It's a competitive market," he said, adding the credit union has already developed a strong foothold in

Crains Ohio CUs program a payday loan alternative

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CLEVELAND (4/17/09)--Ohio credit unions' StretchPay program is featured in Crain's Cleveland Business (April 13) as an alternative to payday lenders. "Ohio's credit unions--long considered a conservative bunch--say they are seeing growing interest in their StretchPay program, which is geared to short-term borrowers," said the article. In Northeast Ohio, 11 credit unions offer the program, with terms varying and with an annual rate of 18%. Crain's interviewed three credit unions: TeleCommunity CU, Akron; Community United CU, Strongsville; and Eaton Family CU, Euclid. Veronica Cromer, vice president of lending at TeleCommunity CU, told Crain's there had been a slight increase in business from people who used payday lenders in the past. She added that people don't understand how much payday lenders really cost them. The credit union explains to them how much they're paying when they visit check-cashers. "It's probably five times higher," she said. Julie Gee, CEO of Community United CU, saw a pattern of young adult borrowers making bad financial decisions and wanting to improve their credit. The loans under StretchPay can be used to boost credit ratings, she said. Fred Siegel, marketing manager at Eaton Family CU, said payday lending alternatives still have a long way to go because payday lenders are "still in the game."

CUs fund for fallen policemen prompts hundreds of letters

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PITTSBURGH (4/17/09)--Since three Pittsburgh police officers were fatally shot on April 4, a fund opened by Greater Pittsburgh Police FCU for the victims' families has raised more than $200,000 so far--and generated hundreds of poignant letters. The total doesn't include funds raised at a Penguins game and a Pirates opener. Since the shootings, said Sandy Lazzara, CEO of the $45 million asset credit union, mail carriers have often walked into the credit union and dropped several brick-sized packages of letters on the front counter (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review April 15). The letters, with gifts, cash and checks written out to the Fallen Heroes Fund, started pouring in soon after police officers Eric Kelly, Stephen J. Mayhle and Paul J. Sciullo II were shot in Stanton Heights. Kelly and Sciullo were members of the credit union (See News Now April 8). The letters surprised, shocked, flabbergasted, and pleased Lazzara, she told the newspaper, because police usually aren't seen as heroes. "Our last president told me, "People are always happy to see a firefighter, but they're never happy to see a police officer." The letters come from mostly Western Pennsylvania. But donations have arrived from California, Colorado, Missouri and Texas. Most of them are short. "Thank you," said one. "God Bless you all," said another. Others are longer. One letter was from a couple whose son-in-law is in law enforcement. They knew the dedication and commitment officers make daily, they said. While some checks were for hundreds, others varied. One man couldn't afford to send cash, so he sent Pirates tickets instead. Another contributed money, saying he wanted to send more but he'd been fired from his job. A child sent $5. Another person sent $3, wishing it could be more. The letters are being saved in a large cardboard box. The police have talked about binding the letters into three massive books and presenting them to the families, the article said.

Tippets Rogers inducted into Texas CU Hall of Fame

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (4/17/09)--The Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) Wednesday inducted John Tippets, retired CEO of American Airlines FCU, and Bob Rogers, retired CEO of EECU, into the 2009 Texas Credit Union Hall of Fame. Tippets and Rogers, both of Fort Worth, were honored during a special award ceremony at TCUL’s 75th Annual Meeting & Expo, held this week in Austin (LoneStar Leaguer April 16). The awards were initiated in 1998 to honor those in the credit union movement who reflect a history of service to Texas credit unions. Tippets and Rogers were selected for their achievement in their credit union and for achievements benefiting the movement as a whole. Rogers retired from ECCU in 2006 after a credit union career that began more than 30 years ago when he accepted a position with the Texas Credit Union Department. Tippets served at the helm of American Airlines FCU from 1991 to July 2008. Prior to that, he served on its board of directors for eight years. During his tenure as president/CEO at the credit union, American Airlines FCU experienced substantial service innovations, and membership, lending and asset growth.

