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Louisiana league announces new board

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HARAHAN, La. (4/29/11)--The Louisiana Credit Union League held elections for the league's board of directors during chapter meetings throughout the state (eNews April 27). Elected to the 2011-2013 board were:
* Virgil Allen, Tangipahoa Parish Teachers CU, Amite; * Joe Battaglia, Homeland FCU, Metairie; * Glen Beard, Alexandria (La.) Municipal Employees CU; * Joyce Butler, Carter FCU, Springhill; * Ray Chavanne, McNeese FCU, Lake Charles; * Tom Conner, Southwest Louisiana CU, Lake Charles; * Eldridge Etienne, Southern Teachers & Parents FCU, Baton Rouge; * Kathi Gill, Neighbors FCU, Baton Rouge; * Connie Kennelly, Tulane-Loyola FCU, New Orleans; * Bobbie Major Jr., Homeland FCU; * Ginger Manint, Eagle Louisiana FCU, Baton Rouge; * Benny Miers, Post Office Employees FCU, Shreveport; * Patricia Morris, Monroe Telco FCU, Monroe; * Vicki O'Brien, Jefferson Parish Employees FCU, Harahan; * Sidney Parfait, Post Office Employees CU, Metairie; * Connie Roy, Lafayette Schools FCU, Lafayette; * Cindy Sansing, Cenla FCU, Alexandria; * Anna Trahan, Section 705 FCU, Lafayette; * Donna Wagoner, Ouachita Valley FCU, West Monroe; and * Roy Walling, Barksdale FCU, Bossier City.
Each director is elected to a two-year term.

IBankrateI IFox BusinessI ask Are You a Good Fit for a CU

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NEW YORK (4/29/11)--A look by Bankrate.com at consumers who routinely join credit unions--which was picked up by Fox Business.com (April 27)--shines a spotlight on credit unions in five situations. The article, "Are You a Good Fit for a Credit Union?" outlines five groups of consumers "who routinely join credit unions" and shows the benefits for each:
* College students who learn about finances at the credit union. John Iglesias, CEO of Salal CU, Seattle, and Shay Olivarria, author of "10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money,"point out that students don't always get the best deal from a bank. Credit unions focus on financial education and provide college students with a support system for learning about money. * Consumers worried about high fees. Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association, points out in the article that 80% of credit unions offer checking accounts with no minimum balance and mistakes cost consumers less at credit unions. On insufficient-fund fees, banks charge about $10 more on average than credit unions. * Credit card holders. Card customers who opt for bank-issued cards are likely paying more than they would at a credit union, said Daniel Penrod, senior industry analyst at the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues. Credit union card rates are a percentage point lower than banks' rates. * Prospective borrowers. Although mortgage lenders offer similar rates and products, credit unions service their own loans, said Penrod. If something goes wrong, the borrower has a better chance working with a lender whose servicing is local. * Worried about big banks. A California songwriter says she switched to a credit union for "political" reasons, citing concern about large banks' role in the 2008 financial crisis. With a credit union, her money stays in her hometown and gets loaned to "people like me."
The article also interviewed Todd Pietzsch, public relations manager at BECU in Seattle, about banks' high fees and Bill Stavros, vice president of marketing at Proponent FCU, Nutley, N.J., about how credit unions appeal to politically conscious consumers.

