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Innovations FCU Flash Mob gets the word out

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (5/26/10)--They may be just dancin' fools, but Innovations FCU's Flash Mob team members are creating the Buzz about the credit union in an innovative way: By having fun. They have the youtube video to prove it. The mob--about 50 employees, Facebook fans, members and family--appeared at the grand opening of the NorthWest Beaches International Airport Monday in what seemed like a spontaneous display of party-down-itis. The video shows a typical grand opening crowd milling about on the asphalt until the Panama City-based, $150 million asset credit union's CEO, David Southall, snaps shut his cell phone. He takes a couple of dance steps as the music begins. Gradually people--secretly the mob--fall into step with him, form lines and dance four numbers to the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and hip hop. The mob drew people, photographers, and news hounds who watched the line-dance routines. Then the music went off and they all just milled back into the crowd. Southall told News Now that the spontaneous burst of dancing took weeks to choreograph. "It was all a secret," he said, adding they worked with a partner at the local radio station. "Holly and I choreographed everything, and we held practices for two months. We recruited team members and gave them an instructional DVD to watch so they'd be familiar with the moves when we started practicing. "We practiced every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after work, with 10 or 20 team members at a time. Then we got the whole group together." The group also had to get the permission of the Transportation Authority and airport. "This was tricky because the governor was pulling up as we did the routine. We had a permit for a four-minute routine from 11:16 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.," Southall said. "People were already seated in chairs for the governor's appearance, and they were turning around, heads popping up like popcorn and cell phone cameras going off. Then the news people picked it up. We had t-shirts afterward so everyone knew we were Innovations FCU," Southall said. "We wanted it on youtube, not the news. Those watching the news wouldn't understand what we were doing." The video on Youtube proved to be so popular Monday morning that Youtube suspected the hits were falsely escalated; Youtube locked the video's hits counter but unlocked it Monday night. The video counted 1,600 hits Tuesday. "Our phones are ringing, people are talking about us on their Facebook pages. People want to become a member. They want to work at the credit union," Southall said. "Credit unions can be so boring and they don't have to be. You can't make banking cool, but you can have a bank that does cool things," he said. Innovations FCU used to be a military credit union--"old, stale and boring," he said. "We changed our business model to having fun and providing exceptional service. We got rid of the teller lines and opened up a dialogue where we meet members and work together on the transaction. We hired sales people; not everyone worked for a credit union before. Our philosophy is to have a good time providing that exceptional service. It's what others want to do but they don't have the resources." The credit union is attracting younger members. "You have to do the things that attract them, go where they go. You can't attract young people with a billboard or a TV commercial. You have to get to where they're doing things." Since Southall became CEO at the end of 2004 and the credit union became a community charter, it has seen a doubling of assets, of members and of loans, he said. The credit union will have another "flash mob" at a street festival on the first Friday in June. "It's a venue that is held outside, with music, and bands, and it's a party crowd. That's our youth market. We want their business," he told News Now Check out the video and turn the music up loud.

N.J. municipal deposits bill adds a supporter

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TRENTON, N.J. (5/26/10)--New Jersey State Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-16) has added his name as a co-sponsor of a state municipal deposits bill, S-1807, giving it strong bi-partisan leadership support, said the New Jersey Credit Union League. The bill would mean counties, school boards, municipalities and other local government entities could use credit unions as depositories of public funds (The Daily Exchange May 25). Bateman is deputy Republican Conference leader and the third-ranking Republican in the state Senate. Other co-sponsors are Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Republican Conference Leader Bob Singer (R-30) and Deputy Majority Leader Paul Sarlo (D-36). The measure is scheduled to be heard Thursday morning by the Senate Commerce Committee, the league said.

Europe debt will impact U.S. CUNA tells ITheStreetI

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WASHINGTON (5/26/10)--The uncertainty across global markets from Europe's debt problems and the tension between North and South Korea was reflected in Tuesday morning's negative stock market numbers. But the effects of Europe's debt won't be devastating to the U.S. economy, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) senior economist Mike Schenk told (May 25). The Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 1.3% to 9,934. The S&P 500 lost 1.3%, to 1,060 and the Nasdaq lost 2.1%, at 2,168, said the article. "Equity markets thrive when there's certainty, and clearly we don't have that right now," Schenk told the publication. "There's a sense that once we have more clarity, we'll be able to see that we're going to get through this and that we'll be okay," he added.. "Now, I'm not saying that European debt issues won't drag on U.S. economic growth. I think it'll have an effect and it'll be a noticeable effect, but it won't be devastating," Schenk added. He noted that Tuesday's market numbers "is really being driven by Europe, but all the U.S. data we're getting is showing that consumers are in a much better place and even the housing market is in a better place--and that's what's pulls us out of downturns. "I'm not saying the data is being ignored, but the emphasis is in other places," Schenk said. "Once the market gets more clarity, I think the data we've been seeing will help the market stabilize." For the full article, use the link.

