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Phishing attempts rose worldwide in April

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BEDFORD, Mass. (5/12/08)--U.S. credit unions accounted for 36% of U.S. banking brands that were attacked during April by phishers attempting to secure personal financial information, according to statistics from RSA Anti-Fraud Command Center. Regional U.S. banks also accounted for 36% of the phish attempts, while nationwide U.S. banks were targets in 28% of the attacks. U.S. banking brands continued to lead as phishing targets, accounting for 62% of the attacks online. Together banks and credit unions formed more than two-thirds of the entities targeted during the month, said RSA. The number of brands attacked totaled 215, a slight decrease from March's 225, which was the highest number of brands attacked in the past year. More than 30 new financial entities were subjected to attacks during April. The U.S. continued as the leader in hosting the largest number of attacks; however, the U.S. percentage decreased 12% to 51% of hosted attacks. China was the second-largest host, with 19% of all attacks. AFCC noted that Zeus Trojan (also called "wsnpoem") attacks on financial institutions worldwide have increased. Because the package is easier to use, it can be easily controlled by unsophisticated users. Phishing incidents spread into the Asia-Pacific region, with attacks increasing in Australia and New Zealand during both March and April.

Membership growth Family Trust FCU

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ROCK HILL, S.C. (5/12/08)--Planning for membership growth strategically and budgeting for it are two key components of realizing steady sustainable growth, according to the CEO for Family Trust FCU. The $205.7 million asset Rock Hill, S.C.-based credit union has had more than 20% growth in membership over the past two years--12.5% in 2006 and 8% to 9% in 2007, Family Trust President/CEO Lee Gardner told News Now. News Now is introducing its Focus on Growth weekly series of interviews with fast credit union growers this week as part of an initiative of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Membership Growth Task Force. The series focuses on fast "organic" membership growth, not growth by merger or indirect loans. The task force, chaired by Dick Ensweiler, president of the Texas Credit Union League, was convened at the request of CUNA’s Immediate Past Board Chair Allan Kemp McMorris. Its purpose is to investigate, report on, and encourage credit unions to embrace opportunities, techniques and processes that will increase credit unions' membership retention and growth. Family Trust plans strategically for growth and also budgets for it, Gardner said. “We want to grow large but feel small,” he explained. “We budget annually for 7%-14% growth. We state this in our strategic plan. It’s a statement to our employees and board of directors to set a target.” Also, Family Trust does not sit on its capital; it spends it, Gardner said. “We have a 9.2% net worth ratio. Some credit unions have 16%-18% capital. Why not spend that money to grow?” he said. It’s also important for a credit union to have a good relationship with its board or directors and have the board be active in the credit union’s strategic planning process, he added. The driving force behind the credit union’s growth is that it has an extremely strong community brand, which helps it build relationships in the community, Gardner said. “It’s hard to differentiate yourself in the market on just products and price anymore,” he explained. “We differentiate by our presence in the community. We do good things in the community, support it and then we publicize what we do.” One mistake that some credit unions make is it they don’t have a differentiation strategy, Gardner said. “Ours is that we are good people, we do good things in the community, we do the right things for our members and our employees,” he said. “You can’t just be good on Sunday and bad during the week.” Family Trust strategically builds its branches, using the “Blue Ocean Strategy” by going into quiet areas, not necessarily “hot spots” where everyone else goes. The credit union looks to build its branches by looking at schools, roads and housing areas, Gardner explained. “We’re opening a branch in September where there are no credit unions, but there is housing there, and it is located about a quarter-mile between two schools,” he said. “We develop the soft spot or gap. We go to where we can develop a value proposition and new business.” Part of Family Trust's growth strategy is to get members while they’re young and develop a long-term relationship with them. About 26% of the credit union’s membership is age 25 or younger, Gardner said. The credit union sponsors a youth week and a weeklong program twice a year called “Real Life, Real Money” in which teens are educated about financial matters. The teens are encouraged to open checking accounts and are familiarized with debit cards, and other financial products and services. “A key to growth is to have a young leader--under age 30--who brings in innovation and perspective to your credit union,” Gardner said. A mistake that some credit unions make is that they don’t have young people in leadership positions to bring in innovation.” Another key facet of the credit union’s growth is the implementation of relationship pricing with member loans and deposits. The more credit union services that members use, the better the interest rates they receive. The rates are based on a formula taking into account a member’s use of checking accounts, debit cards, credit cards, and e-statements (which save the credit union on paper costs). “Our rates are based on services that members use, not just their credit history,” Gardner explained. “This equips our frontline services staff to inform members that they can get a better rate on a loan if they have a Family Trust debit card, credit card or checking account.” Family Trust has been a community credit union since 2000, serving people who live in York County, S.C. It became a community credit union because there were not enough companies in the area to serve on a select employee group basis. “As a community credit union, we can compete at the individual member level rather than the corporate level,” Gardner concluded. Anyone who wants to contact the CUNA Membership Growth Task Force can e-mail the account established for this purpose at CUNAMGTF@cuna.coop.

