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CU Opens Fin Resource Center To Break Payday Loan Cycle

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SHREVEPORT, La. ( 5/3/13)--Pelican State CU celebrated the grand opening of its first Financial Resource Center last month in Shreveport, La. It focuses on relieving a fee burden on residents of the historic Highland Neighborhood--who do not have access to or do not qualify for low-cost financial products--through education and breaking the payday loan cycle.

Click to view larger image Pelican CU opened its first Financial Resource Center inside Volunteers of America (VOA) in Shreveport, La. The center will focus on relieving the fee burden of residents of the historic Highland Neighborhood through education and breaking the payday loan cycle. Pelican partnered with VOA and Church for the Highlands, which consider Pelican to be their "financial ministry" and refer clients to Pelican. (Photo provided by Pelican State CU).
The center was opened by the $200 million asset Baton Rouge-based credit union in partnership with Volunteers of America and the Church for the Highlands.

"Our Financial Resource Center shares a mission with the church and Volunteers of America-- to teach independence," said Jeffrey K. Conrad, Pelican CEO. "We want to convert unbanked Shreveport residents to credit union members, which will reduce the fee burden they now endure at payday lenders, check cashers and authorized utility bill payment centers."  

The center will specialize in financial education. Heike Reagan, a nationally certified credit counselor, will meet one-on-one to help members improve their credit score, budget and stretch their paycheck by avoiding fees.

The partnership was initiated by the church, which wanted to add a financial ministry to the programs already offered. Church leaders reached out to Pelican because of its long history of providing financial education and community outreach.

The center will focus on unsecured loans, credit cards, microbusiness loans, payday loan alternatives and second-chance checking for members of modest means in an effort to revitalize the community.

Although the center has the full operational capacity of a traditional branch including deposits, withdrawals and opening new accounts, it has no teller lines or conventional branch fixtures at the location.

"Pelican created an approachable, casual environment to make everyone feel welcome," Conrad said. "This, in addition to the wildly popular free coffee, has created a conversational atmosphere appreciated by our visitors."

CU System Briefs (05/03/2013)

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  • BLACK HAWK, Colo. (5/3/13)--A former assistant manager of the Credit Union of the Rockies Black Hawk branch has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $275,795 in restitution for a theft in 2011, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. Suspicions began after discrepancies in the ledger were found by auditors in November of 2011. Prosecutors say Autumn Rene Guillot, 31, of Central City allegedly altered the ledger to align with the small increments of cash stolen from the vault. Guillot was accused of spending the stolen funds at local casinos (Denver Post April 29) ...
  • NEW CASTLE, Pa. (5/3/13)--Victoria Rozanski, 59, of Ellwood City, Pa., has been indicted on one count of embezzling more than $100,000  from a credit union she managed in that city, the Holy Redeemer Parish FCU. The incidents allegedly occurred from January 2003 to May 2009, said the indictment. The small credit union, which operated out of a 10-foot-square room  and was open three hours a week, was absorbed a year ago by the $49.1 million asset Freedom United FCU, based in Rochester. At the time, Holy Redeemer had 234 members and nearly $630,000 in assets (New Castle News May 2) ...
  • STURGIS, S.D.(5/3/13)--The Northern Hills FCU is hosting its Second Annual Community Challenge, asking community members to save a combined total of $1 million in loan interests between now and the end of the year. When the challenge is completed, Northern Hills FCU will donate a total of $7,000 to five local charities. "We are very excited about bringing back the Community Challenge. The support we got from the community last year was overwhelming. We were even able to double our original savings goal of $500,000," said Cindy Griffin, the credit union's CEO. It offers a full line of services and products for mortgages, debt consolidation and vehicle loans to help members save ...
  • KIMBERLY, Wis. (5/3/13)--Capital CU, Kimberly, Wis., awarded $32,000 in grants to charities through its 2012 Capital CU Charitable Giving Fund. The fund, established in 2009, benefits local nonprofits and is administered by the Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region Inc.  (Post-Crescent April 30). Receiving $5,000 each were: The Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley for a kids' meals program; Compassionate Home Health Care to educate residents about flu vaccinations; NAMI Fox Valley for education, support and advocacy related to mental illness; and St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation to assist poor, homeless, under-insured or uninsured people. The St. Joseph Food Program received $4,000 for nutrition education; Housing Partnership of Fox Cities received $3,000 to support transitional housing to move families out of the shelter. Also, $2,500 each went to to Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services and greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity ...
  • ARLINGTON, Va. (5/3/13)--National Cooperative Bank, which provides banking solutions to cooperatives nationwide, announced the appointment of Bill Stewart as vice president, credit union market leader. The bank said it plans to expand its presence in the credit union sector. Stewart has 15 years' experience, most recently developing new services and products at Southeast Corporate FCU, Lake Worth, Fla., where he was national member relationship manager. Among the services he helped create were a new institutional investment advisory service. He also served on a team that secured $70 million in member capital commitments to facilitate a major credit union merger, said NCB. NCB  has a partnership with The Members Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Iowa Credit Union League ...
  • SOUTH FORK, Pa. (5/3/13)--Former Board Chairman of PRR South Fork FCU George Yakicic died April 17th at Windber Hospice in South Fork, Pa. Yakicic served on the credit union board of directors for 17 years, and was chairman from 2009 to 2012,  said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway May 2). He enjoyed hunting and fishing and was an avid Pittsburgh sports fan. He will be remembered for his produce and canned food auctions held at many different locations in the area (The Tribune Democrat April 17) ...

