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UsNet Re-elects Board Officers, Honors Marketing

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ALBANY, N.Y. (6/20/13)--Four New York credit union leaders have been re-elected as board officers of Universal Sharing Network (UsNet), a credit union service organization that provides credit unions with access to more than 5,000 shared branches in the U.S. and beyond.

Board members re-elected to one-year terms include:

  • Chairman--Mark Pfisterer, president/CEO, AmeriCU CU, Rome;
  • Vice chairman--Mark Welshoff, president/CEO, Palisades FCU, Pearl River;
  • Treasurer--Christine Peters, CEO, Family First of NY FCU, Rochester; and
  • Secretary--Nancy Kasprzak-Whitmore, executive vice president, Niagara's Choice FCU, Niagara.
Pfisterer and Kasprzak-Whitmore also were re-elected to serve new three-year terms as board members. The board comprises 11 New York credit union leaders and Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY) President/CEO William J. Mellin.

UsNet, which is owned by New York credit unions and CUANY, held its annual meeting and organizational meeting June 13 in conjunction with CUANY's 2013 Annual Meeting and Convention.

UsNet also presented Saratoga's Community FCU, Saratoga, with the annual Ralph W. Hillman Award. The award, named for a former UsNet chairman, recognizes the shared-branching marketing efforts of a participating UsNet credit union.

"Saratoga's Community FCU has proactively marketed the convenience and accessibility of shared branching across multiple platforms in order to better serve its growing membership," said Marc Inger, UsNet chief operating officer. The credit union, its members and the entire shared branching network have benefited from its efforts, he added.

BizKid$ Nabs a Second Emmy

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MADISON, Wis. (6/20/13)--Biz Kid$, a credit union-funded public television series that teaches kids about money management and entrepreneurship, has won a national Emmy Award, television's highest honor. The award for Outstanding Achievement in Single Camera Editing was presented Friday to Biz Kid$ in Los Angeles.

Jim Golingo, editor for BizKid$, holds the Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Single Camera Editing at the 40th annual Daytime Entertainment Creative Arts Emmy Awards. (Photo provided by the National Credit Union Foundation)
This is the second Emmy Award for Biz Kid$. The show won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Main Title and Graphic Design in 2009. It has been nominated for 13 Emmy Awards in the past five years.

Biz Kid$ has continually garnered attention in and outside of the credit union industry. The show has won the Environmental Media Award for Outstanding Children's Television Series, a Silver Telly Award for Outstanding Children's Financial Literacy Programming, and most recently the Parent's Choice Gold Award. In 2010, it also earned the credit union industry's most prestigious honor, the Herb Wegner Award for Outstanding Program.

The National Credit Union Foundation oversees fundraising, outreach and administrative responsibilities of Biz Kid$. During the past six years, more than 300 credit unions and affiliated organizations have raised more than $13.8 million that has supported the show's production, website and curriculum.

Every Biz Kid$ episode begins and ends with a narrator reminding viewers that: "Production funding for Biz Kid$ is provided by America's Credit Unions, where people are worth more than money."

The Emmy Awards recognize creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. The Daytime Emmy Awards recognize outstanding achievement in all creative fields of daytime television production. The series also was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing and Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing.

For more information about Biz Kid$, use the link.

Grant To Mid-Minnesota FCU Expands Personal Finance Classes

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BAXTER, Minn. (6/20/13)--Mid-Minnesota FCU (MMFCU) in Baxter, Minn., will broaden its personal finance offerings this fall by making its educational classes available online, as part of an existing course offered by Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minn.

Click to view larger image Mid-Minnesota FCU staff teach personal finance courses in several area schools as part of the credit union's "education network," established in 2008.  (Photo provided by the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation)

A grant from the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation funds the classes.

Through its newly established Financial Education Grant Program, the foundation made its inaugural award to MMFCU to assist with the transition to online learning.

"By partnering with local schools and the community, it furthers our vision of helping the community and future members," said MMFCU President/CEO Chuck Albrecht. "Students who are financially well-educated prosper and thrive in the long run."

In 2008, MMFCU launched its Education Network program to educate members on subjects such as identity theft and online banking. The program expanded to Brainerd High School and has since grown to a 13-week personal finance course offered every semester at the school. It touches every junior and senior in the school.

