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CU System briefs (05/25/2011)

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* CHICAGO (5/26/11)--A reward of up to $50,000 is being offered for the capture of the "Wheaton Bandit," one of the most prolific serial robbers of credit unions and banks in Chicago area history. Seven of the 16 armed-takeover-style robberies occurred in the suburb of Wheaton. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and six police departments are asking the public's help in identifying the man, who first struck in January 2002 and continued robbing until Dec. 7, 2006, netting about $150,000 in the holdups. The five-year statute of limitations on the last robbery runs out Dec. 7. The suspect may have prior law enforcement or military weapon experience because of the way he handled a semi-automatic handgun, which he used to threaten employees and member/customers. He is described as white, between the ages of 25 and 35 years old at the time of the heists, about six feet tall with medium build and blue eyes. He is possibly left handed (Chicago Sun-Times, Examiner and Fox Chicago May 25 ) … * MADISON, Wis. (5/26/11)--Wisconsin's Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Wednesday urged employers in the state to apply for the Workplace Leader in Financial Education Award, a first-ever national honor to recognize employers with exemplary workplace financial literacy efforts aimed at enhancing employee financial well-being. The award was launched by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Society for Human Resource Management. DFI Secretary Peter Bildsten also encouraged employers not providing financial education to begin doing so. Deadline for award submissions is July 1 and winners will be announced in October … * DALLAS and ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (5/26/11)--Today is Financial Institution Crime Day in Albuquerque, N.M. Dallas, Texas-based SWACHA-The Electronic Payments Resource has teamed up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Albuquerque office to host a seminar to help local credit unions and banks reduce their exposure to fraud, according to a press release from SWACHA. A number of speakers will cover issues such as white collar crime, fraud, robbery and identity theft, Social Security protection, electronic pickpocketing, and cyber-crime trends in the area and across the nation. According to SWACHA President/CEO Dennis Simmons, there were 180,000 phishing attacks reported in the U.S. last year … * LANSING, Mich. (5/26/11)--Michigan credit unions were among the 4,000 people who braved a driving rain and chilly temperatures for
Click to view larger image Click for larger view
the 2011 National Kidney Foundation of Michigan's annual Kidney Walk May 15 at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak. The walk raised more than $300,000 for the foundation's prevention programs and patient services throughout the state. The Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) and Affiliates's team, shown here, contributed more than $47,000. MCUL CEO David Adams, far right in the photo, the 2011 honorary chair of the event, opened the walk with 9-year-old Danny Zivian, a patient and this year's top fundraiser. Major sponsors included MCUL and Affiliates, CU Solutions Group, CUcorp, Meijer, Fresenius Medical Care, Michigan Kidney Consultants, Greenfield Health Systems and other businesses. Kolleen Schocke of CU Solutions Group was the top individual contributor from the credit union community, raising $2,375, followed by Adams with $2,295, and Drew Egan with $1,815. Local credit union organizations participating included: ELGA CU, Downriver Community FCU, Good Shepherd CU, Shore to Shore Community FCU, First Catholic FCU, Co-op Services CU, Public Service CU, Michigan Services CU, and CenCorp (Photo provided by the Michigan Credit Union League) … * HERNDON, Va. (5/26/11)--Northwest FCU Foundation is bringing financial education to local elementary schools with an interactive school assembly featuring its children's book, Westie's Triple Decker Decision. The foundation already has reached 1,000 kindergarten through third grade students at three local elementary schools in Herndon and Vienna, Va. The assembly also performed at Northwest Federal's Member Appreciation Day. The assembly features an interactive book reading with children's author and Northwest Federal employee Joelle Hahn, foundation employee Shannon Tackett, and the credit union's mascot, Westie the dog. The children's story helps kids understand the importance of finding a balance among saving, spending and sharing. Students then create their own story about saving, spending and sharing by using ideas learned in the Westie in the Schools seminar and submit it in a foundation essay writing contest …