N.Y. league small CU planning project in third year

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LATHAM, N.Y. (5/12/08)--For the third year in a row, the New York State Credit Union League initiated its Making the Strategic Connection program for small credit unions with a meeting of 12 credit unions newly chosen to participate.
Management Consultant Marge Kazz (standing) works with representatives from four of the 12 credit unions participating in the New York State Credit Union League’s program to help small credit unions with strategic planning. (Photo provided by the New York State Credit Union League)
The program, launched in 2006, was designed to assist small-asset-size credit unions with their strategic planning. It is funded by a grant from the New York Credit Union Foundation. The program was expanded this year to include applicants with under $20 million in assets. Last year, the program included credit unions with less than $10 million in assets. A number of New York credit unions have participated in the program, which includes strategic planning workshops, development of a marketing plan and corresponding budget, and a financial forecast. A league management consultant reviews each credit union’s forecast to help it stay on track and avoid pitfalls that may arise along the way. “The Making the Strategic Connection program is an essential management tool, which results in the creation of an effective strategic plan,” said Marge Kazz, league management consultant. “It not only sets the future course of the credit union, it sets the environment in which it operates.”

CUAC elects new board members

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ARVADA, Colo. (5/12/08)--The Credit Union Association of Colorado (CUAC) announced the election of its new board members. The following will serve in leadership positions on the CUAC board:
* Chairman: Doug Ferraro, president/CEO, Bellco CU, Denver; * Vice Chairman: Mike Williams, president/CEO, Colorado State CU, Denver; * Treasurer: Keith Cowling, president/CEO, Credit Union of Denver; and * Secretary: Eva Gaudio, president/CEO, St. Vrain Valley CU, Longmont.
Additional board members include:
* Charles Emmer, president/CEO, Ent FCU, Colorado Springs; * Sundie Seefried, president/CEO, Eagle Legacy CU, Arvada; * Lynn Sutton, president/CEO, SunWest Educational CU, Pueblo; * John Uchida, president/CEO, Space Age FCU, Denver; * Bill Becker, president/CEO, Sunrise CU, Loveland; and * Steve Pearson, president/CEO, Fellowship CU, Lamar.
Retiring from the board is Carla Hedrick, president/CEO, Denver Community CU. Replacing her is new board member Becker.

Refis home loans booming for Service CU

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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (5/12/08)--A local New Hampshire credit union has managed to avoid losses caused by a struggling housing market and experienced by the rest of the U.S. Service CU, Portsmouth, has had three times this year the volume in new loans it had last year, especially in refinancing, Fawn Terwilliger, Service CU vice president of lending told Fosters.com. Service CU also saw an 80% increase in new loans over those in 2007, she added. Industry experts predict that the weaknesses in the housing market will prevail. On Tuesday, Fannie Mae reported that it lost $2.2 billion loss during the first quarter of 2008. Fannie Mae, which maintains the secondary market in mortgages, attributed the losses to defaulted loans and foreclosures. To offset losses, Fannie Mae plans to increase its capital by $8 billion, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFEHO) said this week. OFHEO is Fannie’s regulator. The increase in capital could help first-time home buyers, Dean Christon, executive director, New Hampshire Housing and Finance Authority, told Fosters.com. Credit unions largely sidestepped the mortgage crisis, because typically they do not make subprime loans, according to Bill Hampel, Credit Union National Association chief economist (News Now April 28).

CU System briefs (05/09/2008)