Florida newspaper notes growing movement toward CUs

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (4/17/09)--The South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted “a growing movement towards banking with your local credit union” in a Wednesday article about managing credit card debt. When looking out for their financial needs, consumers are turning more to credit unions because they save consumers money, the newspaper said. The savings come through credit cards with lower interest rates. Credit unions’ not-for-profit nature allows them to offer lower rates on cards, which allows consumers to pay back their balances quicker and get out of debt faster--making the cost of credit less expensive, the paper adds. Melina Young and Jamie Chase, co-owners of Credit Union Strategic Planning--set out to see how credit unions nationwide were saving consumers money with balance transfer programs, the paper said. Young and Chase, along with friend Scott Butterfield--a member of the Paragon Group, a planning consultancy that advises credit unions--noted that credit union members were saving an average of $200 monthly by transferring their credit card debt from a big bank to a credit union, the paper said. “I’m really passionate about this,” Chase told the paper. “It’s credit unions helping people to help themselves in desperate times. It’s our chance to do something to make a difference right now, to make life better for our members and neighbors.”

Harvard University CU partner on student loans

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (4/17/09)--Harvard University Employees CU (HUECU) announced the launch of a custom loan program with Harvard University that will provide assistance to students at all 13 of the university’s graduate schools. The program--available to domestic and international students--features competitive loan terms and flexible repayment options, HUECU said. “Today’s volatile economic environment has wreaked havoc on many lenders in the private student lending industry, leaving students with little access to fair-value financial aid,” said Gene Foley, HUECU president/ CEO. “But as a not-for-profit credit union that is completely focused on serving the Harvard community, not only are we surviving the current economic downturn, but we are in a position to step up and deliver an even higher level of service to Harvard students at a time of critical need,” Foley added. HUECU developed the custom loan program for Harvard’s graduate students with Credit Union Student Choice, a credit-union-owned organization that offers school-certified private and affordable student lending solutions to more than 50 credit unions. The program provides students with an online application and 24/7 call center support. The objective is to ensure that a Harvard graduate education remains accessible to talented students, said Dan Shore, Harvard’s chief financial officer. “The agreement with the Harvard credit union creates multiple lending options for our students at a time of significant uncertainty in the global credit markets,” he added. The agreement is another example of a credit union leveraging its balance-sheet lending capability to become a strong player in private student lending and deliver superior value to borrowers, according to Jon Jeffreys, president of Credit Union Student Choice. “In America, credit unions were born from the Great Depression and have a philosophy and corresponding business model that can help them weather economic storms,” Jeffreys said. “As balance-sheet lenders, credit unions are much less exposed to liquidity concerns and capital market fluctuations. By using proper risk management and working within the cooperative network provided by Student Choice, it makes them uniquely positioned to redefine value in private student lending.”

Illinois league welcomes two new directors

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (4/17/09)--Two new directors were sworn in to the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) board Thursday by ICUL Chairman John Bratsakis during ICUL's annual Delegates' Meeting.
From left, Kerry Fearn, CEO of Area Educational CU, Mattoon, Ill., and John Hansen, CEO of Rockford Bell CU, Rockford, are sworn in as new directors of the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) by league Chairman John Bratsakis during ICUL's Delegates' Meeting Thursday. (Photo provided by the Illinois Credit Union League)
John Hansen, CEO of Rockford Bell CU, Rockford, and Kerry Fearn, CEO of Area Educational CU, Mattoon, are the new directors. Hansen was elected at the Feb. 24 meeting of the Rockford Area Chapter of Credit Unions. Fearn, representing the R.W. Boyle Chapter of Credit Unions, was elected at the Jan. 26 chapter meeting. Their terms began immediately after the meeting. The Delegates' Meeting was part of ICUL's 79th Annual Convention, being held through Saturday in Chicago. Also on Thursday's agenda was the grand opening of the exhibit hall, with nearly 75 vendors. More than 780 individuals from 125 credit unions are attending ICUL's convention, which has a theme of "Shake, Rattle, n' Roll."