NCUA response in Vensure case due today

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WASHINGTON (5/26/11)--Today is the deadline for the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to file its response to Vensure FCU's arguments in a lawsuit seeking to delay NCUA's conservatorship of the Mesa, Ariz.-based credit union. Vensure filed a sealed document on May 19, and NCUA has seven days to file its response, according to court documents. Because NCUA would be responding to a sealed brief, it is possible NCUA's response would be sealed also. Vensure had $4.7 million in assets and served 144 members at the time NCUA put it into conservatorship on April 15 (News Now April 18). The credit union sought a temporary restraining order to halt the conservatorship, saying the agency's order was "arbitrary and capricious and threatens to significantly damage or destroy" the credit union (News Now April 27). The case was heard May 11 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, who indicated she was initially inclined to rule in favor of NCUA and let the conservatorship stand. However, she said she would consider an additional written filing by the credit union before making the ruling. The additional filing was the sealed document. In its original complaint, the credit union said the conservatorship order "contained only cursory and incomplete facts to support the grounds for conservancy and included no exhibits, appendices or empirical data in support." It also said the agency "took possession of the very financial records [the credit union] needs to demonstrate that conservatorship is improper." (News Now April 27). News accounts have said that the credit union was one of 16 financial institutions that allegedly held funds tied to recent Federal Bureau of Investigation actions taken against online gambling sites PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. In its complaint, the credit union admitted it had taken part in poker-related fund transactions and said its work with online poker sites had helped it increase its size from a $150,000 asset credit union to one that held millions in assets. Vensure said it never intended to permanently depend on those revenues, adding its directors had voted recently to stop doing business with the online poker companies. It maintained it would have remained insolvent, even without the funds provided from its relationship with the gambling companies. In announcing the conservatorship, NCUA said the move was to "conserve the assets of a federally insured credit union, protect members' interests, or protect the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund." Vensure FCU serves employees of Vensure Employer Services Inc., employees of various related companies and their families.

AmTraks magazine touts CUs as banking option

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WASHINGTON (5/26/11)--Credit unions were touted as an alternative to banks in an article in the May/June issue of Arrive magazine, Amtrak’s bimonthly publication, which Amtrak said has more than 1.4 million readers. The article, in the personal finance section of the magazine and titled “Banking Without a Bank,” contrasts the member-owned nonprofit structure of credit unions with the profit-driven shareholder-owned structure of banks. “Our goal is to maximize benefits of our depositors, from lower fees to higher interest rates on savings,” Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), told the magazine. When banks “walked away from customers” during the financial crisis, Cheney added, credit unions loaned $6 billion during that two-year period “and it didn’t cost taxpayers anything.” Credit unions annually save each member $80 in fees and loan interest, according to CUNA research, the magazine noted.

Two CUs partner to open shared branch

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ASTON, Pa. and WEST CHESTER, Pa. (5/26/11)--Sun East FCU, Aston, Pa., and Keystone FCU, West Chester, Pa., have opened the doors on shared a branch that was built as a collaborative effort. The credit unions shared the cost of building the branch and will share operating expenses while remaining separate entities. “Building a branch together is an exciting innovation which allows both credit unions to expand without a huge impact to our respective bottom lines,” said Keystone President/CEO Chris Woods. “Focusing on credit union philosophy allows us to concentrate on the similarities in the missions of both credit unions rather than feeling threatened by any perceived competition.” The joint branch is $429 million asset Sun East FCU’s ninth location in the Delaware Valley. It is $76 million-asset Keystone FCU’s third branch location.

Kinecta FCU on a wholesale sales growth spree

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MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (5/26/11)--Saying a national presence is its ultimate goal, Kinecta FCU is expanding its wholesale lending sales staff to the 25 states in which it is currently lending. New lenders have been added in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Washington. The Manhattan Beach, California-based credit union, with 3.5 billion in assets, is seeking additional mortgage sales professionals as it prepares enter Idaho and Utah in the western U.S. and Maryland, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. in the east. Those states are currently serviced through its West Coast and Midwest Operations Centers, located in El Segundo, Calif. and Rosemont, Ill., respectively.

CUs in four states announce merger agreements

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TACOMA, Wash. (5/26/11)--Credit unions in four states--Washington, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York--recently announced merger agreements. Washington’s largest proposed merger among credit unions was approved by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Monday, for a $1.1 billion merger between Watermark CU, Seattle, and Sound CU, Tacoma, Wash. The final step in the process will be approval by Watermark members. Qualifying Watermark members will receive ballots by the end of this month. The outcome of the vote is expected to be announced by June 24. Richard Brandsma, president/CEO of Sound CU, will lead the continuing organization with 21 branches. The combined credit union will use Sound CU’s charter and operate as Sound CU with its corporate office in Tacoma. Sharon Sanford, Watermark CU president/CEO, will retire as of the merger date. Other mergers include:
* Webster First FCU, a $502.7 million-asset credit union, based in Worcester, Mass., will merge with $59 million-asset Saugus (Mass.) FCU, with a merger completion date set for Tuesday (telegram.com May 25); * Valley Isle Community FCU, a $98.4 million-asset credit union, based in Kahului, Hawaii, will acquire Kulia Ohana FCU, a $4.4 million-asset credit union in Wailuku, Hawaii, with a completed merger date slated for July 1 (staradvertiser.com May 24);and * The Summit FCU, a $625 million-asset, Rochester, N.Y.-based credit union will merge with Frontier FCU, a $2 million-asset, Kenmore, N.Y.-based credit union, on July 1 (democratandchroncile.com May 25).

