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Illinois league annual convention in 82nd year

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (4/27/12)--More than 650 executives representing 120 credit unions have signed up to attend the Illinois Credit Union League's (ICUL) 82nd Annual Convention, which began Thursday and runs through Saturday, and features many new enhancements.

With a sports theme of "Get in the Game!" the convention will tout a new location for the event--the Renaissance Convention Center in Schaumburg, Ill., which will host more than 80 vendors.

The convention will feature the keynote and awards ceremony, in which credit unions and individuals will win accolades for their accomplishments for the past year, including one inductee into the Illinois Credit Union Hall of Fame and one recipient of the Illinois Credit Union Foundation's Tribute Award.

Winners of the Dora Maxwell, Louise Herring, and Desjardins awards competition, and supporters of the Credit Union Political Action Council, will also be recognized. Connie Payton, wife of the late football legend Walter Payton, will serve as keynote speaker and present "Family Values, Teambuilding, Embracing Life." This session will also include the changing of the gavel for ICUL's chairman of the board.

The annual convention also includes 24 educational sessions, including a pre-conference workshop on Thursday followed by the first group of sessions, which will begin Friday morning.

One session at this year's event will be Organ Donation Importance. More than 5,000 men, women and children in Illinois are on the organ transplant waiting list. Because April is "Organ Donor Awareness Month," ICUL will be offering complimentary onsite donor registration sponsored by the Illinois Secretary of State's office following Brittany Payton's break out session. One donor can save or enhance more than 25 lives. 

Other new features for this year's convention include:

  • A mobile website. It is intended to provide more information at the fingertips of attendees via their smartphones, either by scanning the convention QR Code or if a user enters the annual convention page URL directly. The mobile website features: convention highlights, schedule and speakers, a hotel floor plan/map, a comprehensive list of area restaurants and attractions, including shopping and nightlife options, and a listing of exhibiting business partners.
  • A new a special one-day registration rate.  This was initiated to give credit unions the opportunity to bring extra staff to the convention and includes admission to the keynote session, the morning and afternoon education sessions, access to the exhibit hall and a "tailgate" lunch on Friday. As of press time, 86 people from 30 credit unions have taken advantage of this new promotion and more are anticipated to register on-site.
  • Credit union "crashers."  This initiative is part of an effort to attract young professionals to this year's event, under the guise The Cooperative Trust (formerly The Crash Network), a grassroots organization comprised of hundreds of young credit union professionals. Sponsored by ICUL and CUNA Mutual Group, Crash Illinois will give young credit union professionals the opportunity to participate in the event by attending the full convention and additional mentor sessions with industry thought leaders each day and building relationships with other young credit union professionals.
  • The opportunity for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits. Many of ICUL's convention sessions, as well its annual schedule of more than 60 "QuickBites," telecourses, and in-person sessions, are now CPE eligible.

Credit unions press MBL case with media

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MADISON, Wis. (4/27/12)--As they continue to press the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to extend their members business lending (MBL) authority, credit unions are receiving positive media coverage about their efforts to help small businesses and improve the economy.

Bills in the House and Senate would increase the MBL cap to 27.5% of a credit union's assets, up from 12.25%, under certain conditions.

Within the first year of enactment, the increased MBL authority would help to inject $13 billion in loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) estimates show.

Patrick Keefe, CUNA vice president of communications and media, was quoted in a April 26 article in The Tennessean assessing the bills' chances in Congress.

"The game is really on in the Senate," Keefe told The Tennessean. "We feel that we have a real good case in the House. We just have to get through the Senate. I'm not saying it's adone deal in the House, but the Senate is key."

The April 26 edition of The Baltimore Sun featured an opinion editorial article written by Rod Staatz, president/CEO of SECU of Maryland.

Staatz cited a recent nationwide survey, in which 9 out of 10 small businesses indicated that availability of credit was impeding their ability to hire. Nearly two-thirds said it had become significantly harder to get loans today than just a few years ago. Similarly, a National Federation of Independent Business survey found a nearly 10% increase in the number of small businesses trying to borrow but no change in the number of small businesses actually obtaining credit.

"Business lending is consistent with the mission of credit unions," Staatz said. "Credit unions were founded to 'promote thrift and make loans for provident purposes' through a not-for-profit cooperative structure focused on member-owners, not profit margins. Meeting the credit needs of their members--including business credit--is why credit unions exist."

The San Antonio News Express published an opinion editorial from Bill Hammond, Texas Association of Business CEO, touting the willingness of credit unions to make loans to small businesses, in contrast to banks.

"A government program designed to provide loans to small businesses was only 14% loaned-out a year after its implementation. But there has been one bright spot in the tough lending picture--credit unions," Hammond wrote.

