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Filene i3 innovations move toward implementation

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MADISON, Wis. (5/20/08)--Eight new projects by the Filene Research Institute's i3 innovations group were highlighted at Filene's Cherry Blossom Gathering of credit union executives recently at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The eight presentations likely will become part of credit union operations before long, said Filene in a press release. The projects include:
* Single Again. The project targets newly divorced or widowed credit union members and their needs regarding loan modifications. Team spokesman Mike Fletcher, vice president of marketing and development at Portland-based West CU, said the project can fill a void while strengthening the relationship between member and the credit union. * First Step Program. The First Step Program is designed to assist members with their dreams and to get them one step closer to financial freedom. It targets people who are underserved by banks and who gravitate toward check cashers and payday lenders. * The Big Idea. The project also helps members "turn dreams into reality" with small business ownership. People nearing retirement age are starting their own businesses. The Big Idea would provide a business readiness tool to help members get their idea off to a good start. * Unite. Team spokesmen Steve Koenen of Altra FCU and Charlie White of Members United Corporate FCU describe United as a relationship-pricing program allowing a group of members to benefit from the collective value of participating in specific credit union products and services. The "friends and family" type of program is designed to change behavior in product usage and to help generate new memberships, retain existing ones and generate credit union advocates in the community. * Sandwich Generation. The project focuses on providing online educational resources for members caring for aging parents while supporting children or grandchildren. * Focus on Thrift--Collaboration in the Classroom. Credit unions would pool resources to hire a representative to visit schools on their behalf and to develop an online class. * Airport Oasis Lounge. This would be a designated airport luxury space for credit union members. * Choice Endings. The program would provide members with funeral planning assistance.
Filene Executive Director Mark Meyer said "every one of these ideas reflects a very real demand among credit union members." i3 can contribute potential solutions to credit unions to meet those demands, Meyer added.

CU System briefs (05/19/2008)

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* ASHEVILLE, N.C. (5/20/08)--North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has appointed K. Ray Bailey, president emeritus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, to a seat on the North Carolina Credit Union Commission ( May 17). Bailey was appointed to a four-year term, representing the western region of the state. The seven-member commission works with the Credit Union Division in the state Department of Commerce. It holds semi-annual meetings to discuss statistics, training and legislative initiatives … * WASHINGTON (5/20/08)--Credit unions have until June 17 to nominate their candidates for the Herb Wegner Memorial Awards, credit unions' highest national honor. Awards are presented for individual achievement, outstanding organization/program and lifetime achievement. To make a nomination or for more information, go to National Credit Union Foundation site … * PALO ALTO, Calif. (5/20/08)--Addison Avenue FCU has received Fannie Mae's Prime Alliance Credit Union Lender of the Year award for 2007. The award was announced at the annual Prime Alliance Symposium on May 6. Criteria reviewed included community outreach, increased loan originations and improved processing efficiencies in the mortgage department. In 2007, the credit union generated more than 990 mortgages totaling more than $300 million. Of these, more than 475 loans (totaling more than $106 million)were sold to Fannie Mae. The loans are a 129% increase over 2006 (through October) and a 140% increase of Purchase Money Mortgages (mortgages sold to Fannie Mae). Of the Purchase Money Mortgages, 14% were in areas considered underserved by Fannie Mae. That beat Addison Avenue's goal of 10%. The award winner is chosen from a national pool of credit unions … * PHOENIX (5/20/08)--Ron Amstutz, senior vice president of Phoenix-based Desert Schools FCU, received the prestigious Credit Unions for Kids Miracle Maker Award from the Children's Miracle Network (CMN) at a recent ceremony in Orlando, Fla. Amstutz was the driving force behind major fundraising efforts for Phoenix Children's Hospital's "1 Darn Cool School," an on-site classroom facility for long-term patients. Desert Schools is the top credit union in the U.S. for funds raised for CMN--with more than $1.5 million collected since 1998. In 2007, members, employees and sponsors contributed $340,000 to the hospital …