"We want to expand our offerings to provide financial education to young adults at a time when these topics have been cut from schools' curriculum due to budget cuts," said Jill Carlson-Ferrie, MMFCU director of learning and development. "By building relationships with local schools, we have the opportunity to fill that void."

MMFCU provides all the classroom materials, including worksheets, handouts and a folder of reference materials for students to discuss with their parents. Classes cover:

  • The difference between credit unions and banks;
  • Saving, investing and managing money;
  • Establishing and maintaining credit;
  • Identity theft;
  • Applying for a loan; and
  • Buying a car and insurance.

Carlson-Ferrie said that the credit union does not use the classroom exposure to sell the credit union or market to the students, but rather views its community participation as a part of MMFCU's mission and drive.

The knowledge gained by students is evident, through post-course evaluation conducted through the schools, MMFCU said. At the end of the personal finance classes, many of the schools ask students to write a letter to their principal listing the top five lessons they learned. Some schools also have students write letters to their legislators to stress the importance of personal finance education. 

Outreach that raises financial education awareness also raises awareness of credit unions. Raising awareness is one of the three foundations--along with removing barriers and fostering service excellence--of the national Unite for Good campaign aimed at achieving credit unions' strategic vision in which Americans choose credit unions as their best financial institution, according to the Credit Union National Association.

Marshall To Lead The Cooperative Trust For Young Adults

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MADISON, Wis. (6/20/13)--James Marshall joined The Cooperative Trust as its leader, the Trust and Filene Research Institute announced Thursday.

Marshall succeeds Brent Dixon, who founded the Trust in 2010 as Filene's young adult adviser. Theresa Hilinski will continue to serve as the Trust's community manager.

"We know that the young adults demographic is crucial to the future of credit unions," said Mark Meyer, Filene's CEO. "The Trust, brought to life with Brent's vision and CUNA Mutual Group's support, has been instrumental in connecting young adults to the credit union industry and the credit union industry to them."  

Marshall will work with Filene to sharpen the Trust's role in helping credit unions engage with young adults and grow membership among this demographic through outputs such as product ideas, crash events and publications that capture key findings of the group. He will also work to strengthen the Trust's foundation of developing young talent in credit unions and cooperatives through leadership opportunities, mentorships and peer-idea sharing.

"Building on the clear vision and momentum achieved by the Trust under Brent's direction, we want to evolve the trust into a self-sustaining organization with long-term value and viability," said Marshall. "We plan to do this by focusing on four key priorities: strengthening our online community; creating mentorship opportunities between young adults and veteran professionals; enabling product and service development around young adults; and hosting a limited number of crash events."

The Cooperative Trust stems from more than 10 years of Filene research examining young adult issues that credit unions and cooperatives face.

In 2010, while serving as Filene's young adult adviser, Dixon organized a group of 25 young credit union professionals called The Crash Network to crash the Credit Union National Association's Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). With a three-year funding commitment from CUNA Mutual Group, The Crash Network became The Cooperative Trust in 2012.

The Trust celebrated its fourth Crash the GAC event earlier this year. CUNA's Center for Professional Development enables full access to the conference by providing full scholarships for every crasher. PSCU Financial Services also sponsors lodging for crashers and their Thunderpunch party.

Kansas CUA Kicks Off Innovation And Implementation Lab

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WICHITA, Kan. (6/20/13)--
Click to view larger image Brainstorming at the Kansas Credit Union Association's Innovation and Implementation Lab Kick-off Conference Tuesday in Wichita, are, from left:  Bob Thurman, CEO of Credit Union of America, Wichita; John Beverlin, president, Mainstreet CU, Lenexa; Greg Winkler, CEO, Educational CU, Topeka; and Mark Kolarik, president, Kansas Teacher's Community CU, Pittsburg.
The Kansas Credit Union Association launched its Innovation and Implementation Lab Kick-off Conference Tuesday in Wichita, Kan., with the theme: Inspire. Create. Innovate.

The lab, an initiative of KCUA, was created to encourage ongoing and continuous curiosity to generate revolutionary ideas to serve Kansas credit unions and their members.