"Credit union lending to small businesses went up 44% over the last four years after small business entrepreneurs gave up on banks and looked elsewhere for loans," he continued. "The average credit union loan is almost $220,000, making credit unions the perfect partner for small businesses."

An April 8 article that appeared in in the Winston-Salem Journal  cited Credit Union National Association statistics that indicate credit unions hold less than 6% of all small-business loans, or a combined value of about $40 billion.

Credit unions would provide loans that banks have chosen not to offer, according to credit union sources quoted in the article.

"If just four credit unions in North Carolina that are at or above 65% of their member business lending cap are unable to continue lending, over 2,200 jobs and $200 million in credit will likely be lost in the next year," Marcus Schaefer, Truliant CU president/CEO tols the Winston-Salem Journal.

Jeff Hardin, communications director for the North Carolina Credit Union League, said MBL bills are not a bank-versus-credit union issue.

"Over the past several years, small-business owners have had a particularly hard time getting access to that capital, Hardin said. "Credit unions have dollars to lend and the expertise to help these small businesses."

Eli Lehrer, vice president of the Heartland Institute wrote an opinion editorial supporting MBL legislation in the Californail business and political journal Fox & Hound. "Anyone who favors a freer, less regulated economy, should take victories where they can find them,"  Lehrer wrote. "And it's why conservatives should flock to support an effort to deregulate credit union lending. It's one of the best things Congress can do to create jobs and help small business in the short term."

The Heartland Institute and 10 other free-market organizations sent a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, ( R-Ky.), asking that they take up legislation that would loosen regulatory constraints on the amount of loans credit unions can make to business members.

"Doing away with these regulations would inject over $13 billion into the economy and foster the creation of up to 140,000 new jobs in its first year, all at no cost to taxpayers," the groups wrote. "As the economy is struggling to kick-start, this bill would give businesses much-needed capital to expand by simply raising the arbitrarily low lending cap."

In an 18-page policy document, Katherine E. Howell-Best of the North Carolina Banking Institute examined whether credit unions could effectively serve the small business market through their member business lending products.

"Banks allege that credit unions are creeping into the banking industry's share of the business lending market.  The empirical evidence, however, does not support this allegation," Howell-Best wrote. She cited a U.S. Department of Treasury report that showed credit union member business lending almost doubled in seven years, from $2 billion in 1993 to $3.9 billion in 1999. During the same time, banks increased commercial and industrial lending by almost 85%, to to $824.7 billion in 1999 from $447.8 billion in 1993.

"Credit unions whose business lending goal is to allow members who need business lending services to make credit unions their primary financial institution should devise business lending and business services strategies," Howell-Best concluded.

"This includes offering business accounts, gaining experience that will enable the development of ancillary services, and, ultimately, mastering member business lending. Perhaps most importantly, though, credit unions must make their services and product lines known to their members in order to tap their unmet financial services needs."

The La Crosse Tribune published a letter from Brett Thompson, CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, in response to a letter from the Wisconsin Bankers Association:

Thompson made the following points about MBL legislation:

  • Raising the lending cap won't increase deficits and will increase revenue.
  • Banks hold 95% of U.S. business loans; MBL legislation won't dent their market share.
  • More than 30 conservative and progressive groups support the legislation, as do 84% of voters recently polled.
  • Small businesses say there's a credit gap; research supports them.
  • The cap doesn't hamper just a few credit unions. Almost all credit unions must either deny business loans because of the cap or not offer them at all because the cap prevents cost recovery.
  • Credit unions pay all taxes except corporate income taxes.
On Bloomberg TV, Dale Kluga, head of Cobra Capital, LLC, addressed how big banks are not extending credit to small businesses. The housing market cannot make a full recovery until small businesses begin making more loans, Kluga said.

"My opinion is if the banks are not interested in supporting small businesses then they need to step aside and let the credit unions at least try," Kluga said.

Kluga suggested that small business lending is not currently a part of big banks' business model.

"Why should they preclude the credit unions from getting in the business?" Klug said.

To watch the video, use the link.

Early bird deadline looms for World CU Conference

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MADISON, Wis. (4/27/12)--The "early bird" deadline for World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) 2012 World Credit Union Conference in Gdańsk, Poland, July 15-18 is looming. On May 10, the registration fee will increase to $200 per attendee.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to connect with peers from around the world; hear from leading business minds Youngme Moon, Harvard University professor, and mobile banking guru Brett King, who are driving change in and outside the credit union industry; and take in sightseeing tours highlighting the historical significance of Gdańsk.

"This summer we also have the pleasure of joining Poland's credit unions, Spoldzielcze kasy oszczędnościowo-kredytowe or better known as SKOKs, in celebrating their 20th anniversary," said Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. "What started as a small grassroots effort has grown to become one of the most successful and respected credit union systems in the world, and attendees will have the chance to see this amazing transformation firsthand and celebrate its success."

