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SC Group Wins $50K NCUA Collaboration Grant

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (4/17/13)--The National Credit Union Administration's move to support a developing credit union collaborative talent management program with a $50,000 grant "is a great 'win' for credit unions small and large," Health Facilities FCU CEO Robert Harris told News Now on Tuesday. Health Facilities FCU is based in Florence, S.C.

The NCUA announced Tuesday that Health Facilities, South Carolina FCU, of North Charleston, and Optimal Talent Solutions, a South Carolina credit union service organization, will receive the $50,000 grant an NCUA grant program that rewards a credit union group for developing the best plan to collaborate and better serve their members. Greenwood Municipal CU, Greenwood, S.C., and Spartan FCU, Spartanburg, S.C., will also take part in the program.

The NCUA in a release said the group will work together to provide free talent management consulting and training in areas including succession management, recruitment, performance management, and diversity and inclusion.

Larger credit unions with excess capacity, whether it is in training, back office, collections, or human resources, can provide talent management and consulting services to smaller credit unions, not for free but for a fee, Harris explained. The developing collaborative program "will help the larger credit unions offset some of their expenses while providing a true service to small credit unions that would not be able to otherwise afford the service," Harris added.

"Collaborations among small credit unions to help them develop best practices are important to their long-term success," NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said. "Employee recruitment, development, and succession are all core needs for any business, but small credit unions with limited capacity and resources have a difficult time managing those needs. This project can help provide that capacity and those resources," she added.

The South Carolina credit unions represented one of seven low-income credit union groups that submitted ideas to the agency.

To qualify for the grant, a low-income credit union--or LICU--must partner with at least one other credit union. State credit union leagues and associations, additional credit unions, credit union service organizations and third-party vendors may also be added to the collaborative effort.

The NCUA's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives (OSCUI) evaluated grant applications based on their scalability, potential benefits, innovativeness, and other factors. Funding for this grant is provided by the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund.

NCUA OSCUI Director William Myers said the agency will "continue to seek out and fund areas of outstanding collaboration for small credit unions."

For more on the grant program award, use the resource link.

CUNA: Cybersecurity Bills Offer Coordination, Protections

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WASHINGTON (4/17/13)--The U.S. House passed three cybersecurity bills Tuesday and the Credit Union National Association joined a group of financial trade groups in a letter that voiced support for the legislation trio to every House member.

"Our nation's cybersecurity requires the active participation of the government, business and every consumer. We believe these bills encourage the participation of all, while providing the tools to defend against cyber threats by funding research and development activities," the joint trade group letter said.

The three cybersecurity bills are:

  • The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act (H.R. 756), which supports increased public and private cybersecurity research;
  • The Advancing America's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act (H.R. 967) which will refocus the National High-Performance Computing Program on a larger mission and increase research and development within the Program; and
  • The Federal Information Security Amendments Act (H.R. 1163), which will update the Federal Information Security Management Act and require federal agencies to comply with National Institute of Standards and Technology computer standards and perform risk-based analysis of cyber threats to develop appropriate controls.
The financial services industry is committed to cybersecurity efforts "and will remain a willing partner with the Congress and the administration to secure our nation's cyber infrastructure," the trade group letter said.

CUNA co-signed the letter with the American Bankers Association, the Consumer Bankers Association, the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, the Financial Services Roundtable, the Independent Community Bankers of America, NACHA-The Electronic Payments Association and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

The bill now move to the Senate for consideration.

For the full letter, use the resource link.

FBI Dragnet Snags 530 Foreclosure Fraudsters

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VIENNA, Va. (4/17/13)--The Distressed Homeowner Initiative, a program launched six months ago by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, resulted in 530 criminal defendants charged with involvement in a fraud scheme preying on distressed homeowners, reported Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), addressing a mortgage fraud issues conference.

The defendants included 172 executives and the cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims, with total losses by those victims estimated at more than $1 billion, Shasky Calvery noted. The FBI initiative is intended to be a year-long project.

While the FBI generated new investigations by gathering victim complaint data from Federal Trade Commission databases and other sources--analyzing the data, and distributing information of lead value to field offices from coast-to-coast--another key tool for law enforcement were Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs)  filed by "alert financial institutions," Shasky Calvery pointed out.

"Critical to the investigation were 4,395 SARs reporting 'foreclosure rescue fraud.' These SARs were crucial to the law enforcement officials conducting these investigations," she said. Shasky Calvery went on to note that during 2011 and 2012, FinCEN saw dramatic growth in the number of SARs discussing "foreclosure rescue" scams in the narrative. In 2011, nearly 2,800 SARs indicated this activity, and in 2012, over 4,400 SARs reported this activity, she said.