The lab will consist of two 10-member teams--the Think Tank team and the Dream to Destination team. The Think Tank team will foster the continued advancement of Kansas credit unions through progressive idea generation. The ideas it generates will be handed over to the Dream to Destination team, which will act as puzzle solver, putting the ideas into action.

The teams, which will be selected in July, will meet regularly throughout the year, said KCUA.

Click to view larger imageSpeakers at the Kansas Credit Union Association's Innovation and Implementation Lab Kick-off Conference included, from left, entrepreneur Wil Schroter, Matt Davis of the Filene Research Institute, and economist Max Wolff, shown here with Chris Wolgamott of Meritrust CU, Wichita. (Photos provided by the Kansas Credit Union Association)
The conference featured experts from inside and outside the credit union industry, including entrepreneur Wil Schroter, Filene Research Institute's Matt Davis, and economist Max Wolff.

Afternoon breakout sessions included brainstorming activities and building a working list for the Think Tank team to develop during 2013.

About 60 staff and volunteers from 23 Kansas credit unions attended the day-long event.

Nearly 800 Attend Maine League's 75th Convention

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PORTLAND, Maine (6/20/13)--Nearly 800 people attended the Maine Credit Union League's 75th Annual Meeting & Convention Friday and Saturday, in Portland. Also, 57 of Maine's 61 credit unions were represented at this year's convention, which featured several congressional speakers who praised Maine's credit unions.   

Maine Credit Union League President John Murphy, left, and Jim "The Rookie" Morris, one of the featured speakers at the Maine Credit Union League's 75th Annual Meeting & Convention, pose together. This year's convention attracted nearly 800 people and representatives from about 95% of the state's credit unions. (Photo provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
Nearly 40 former league board members and guests attended the Delegates' Meeting and received special acknowledgement from League Board Chair David Rossignol.

The two-day event included several special activities commemorating the league's 75th anniversary, including a special video highlighting the formation of the league to the present, commemorative banners with a timeline of key milestones and events of the league, and a special 75th anniversary booklet with memories from long-time, current and former credit union board members and other credit union pioneers in Maine.

"The league and Maine's credit unions are stronger than ever so we had a lot to celebrate in recognizing our past, present and look ahead to the future," said John Murphy, league president.

Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association, was among the speakers. Cheney applauded the league on celebrating 75 years and for being "engaged and involved in the political process and having the support of its entire congressional delegation."

Lee Wetherington, director of Strategic Insight for ProfitStars and the convention's opening speaker, focused on the "significant opportunities credit unions have in the marketplace with consumers and mobile technology. Credit unions have data on members that enable you to provide value with integrity, unlike others in the marketplace, and that is a significant advantage because integrity wins every time," he added.

U.S. Rep Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who is exploring a possible run for governor of Maine in 2014, reaffirmed his strong support of credit unions in his speech to convention-goers. Michaud called credit unions "a great example of why using local institutions, focused on helping people, is a great choice."

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) sent video greetings that highlighted the "strength of Maine's credit unions with nearly 630,000 members, the success and commitment of helping communities, specifically through the Maine CUs' Campaign for Ending Hunger, and the important role that credit unions play in the economic success of consumers and small businesses in Maine."

Canada's Central 1 Names Blackburn Interim President/CEO

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VANCOUVER, B.C. (6/20/13)--Canada's Central 1 CU has appointed Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Senior Vice President of Strategy Helen Blackburn as interim president/CEO, effective Aug. 1.

Central 1 is the central financial facility and trade association for the British Columbia and Ontario credit union systems.

"Helen has been a much respected and valued adviser to the board of directors and to member credit unions," said Terry Enns, Central 1's board chairman. "Her talent and leadership will provide the stability and continuity necessary during this transition period for Central 1."

Blackburn, who will replace President/CEO Don Rolfe, has more than 15 years' experience as a senior executive within the financial services industry. She was instrumental in leading the integration of the British Columbia and Ontario provincial centrals into the current Central 1.

Prior to joining Central 1, Blackburn was senior vice president of strategy and CFO at Credential Financial Inc. and Northwest & Ethical Investments, where she oversaw the strategic planning process and directed the financial affairs of both organizations. She is active on boards in both the non-profit and private sector.

An executive recruitment is underway for the permanent president/CEO, Central 1 said. The search is anticipated to take up to six months.