Illinois Legislative Day focuses on CU Act updates

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (5/20/08)--A record 130 credit union advocates focused on legislative issues such as updates to the Illinois Credit Union Act during the Illinois Credit Union League's annual Legislative Day recently. The updates bill, H.B. 4461, passed the state House during the day's events. The bill would authorize state-chartered credit unions to:
* Use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) for loan loss accounting, subject to an external auditor determination that the time period is in accordance with GAAP; * Provide these limited services for people eligible for membership but who aren't members of the credit union: issuance of negotiable checks (including traveler's checks), money orders and similar money transfer instruments, including electronic fund transfers; and the ability to cash checks and money orders, and receive electronic fund transfers for a fee; * Participate in the no-down-payment Housing and Community Facilities Programs established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Robert Meza, recently appointed as the new director of the Illinois Division of Financial Institutions, addressed attendees at the Illinois Credit Union League's annual Legislative Day recently. (Photo provided by the Illinois Credit Union League)
At the Legislative Day event, Paul LaVota, Missouri state representative and lecturer on advocacy, spoke about "How to speak so politicians will listen." He presented a similar session at ICUL's chapter legislative forum representatives at a dialogue session prior to the conference. Recently confirmed director of the Illinois Division of Financial Institutions Robert Meza took the opportunity to introduce himself to participants. He also spoke at ICUL's annual convention last month. League lobbyist Richard Lockhart, founder of Social Engineering Associates, was honored for 50 years of service on the floor of the Illinois General Assembly via H.R. 1021 on April 2 and with a resolution by the ICUL board on March 13. Lockhart has represented the league for 32 years and was instrumental in forming the Credit Union Political Action Council in 1976 and structuring Illinois credit unions' grassroots lobbying system. He also assisted with the recodification of the Illinois Credit Union Act in 1979 and field-of-membership expansion legislation for community chartered credit unions in 1985. More than 60 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and other dignitaries attended the event's legislative reception. The Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to conclude its Spring legislative session on May 29.

Maine league awards honor those who give back

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WESTBROOK, Maine (5/20/08)--The Maine Credit Union League recently
Robert “Bob” Leathers (left), volunteer, Eastmill FCU, with Dan Byron, Eastmill president/CEO.
honored six individuals as the recipients of the Maine credit union movement’s annual awards. The recipients were honored at a special ceremony held in Portland in early May in conjunction with the League’s 70th Annual Meeting and Convention. Nominees are submitted by credit unions, with the final winners determined by the league’s Awards and Convention Committee. Here are the 2008 league award winners:
* Alexander Ferguson Award for Outstanding Credit Union Volunteer--Robert (Bob)
From left: David Rossignol, president/CEO, Norstate FCU, and Ray Marquis, Norstate board chair.
Leathers of Eastmill FCU, East Millinocket, has served on the credit union’s board for nearly 30 years, including the position of board chair for more than 20 years. Leathers also serves as chairman of the East Millinocket School Committee, the Knights of Columbus board and several church committees. * James M. Gratto Award for Outstanding Credit Union Manager--David Rossignol, president/CEO of NorState FCU, Madawaska, was recognized as a leader, motivator and mentor for his staff. Rossignol has been with the credit union
Midcoast FCU’s Colleen McGuiggan (left) with President/CEO Gail Richardson.
for more than a decade and is also active in his community, serving on a number of committees and civic organizations. He is also a member of the league’s board, representing the Aroostook Chapter of Credit Unions. * Jeannette G. Morin Award for Outstanding Credit Union Employee--Colleen McGuiggan, human resources manager and staff supervisor at Midcoast FCU, based in Bath, has worked at the credit union for 20 years. She began as a teller and has held numerous positions. She is involved in fundraising efforts at the credit union, including the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger and Special Olympics. *
Maine league President John Murphy, right, and Sid Wilder, president/CEO, Taconnet FCU.
League President’s Award for Outstanding League Volunteer--Sid Wilder, president/CEO of Taconnet FCU in Winslow, has worked for 37 years in the Maine credit union movement and will retire this fall. He has been an active participant in the movement, serving on committees, boards and as a member of the league’s Governmental Affairs Committee for the past 10 years. Wilder was recognized by league President John Murphy for “always being willing to get involved and who is a true example of the credit union spirit of cooperation and collaboration.” *
Maine State CU’s Christina Carter, left, with President/CEO Normand Dubreuil.
Diane L. Oceretko “People Helping People” Award--Christina Carter, of Maine State CU in Augusta was recognized as a person hasn’t just talked about “people helping people,” she has done it. In her four years as a member of the credit union’s social responsibility committee, her enthusiasm has pushed her credit union to the No. 1 spot in dollars raised for the past two years for Maine Credit Union’s Campaign for Ending Hunger. Carter also devotes her energy and creativity to many other causes including serving on her local town’s PTA, volunteering in her children’s classrooms every week. *
Tucker Cole (left), president/CEO, Evergreen CU, Portland, and Maine league’s Governmental Affairs Committee chair, with Luke Labbe, president/CEO, People’s Choice CU. (Photos provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman’s Award--Luke Labbe, president/CEO of PeoplesChoice CU, Biddeford, was honored for leading by example on the importance of being active in grassroots and political activities. Labbe was recognized for pioneering a new event to raise funds for political advocacy. In five years, it has become the largest, one-day fundraiser for CULAC. As a result of this event, the league has not only been able to increase the amount of funds raised for CULAC, but raised awareness, as well. Tucker Cole, president/CEO, Evergreen CU, Portland, and the league's Governmental Affairs Committee chair, presented the award.