Cameroon co-op league visits MnCUN

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (5/26/11)--The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) provided insight into the operations of a U.S. credit union league to a visitor from Cameroon this week.
Click to view larger image During a visit to the Minnesota Credit Union Network, Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League Representative Prasedes Banseka (right) provided gave an overview of the country’s credit union system.
Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League Representative Prasedes Banseka’s visit was part of a 30-day credit union internship in Minnesota, during which she is learning about the credit unions’ approach to internal control and member services. Banseka is in the U.S. on a fully funded 10-month scholarship with the U.S. Department of State’s Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. The program selects young professionals from foreign countries with potential to be future leaders and brings them to the U.S. to learn about American institutions, people and culture. During her time in the U.S., Banseka has studied at Michigan State University and completed a short internship at a credit union in Michigan. The final part of her training is a 30-day internship at US FCU, Burnsville, Minn.
Click to view larger image Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) Director of Education Sue Groskreutz (left) tells Cameroon Cooperative Credit Union League Representative Prasedes Banseka about educational opportunities offered by MnCUN. (Photos provided by Minnesota Credit Union Network)
At MnCUN, Banseka learned about the resources the league provides to the state’s credit unions. Banseka took part in one-on-one meetings with network staff, who provided overviews of each department’s basic functions and offered ways Banseka could implement new ideas in Cameroon. Banseka shared photos and stories in an overview of her country’s credit union system. Cameroon has about 200 credit unions that serve 336,000 members. The Cameroon league has a unique structure and approach to service, meeting regularly with each credit union to oversee the management of the organization, training staff and volunteers and coordinating board elections. The league also acts as a regulator, auditing credit unions, offering insurance, and assisting credit unions with their financials. “The network’s meeting with Prasedes opened our eyes to the true diversity of the international credit union movement,” said Kristina Wright, MnCUN vice president of association services. “While the products and services offered by our countries may differ, we discovered that the fundamental credit union philosophy of people helping people remains strong.”

Texas Senate passes payday lending bill

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AUSTIN, Texas (5/26/11)--The Texas State Senate passed two bills Monday that will regulate payday lenders. HB252 requires credit service organizations to give consumers “adequate information” about costs they will be charged before they sign any lending agreements (The Texas Tribune May 23). The bill expands notice and disclosure requirements for lenders. A companion bill--HB 2594--requires payday and car-title lenders to be licensed and regulated by the state of Texas. The two bills now go back to the Texas House of Representatives for another review. If the House approves the legislation, the bills go to Gov. Rick Perry for signature.