NH College Students Graduate With Nation's Highest Debt

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MANCHESTER, N.H.  (5/3/13)--More students pack their bags for home over financial/credit debt than academic performance, according to a release from the New Hampshire Credit Union League. Those lucky enough to graduate are confronted with student loan debt, which averages $27,000 throughout the U.S.

"What we know is that college students are 'signing on the credit card and student loan dotted line,' not realizing the full financial responsibility of these financial contracts," said Daniel F. Egan Jr., NHCUL president. "Student debt in this nation is reaching an epic level of more than $1 trillion and the financial stress is taking a toll on students via an increase in dropout rates."

New Hampshire college students owed the most, with average debt of $32,440. Adequate financial literacy education prior to graduating from high school could have alleviated many of the financial problems, the league said. NHCUL, in partnership with America's Credit Union Museum, has taken the lead in educating New Hampshire school children on basic financial literacy through the CU4 Reality Financial Education Program--in part with Financial Literacy Month events.      

Financially stressed students are six times more likely to drop out, which decreases their income earning potential, coupled with student loan obligations, which are unforgivable, NHCUL said.     

Nearly half of high school seniors in the U.S. don't know how much money they will need for college, and even more don't understand basic student loan terms, according to the Credit Union National Association's first annual High School Student Borrowing Survey released last month (News Now April 17). 

Most students (70%) are confident they will receive a high-paying job upon graduating, CUNA found. That indicates they are willing to pay the cost of college tuition even if they don't understand how the borrowing will affect their financial futures. Of the 847 17- and 18-year-olds polled nationally, 83% did not know the rates and 77% didn't know the duration of their expected or existing college loans.

In New Hampshire, "the goal of the CU4 Reality Financial Education Program is to teach students the basics of spending, budgeting, credit and savings, with the use of a classroom guide, that can be tailored to educate elementary, middle, and high school aged students," Egan said. "The goal is to establish good financial habits at a young age--habits that will last and benefit them for a life time."

The curriculum's culmination is the CU 4 Reality Financial Education Fair, a group event where students choose a fictitious "financial life"--a job and an income--and determine how they will budget. Participants must allocate funds for rent, utilities, insurance, credit card and student loans--then decide what they can afford to spend on discretionary expenses.

CO-OP White Paper Discusses How CUs Can Fight DDoS Attacks

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (5/3/13)--CO-OP Financial Services has released a white paper offering credit unions advice on fending off  Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

The white paper, "A Risk Based Approach to DDoS Protection for Credit Unions and Credit Union Service Organizations," is written by Ray Zadjmool, president and principal consultant of Tevora, a Lake Forest, Calif., information assurance consulting firm with a focus on compliance, risk management and solutions integration.