Alabama CUs damaged in Wednesdays tornadoes

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MADISON, Wis. (4/29/11)--Alabama's credit unions and members took a direct hit from Wednesday's tornados, part of a storm front that spawned more than 155 tornadoes in six states. Although assessments of their situation were just beginning Thursday, already credit unions were reporting damages and deaths. Deaths totaled 263 and were climbing, with 162 reported in Alabama, including several credit union employees' loved ones; 33 in Tennessee; 32 in Mississippi, including two members of a credit union there; 14 in Georgia; and 11 each in Arkansas and Virginia (actionnews5.com April 28). (For a related report outlining the impact in the other states, see "In Mississippi, CU members killed in tornado" in today's System section.) Agility Recovery, CUNA Strategic Services provider, reported it is responding to 15 disaster declarations and has more than 200 members on alert across five states. "The Storm Prediction Center reported 155 tornadoes across the U.S. on Wednesday. This sets a new record for April tornadoes, bringing the total to over 800," said Agility. Although reports are still in the early stages, two Alabama credit unions reported the most physical damage--Gadsden-based Community CU, which lost its Rainsville branch, and DCH CU, Tuscaloosa, according to Mike Bridges, vice president of marketing and communications, at the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU), which serves Florida and Alabama credit unions. DCH CU "had roof damage and cars in the parking lot had windows blown out," he added. "Many credit unions are still without power. Many are working on generators or just not open. As you would imagine, many members have been affected, and a few credit union employees have lost loved ones," Bridges said. "The league is reaching out to every affiliated and non-affiliated credit union to assess their needs. We are also letting credit unions know about the Disaster Relief Fund available through the Southeastern Credit Union Foundation. It’s still early, but we’re attempting to reach out to all of the credit unions in Alabama," he said. The league's Birmingham office was closed Thursday, with no power or no phone service at the office. Power was just restored around 1p.m. ET. "The area around the office is still treacherous," Bridges added, noting the Birmingham office would be open today. A staffer at the Birmingham office told the Credit Union National Association, "We are in full disaster recovery mode right now, trying to get with all the credit unions. It's tough when they don't have power or phones either. Yesterday was unlike anything I have ever seen…it's just almost unreal." By the end of Thursday, the league had made contact with about 60% of credit unions in Alabama. CUNA Mutual's Credit Union Protection Disaster Team was also receiving reports on damage to credit unions from Wednesday night's storms, said Rick Uhlmann, CUNA Mutual's senior manager, media relations. "Disaster team members have been in contact with the leagues in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia. The leagues have reported a few credit unions sustained minor damage and there are reports of more substantial damage at two credit unions in Alabama," he said Thursday morning. Also, "CUNA Mutual's Credit Union Protection Disaster Team is in the process of reaching out to those credit unions we feel were most at risk. With power and phones out in many areas, this will take time. For those identified at risk, who we cannot reach by phone, we will have the catastrophe adjusters in their areas making direct contact with the credit unions," Ullman said. By the end of the business day Thursday, said Ullman, "the Credit Union Protection Disaster Claims Team has contacted all impacted leagues, CUNA Mutual field staff members, and many of the credit unions that are located across the path of Wednesday night's storms." One credit union suffered a major loss. "As rescue and clean-up operations continue and authorities open up closed areas, more damage to credit unions may be identified," he said. Even if they weren't damaged, many credit unions were closed in Tuscaloosa. Alabama Credit Union reported delayed openings at its main office and eight other locations. Its Mercedes offices "will be closed until further notice," the credit union noted on its website. America's First FCU said on its site that six of its 18 branches were "closed due to power outages" on Thursday. Alabama Telco CU said its branches in Madison and Hueytown were closed Thursday. Alabama Central CU noted that "due to widespread power outages, the Tuscaloosa and Decatur branches will be closed" Thursday and today. Members could access their accounts through the Shared Branching Network.

In Mississippi CU members killed in tornado

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MADISON, Wis. (4/29/11)--Although Alabama was hardest hit by the tornado system that wreaked havoc on Wednesday, several Southern states in the path of the system reported their credit unions were lucky--few reported damages. However, their members had losses, and one credit union in Mississippi report the deaths of two members, a couple. Mississippi endured two days of constant, brutal winds accompanied by sporadic and often wide-spread outbreaks of severe storms, said the Mississippi Credit Union Association, based in Jackson. “Association staff kept live weather reports and radar on at the office and home to monitor the situation,” Amy Manley, association corporate relations manager, told News Now. “We followed up with credit unions in areas we knew to be affected by the most severe weather. No Mississippi credit union reported damage.” The association contacted its credit unions and received some reports:
* Central Sunbelt FCU, Laurel, Miss., learned that a married couple who were members of the credit union were killed in the tornado that spun through Smith and Jasper counties. * Two credit unions in northeast Mississippi--Northeast Mississippi Health Services EFCU, Tupelo, and AMPOT FCU, Hamilton--reported members with “tremendous loss, both homes and family members,” from the Smithville area. The tiny rural town of Smithville, Monroe County, with a population of only about 900, was devastated by the storm and has an unconfirmed death toll of more than 10 people.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency received initial reports of damages from 48 of the 82 counties statewide and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. There are 32 confirmed fatalities in Mississippi at this time. As of press time, no information was received by News Now from the Tennessee Credit Union League or credit unions in that state. Media reports indicate 33 confirmed fatalities in Tennessee so far, due to the tornadoes. News Now also checked in with leagues in Virginia, Georgia, and Arkansas. Virginia credit unions reported no injuries, property damage or service disruptions, according Lewis Wood, vice president of public relations and communications for the Virginia Credit Union League. Virginia credit unions responding to News Now inquiries also reported no damages or injuries Virginia CU’s Farmville branch, located in one of the state’s areas hardest hit by tornadoes, was fully operational on Thursday. Chartway FCU, based in Virginia Beach City, also reported it was fully operational. Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA) reported that Georgia credit unions appear to have escaped major damages. “We checked in with our credit unions, and there were no branch closings,” said Anita Paul, director of communications for the GCUA. “We had reports of a few power outages that delayed openings, but overall Georgia credit unions appear to have been very fortunate.” In Arkansas, Reta Kahley, president/CEO of the Arkansas Credit Union League, reported to CUNA that credit unions there "were very lucky. We maintained power throughout the terrible storms. Cities north and west of us didn't fare so well, especially Vilonia. All my credit unions came through unscathed, but many members have lost their homes and belongings." For the reports on Alabama credit unions, see related story in System "Alabama CUs damaged in Wednesday's tornadoes."

