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CU System briefs (04/22/2010)

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* GREENSBORO, N.C. (4/23/10)--Two State Employees’ CU (SECU) members have received the first-ever award from the North Carolina Credit Union League’s Robbery Reward Fund. The reward fund was created several years ago to help law enforcement agencies in the area. Up to $5,000 may be awarded to anyone who helps law enforcement arrest a robber. The members, who wish to remain anonymous, helped SECU nab a robber last September. The robbery took place at a SECU branch in Mint Hill, N.C., Sept. 15. The members, who were in the parking lot next door, followed a man who had come into the credit union and demanded money from a teller. The man had covered his license plate with paper to avoid being tracked, but pulled off to the side of the road to uncover his plate after being followed by the members for several miles. The members called 911 and gave the information to police. The man, Jeremy Scott Lemmond, was found at his home a few hours later. Lemmond pleaded guilty to armed robbery in January. SECU does not encourage people to pursue robbers, but the members “were in the right place at the right time,” said SECU Security Officer Jonathan Mallaber ... * DUBLIN, Ohio (4/23/10)--The 2010 Ohio Credit Unions: Marching Miles for Miracle Kids raised $110,000--surpassing its goal, according to the Ohio Credit Union League (eLumination newsletter April 21). The 170-mile relay-style march began March 28 in Dublin, Ohio, with hopes to raise $100,000. During a welcome rally last week, University of Cincinnati Head Basketball Coach Mike Cronin thanked the marchers and contributors. Event emcee Kristina Hurlburt of Standard Register FCU, Dayton, discussed her daughter’s battle with multiple sclerosis and how the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton is helping her family ... * DUBLIN, Ohio (4/23/10)--The Ohio Credit Union League honored several individuals during its 2010 Leadership Recognition awards Claude Clarke, who wrote the Ohio Credit Union Act and was the first part-time manager of the lague, was named one of the recipients of the Louise McCarren Herring Lifetime Achievement Award (eLumination newsletter April 23). Jerry Gramke, Board Chair of Cincinnati Police FCU, was named Volunteer of the Year, and Bill Burke, CEO of Day Air CU, Kettering, was named Professional of the Year. Phil Buell, CEO of Superior FCU, Lima, and Seven Seventeen CU, Warren, have been named winners of the Claude Clarke Political Inspiration Award for an individual and credit union, respectively. Unity Catholic FCU, Parma, and Day Air CU won the Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award, and Community Star CU, Elyria, Directions CU, Toledo, and the Central Ohio Chapter received the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award. Toledo Police FCU and Wright-Patt CU, Fairborn, received the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action, and Members First CU, Columbus, and Wright-Patt CU were honored with the Cutting Edge Marketing Brilliance Award ...

Move Your Money moving to nonprofit org

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MADISON, Wis. (4/23/10)--'Move Your Money' is now moving to become a nonprofit organization. The campaign urges consumers to deposit their money into credit unions and community banks instead of large banks. The 'Move Your Money' project has functioned on a volunteer basis. However, the project is now looking to hire a few full-time staffers and expand the project into a national campaign. 'Move' also partnered with Network for Good, a fundraising site, to generate money for the organization. Since its inception, the 'Move Your Money' website has received millions of hits, and mentioned on major news outlets. The campaign also has generated numerous fans on its Facebook page. 'Move' has consistently noted credit unions as good alternatives to big banks. The Huffington Post launched the campaign last December. It carried an article by Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Dan Mica and a link to CUNA's credit union locator.

Media touts Ohio CUs successes

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CLEVELAND (4/23/10)--A front-page article that discussed the continued increases in assets, loans and membership among Northeast Ohio credit unions was featured in the April 19 issue of Crain’s Cleveland Business. Titled “Credit unions become beneficiaries of economy as asset levels increase,” the article was written by Arielle Kass, who spoke at the Ohio Credit Union League’s media training last year (eLumination Newsletter April 21). Pete Grimm, president of Medina County FCU, Wadsworth, and Kevin Ralofsky, CEO of Vacationland FCU, Sandusky, offered insight into the growth at their credit unions--highlighting a better deal for consumers and a flight to safety. Dave Fearing, vice president of credit union solutions for the league, echoed the comments of the two credit union leaders, saying that credit union success is a combination of the affordable rates and the attractiveness of the “People Helping People” collaborative nature.

Bankrate CUs have better deals on credit cards

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NEW YORK (4/23/10)--Credit unions charge lower fees on credit cards than banks, according to Bankrate conducted a survey of 73 cards issued by 28 banks and 19 credit unions. The survey found that none of the credit union credit cards charged an inactivity fee, while three banks charged inactivity fees. Fifth Third Bank charges a $19 fee if no transactions were made in the previous year, while First National Bank of Omaha could charge a $29 to $75 fee after six months of inactivity (April 19). The study also found that 20 credit union cards charge a flat late fee, regardless of balance or degree of lateness--ranging from $5 to $30. Only one credit union charged a fee based on balance, compared to the 25 bank cards that had a tiered fee structure. San Diego County CU issues a $10 late fee, but not until the payment is 10 or more days past due. Bankrate noted that 25 of the 33 credit union cards it surveyed don’t charge balance transfer fees, and 20 credit union cards don’t charge a cash-advance fee. However, of the bank cards Bankrate surveyed, bank-advance fees ranged up to 5% of the cash advance amount.

