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Early bird deadline extended for WOCCU conference

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MADISON, Wis. (5/21/09)--The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) extended the deadline for reduced registration fees for the World Credit Union Conference--to be held July 26-29 in Barcelona, Spain--to help credit unions affected by the economy. The early bird price will be honored through June 2 for all attendees, companions and day tours. The extension will save registrants $200. WOCCU also negotiated reduced hotel rates at all three conference hotels, and those rates also will be honored until June 2. Attendees from more than 40 countries already have registered, WOCCU said. For more information, use the link.

Georgia CUs have to start telling our story more

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ATLANTA (5/21/09)--Georgia credit unions are aggressively trying to educate members and nonmembers about the benefits of credit unions, especially during the recession and banking crisis, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (May 20). "People don't know much about credit unions," said Michael Mercer, president/CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates. "We have a great reputation, but poor awareness. We have to start telling our story more," Mercer told the newspaper. The affiliates recently released a new report that shows credit unions on average offer better rates on loans and higher returns on savings than banks. Credit unions also aired a marketing campaign last fall with radio spots and billboards promoting credit unions as strong and safe, with money to lend. The article also notes that credit union executives say the financial crisis provides a chance to grab new business. In the article, Marshall Boutwell, president/CEO of Gwinnett FCU, says the recession "has caused consumers to re-evaluate where they feel comfortable, and the big impersonal bank is less comfortable than it used to be." The $112 million asset credit union is based in Lawrenceville. Credit union lending volume in Georgia rose 14% last year while banks in the state averaged flat growth. Deposits rose nearly 10% for credit unions, compared with a 3% increase in deposits at banks. To be more convenient, credit unions have opened branches in grocery stores, launched online services, and partnered with other credit unions in shared-branching arrangements, the article noted. It pointed out that the differences in the cooperative structure of credit unions and noted bankers' bristle at their tax-exempt status. The state saw 11 small banks fail last year, while no credit unions in the state have been taken over by regulators, the newspaper said.

Expect decline in remittances for 2009

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MADISON, Wis. (5/21/09)--Remittances to the Carribean and Latin America will likely decline in 2009 for the first time in nearly a decade, a trend that will impact credit unions, says the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). The Inter-American Development Bank, based in Washington. D.C., started tracking international remittances in 2000, and said this is the first year they will decrease. The bank noted the amount of money sent to the region started to decline late last year (Miami Business Review May 20). “Because our recession has been a sharp and painful one, there’s been a sizeable loss of jobs” that have impacted business sectors that rely on migrant labor such as construction and tourism, Manuel Lasaga, economist and president of Miami-based Stratinfo, told the Review. Another reason for the drop is that remittances and migrant labor have grown substantially worldwide and are more sensitive to the global economy’s cyclical swings, Lasaga added. Remittance activities through IRNet, the remittance service offered by WOCCU Services Group, WOCCU’s for-profit subsidiary, are showing some consistencies with national trends, depending on the country in question and the competitive situation within each country, WOCCU told News Now. Currently, 109 U.S. credit unions participate in IRNet and send remittances to credit unions in eight countries. Since the service was established in 2001, IRNet has supported 148,000 transactions valued at $80 million. “The IRNet program has seen a slight downturn over the past four years, with Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua following the national trends in declining remittances, according to first-quarter 2009 statistics,” WOCCU said. “However, during that same period, remittances to El Salvador have remained constant, while there have been increases in remittances to Ecuador and Kenya. Peru, which entered the program this year, also has seen growth during the first quarter.” Roughly $283 billion in remittances were sent to countries worldwide in 2008, with $67.5 billion sent to Latin America alone, WOCCU added. “The global economic downturn has found many Latin American workers returning to their home countries due to lack of available work in host countries, causing significant declines in remittance activities,” WOCCU said.

Missouri CU leaders in article on U.S. Central impact

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (5/21/09)--The Kansas City Business Journal featured two credit union leaders in a May 15 article about U.S. Central FCU.'
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Titled "Effects of U.S. Central Federal Credit Union Takeover Ripple Through System," the story included information from Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) President/CEO Rosie Holub and Kansas City-based CommunityAmerica CU CEO Dennis Pierce (The Missouri difference May 20). "Although retail credit unions didn't participate in subprime loans, corporate credit unions were given the powers to invest in securities," said Holub in the article. "They invested in AAA securities, thought to be the safest there were, but the underpinning home values were highly inflated and eventually brought the ratings of those securities down." Pierce noted a significant distinction that sets credit unions apart from other financial institutions. "The interesting thing with our situation is that to date we've been able to manage the cost of this event internally within the Credit Union System," he said. "There has not been any government funds used in that process. While there is some financial impact, we are still safe and sound institutions that are aggressively trying to take care of consumer needs." To read the article, use the link.