CU System brief (04/28/2011)

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* MADISON, Wis. (4/29/11)--Matt Davis has been named director of innovation at the Filene Research Institute, effective May 23. Davis previously worked on helping credit unions build on the institute's i3 (Ideas, Innovation, Implementation) projects. He has been a Filene partner since 2007 as part of 30 under 30, and worked on a contract basis as an innovation implementation adviser in the fall of 2009. He also founded CUWaterCooler.com, which helped 250 credit unions launch Debt in Focus. Davis will work with Chief Innovation Officer Denise Gabel and the i3 program …

Western Bridge unveils its new name

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (4/29/11)--Western Bridge Corporate FCU’s Charter Committee on Tuesday selected United Resources FCU as the new name to be submitted with the corporate’s chartering application to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) for approval. The name was selected from more than 70 submissions collected by the committee for consideration. “We wanted a name that reflected the unique advantages of the credit union model when members join together to share resources,” said Matt Davidson, chairman of the board of the future credit union. “It’s a simple reminder of why we want this new corporate.” Western Bridge Corporate FCU was created by NCUA in September to continue to provide correspondent services to credit union members of WesCorp.

CUNA Mutual Move on health care despite legal challenges

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AUSTIN, Texas (4/29/11)--Credit unions should proceed with changes required by the Health Reform Law despite the legal challenges the law faces, a CUNA Mutual employee benefits product manager told a Texas Credit Union League annual meeting audience Wednesday.
Click to view larger image CUNA Mutual Group’s Brad Pricer, senior manager of employee benefits product management, discusses the Health Care Reform Law with a breakout session audience Wednesday at the Texas Credit Union League Meeting and Expo in Austin, Texas. (Photo provided by CUNA Mutual Group)
Passed just over a year ago, the Health Care Reform Law mandated sweeping changes for health and welfare plans, said Brad Pricer, CUNA Mutual senior manager of employee benefits product management. But legal challenges have left some employers unsure how to proceed with those changes. A recent federal court decision in Florida found the law to be unconstitutional. “There are approximately 25 lawsuits filed by numerous states challenging the constitutionality of various provisions of the health care reform laws, creating much political discussion and an uncertain path for business owners and employees,” Pricer said. Despite the legal limbo, Pricer stressed that employers should begin or continue compliance efforts. “The decision in Florida clearly states that the health care reform laws are still in effect,” Pricer said. “It is important to understand that this decision is not settled as appeals are almost certain to take place.” Pricer highlighted some key provisions of the Health Care Reform Law scheduled to go into effect this year:
* Consumer rebates for excessive medical loss ratios are available; * Employers may optionally report health coverage costs on form W-2; * “Qualified medical expenses” now conform to a definition used for the itemized tax deduction; * Employees need a prescription to be reimbursed for over-the-counter medications/supplies through some health plans; * A Simple Cafeteria Plan is created to provide small businesses an easier way to sponsor a cafeteria plan; * Medicare Part D discounts are instituted; and * Grants for wellness programs are established.
With all of the required changes, many credit union human resource directors and their staffs are feeling overwhelmed with the complexities associated with understanding and accurately applying the new health-care reform laws, Pricer said. “They are being inundated daily with paperwork, forms, compliance mandates and deadlines and don’t feel they have ample time or manpower to manage it effectively,” he said. “But it’s a challenge you don’t have to take on alone.” CUNA Mutual has programs, products and resources to help navigate health care reform, Pricer said. These include:
* Online tools--timelines, legislative briefs, model notices and forms; * Answers and personal assistance from CUNA Mutual’s Employee Benefits Advocacy Center; and * Personalized consultation from employee-benefits professionals.