DDoS involves using an army of hijacked computers to overwhelm a site with so many requests for attention that it's unable to respond to legitimate requests and thus becomes unavailable. It has become a popular method to make a political or ideological point in which the target is some kind of symbol.

The paper makes four recommendations for combating DDoS:

  • DDoS Risk Assessments. A DDoS risk assessment should follow established methodologies for identification, impact analysis and treatment plan, the paper said. Credit unions should make a concerted effort to understand the effects of a disruption of services, the expected time to recover and the costs to remediate. Risk-reduction options also should be presented to offer a balanced approach that can be periodically evaluated for feasibility and cost effectiveness.
  • DDoS Incident Response Plan. As with any disaster recovery or incident, a plan for coordinating the credit union's response should be documented before an attack. A good DDoS Incident Response Plan must take in to account the tools and personnel at the credit union's disposal that will be needed to help in a DDoS attack.
  • Third-Party Due Diligence. Credit unions should look at this as an expansion of existing third-party and vendor management activities to include a good understanding of criticality, risk and readiness. One place to start is to classify third parties that may be susceptible to a DDoS. Consider critical infrastructure, but also Web hosting and member facing services.
  • Evaluate DDoS Mitigation Services. Currently four types of DDoS mitigation solutions exist: DDoS as a feature, dedicated DDoS protection services, Internet service provider pipe services and DDoS protection appliances.
To download the paper, use the link.

Wiley Named Publisher Of CUNA's CU Magazine

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MADISON, Wis. (5/3/13)--John Wiley--a veteran of the print and electronic publishing industry--is now the publisher of Credit Union Magazine, a monthly publication of the Credit Union National Association.

Wiley most recently spent 13 years as an advertising representative for the Credit Union Times.

"John is a seasoned publishing executive who also happens to have a passion and a dedication to the credit union system. That combination makes John the perfect leader to take CU Magazine to the next level," said Paul Gentile, CUNA executive vice president for strategic communications and engagement.

Gentile added that CUNA believes communication is paramount for ensuring its member credit unions are well-informed, not only on the credit union system, but the broader financial services market. For decades, he said, CU Magazine has given CUNA's membership the information necessary to best serve their credit unions. "John will help us continue that stellar record," he added.

Gentile noted that Wiley brings a broad digital media knowledge to the position that is vital for any publishing operation today. A key focus for Wiley will be to position CUNA to be interactive with readers, however they choose to engage.

"Publishing is no longer about 'one and done' deadlines. Media is constant," Gentile notes.

Bahamas CU Officials Visit Massachusetts CUs

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MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (5/3/13)--Eight credit union executives from the Bahamas traveled to Massachusetts for a four-day educational exchange, April 21-April 25, as part of an ongoing partnership between the Massachusetts Credit Union League and the Bahamas Cooperative Credit Union League.

The trip was coordinated by the World Council of Credit Unions.

Eight credit union executives from the Bahamas traveled to Massachusetts for a four-day educational exchange, April 21-April 25 as part of an ongoing partnership between the Massachusetts Credit Union League and the Bahamas Cooperative Credit Union League. The World Council of Credit Unions coordinated the trip. (Photo provided by the Massachusetts Credit Union League)
The relationship between the leagues has proven to be mutually beneficial, according to Rob Kimmett, senior vice president, marketing for the Massachusetts league (Visions & Values May).

"Over the past eight years, we have had seven different educational exchange visits in Massachusetts and in the Bahamas," Kimmet said. "Each one has produced great insight for the credit unions of each country. We are able to help our Bahamian friends with information about product development, strategic best practices and new communications techniques. They help us understand the value of our cooperative roots and provide us with a fresh way to look at the business."

During their visit, the group took advantage of two major credit union events.