Ohio payday lenders close CUs touted as alternatives

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SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (5/20/08)--Credit unions received positive attention from the Ohio Coalition for Responsible Lending as a place that Ohio's consumers can turn to for alternative loans as payday lenders leave the state. The Springfield News Sun (May 16) reported that Cash America, which operates Cashland and Cash America Payday Advance, said it would close nearly all its Ohio stores in response to state legislation regulating interest rates and other payday lending practices. Tom Allio, chairman of the coalition, discussed the pending legislation, which would create a program to offer incentives for nonprofits and banks to make small loans. He told the newspaper that consumers can turn to credit unions for a "much more affordable product." The story highlighted payday alternative loans from International Harvester Employee CU, Springfield, and Wright Patt CU, Fairborn. For the full article, use the link

WOCCU tour helps Chinese co-ops study CU difference

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (5/20/08)--A 10-member contingent from China's rural credit cooperative (RCC) and regulatory systems visited California credit unions and their trade association last week. The trip, arranged by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), was arranged to help the visitors better understand credit unions' role among U.S. financial service providers.
Click to view larger imageFrom left, front: Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Unions executive vice president/chief operating officer; Zhang Gouze, officer, China banking Regulatory Commission; Barry Jolette, San Mateo CU CEO and WOCCU first vice chairman; Wange Liming, Guizhou Provincial Rural Credit Cooperative Union; O'Rourke, Sue Mitchell, Mitchell & Associates partner; and Chinese regulator Jiang Min. In back, Guizhou Provincial's Zue Wen, Wu Yong and Suo Mieying; WOCCU program specialist Andrea Dannenberg; Financial Service Centers Cooperative President/CEO Sarah Canepa Bang; interpreter Amy Yin; and Guizhou Provincial's Ma Hong, Jiang Li, Zhou Qiling and Gong Ziaohgang. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Eight managers and directors from China's Guizhou Provincial Rural Credit Cooperative Union and two managers from the Guizhou branch of the Chinese Banking Regulatory Commission met with California credit union and league executives to study competitive advantages, particularly those due to “the credit union difference.“ “This was a meeting of complementary approaches, with each group learning from the other," said Brian Branch, WOCCU's executive vice president and chief operating officer, who led the five-day visit. “WOCCU is committed to continuing to help the Chinese RCCs adapt credit union principles and systems to provide access to financial services to China's rural communities.“ The group visited the California Credit Union League, WesCorp FCU and San Mateo CU in Redwood City, Calif., to learn how the U.S. credit union system is organized and the benefits members receive over bank customers. The group sought tools and techniques applicable to China's RCCs. The visitors included Jiang Min and Zhang Guoze from the Guizhou office of the China Banking Regulatory Commission. The Guizhou Provincial Rural Credit Cooperative Union was represented by Gong Xiaogang, Jiang Li, Ma Hong, Suo Meiying, Wang Liming, Wu Yong, Xue Wen and Zhao Qiling. China's rural credit cooperatives and rural cooperative banks are working to modernize their management and operational practices while trying to maintain their member focus. Participants were particularly interested in strategic planning processes and how this enables credit unions to provide better member service. The visitors expressed particular interest in San Mateo CU's human resources management, including its performance evaluation program and compensation strategy. Participants described the transition of RCCs, which serve 200 million households on mainland China, as moving from social, mission-driven entities operating largely as charities to market-driven financial institutions with a social mission. The Chinese regulators explained the role of the provincial central organizations as one of setting uniform systems and standards from the top down. This approach provides for greater efficiency and consistency, they said, but the challenge then becomes how to provide better service to members at the credit union level. “This meeting was another in a series of efforts by WOCCU to share experiences as financial cooperatives and measure how those experiences might be applied to RCCs in China," said Barry Jolette, CEO of San Mateo CU and WOCCU first vice chairman. “This ultimately will lead to a partnership between RCCs and California credit unions.“