The FinCEN director also discussed third-party payment processors, advanced analysis, and the universal SAR, and gave a regulatory update in her address to the Mortgage Bankers Association conference.

To read her remarks, use the resource link.

Marketing Tips To Be Offered In April NCUA Webinar

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (4/17/13)--Marketing tips for credit unions large and small will be provided during an April 23 National Credit Union Administration webinar.

The free webinar, entitled "Driving the Bottom Line: Results through Marketing," is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

The NCUA's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives will host the webinar. During the webinar, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association Director of Credit Union Marketing Services Sandi Carangi and Gustavo Grüber, vice president of Coopera Consulting Inc., are scheduled to advise credit unions on:

  • Developing core components of an effective marketing plan;
  • Understanding how marketing goals and strategies can affect a credit union's financial performance ratios;
  • Analyzing consumer data and developing market research to help credit unions identify potential members; and
  • Using marketing strategies to reach the growing Hispanic population.
The NCUA said webinar participants may submit questions in advance by sending an email to WebinarQuestions@ncua.gov. The subject line of the email should read, "Driving the Bottom Line: Results through Marketing."

To register for the NCUA webinar, use the resource link.

Community Banks Testify On Reg Burdens

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WASHINGTON (4/17/13)--Following on the heels of last week's hearing on credit union regulatory relief, community bankers were given their chance to air their regulatory grievances during a Tuesday hearing before the House Financial Services financial institutions subcommittee.

Credit Union National Association witness Pamela Stephens, CEO of $55-million-in-assets Security One FCU of Arlington, Texas, last week testified on behalf of CUNA as lawmakers sought direction about potential regulatory relief legislation.  Stephens said she feels her credit union is constantly running, trying to catch up to be in compliance with all the rules. Stephens also presented part of a 35-point platform of regulatory relief measures developed by the Credit Union National Association. (Use the resource link to read April 11 News Now story: CUNA 35-point Plan Could Help Spell Out Relief Bill.)

The Tuesday community bank hearing discussion touched on many of the same themes covered in last week's hearing on credit union regulatory burdens: Examination issues, regulatory pressures, and how small financial institutions are harmed by regulations that are intended for larger banks. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's qualified mortgage standards were one item that frequently came up in the Tuesday discussion.

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) said Congress should not be afraid to make regulatory adjustments to financial regulations, and Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) said many agree that some form of regulatory relief is in order for both credit unions and community banks.

Legislators also encouraged the community bank representatives to work with credit unions to achieve greater regulatory relief for both groups. Committee members are looking for areas where credit union and community bank interests may intersect, and CUNA has cited examination fairness legislation as one area, in particular, where there is common interest.

CUNA is continuing its credit union advocacy efforts as the House develops regulatory relief legislation although, as CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Sam Whitfield noted in News Now on Monday, it is too early to tell what form regulatory relief legislation may take. (Use the resource link to read April 13 News Now story: Reg Relief Package Develops As CUNA Continues Advocacy)

Another bank-issue hearing--this one on ending "Too Big to Fail" banks--was held by the House Financial Services oversight and investigations subcommittee uesday. The House Financial Services Committee also announced a new member: Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.). Rothfus, who is a first-term member of Congress. Rothgfus took part in the "Too Big to Fail" hearing.

For more on both hearings, use the resource links.

CUNA Supports House, Senate Exam Fairness Bills

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WASHINGTON (4/17/13)--The Credit Union National Association on Tuesday thanked U.S. House and Senate lawmakers for introducing bills that would enhance safety and soundness by increasing the consistency and fairness of the regulatory examination system. CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said CUNA looks forward to working with Congress to ensure timely enactment of exam fairness legislation.

The letters to the bills' chief sponsors followed the Monday introduction of  legislation that would improve the federal examination process for credit unions and other financial institutions.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced the Senate version (S. 727) Monday afternoon. Reps. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) dropped their House legislation (H.R. 1553) just hours later. (Use the resource link to read April 16 News Now story: Senate, House Introduce Exam Fairness Bills)

Cheney in the letters said both bills take needed steps "toward ensuring the federal financial institution regulatory agencies conduct fair exams for those they supervise which are consistent with the law and regulation and ensure safety and soundness."

The exam fairness bills would:

  • Make available to financial institutions the information used to make decisions in their examination;
  • Codify certain examination policy guidance; and
  • Establish an ombudsman at the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council to which financial institutions could raise concerns with respect to their examination.

Removing legislative and regulatory barriers is one of the key objectives outlined in CUNA's Unite for Good initiative. Unite for Good calls on credit unions to rally in support of a common vision where "Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner."

For the CUNA letters and a full list of Unite for Good action steps, use the resource links.