One was a CU 4 Reality Fair in Leominster. The fair was presented by six credit unions and attracted more than 700 middle school students from north central Massachusetts. Its financial education curriculum impressed the visitors and they left with materials to implement a fair in their country. Later that day, they traveled to Lowell to visit Jeanne D'Arc CU and learn about the program of financial education services it provides to the community.

The other event that the group participated in was the Great New England Credit Union Show on April 24 in Boxborough. The show attracted hundreds of credit union officials and suppliers who networked and participated in numerous education sessions.

Massachusetts league President Dan Egan welcomed the group April 21 and spoke about the services that the league provides to credit unions. He then provided an overview of best practices in legislative and regulatory advocacy.

N Dakota Governor Signs Electronic Lien Into Law

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BISMARCK, N.D.  (5/3/13)--It's now official. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed into state law a measure requiring lenders, including credit unions, to file liens and security interests electronically.

He signed House Bill 1136 Tuesday, as expected, said the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas (The Memo May 1). North Dakota is the second state to mandate electronic lien filing, after Colorado.

CUAD supported the bill, which will make three changes:

  • Mandates the electronic filing of all lien documents into a Central Indexing System (CIS), which would allow for unlimited listing of collateral;
  • Reinstates SSN/FIN as a unique identifier used to search for debtor information, which were not accepted under national paper forms; and
  • Creates an upfront filing fee for the initial lien document and eliminates more than 35 fees and subscription charges, including a fee for searching and retrieving the document.
CUAD noted that the state hopes to have the CIS in operation by July 2014. Credit unions will be instrumental in developing it, said CUAD.

NerdWallet Announces GenY CU Contest

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NEW YORK (5/3/13)--Nerdwallet is holding a contest to encourage credit unions to come up with innovative far-reaching ways to reach Gen Y.

Generation Y makes up about 25% of the population, but only about 9% of credit union membership. At the same time, this tech savvy generation needs help from credit unions in the form of lower fees, higher savings rates and better financial literacy rates, Nerdwallet said.

Credit unions are eligible for the top overall prize of $2,000 and the runner-up prize of $1,000. One credit union under $500 million in assets and one credit union under $100 million in assets are each eligible for additional $1,000 prizes.

Entrants will be judged on a "commencement speech" that provides financial literacy advice to Gen Y and a proposal for using the funds awarded in the contest.

Contest participants will receive:

  • Access to the Gen Y ideas generated by other participants;
  • A listing in Nerdwallet's credit union search tool and chance to be features in the Nerdwallet blog; and
  • The potential to collaborate with Junior Achievement to receive financial literacy resource materials and training.
Bucky Sebastian, National Credit Union Foundation executive director, is among the judges for the contest.

For more information, use the link.

SECU's Tax Prep Services Saves More Than $9M In Fees

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RALEIGH, N.C. (5/3/13)--State Employees' CU, based in Raleigh, N.C., helped more than 77,000 North Carolinians claim nearly $104 million in tax refunds this tax season, saving them about $9.4 million in tax-preparation fees.

A flexible "no appointment" process meant SECU assisted more members this year, the $25.5 billion asset credit union said.

It prepared and filed tax returns for 68,000 members under the Internal Revenue Service's free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. That is an increase from last year's more than 57,000 filings.

SECU's low-cost tax preparation services, offered to members with income thresholds exceeding the $51,000 VITA guideline, also filed more than 9,000 tax returns, a 34% spike from last year's 7,000 returns.

Between the two programs, SECU helped members claim nearly $49 million in total tax credits, including $27.6 million in Earned Income Tax Credits, more than $18 million in Child Tax Credits and $3.1 million in Education Tax Credits.

"The success of SECU's tax preparation services is the result of the committed efforts of 1,800 SECU tax preparers who serve members' needs with diligence and patience during the busy season," said Tenesha Carter, senior vice president of SECU Tax Preparation Services.

The credit union's partnership with IRS led to an expansion of free tax preparation services in 248 SECU branches in all the state's counties and contributed to VITA's success in the state, said Debra Patterson, territory manager for IRS Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication. "We value our strong relationship with SECU and support the VITA services that SECU provides to such a large contingent of eligible North Carolinians."