IAmericas Most WantedI re-enacts CU robbery

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PHOENIX (5/20/08)--The TV show, America’s Most Wanted, aired a re-enactment Saturday of two kidnapping and robbery attempts--one of which took place in October at Desert Schools FCU, Phoenix. The first attempt was thwarted when three thieves realized that the loan officer at the $3.019 billion asset credit union did not have access to the credit union’s vault (The Arizona Republic May 16). The trio--armed with semiautomatic handguns and perhaps assault weapons--had kept the employee’s spouse and child hostage, restrained in disposable nylon restraints. In a second incident, the same thieves kept a Chandler, Ariz., bank manager and wife hostage in his home for 12 hours, and drove the manager to his Wells Fargo branch, where three employees were taken hostage while the thieves emptied the safe. The TV episode will feature a sketch of a possible suspect who bought a pair of handcuffs and shackles at a Mesa, Ariz., store days before the heist.

CU in New Hampshire reports missing data disk

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MANCHESTER, N. H. (5/20/08)--A disk containing the personal information of about 3,000 members of Bellwether Community CU (BCCU) was reported lost on April 28 by the credit union, which is taking measures to ease members’ concerns about identity theft. “Although we feel the likelihood of the risk of this information being compromised is very low, we wanted to be able to provide our members tangible comfort,” Claire Castanino, BCCU executive vice president/chief operating officer, told News Now. “We did this by conducting extensive internal training with BCCU personnel to answer questions and give guidance; we authorized heightened alerts on our credit card system and credit union accounts; and we offered one year of identity theft protection and insurance free to all affected members," Castanino added. The $283.9 million asset, Manchester, N.J.-based credit union’s CEO, Michael L’Ecuyer, sent a letter to members last week apologizing for the incident (New Hampshire Union Leader May 17). “Recently, we discovered that a disk containing personal information was not immediately stored in its customary locked and secure location, and its current status cannot be verified,” L’Ecuyer wrote. "We have no evidence of theft of this disk and believe the likelihood of the risk being compromised is very low. The disk contained information such as names, address, Social Security numbers, birth date, Visa account information and in some cases, BCCU account numbers,” the CEO said. There was no indication of criminal activity. Rather it is believed the disk had been misfiled or accidentally thrown way, Castanino said. However, members should keep a close eye on their accounts and statements, given the nature of the situation, Castanino added.

Regulator Loan types a factor in Wis. CUs first quarter

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (5/20/08)--The type of lending typically conducted by Wisconsin credit unions makes them less susceptible to the loan problems facing the state's banks, according to Wisconsin's credit union regulator. Earnings for Wisconsin's credit unions during first quarter increased almost 20%, according to a state report (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel May 15). Credit unions' net income for the quarter ending March 31 totaled more than $28.1 million, up from $23.5 million for the first quarter 2007. Suzanne T. Cowan, director of the Wisconsin Office of Credit Unions, told the Journal Sentinel that banks have been hurt by loans to home developers who ran into trouble when the housing slump hit. Much of credit unions' lending is concentrated in first mortgages and auto loans, she said. Because credit unions are smaller, they have more conservative loans. The two largest banks in the state saw earnings drop--a 33% decline at Marshall & Ilsley, located in Milwaukee, and a 9.4% decline at Associated Banc-Cop in Green Bay.

Groundbreakings of Homes for Our Troops on video

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WASHINGTON (5/20/08)--Videos of the groundbreakings of two homes in the "Homes for Our Troops" project involving credit unions is available on the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) website. CUNA, along with the National Journal Group and the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, are jointly sponsoring homes for two disabled U.S. servicemen wounded in the line of duty. Credit unions will build the homes for Army Sgt. Marcus Kuboy in St. Paul, Minn., site of the Republican convention, and Staff Sgt. Travis Strong in Golden, Colo., near the Denver site of the Democratic convention. At each national convention, America's Credit Unions look for opportunities to give back to the host cities. Homes for Our Troops is a nonprofit organization that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured service members. For more information, use the link.