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* ARVADA, Colo. (5/12/08)--Colorado State Rep. John F. Soper (D-34), center, received the John Sheehey Award at the Credit Union Association of Colorado's (CUAC) annual meeting last week in Colorado Springs. The award is given to state legislators who demonstrate outstanding support of credit unions in Colorado. Shown with Soper are, from left, Timothy Dore, senior vice president of government affairs, and John Dill, president/CEO, both of CUAC. In congratulating Soper, Dill said, "Credit union issues are bipartisan in nature, and by working actively with political leaders such as Rep. Soper, credit unions can foster a better regulatory and business environment for our long-term growth." (Photo provided by Credit Union Association of Colorado) … * Charlotte, N.C. (5/12/08)--Charlotte Metro CU is expanding its services to include business banking, including basic and premier business checking services, the $152 million asset credit union announced Thursday. Its "Business Basic Checking" pays a fixed-interest rate and offers a low $5 monthly maintenance fee, which is waived on accounts with $2,000 or more on balance. Premier checking will offer tiered interest rates. Nicol Morris has been named as chief operating officer, responsible for rolling out the business banking program and supporting sales and service. Morris has more than 16 years' experience, including regional senior vice president, with Sandy Springs Bank … * ASHEVILLE, N.C. (5/12/08)--Premier FCU raised nearly $50,000 in two months to benefit a 3-year-old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Paxten Mitchell, who lost his battle with ALL on April 6, was a member of the credit union and son of Asheville firefighter/city employee Robert Mitchell. The Mitchell family's insurance company would not pay for Paxten's treatment at Duke University Medical Center, so the credit union began fund raising to help. The insurance company's denial sparked widespread media coverage in the area, with mentions of the credit union's collecting donations. The donations enabled Paxten to begin treatments in March, but they were discontinued when they stopped working. Eblen Charities in Asheville, which is helping the family pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs, will receive the more than $47,000 donations raised through Premier … * PHILADELPHIA (5/12/08)--"Leave It to Beaver" actor Jerry Mathers, who turns 60 this year, was on hand to help American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia, celebrate its 60th anniversary at the $646.5 million asset credit union's annual Member Appreciation Day event April 26. Mathers was available for photos with members and signed autographs. Members also received a Colorado blue spruce seedling to help them "Go Green," reported the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway May 9) …

CU helps build young CU advocates with grant

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SANTA ANA, Calif. (5/12/08)--Orange County's CU helped turn 14 young people into peer trainers, financially aware consumers and credit union advocates, with help from a community service grant from the Richard Myles Johnson (RMJ) Foundation.
Long Beach, Calif., and state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-27) recognized Orange County's CU (OCCU), the Richard Myles Johnson (RMJ) Foundation, Long Beach Community Hispanic Association (Centro CHA) and its Latinos Investing for Tomorrow (LIFT) program at the graduation of 14 new peer trainers/credit union advocates. From left: OCCU's Maria Haq, Long Beach branch manager, and Leticia Mata, assistant vice president of community and education development; Jessica Quintana, Centro CHA executive director; and Tena Lozano, RMJ Foundation executive director. (Photo provided by Orange County's CU)
The $15,000 grant from RMJ--the state foundation for credit unions in California and Nevada--helped expand the Santa Ana-based credit union's partnership with Long Beach Community Hispanic Association (Centro CHA) for its Latinos Investing for Tomorrow (LIFT) program. The program aims to turn young people living in impoverished communities in the Greater Long Beach area into peer trainers in their communities. It includes a financial literacy component developed by the credit union. Some of the funds went to providing $500 stipends for each of the 14 graduates, aged 16 to 22. They attended six workshops on Saturdays to learn how to be active and informed advocates in their home, school and community. The financial literacy component included instruction on budgeting, the value of money, the value of credit, and saving and investments. Participants also completed 40 hours of community service and took field trips, including one to a local branch of the $861.6 million asset credit union. After the field trip, the new advocates spread the word about the credit union difference, which resulted in the opening of 27 new accounts, said Leticia Mata, assistant vice president of community and education development at the credit union.

Auto loans declining at CUs says corporate

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DALLAS (5/12/08)--During first quarter 2008, credit unions' vehicle loans outstanding declined at a 6% annualized pace, compared with a decline of 2% for the same period a year earlier, says Southwest Corporate Investment Services. Those loans increased less than 1% during all of 2007, Brian Turner, director of advisory services, said in LoneStar Leaguer (May 9). "The teetering economic climate and lack of meaningful auto-manufacturer incentive programs so far this year hasn't helped," Turner said. 2008 should be brighter. "We are about three years out of the massive 2005 auto manufacturers' employee discount pricing incentive program that helped to produce a 9.5% annualized growth rate for credit union vehicle loans outstanding," Turner said. "However, it also oversaturated the market, after which vehicle loan growth has only increased 3% the past two years combined, or less than half the 10-year average growth rate of 6.7%," he said. The average new-car rate for 60 months was 7% at commercial banks, 4.19% at finance companies and 6% at credit unions, he reported. Overall total vehicle sales dropped 7.8% year-over-year from 2007, largely because of a 14% decline in truck sales, which typically account for roughly 51% of sales. Car sales are down less than 1% from 2007. Turner noted that high gasoline prices, weak consumer confidence and tight credit are hitting the auto industry hard. First-quarter results are traditionally the weakest sales of the year for the industry, but the seasonal adjustment still points to some weakness, said Turner's report. Credit union share of the $944 billion revolving credit market was 6%, compared with commercial banks' 66% (excluding securitized assets).