Also, this year's conference features local credit union visits, breakout sessions featuring field-tested solutions, The Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions' charity golf tournament, the third annual Global Women's Leadership Forum and opportunities to network and build a strong professional network that will continue after attendees leave Gdańsk.

A companion program and sightseeing tours also are scheduled for guests to join in this year's activities, and spaces are still available on the pre-tour, July 10-14, from Kraków to Gdańsk and the post-tour, which will head to St. Petersburg, Russia, July 19-22, after the conference. Early registration is recommended.

Register on or before May 10 to take advantage of discounted registration fees. For more information about the conference and to register for the event, use the link.

PCUA meets with officials about loans for the disabled

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (4/27/12)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) met with state officials April 20 to discuss how credit unions can help get the word out about the availability of assistive technology loans for people with disabilities.

Jim McCormack, PCUA president/CEO, and staff members Rick Wargo and Mike Wishnow, hosted the Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking Glenn Moyer, and officials from the Department of Labor & Industry and the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (Life is a Highway April 23).

Participating in the meeting were: Jennifer Peterson, Esq., special assistant to Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway; James Kreider, executive assistant to Stephen Suroviec, executive director of Labor & Industry's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation; Susan Tachau, executive director, Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF); and Tracy Beck, operations director, PATF.

The group discussed specific financial education needs of people with disabilities, as well as a role credit unions can play in helping disabled members.

"The credit union mission of 'People Helping People' fits very nicely with PATF's goal to help disabled Pennsylvanians live independently," said Jim McCormack. "Friday's meeting was a good first step in exploring how our two organizations can work together for the betterment of Pennsylvania consumers."

Minnesota CU Network co-ops discuss collaborations

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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (4/27/12)--The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) hosted a panel of leaders discussing how credit unions can develop mutually beneficial partnerships with local cooperatives, as part of its celebration of the International Year of Cooperatives.

During the Minnesota Credit Union Network's Annual Meeting & Convention on April 13-14, cooperative leaders participated in a panel discussion on how credit unions can develop mutually beneficial relationships with area cooperatives. (Photo provided by the Minnesota Credit Union Network)
Held April 13-14 during MnCUN's Annual Meeting & Convention, the session provided credit unions tangible ideas of how they can help strengthen the cooperative movement. Facilitated by cooperative consultant Adam Schwartz, the panel of cooperative leaders shared collaboration success stories.

The panelists included Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney, The Wedge General Manager Lindy Bannister, SPIRE FCU President/CEO Dan Stoltz, and Crow Wing Power CU Vice President Diane Viehauser.

Schwartz, who previously served as the National Cooperative Business Association's (NCBA's) vice president for public affairs, said it is important for credit unions to emphasize the "cooperative essence of who they are."

Understanding the importance of cooperative partnerships, Stoltz outlined his credit union's cross-promotional work with four area grocery co-ops. SPIRE FCU, based in Falcon Heights, offers a branded Visa card program to the members of grocery co-ops and shares a portion of the interchange income with the cooperative. Stoltz stated that this relationship adds value to the membership offerings of the credit union and the grocery co-ops.

One of SPIRE FCU's partners is The Wedge Community Co-op, which is the largest single-store cooperative in the country. General Manager Bannister emphasized the benefits of the co-op's relationship with SPIRE FCU. She encouraged credit unions to examine their existing products and services and look for natural ways these offerings can be used to benefit members of other local cooperatives.

"Anything we can do together--as a cross sector--is going to make us stronger together," Bannister said.

The third representative on the panel was Viehauser of Crow Wing Power CU in Brainerd who shared the story of how the credit union developed from the Crow Wing electric cooperative. Viehauser outlined the credit union's rapid growth and strong connection to the cooperative. She said community members appreciate the cooperative business model and strongly support the two organizations.

CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney praised the panelists for their collaboration efforts and encouraged attendees to build similar relationships.

"I can't think of a better time to promote cooperatives--with this year being the International Year of Cooperatives," Cheney said. "I think it's greatly important that credit unions work together with cooperatives. The bottom line is cooperatives are a better way."

Cheney went on to outline CUNA's commitment to supporting and strengthening the cooperative movement thought involvement with the NCBA and other cooperative organizations. He also highlighted examples of cooperatives nationwide that educate consumers about the benefits of co-ops.

As the state with the most cooperatives, Minnesota is actively involved in celebrating the International Year of Cooperatives. In addition to hosting the cooperative panel at its Annual Meeting & Convention, MnCUN has coordinated media relations and consumer awareness activities to spread the message about cooperatives and the benefits they bring to communities and individuals.

UW CU set to launch student loan exit program

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MADISON, Wis. (4/27/12)--UW CU, Madison, Wis., is launching a new exit counseling program for its student loan borrowers.