Montana CU Network names board officers

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HELENA, Mont. (5/21/09)--At the Montana CU Network (MCUN) annual business meeting May 15, member credit unions voted to retain the current members of the board whose terms were up for re-election, and elected new officers.
Click to view larger image The 2009 Montana Credit Union Network board comprises, standing (from left): Greg Strizich, Wally Berry, Bernie Neibauer, Tom Boos, Bob Bjelland and Leslie Hunter. Sitting (form left): Chris Sisco, Jeremy Presta and Kathy Shea. (Photo provided by the Montana Credit Union Network)
Kathy Shea, president/CEO of Heritage FCU, Butte, will serve as board chair; Chris Sisco, president/CEO of Montana 1st CU, Missoula as vice chair; Tom Boos, president/CEO of Billings FCU, Billings as secretary; and Greg Strizich, president/CEO of Helena (Mont.) Community CU as controller. MCUN's board consists of nine members--five who represent the state’s credit unions both regionally and demographically and four at-large seats. The current board members are:
* Wally Berry, president/CEO of Montana FCU, Great Falls, representing Montana’s Northern District; * Shea, representing the Central District; * Boos, representing the Southern District; * Leslie Hunter, president/CEO of Glendive PE FCU, Glendive, representing Montana credit unions with less than 3,000 members; and * Jeremy Presta, president/CEO of Park Side FCU, Whitefish, representing Montana credit unions with more than 3,000 members.
At-large seat board members are:
* Bob Bjelland, president/CEO of Fergus FCU, Lewistown; * Bernie Neibauer, president/CEO of Russell Country FCU, Great Falls; * Sisco; and * Strizich.

CU System briefs (05/20/2009)

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* DEER PARK, Texas (5/21/09)--Shell FCU has launched a new green corporate website, www.shellfcu.org, to strengthen its commitment to the environment. The website displays an environmentally conscious design and features such as pocasts, videos, an event calendar, knowledge base, calculators, featured rates, news, an iLife link, home banking access and more. The design also incorporates a micro site for mobile devices. The new mobile site offers more functions such as featured rates, branch locations, credit union contact information and shared-branch and ATM interactive search features. Last June, Shell received a Greenified certification from the Green Business Alliance by implementing operating procedures to benefit the environment and employees … * BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (5/21/09)--Vince Rojas, 69, plans to retire as president/CEO of Kern Schools FCU, Bakersfield, Calif., in January. A search for his replacement was launched last week. Rojas was scheduled to retire this year, but agreed to work another year as the credit union recovers from losses (The Bakersfield Californian May 19). Kern Schools FCU lost $24 million last year due to rising unemployment and the troubled housing market. Kern Schools, which has $1.7 billion in assets, lost another $26 million during the first three months of this year. The credit union is making progress restoring its net worth, and Rojas has been credited with increasing the credit union’s assets during his tenure, the newspaper said ... * CHANDLER, Ariz. (5/21/09)-- First CU, a $474.4 million asset, Chandler, Ariz.-based credit union, made a $5,000 on-air donation
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during NBC Channel 12’s First Annual “Give for Kids” Give-A-Thon benefiting Phoenix Children's Hospital (PCH). The donation was raised at First CU branches statewide by selling candy bars and toys to members, with all proceeds going to Children's Miracle Network. PCH is a member of the network. First CU employees also volunteered their time during the give-a-thon by answering phones for incoming donations. Throughout the day, local celebrities made appearances, donated gifts and challenged callers in hopes of generating more donations. The event produced $107,539 in donations. From left are: Mark Curtis, News 12 anchor; Lori Gallegos, chief operations officer, First CU; and Desiree Hoogerhuis, community outreach coordinator, First CU. (Photo provided by First CU) …

