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Boulder Municipal Employees FCU offers free WiFi access

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BOULDER, Colo. (4/3/08)--Boulder Municipal Employees FCU (BME FCU) is helping its members and community become more connected while also marketing itself to the community by offering free WiFi access in Boulder. “It’s pretty neat to be able to offer this service,” BME CEO Ann Babiak told News Now. The network is a “great tool to attract the younger generation,” Babiak said. “Our credit union membership is getting older. We need to attract younger members.” The network covers downtown Boulder and areas around the credit union’s main office. Anyone can use the network, and because of web direction technology, users are automatically routed to a BME FCU home page. There, they can find information about local events, entertainment, restaurants--and how to become a credit union member. The credit union plans to expand the network throughout the county and in nearby Lafayette by selling ads to small business that will appear on the home page. “We don’t want to place limits on (the network),” Jeff Recker, BME vice president of information technology, told News Now. “We want to serve members and give back to the community.” The idea for the network came about one year ago. “We’d just put in our fifth ATM,” Babiak said. “Jeff and I were talking about how strategically placed our ATMs are, and Jeff said we have great locations for WiFi and should utilize that,” she said. So far, the network has received “excellent” feedback. As of yesterday, BME had secured two other small businesses that wanted to place WiFi signals on their buildings. Babiak also encouraged credit unions to “think outside the box.” BME is one of the smallest credit unions in the state, and size shouldn’t limit creativity, she said. Recker noted that the network will continue to improve. “It’s definitely a work in progress,” he said.

CU System briefs (04/03/2008)

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* ARVADA, Colo. (4/4/08)--The time and place have changed for the funeral service for Bill Sterner, president of Elevations CU, Boulder, and chairman of the Credit Union Association of Colorado and of Credit Union Strategic Partners. Visitation will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Crist Mortuary, 3395 Penrose Place, Boulder, CO 80301. The funeral service will be at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at 1st United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder … *
PORTLAND, Ore. (4/4/08)--Michael Cline, president/CEO of Oregonians CU based in Portland, has announced his retirement, effective March 31. Chuck Garner has been named new president/CEO in accordance with the credit union's succession plan. Cline, with 39 years' experience in financial institutions, led the $220 million asset since 2005 when Oregonians was created with the merger of three credit unions: Oregon Central, Oregonian Federal, and Mt. View Federal. He had served as Oregon Central CU since 2001. Garner had been executive vice president of Oregonians CU since 2005 after serving as CEO of Oregonian Federal since 1981. He has worked in financial services since 1973. Oregonians CU has six branches in the Portland area, Eugene and Prineville. It has more than 30,000 members and serves almost 3,000 select employer groups … * HARRISBURG, Pa., and PHILADELPHIA (4/4/08)--Philadelphia FCU has been designated as a Small Business Administration (SBA) Guaranteed Lender in Eastern Pennsylvania, says the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway April 3). "In this type of economic climate, small business owners need access to capital to start their businesses and keep them growing," said David Dickson, SBA district director, during a visit to the credit union's Operations Center. "SBA guaranteed loan programs help keep those lifelines open and I am happy that PFCU is joining us in those efforts." Accompanying him on the visit was Michael Kane, business development specialist with SBA. They presented a plaque to credit union President/CEO James McAneney and Vice President of Lending Claire Ippoliti …