When a student graduates with a UW CU student loan, they'll be invited to attend a free, educational seminar. The credit union will host in-person seminar sessions to students that are graduating May 2012 or this summer.

Sessions will cover topics such as UW Credit Union Loan information, including estimated payments, repayment options and whom to contact with questions. Also, federal financial aid information, budgeting after college and the ways student loans can affect personal credit history will be discussed.

"Providing financial education is a core business value for our organization," said Mike Long, UW CU executive vice president and chief credit officer. "Our commitment to student success continues well beyond the initial loan transaction. Our intent is to make our program very accessible, so graduates will take advantage of the seminar to get the information and skills they need to make good financial choices."

For this pilot counseling program, in-person sessions are being offered on six campuses--UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Whitewater, UW Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay. The credit union provides student loans for students attending any UW System school, Madison College or Edgewood College.

UW CU invited roughly 600 students to attend the sessions, Long said. "If this pilot program is as successful as we're hoping it will be, we will look to expand to offer additional in-person sessions at more UW System schools and potentially an online counseling option," he added.

CO-OP Financial Services introduces bill pay

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (4/27/12)--CO-OP Financial Services is introducing CO-OP Bill Pay, the company's first online bill pay product line for credit unions

The bill-pay product is the result of CO-OP's  acquisition in January of Corporate Network eCom LLC, the company said. "The new line is a perfect extension of our e-commerce solutions, and will help our clients compete even more effectively against banks in terms of access and convenience services they can offer their members," said Stan Hollen, president/CEO of CO-OP Financial Services.

The line is backed by CO-OP's eCom service organization, with 13 years of experience and providing support to more than 750,000 credit union members.

With CO-OP Financial Services' aggregation of client volume and processing, the company can offer clients bill pay solutions at a better price than that they could secure on their own, the company said.

CO-OP Bill Pay allows members to receive, view, manage and pay all of their bills when they log-on to their credit unions online banking site. The new product line is available in three versions to maximize the range of options credit unions can offer their members.

Features of the CO-OP Bill Pay include:

  • e-Bills. Credit unions can present electronic versions of members' bill, allowing them to view and pay bills immediately.
  • Expedited payments. This feature enables members to make same-day electronic payments.
  • Person-to-Person (P2P) payments. Members can transfer money to anyone having a deposit account in the United States or send money instantly via PayPal.
  • Alerts. Credit unions can send members email alerts regarding payments and other matters.
  • Access by mobile device.

Credit Unions Kids at Heart celebrates Boston Marathon

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BURLINGTON, Mass. (4/27/12)--The Credit Unions Kids at Heart marathon team participated in the 116th running of the Boston Marathon on April 16, raising $100,000 for Children's Hospital Boston. Patient partners, families and friends gathered at Boston's fire station Engine 33, Ladder 15 to cheer on the team as eight credit union runners took to the course in the heat.

One of the world's most challenging courses also featured record-high temperatures, making this year's Boston Marathon especially difficult.

Click to view larger image Credit Unions Kids at Heart raised more than $100,000 for Children's Hospital Boston by participating in the Boston Marathon earlier this month. Members of the 2012 Credit Unions Kids at Heart team gather for a celebratory breakfast at the Westin Copley Place on April 14.
Seven credit union runners made it across the finish line with their patient partners and the children's siblings. The tradition of crossing the finish line together symbolizes the unity of the team, and how they successfully achieved this accomplishment together. Each runner and patient partner team was met with an eruption of cheers from the crowd.

Marathon weekend began with a Credit Unions Kids at Heart breakfast at the Westin Copley Place. Credit union runners, patient partners, family and friends gathered together as Jane Melchionda, EasCorp president/CEO and founder of Kids at Heart, thanked each one for their contributions to the program.

Patient partner Everett Chase with runner Nicole Polex.  Both were are sponsored by Jeanne D'Arc CU. (Photos provided by Credit Unions Kids at Heart)
After the breakfast, guests continued the celebration at a Children's Hospital Boston reception. Nicole Polex of Jeanne D'Arc CU was honored for running the marathon for five years to raise money for the hospital, and for her dedication to the program. Seamus Slattery and Jane Melchionda were both honored with the prestigious Katie Lynch Award. This award is given to those who possess the determination and generous spirit of the award's namesake.

Established in 1996, the Kids at Heart program is a group of credit unions that collectively raise funds to provide programs and services to the children and families receiving treatment at Children's Hospital Boston, as well as for other organizations that work for the benefit of children.

Kids at Heart has donated $3.5 billion to Children's Hospital Boston. The cornerstone of the Credit Unions Kids at Heart program is the Boston Marathon team. Each year, runners sponsored by credit unions are paired with a patient partner who is receiving care at Children's Hospital Boston. These children, who overcome their own challenges every day, inspire the runners to push through their own obstacles as they train for the Boston Marathon.