Arizona State CU employee saves members life

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PHOENIX (5/21/09)--An Arizona State CU employee saved a member’s life after going the extra mile to prevent her from taking what could have been a fatal dose of insulin. Employee Christina Maulfair received a call from a pharmacy, saying that one of Arizona State CU’s members, Denise Dewyer, had been given the wrong dose of her prescription. Dewyer, a diabetic, routinely purchased insulin from the pharmacy. The dose she had just received was five times more potent than she needed. If she took the medicine, she would die, the pharmacy said. “I never expected to receive a call like this,” Maulfair said. Dewyer used a credit union debit card to pay for her medicine. The pharmacy had no other contact information for her, so it looked up her payment records and found Dewyer paid with a credit union debit card. Maulfair could not release Dewyer’s contact information to the pharmacy to protect her privacy. Instead, she began attempting to contact Dewyer herself. After a phone call to Dewyer went unanswered, Maulfair rushed to Dewyer’s home. She knocked on the door repeatedly to no avail. Maulfair then wrote multiple notes to Dewyer and posted them at each entrance to her home. Dewyer found the notes shortly after and contacted her pharmacy before taking the medicine. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to Christina for going above and beyond and preventing me from using medication that could have killed me,” Dewyer said. “It’s not often that you get to thank someone for saving your life.” “Everyone here would have done exactly the same thing,” Maulfair said. “I’m just so glad I was able to reach her in time.” Dewyer, who has had an account with Arizona State CU for more than 15 years, said she will not be going anywhere else to do her banking. Arizona State CU, Phoenix, has $1.3 billion in assets.

Filene i3 seeks CUs for debt-management tool tests

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MADISON, Wis. (5/21/09)--The Filene Research Institute’s i3 innovation group is looking for credit unions to implement a new, Web-based debt management tool to help credit union members control their finances. Debt in Focus helps members look at debt-to-income ratios and debt payment schedules, and then creates an action plan users can follow to control their finances. The tool does not ask users for their names, Social Security numbers or e-mail addresses. Filene is seeking credit unions to implement Debt in Focus to help refine the beta version. There is no charge for the beta version, since it is being developed further at Filene. Credit unions interested in the tool can attend one of two upcoming webinars scheduled for May 27 or June 11. Both begin at 1 p.m. CDT. To register for the webinars, use the link.

2009 ICU Day theme announced

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MADISON, Wis. (5/21/09)--In response to the challenges facing credit unions and cooperatives worldwide, this year’s International Credit Union (ICU) Day theme will remind people everywhere of the advantages that credit unions provide their members. ICU Day is Oct. 15 and takes place during National Credit Union Week. The idea for this year’s theme, “Your Money. Your Choice. Your Credit Union.” was developed by Stan Cowan of A+ FCU in Austin, Texas. The theme celebrates the reasons why 177 million people worldwide choose credit unions. Value, trust and service to members, all represented in the theme, are just a few of the many reasons credit unions are chosen by people seeking access to fair and affordable financial services according to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). “This year, more than ever, consumer finance and business experts have repeatedly highlighted credit unions as safe and sound institutions where people can depend on a trusting relationship,” said WOCCU President/CEO Pete Crear. “That is truly an accomplishment we can be proud of in these tumultuous times, and we should celebrate it this October.” Credit union leaders around the world agree that now is the time to come together and promote the credit union difference, WOCCU said. “In a time of economic upheaval when control has largely been taken out of the hands of consumers, this year's theme demonstrates that members, through equal ownership and voting rights, are squarely in charge of their credit unions,” said Dan Mica, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). “We are pleased to work with other national and international groups on the campaign to promote International Credit Union Day and Co-op Week,” said David Phillips, president/CEO of Credit Union Central of Canada. “We work with these groups year-round on projects that support important initiatives that help members around the world cope with trying economic times.” Like their colleagues around the world, credit unions in Peru continue to find new ways to serve their members through changing times,” said Manuel Rabines, second vice chair of WOCCU and president of the Peruvian National Credit Union Association. “As a global movement, it's important we take time this year to demonstrate our strength and remind people about the many benefits we provide to our members.” ICU Day has been celebrated annually on the third Thursday of October since 1948. The celebration of Co-op Week that same week in Canada became a national event in 1982. In the U.S., October is also designated as National Cooperative Month celebrating all cooperatives including grocery, agricultural and energy co-ops, and credit unions. “While today's economic times pose serious challenges, they also provide an opportunity for the cooperative sector to demonstrate the differences between co-ops and traditional business models,” said Canadian Co-operative Association Executive Director Carol Hunter. “We know that people are increasingly interested in supporting organizations that are open, democratic and put people before profits, and that's what cooperatives and credit unions are all about.”