CUs Close Financial Literacy Month With More Festivities

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MADISON, Wis. (5/3/13)--As April gave way to May,

bringing a close to Financial Literacy Month, credit union activities ranged from credit card seminars, to tree distribution--all in the name of reminding members that credit unions provide a valuable partner for financial education.

Among the ways credit unions celebrated Financial Literacy Month:

  • McGraw-Hill FCU, East Windsor, N.J., presented "Credit Card Basics, Managing a Card That Matches Your Spending and Payment Habits" as part of its Financial Literacy Series April 23.
  • Security One FCU, Arlington, Texas, last month received the Texas Credit Union League's Juntos Avanzamos designation for its exceptional service to Hispanic families. Security One FCU conducted a bilingual presentation on the financial system to nearly 50 Hispanic church members; offered a presentation on the importance of saving to 20 middle and high school students; partnered with the local Head Start program to share information on basic budgeting; and offered sessions on how to build credit and secure auto financing.
  • Click to view larger image With Arbor Day and Earth Day falling during National Credit Union Youth Week, Horizon FCU, Williamsport, Pa., distributed trees to fourth graders at area school districts.  (Photo provided by Horizon FCU)
    Staff at Unitus CU, Portland, Ore., decorated branches celebrating the National Credit Union Youth Week theme "Savings Sleuth, Solve the Mystery. Week-long activities included a "Collect the Clues" scavenger hunt, a grand-prize drawing and refreshments. Young members who made a deposit or opened a uSavers account received a Moonjar Moneybox. The credit union also held an open house hosted by its uSavers Kids Club mascot, Hamilton the Pig. In addition to door prizes and food, young visitors received an "I Visited My Credit Union Today" sticker and Save, Spend and Share color book.
  • inTouch CU, Plano, Texas, raised $1,328 for the National Credit Union Foundation and the Texas Credit Union Foundation by offering employees "Jeans Days" on Fridays throughout April. Employees donated $5 each Friday in April or $18 for all four Fridays.
  • Click to view larger imageEighty-five high school seniors attended the "Bite of Reality" financial education event at San Rafael (Calif.) High School, presented by Redwood CU in partnership with the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce. Participants received a fictional occupation, salary, spouse and family, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments. (Photo provided by Redwood CU)
    UMassFive College FCU, Hadley, Mass., offered kids a free mustache each time they made a deposit to their Super Saver account during National Credit Union Youth Week.
  • The New Hampshire Credit Union League, in partnership with America's Credit Union Museum, helped educate New Hampshire school children on basic financial literacy through the CU 4 RealityFinancial Education Program. The goal of the program is to teach students the basics of spending, budgeting, credit and savings, with the use of a classroom guide. The program can be tailored to educate elementary, middle, and high school aged students. The curriculum's culmination is the CU 4 Reality Financial Education Fair.
  • TruMark Financial CU, Trevose, Pa., hosted Bring Your Child to Work Day April 25. Thirty-eight children ranging in age from seven to 15 shadowed their parent or guardian for part of the work day, toured the credit union's headquarters and branch offices, saw a demonstration of a cash recycler and participated in a question-and-answer session with the President/CEO Richard Stipa.
Click to view larger image Telcoe FCU, Little Rock, Ark., visited the Child Development Center to teach children about how earn money and choosing to save, donate or spend after receiving it. (Photo provided by Telcoe FCU)

CUNA created National Credit Union Youth Week, April 21-27, to help credit unions nationwide focus on the financial needs of young people and provide financial literacy education. It teaches the benefits of saving and goal setting, and invites youth to open savings accounts at their credit union--and make deposits throughout the year.

CUNA also conducts the National Youth Saving Challenge throughout April. The challenge rewards 10 savers with $100 cash prizes.

Raising awareness about credit unions is one of the steps in CUNA's, leagues' and credit unions' Unite for Good campaign to achieve the vision of Americans choosing credit unions as their best financial institution. As that awareness grows, potential members will turn to aSmarterChoice and Unite for Good websites to locate credit unions they can join and find out more.