Tornado is first time CUAid in two-at-once relief campaigns

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MADISON, Wis. and JOPLIN, Mo. (5/26/11)--Tornadoes last month in Alabama and the South as well as this week's in Missouri, Wisconsin and Oklahoma have marked a first for CUAid, says the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). It's the first time the credit unions' disaster relief program has run two relief campaigns simultaneously.
Click to view larger image Although it had minor tornado damage, Postal Federal Community CU's Joplin, Mo., branch location and employees are aiding neighbors affected by Sunday's massive tornado. The credit union is providing computer and internet use, a charging station, and refreshments. One of the appliances charged was an electric wheelchair, said Steve Pierson, president/CEO.
Click to view larger image Postal Federal Community CU, located two blocks from the major tornado devastation in Joplin, Mo., opened its drive-through and ATM Tuesday for business. The lobby remains closed until windows are replaced and other repairs are made. (Photo provided by Postal Federal Community CU)
CUAid had raised more than $50,000 by Wednesday to help credit unions, their employees and members in Sunday's Joplin, Mo., tornado, which damaged four credit unions, one severely. (To make contributions to the fund, use the link.) Meanwhile, a campaign begun after Alabama's devastation by a rash of tornadoes in April is still running, said Christopher Morris, director of communications at NCUF. CUAid.coop is the online disaster relief system activated by NCUF to raise funds for credit union people affected by disasters. "For the Alabama tornadoes we have raised close to $75,000," said Morris. "At the moment, we still have both campaigns open, and this is the first time we have ever had two disaster relief campaigns open simultaneously." He noted that "a large number of the donations have been $20 and $50…even a few for $5." Most are from individuals. However, credit union organizations "have donated more in sum. We've truly seen a groundswell of support so far for our fellow credit union people struck by tragedy," he told News Now. Credit unions at ground zero in Joplin are starting to clean up as well as provide relief to their neighbors. Employees of Postal Federal Community CU (PFCCU) are using its Joplin location to aid neighbors by providing computer and internet use, a charging station and refreshments. The 2007 S. Sergeant branch, located in a residential neighborhood two blocks from where much of the major devastation took place, suffered minor damage and was closed on Monday. With the help of generators, the drive-through and ATM reopened Tuesday. However, the lobby will remain closed while windows are replaced and other repairs are made, said the credit union. Employees of the credit union have been walking through area neighborhoods passing out food and water and inviting those without power to visit the branch to recharge. Eight employees volunteered to help on Wednesday, with more planning to do so throughout the coming weeks. "We were hoping those living near our Joplin branch would be able to benefit by using our electricity to charge their cell phones," said Steve Pierson, president/CEO of PFCCU. He noted that "one woman was so grateful to be able to charge her electric wheelchair--something that hadn't even crossed our minds, but we were glad to do it. There's a reason that this branch was left standing, so now we want to use it to help our neighbors in any way possible." He said the credit union will offer the services to its Joplin neighbors as long as necessary. PFCCU's Springfield and Nixa branches are drop-off locations for 88.3 The Wind radio station's relief effort. For the next few weeks, they will collect prepaid Visa and MasterCard gift cards, which will be donated to Convoy of Hope. All Ozarks credit unions are participating in this effort.
Click to view larger image Bridgeton, Mo.-based Vantage CU has donated $2,000 to the CUAid disaster relief fund activated by the National Credit Union Foundation to help credit unions in Joplin, Mo. Its branches also are donating to American Red Cross and collecting personal items and spare change from members. President/CEO Hubert Hoosman (center, back row) is shown with staff wearing red to support the Red Cross. (Photo provided by Vantage CU)
In St. Louis, Vantage CU President/CEO Hubert Hoosman Jr. announced Wednesday that his credit union is sending $2,000 to NCUF to assist in emergency relief for Joplin's credit unions. The credit union said Hoosman is grateful that both the New Year's Eve and Good Friday tornadoes that hit the St. Louis area left Vantage CU relatively unscathed. "We see the destruction literally all around us and we count our blessings that we were spared," he said. "We just could not pass up an opportunity to join NCUF in such a worthwhile and timely cause." Employees at the credit union had a dress-down day Wednesday, which by midday had netted $1,400. Proceeds will go to the American Red Cross. They also are collecting toiletries and have spare change jars in the credit unions branches so members can contribute.