Education CU Council elects officers

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (4/17/09)--Truman Baird of Oregon Community CU, Eugene, Ore., was elected president of the Education Credit Union
Click to view larger image Education Credit Union Council Inc.'s newly elected directors and officers for the 2009/2010 year are, from left: Carol Wagner; Truman Baird, president; Gene Szymczak; Sally Fontenot, secretary; Leo Ditchcreek; Lynn Huether, vice president; and Gerald Martin, treasurer. (Photo provided by the Education Credit Union Council Inc.)
Council Inc. at its 36th Annual Conference in San Diego, Calif. Other officers elected include:
* Vice president, Lynn Huether, Class Act FCU, Louisville, Ky.; * Secretary, Sally Fontenot, Virginia Beach Schools FCU, Virginia Beach, Va.; and * Treasurer, Gerald Martin, The Tennessee CU, Nashville.
Other council board members elected are Leo Ditchcreek, Notre Dame (Ind.) FCU; Eugene Szymczak, Educators CU, Racine, Wis.; and Carol Wagner, Community Schools CU, Muskegon, Mich. Baird is a board member at his credit union and served many years as chairman. He retired after 35 years with the Oregon Department of Higher Education, and has been a credit union volunteer for more than 30 years. He was on the credit committee and the board of the Willamette Chapter of the Credit Union Association of Oregon.

CU dedicates community room to Kanjorksi

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WILKES BARRE, Pa. (4/17/09)--Cross Valley FCU, Wilkes Barre, Pa., recently held a special community room dedication ceremony at its main office to honor U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-Pa.) as the credit union kicked-off its 40th anniversary.
From left, Len Shimko, president/CEO, Cross Valley FCU; U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski; Joseph Shimko, vice chairman; and Al Baloga, board secretary at a ceremony to dedicate Cross Valley FCU’s community room in Kanjorski’s honor. (Photo provided by Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
Kanjorski was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 1151, also known as the Credit Union Membership Access Act of 1998, as well as the Credit Union Regulatory Improvement Act (CURIA) and the Credit Union Regulatory Relief Act (CURRA) (Life is a Highway April 16). “With great respect for his dedication to the credit union movement, we are delighted to be able to honor Congressman Kanjorski by naming our new community room in his honor,” said Len Shimko, Cross Valley president/CEO. The room will be used for special credit union events, and is open to other local credit unions and organization for training or seminars.

MCUA elects Moeckli as board chair

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (4/17/09)--The Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) elected Stanley Moeckli as its new board chair at the MCUA 80th Annual Advocacy and Business Meeting in Jefferson City.
Betty Clark, out-going Missouri Credit Union Association board chair, congratulates Stan Moeckli on his election as new board chair. (Photo provided by Missouri Credit Union Association)
Outgoing board Chair Betty Clark, United CU, Mexico, Mo., officially transferred the job to Moeckli March 31. Moeckli served as president/CEO for three credit unions during his 31-year credit union career, including his current position with St. Louis-based Electro Savings CU. “Having worked in a credit union of under $500,000 as the only employee, I understand the challenges and importance of small credit unions,” said Moeckli. “As a credit union professional and volunteer, I have made a commitment to credit union people and the movement.” Moeckli said there are great challenges on the horizon for credit unions. “The MCUA is the primary source for political action, information and a unifying voice for all the credit unions in Missouri, both big and small,” he said. “In the new reality of a different economic environment, the MCUA must provide leadership and technical support to credit unions. “When credit union people come together we can accomplish amazing things and make remarkable progress toward building even better communities,” Moeckli added. Other newly elected board officers include:
* Dennis Pierce, first vice chair, CommunityAmerica CU, Kansas City; and * Brian Eyestone, second vice chair, Southpointe CU, St. Louis.