Wis. league CEO editorial CUs keep local money local

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MADISON, Wis. (4/23/10)--Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, touted the fact that credit unions help keep local money local, in an opinion piece that responded to a prior editorial by a Wisconsin newspaper, which discussed the advantages of a state-run bank. “We encourage investigation of the [state-run bank] concept,” Thompson wrote. “And we encourage any analysis to take into account credit unions, which are locally owned and managed financial institutions where deposited dollars are loaned out to individuals and businesses within the community” (The Capital Times April 19). More than 2.2 million Wisconsinites belong to credit unions, and in 2009, credit unions in the state increased their lending to hometown businesses by 13% to take up the slack because of decreased lending by banks, Thompson added. “As a result, these not-for-profit co-ops return $200 million annually to depositors through better rates on loans and savings and lower and fewer fees,” Thompson wrote. “Through their REAL Solutions initiative, credit unions help families by making affordable loans, refinancing mortgages, consolidating debt and adjusting loan terms,” he added. “They help members sort out complex financial challenges, stretch budgets, rebuild battered credit scores and avoid payday lenders They also offer free financial education. When members need help, credit unions step up.” The REAL Solutions program works through state credit union leagues to help credit unions offer services that have proven successful for people of modest means and “low wealth.”

WOCCU honors late Polish president with award

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MADISON, Wis. (4/23/10)--The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) board of directors unanimously voted to award Lech Kaczyñski, the former president of Poland who died with 95 other government officials and their spouses in a tragic airplane crash April 10, the 2010 Distinguished Service Award.
Click to view larger imagePoland’s late President Lech Kaczynski (left) shook hands with Grzegorz Bierecki, World Council of Credit Unions’ second vice chair and CEO of Poland’s national credit union association. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
The honor, conferred during last week’s WOCCU board meeting, recognizes the significant contributions the late statesman made to Poland's credit unions. “Rarely does a head of state offer the level of support that President Kaczyñski did to the credit union movement,” said Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO. “Poland has one of the world’s most successful and progressive credit union systems due largely to the direct involvement, support and friendship of its former president. His tragic death was a loss to all credit unions.” Kaczyñski's relationship with credit unions began in 1989 when he was a direct report to Lech Walesa, the former leader of Poland’s Solidarity movement that helped secure the country’s freedom from Soviet rule. Kaczyñski charged one of his staff members, Grzegorz Bierecki--currently CEO of the National Association of Co-operative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU) and second vice chair of the WOCCU board--to find U.S. banks that would help Poland stabilize its financial services sector. No bank was interested, but several suggested Bierecki meet with credit unions. In 1991, WOCCU officials met with members of Solidarity, including Walesa and Kaczyñski, the Ministry of Finance and the Catholic Church to examine the role that credit unions could play in helping Poland's financial services development. WOCCU conducted credit union development programs in Poland from 1992-1999, which played a large role in the formation of the Polish credit union system of today. Between 1990 and 1991, Kaczyñski was supervisory board president of the Foundation for Polish Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions, created by WOCCU at the request of the Solidarity movement. Since then, Kaczyñski, who was a professor of law prior to his political involvement, has been committed to developing and strengthening the country’s financial cooperative movement. He was elected Poland’s president in 2005 and continued his vigorous support for Poland’s credit unions while in office. WOCCU's Distinguished Service Award, the international credit union system’s highest honor, will be awarded to Kaczyñski posthumously in a special presentation at The 1 Credit Union Conference, the jointly hosted conference of WOCCU and Credit Union National Association, its U.S. member. The conference will convene July 11-14 in Las Vegas. “Lech Kaczyñski was one of the founders of our movement, but his interest in credit union development was not limited to Poland,” Bierecki said. “His encouragement resulted in the development of credit unions throughout Central and Eastern Europe. He realized, as we have, that credit unions are schools of democracy and play an important role in a democratic society.”

U.S. Central revises 4Q financials

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LENEXA, Kan. (4/23/10)--U.S. Central FCU has revised its fourth quarter 2009 financials, according to a statement on the credit union’s website. On March 1, U.S. Central posted its fourth quarter 2009 financial statements. Included in the results were other-than-temporary (OTTI) impairment charges of $142.1 million related to investment securities insured by Ambac. The charges were based on information available to U.S. Central at the time, and placed 80% reliance on Ambac to pay claims when due. On March 25, Ambac stated it had taken actions at the direction of its regulator, the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and the State of Wisconsin, to address its weakened financial position. Based on this information, U.S. Central has revised its reliance on Ambac for claims payments downward to 25% after an expected six-month interruption of payments. OTTI charges recorded in earnings for the fourth quarter of 2009 increased by $274 million. The changes have been incorporated into the corporate’s 2009 audited financial statement. To view the revised statement, use the link.