TJX Cos. settles with MasterCard

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FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (4/4/08)--TJX Cos. Inc. has entered into an agreement with MasterCard International Inc. to settle a lawsuit related to the largest data breach in history. The TJX breach compromised as many as 94 million cards, including those issued by credit unions. The agreement calls for MasterCard to make alternative recovery offers to its eligible card issuers who issued payment cards claimed as compromised in the breach. MasterCard will recommend that eligible MasterCard issuers accept such offers. TJX will fund up to a maximum $24 million (pre-tax) in alternative recovery payments, depending on the extent of acceptance by card issuers. The settlement sets one condition: Issuers of at least 90% of the accounts claimed in the breach must accept the alternative recovery offers by May 2. Accepting issuers will release and indemnify TJX and its acquiring banks on their claims, the claims of their affiliated issuers, and those of their sponsored issuers as MasterCard issuers related to the intrusion. That includes claims in putative class actions in federal and Massachusetts state courts. The Framingham, Mass., discount retailer announced the settlement Wednesday in a press release (Business Wire April 2). The funds to pay the alternative recovery payment settlement were put aside in reserves that TJX established earlier for costs related to the computer intrusion. TJX had already entered a separate settlement with Visa U.S.A. in December, where 95% of financial institutions eligible for U.S. Visa accounts potentially affected accepted an alternative recovery offer. That deal had required 80% of the institutions eligible to accept the alternative recovery offer (News Now Dec. 21). Some credit unions and banks opted not to take the settlement in the Visa case and have separate lawsuits pending. For example, SELCO Community CU in Eugene, Ore., and AmeriFirst Bank in Alabama are appealing the dismissal of their class action lawsuit against the retailer (News Now March 26).

Missouri CUs OK dues schedule meet legislators

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Missouri State Sen. Norma Champion (R-30) speaks with Ralph Tate, Postal Federal Community CU, Springfield, during a legislative reception at the Missouri Credit Union Association’s 79th Annual Advocacy Business Meeting in Jefferson City, Monday and Tuesday.
St. Louis-based First Missouri CU staff and volunteers visit with Missouri State Rep. Pat Yaeger (D-96) (seated) in her Jefferson City office, as part of the Missouri Credit Union Association’s 79th Annual Advocacy and Business Meeting earlier this week. (Photos provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association)
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (4/4/08)--Missouri credit unions approved a new dues structure April 1 to celebrate the Missouri Credit Union Association’s (MCUA) 79th Annual Advocacy and Business Meeting in Jefferson City.The new dues formula takes effect in 2009 and will have the most impact on small credit unions, resulting in as much as 17% savings for some of them, MCUA said (CourierNet April 2). The main focus of the Annual Advocacy and Business Meeting was to meet with state lawmakers, who learned how credit unions make the difference for Missouri consumers during the two-day event Monday and Tuesday. More than 50 state legislators attended MCUA’s legislative dinner reception Monday. The reception featured displays highlighting credit unions’ involvement with specific financial education, consumer advocacy and charitable programs. Credit union staff and volunteers were formally recognized Tuesday on the Missouri House and Senate floors at the Missouri Capitol. Attendees visited lawmakers, and delivered gifts and the credit union difference message. The league also presented the 2007 Missouri credit union awards and recognized “You Make the Difference” advocacy award winners during another reception.

Brennan named new CEO of Irish League of CUs

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DUBLIN, Ire. (4/4/08)--The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) announced Thursday it has appointed Kieron Brennan as its new CEO. Brennan, 48, of Dublin is a manager with POBAL, a not-for-profit company focused on community development and financing. The company manages programs on behalf of the Irish government and the European Union (Business and Finance Daily News Service. He previously was manager, Ireland, at Triodos Bank, one of Europe's largest ethical banks; executive director of Clann Credo, a social investment fund; CEO of Partas, which supports the development of local enterprise and the social economy, and program evaluator with the European Social Fund Program evaluation unit. The appointment was announced by Uel Adair, president of ILCU, who said Brennan's "unique financial and community development background has equipped him well to contribute to the ongoing development of the Irish credit union movement." Brennan succeeds Liam O'Dwyer in the position.