Texas CUs told Ask right questions on loan strategies

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AUSTIN, Texas (4/29/11)--Determining an appropriate lending strategy requires credit union leaders to ask themselves the right questions, based on their members’ needs and continually advancing technology, says CUNA Mutual Group.
Click to view larger image CUNA Mutual Group Sales Specialists Mark T. Nelson (left) and Robert Israelite speak to members of the Texas Credit Union League at their 77th annual convention and expo. (Photo provided by CUNA Mutual Group)
Evaluating considerations and presenting options were only part of what CUNA Mutual’s Robert Israelite and Mark Nelson shared with members of the Texas Credit Union League Thursday at the league’s 77th annual meeting and expo. Israelite, a sales specialist, told the workshop attendees to consider open-end and closed-end lending when developing their approach to lending. While both are legitimate lending options, they have different disclosures and documents, he said. “What you want your members’ lending experience to be will be one of the strategic questions to consider when deciding your lending approach,” Israelite said, adding that a one-size-fits-all approach is not right for all credit unions. While closed-end lending takes a traditional approach, open-end lending allows the process to be conducted remotely. The convenience and simplification can be a differentiator for members, said Nelson, also a sales specialist. Nelson added that progress in technology--Internet lending, electronic signatures and mobile lending--add to the opportunities available. “The advancements in mobile lending and electronic signatures will change the way your members borrow,” Nelson said. “Your credit union needs to be ready.” Because the lending landscape continues to change due to regulatory and technology influences, Israelite and Nelson recommended credit unions answer these questions when planning a lending approach:
* What does the credit union want its members’ lending experience to be? * What products does it offer? * How do members prefer to close loans? * What is the credit union’s position on remote lending channels? * Where does the credit union lend? Different states have different regulations. * How comfortable is staff with regulatory ambiguity? * Does the state allow electronic filing of titles? * How strong and competent is the credit union’s compliance support?
Nelson suggested credit unions engage their compliance and operational partners--data processor, document provider, legal adviser--and answer thought-provoking questions to determine their consumer-lending approach.

Report shares N.Y. CUs outreach efforts

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ALBANY, N.Y. (4/29/11)--The Credit Union Association of New York has released its 2010 MORE (Member Outreach and Reinvestment Endeavor) Report, an annual compilation of New York credit unions’ outreach efforts. This year’s edition features more than 900 entries from 80 credit unions representing all 14 association chapters. The report outlines credit union outreach efforts in adult financial education, community investment and outreach, customized products and services, financial counseling, immigrant outreach, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and youth financial education. The 2010 MORE Report was shared with lawmakers during the association’s Governmental Affairs Conference to offer evidence of how credit unions fulfill their mission. A few of the stories documented in the report:
* Alternatives FCU, Ithaca, partnered with Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce to educate self-employed individuals and local small-business owners about health-care legislation changes and applicable credits. * CORE FCU, East Syracuse, underwrote, with assistance from a New York Credit Union Foundation grant, the second annual Teen Finance Forum at ESM High School. Students from 10 area high schools participated in the day-long financial literacy event. The credit union also continued operating a student-run branch at the school. * Union Settlement FCU, New York, as part of its monthly Money Smart seminar series, hosted a free Debt 911-Emergency Financial Relief seminar in both English and Spanish. The seminar covered topics such as the collection process, the dangers of debt-reduction agencies, consumer rights under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, the civil lawsuit process in New York State and the pros and cons of bankruptcy. Participants also were offered a free credit report, credit score and counseling session to improve their credit scores.
Also included in the report are the results from the 2010 More Report Survey. Among the survey findings:
* Nearly 60% of New York’s credit unions offered customized products for youth. * New York credit unions educated more than 65,000 of the state’s young people through financial education programs. * They provided training for more than 45,000 New York consumers at adult financial education sessions, 20,000 of whom were members of underserved communities; * More than 57% of New York’s credit unions partnered with other organizations. * They gave nearly $3 million to community organizations in 2010. * New York credit unions were involved in nearly 7,000 charities and community boards.