UBIT check is in the mail to Community First

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APPLETON, Wis. (5/26/10)--Community First CU will receive the check refunding unrelated business income taxes (UBIT) it paid the government in 2007. The refund was ordered by a Wisconsin court after the credit union's landmark win in its challenge of the government's assertion that UBIT applies to certain insurance products sold by credit unions. A check from the U.S. Treasury for $62,808.59 was sent to the credit union yesterday, according to lawyers in the case. The amount represents Community First's 2006 UBIT refund of $54,604, less a small offset for non-UBIT employment taxes, plus interest that accrued from when the credit union paid the tax in 2007 until the 2010 refund. The Appleton, Wis.-based credit union's court win more than a year ago was considered a milestone, coming after 12 years of effort to obtain clarity from the Internal Revenue Service on credit union UBIT liability (News Now May 20, 2009). The credit union filed the suit on Jan. 15, 2008 to seek a refund of UBIT paid on income from several insurance products. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), along with the rest of the credit union industry's UBIT Steering Committee, backed the credit union in its challenge. The Steering Committee is comprised of CUNA, CUNA Mutual Group, the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors, and the American Association of Credit Union Leagues.

Voting ends Monday on ICU MagazineI Hero of Year

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MADISON, Wis. (5/26/10)--Voting will end Monday for the Credit Union Magazine 2010 Credit Union Hero of the Year. Magazine subscribers have nominated four heroes for the 2010 award:
* Leslie Ellis, CEO of Credit Union 1, Anchorage, Alaska; * Augustine Kang (posthumous), first CEO of the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions, and special project director for the World Council of Credit Unions’ China project; * Dave Maus, CEO of Public Service CU, Denver; and * Vic Thate, executive vice president of FAA CU, Oklahoma City.
This year’s winner will be honored at The 1 Credit Union Conference in Las Vegas, July 11-14, and will receive free conference registration and lodging.

North Jersey FCU launches loans for community heroes

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TOTOWA, N.J. (5/26/10)--North Jersey FCU’s Hero Loans Program, launched in 2009, was the credit union’s most successful promotion last year. The program recognizes the “every day” heroes--teachers, firefighters, police officers and others vital to the community, said the credit union. The $183 million asset, Totowa, N.J.-based credit union began as a credit union for teachers and grew into an institution serving firefighters, police officers and other vital members from local communities. These professionals tirelessly and unselfishly care for their community with little recognition, and are easily taken for granted, North Jersey FCU said. Hero Loan Campaign benefits include:
* 0.25% off the rate on consumer and auto loans, plus an additional 0.25% off the rate for making loan payments via direct deposit; * No fee for home equity loan or first mortgage applications. Also, members will receive 0.125% off the rate for full direct deposit, and automatic payment transfers; * 0.20% above the current advertised rate on a two-year share certificate; * Free checking with interest, available with a minimum balance of $100; and * e-statements, which are required for the Hero Loan Campaign.
Teachers can skip up to two consecutive loan payments during the summer months. They can customize their own payment schedule. North Jersey FCU said it is the only financial institution that provides this personalized service for its members. “I work so hard throughout the year doing what I love as a teacher,” said one teacher and North Jersey FCU member. “But when school is closed I don’t receive income. It’s really nice to be able to skip a payment on my loan when I am not receiving a paycheck during the summer months. As a member they let me do just that and it works well for me and my family’s budget.”

Georgia CUs elect new leaders

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DULUTH, Ga. (5/26/10)--Georgia’s credit union delegates elected new leaders to head up Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA) board of directors at the GCUA annual convention. GCUA is comprised of three state support organizations--Georgia Credit Union League (GCUL), Cooperative Services Inc. (CSI) and Georgia Central CU. GCUL and CSI elections were held. The newly elected GCUL board chair is T. Greg Connor. Connor is the executive vice president of Associated CU, Norcross. He has been involved with the credit union movement in Georgia since his graduation from Georgia Southern University. Connor was an employee of Atlanta Postal CU from 1977 through 2000, when he moved to Associated CU. Connor was elected to the GCUL board of directors in 2000 and has served in several capacities. Other GCUL board officers elected are:
* First vice chairman--Marshall Boutwell, CEO, Gwinnett FCU, Lawrenceville; * Second vice chairman--Stacy Tallent, CEO, Health Center CU, Augusta; * Treasurer--Barry Heape, CEO, DOCO Regional FCU, Albany; and * Secretary--Don DeCinque, CEO, Atlanta Postal CU.
Pat Conn, CEO of United 1st FCU, St. Marys, was elected to the board of directors. Existing board members will serve out the remainder of their terms. New directors of Cooperative Services Inc. elected were: Claude Garrett, CEO, MidSouth Community FCU, Macon, and Terry Hardy, CEO, MembersFirst CU, Decatur. Current board members will serve out the remainder of their terms.