WOCCU proceeds with Haiti mobile banking

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (5/26/11)--A World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) initiative may one day provide nearly all people living in Haiti with the ability to conduct financial transactions on their cell phones.
Click to view larger image Haiti’s 2010 earthquake left more than one million survivors homeless, and many still live in tent camps, where robbery and assault is a constant danger, said the World Council of Credit Unions. It is working with the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative to provide access to affordable, secure transactions through their cell phones, keeping their money safe in an unsafe environment. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
The Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI), a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is managed by WOCCU's Haiti Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) program. HMMI is working with local mobile network operators and their partner financial institutions to provide Haitians with improved access to financial services nationwide. The initiative believes that access to safe, affordable financial services is an effective way to provide disaster and poverty relief and stimulate economic development. Mobile money allows the poor in rural or underserved areas to safely and cheaply receive, send and save money, which directly contributes to improved economic well-being, said WOCCU. “This is a program the scope of which has never before been tried,” said Greta Greathouse, HIFIVE chief of party. “We have created a competition to provide the private sector with incentives to launch payment platforms that will contribute to our goal of increased financial inclusion.” HIFIVE has been involved in the initiative since its launch in June 2010. WOCCU oversees the program and has administrative authority over a grant from the Gates foundation to award prizes to organizations providing mobile money services via cell phones to as many of Haiti’s estimated 9.5 million people as possible. The Gates foundation funding provides up to $10 million in prize money for HMMI program participants. Up to $5 million of technical assistance grants from USAID are available to help address obstacles to implementation and to assure that more Haitians have access to mobile banking. (All amounts are in U.S. dollars.) “We have seen remote banking services work effectively in Mexico and Kenya and are encouraged by the support of our initiative in Haiti,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Given the challenges the Haitian people face, we believe mobile banking may be the best and, in some cases, only option for financial services as their country continues to rebuild.” Haiti’s devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, left 316,000 dead and more than a million homeless, half of whom still live in tent camps. Lack of a secure place to keep their money puts many Haitians at risk for robbery and assault, problems that are reduced through a widespread cell phone banking program, said WOCCU. Such payment platforms can help address the limited points of financial service available in Haiti, where the population in many zones may face more than a seven-hour walk to conduct the simplest financial transactions. Service provider Digicel, based in Bermuda and serving countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, in January won the $2.5 million “First to Market Award” for providing mobile money services within the program’s parameters. The company’s Tcho Tcho Mobile--tcho tcho is Creole slang for “money”--is the first service to offer Haitians an electronic alternative to carrying cash. The remaining $7.5 million in award money will be presented to companies that help expand and grow mobile banking services. “Haiti has a very high rate of cell phone penetration and a massive pre-existing cell phone platform,” Greathouse said, noting that nearly half of the country’s population owns cell phones. “Haitians have shown themselves to be highly adaptive to new technology, and we see a very bright future for this program.”

Six honored by Maine league

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PORTLAND, Maine (5/26/11)--The Maine Credit Union League recently honored six individuals for their contributions to the success of Maine’s credit unions. The recipients were recognized and presented with their awards in Augusta on May 20 in conjunction with the Maine League's 73rd Annual Meeting and Convention. The 2011 Maine Credit Union League award winners are:
Click to view larger image Robert Brewer (left), chair of Five County CU, Bath, Maine, is pictured with Five County CU President/CEO, Richard Dupuis, after Brewer received the Maine CU League’s Outstanding Credit Union Volunteer Award.
* Robert “Bobby” Brewer--Alexander Ferguson Award for Outstanding Credit Union Volunteer. Brewer is board chair of Five County CU, Bath, and has been involved with the credit union for 33 years, including the past seven as board chair. Brewer also is involved in community organizations including Habitat for Humanity, the Cancer Foundation and the Salvation Army.
Click to view larger image Gail Richardson (left), Bath, Maine-based Midcoast FCU’s President/CEO, received the Maine Credit Union League’s Award for Outstanding Credit Union President/CEO. She was presented the Award by the 2010 recipient, Ken Acker, President/CEO of TruChoice FCU, South Portland, Maine. (Photos provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
* Gail Richardson--James M. Gratto Award for Outstanding Credit Union Manager. Richardson is president/CEO of Midcoast FCU, Bath. A 29-year employee of Midcoast FCU, Richardson rose through the ranks starting as a part-time teller in 1982. In 2000, she became president/CEO and, under her leadership, the credit union’s assets have doubled. Richardson has served as a member of the Maine Credit Union League’s board of directors for the past 11 years, and is active in raising funds for Special Olympics and the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger. * Trina Mercier--Jeannette G. Morin Award for Outstanding Credit Union Employee. Mercier is assistant vice president at Central Maine FCU in Lewiston. Since joining the credit union in 1996, Mercier has held a variety of positions including teller, computer clerk, and operations specialist. * Luke Labbe--Maine CU League President's Award for Outstanding League Volunteer. Labbe is president/CEO of PeoplesChoice CU, Saco, and was honored by league President John Murphy. Labbe, who chairs the league’s Social Responsibility Committee, was recognized for his activities, including testifying on behalf of Maine credit unions in Augusta, and creating the Polar Bear Scramble, a benefit, virtual golf tournament that raised $80,000 for the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger and other causes in its eight-year history. * Catie Scribner--Diane L. Oceretko “People Helping People” Award. Scribner is executive administrator at Evergreen CU, Portland. An 18-year credit union employee, Scribner has been a part of the committee that helps coordinate the Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger for the past decade, and helped her credit union be one of the fundraising leaders in the campaign. * Roland Poirier--Governmental Affairs and Political Involvement Award. Poirier is president/CEO of Otis FCU, Jay. Poirier was recognized for volunteering on various political campaigns and communicating with legislators and members of Congress regularly.