90 of small businesses see opportunity in recession

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MADISON, Wis. (4/4/08)--Despite the current U.S. economic downturn, small businesses are prepared to cope and even grow, according to Intuit Inc.’s “Get Back to Business” survey. Credit unions serving these businesses can grow along with them. The survey indicates nine out of 10 small U.S. small business owners see opportunities in the current recession, and about 75% expect to grow (BusinessWire April 3). The survey was recently conducted for Quickbooks, which makes small-business accounting software. Two-thirds of small business owners surveyed said they have experienced economic downturns in the past and will rely on their experience and passion to grow. The majority of respondents indicated that customer retention was their No. 1 priority (63%). Their second priority was focusing on finances. “Small business owners are extremely adaptable and nimble individuals. Faced with climbing gas prices and tightening credit standards, they continually prove to be the driving force of our economy,” said Rick Jensen, senior vice president of Intuit’s small business division. “It is their unrelenting passion for serving their customers that enables small businesses to innovate and ultimately succeed in the face of any challenge the market presents them.” What does this mean to credit unions? “Clearly, credit unions share the same passion for serving their members as small businesses do,” Jon Haller, Credit Union National Association director of corporate and market research, told News Now. “Therefore, we feel there are tremendous opportunities for credit unions to measure and identify their members’ satisfaction and how members feel their credit union can better serve their needs.” Contrary to what may be the common wisdom, tight economic times are really a good time for keeping a finger on the pulse of what members may want and need from credit unions, Haller said. “People will be seeking fewer loans, so there will be a smaller pie that credit unions have out there,” Haller added. “So it’s more important than ever for credit unions to identify and shore up any product- or service-related issues that may exist.”

BizKid participant to be honored at White House

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WASHINGTON (4/4/08)--Biz Kid Raphael Spiro, founder of Bedsidebooks, is one of 10 youngsters in America who will receive presidential recognition for his social entrepreneurship. The award will be presented at the White House on April 16th during Financial Literacy Month, according to the Washington Credit Union League. Bedsidebooks is a program of student volunteers who collect, sort and deliver recycled books to needy members of the community. BizKid$, a public television series that aims to teach youth about financial literacy, is garnering international attention (News Now Sept. 20). The show has an underwriting partnership with JA Worldwide and America's Credit Unions. About 140 organizations, including credit unions and credit union leagues, provide funding for the show. About one-third of the show's total underwriting budget was provided by the National Credit Union Foundation. BizKid$ has been positioned as family viewing in a number of markets, which encourages kids to watch the show with their parents.

CO-OP CUs should convert ACH to debit

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (4/4/08)--In a tight economy, credit unions should convert their cash, check and automated clearinghouse transactions to debit transactions to increase revenue, says James Hanisch of CO-OP Financial Services. Credit unions can earn revenues on interchange fees when a transaction is made. “Generally, there is no interchange income to credit unions on cash or check transactions,” Hanisch said. He is executive vice president of network operations and chief administration officer with CO-OP. Debit transactions, both signature and personal identification number-based, earn revenue. The amount depends on the merchant, but the range is “realistically 25 cents to 40 cents on average” per transaction, he said. “CO-OP for many years has encouraged credit unions to market to their members the benefits of using debit cards,” he said. Credit unions looking to convert their transactions to debit will have to invest in marketing and behavior change for their members. “They should encourage their members to pull cards instead of cash,” he said. Cash still accounts for roughly one-third of all transactions, Hanisch said. Any transaction with income is better than a transaction that doesn’t generate income, he concluded.

CUs members contacted by hoaxers posing as police

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ALBANY, N.Y. (4/4/08)--Several members of SEFCU, Albany, N.Y., have been contacted by scammers posing as police and claiming to be helping with the Hannaford Bros. security breach. The scammers asked members for their name, address, home phone, and the last four digits of their Social Security number. Scammers told the members the information was needed to help those whose credit cards may have been compromised by the Hannaford security breach, Michael Castellana, SEFCU CEO, told News Now. Hannaford Bros. is the Maine-based grocery chain that announced March 17 that it had found customers’ card data had been pilfered while in transit during transactions from 300 grocery stores in the Northeast and Florida. It warned its customers that follow-up phishing and vishing often occur after security breaches. Several members called the $1.474 billion asset credit union, saying they had been contacted by individuals claiming to be police. “Of those who called, none had given out the information,” Castellana said. It is not known how many members were contacted by scammers, he added. The credit union placed an alert on its website and is talking to members about the scam when they come into its branches. SEFCU also reminded members that it would not contact them in the manner the scammers have, Castellana said. Castellana said it’s unfortunate that credit union resources are tapped to address issues such as scams. He expects that it will only get worse. “There are a lot of people trying to get their hands on members’ information, and it’s up to us to stand in the way of the members and the bad guys,” he said.