Rochester paper highlights CUs MBLs support

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (5/26/10)--A Rochester, N.Y., newspaper highlighted New York credit unions’ member business lending (MBL) and noted support by some of the state’s legislators for increasing the MBL cap for credit unions. For nearly 100 years, credit unions have provided business lending and business services, Michael Lanotte, senior vice president and general counsel for the Credit Union Association of New York, told the Rochester Business Journal Friday. “Credit unions have been providing business lending and business services to their members who own small businesses,” Lanotte told the Journal. “They were able to meet those needs unimpeded, in a very safe and sound manner for the better part of close to 80 years.” However, a change in a federal law in the late 1990s capped the percentage of total assets a credit union could use for business lending at 12.25% , Lanotte told the Journal. Credit unions’ business lending may be more prevalent than people perceive, Lanotte told the publication. “Typically, a credit union business loan is a very small number, an average of $200,000,” he added. “Credit unions maybe aren’t classifying these types of loans as truly business loans because they’re so small. They’ll go in as a secured personal loan. “Credit unions, although [the loans] might be on the books as business loans, are really doing a lot of small-business loan help for their members,” Lanotte continued. “Others, honestly, probably haven’t gotten involved much lately simply because of this artificial cap.” U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-New York) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) are co-sponsors of a job creation bill in the U.S. Senate that includes legislation to raise the MBL cap to 25%, the Journal said. The publication also noted the efforts of several New York credit unions to provide member MBL, including: ESL FCU, Rochester; Reliant Community FCU, Sodus; Family First of New York FCU, Penfield; Olean (N.Y.) Area FCU, The Summit FCU, Rochester, and Syracuse (N.Y.) FCU.

CU System briefs (05/25/2010)

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* ATHENS, Ga. (5/26/10)--A woman crashed her car into the Athens, Ga. branch of the Georgia FCU Monday morning, slightly injuring herself and ont to two credit union employees, said Athens-Clarke police (Athens Banner-Herald and May 24. The unidentified driver lost control from a medical problem and was taken to a hospital for observation, police said. Emergency workers treated one or two employees for minor injuries and scratches at the scene. The front of the building was demolished ... * INDIANAPOLIS (5/26/10)--George R. Chesnut, 47, formerly of Alton, Ill., was sentenced Friday to 70 months in prison after pleading guilty to two bank and credit union robberies in southern Indiana. He also is being charged with three bank robberies in Missouri. The heists included a Dec. 5, 2008, incident at the Evansville (Ind.) CU, where he took about $5,800. The judge also ordered Chesnut to undergo five years supervised release after his prison term, pay a $500 special assessment and make restitution of $38,562 (Targeted News Service May 24) ... * MADISON, Wis. (5/26/10)--CUNA Mutual Group sales staff assemble bicycles as part of a team-building event in Madison, Wis. The team build 14 bicycles and distributed
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them to seven boys and seven girls from the area's Boys and Girls Club in a surprise ceremony. Ninety members of CUNA Mutual's "Select" sales team, who provide customer service exclusively for small credit unions, assembled the bicycles as part of a two-day event where they honed their collaberation and problem solving skills as a way to better serve their customers. The exercise required the 14 teams to earn each bicycle part before they assembled them. Neither the teams, nor the children who arrived at CUNA Mutual knew beforehand about the surprise presentation. Also, team-building employees qualified for the company's Dollars for Doers program, and a $250 donation was presented to Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. Johnson told the group, "these kids will never forget this experience and the way you have made a difference in their lives." (Photo provided by CUNA Mutual Group) ... * VANCOUVER, Wash. (5/26/10)--Columbia CU has been named the Small Business Administration (SBA) Credit Union Lender of the Year in the Portland, Ore., district. The district covers 30 counties in Oregon and four counties in Southwest Washington. Columbia was among the top 2009 financial services institutions chosen for their demonstrated commitment to small business during times of economic difficulty and credit shortages ...