38% Of Iowa Members With Student Loans Owe More Than $20,000

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DES MOINES, Iowa (6/20/13)--Nearly a quarter of Iowa credit union members surveyed by the Iowa Credit Union League are carrying student loan debt, with nearly 38% saying they owe more than $20,000 on the loans and 24% saying they are not on track to pay back their debt.

About 25% of those carrying student loan debt said they owe between $10,000 and $20,000, said the league.

Recently the Credit Union National Association's first annual High School Student Borrowing Survey found that nearly half of seniors in U.S. high schools don't know how much money they will need for college and more didn't understand basic student loan terms. The lack of awareness and lack of financial knowledge make it more likely that students will become overextended with heavy student debt. For more information on CUNA's survey findings, use the link.

Emily Caropreso, director of communications and marketing at the league, cautioned people who are deciding where to go to college to consider carefully how much to borrow.  "It's easy to get caught up in finding the perfect college experience," she said. "However, students should investigate the long-term ramifications. In the long run, it may be wiser to choose a less expensive option or work part-time in order to borrow less."

The Iowa league had other tips, which credit unions can share with members considering college:

  • Review all loans. List loans from those with the highest interest rates to the lowest. If possible, pay more than the minimum. Any extra money should go toward the higher-interest-rate loan.
  • Go for graduated payments. A graduated student loan repayment plan means payments start low and go up every two years. The strategy helps if income increases with experience.
  • Consider consolidation.  Combining several federal loans into one may lower interest costs, especially if any have variable rates.
  • Delay with a deferment.  Unemployment, economic hardship or being in school or an internship program may qualify a loan for deferment. Check whether interest will be charged while payments are deferred.
  • Take a job that helps pay back student loans.  Several occupations may help get a student loan debt forgiven. These include those who teach or practice dentistry or medicine in underserved areas, law students working in public interest or nonprofit positions, some federal government jobs and volunteer stints in AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and Volunteers in Service to America.

Matz: How Arrowhead Turned Its Finances Around

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (6/19/13)--The financial turnaround of Arrowhead Central CU, a San Bernardino, Calif.-based credit union that the National Credit Union Administration put into conservatorship in 2010 and whose conservatorship ended in May, is both "surprising" and "inspiring," said NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz in the June NCUA Report.

Arrowhead is the first credit union to successfully emerge from federal conservatorship since 2007. On May 23, the credit union reported a net worth of more than 10.5% and membership of 116,000.

The credit union, established in 1949, served ethnically diverse residents of San Bernardino and the Inland Empire of California and had grown to $900 million in assets serving more than 100,000 members. "Much of the growth came in the last decade as Arrowhead expanded aggressively into side businesses and took on large indirect loans for recreational vehicles (RVs)," Matz wrote in her "Chairman's Corner" column.

However, by 2010, the credit union, with 25 branches became "grossly over-extended. The $154 million RV loan portfolio had collateral values of only half the outstanding loan balances, and borrowers were rapidly defaulting," Matz wrote.

Modified loans apparently masked true delinquencies and four side businesses dragged it further into the red while distracting management from providing efficient member service and managing credit risk, she added. "Net worth was down to 3% and falling fast. The credit union was on pace to lose nearly $4 million. It was in danger of going under."

NCUA conserved Arrowhead on June 25, 2010, despite criticism for acting unreasonably, Matz said. "From day one, we were dedicated to restoring sound operations and safeguarding members' hard-earned money," she added.

NCUA Region II Director Jane Walters, as agent for the conservatorship, contracted with credit union turnaround specialist Kay Woods as interim CEO. They sold or closed 14 branches, reduced staff by 242 in 2010, charged off $70 million in loans over two years, strengthened underwriting, wound down the four side businesses--"our only chance to save this credit union," Matz explained.

In June 2011, Arrowhead began its recovery by focusing on the core business, controlling costs and following the Net Worth Restoration Plan. After net worth topped 5%, NCUA offered the CEO position at Arrowhead to Darin Woinarowicz, then chief operations officer at Kern Schools FCU in Bakersfield, Calif.

Woinarowicz implemented a new Strategic Plan for Arrowhead in 2012-2013. The credit union's top goals included rebuilding relationships with select employee groups and rebranding Arrowhead as member service-oriented.

Meanwhile, NCUA worked with select employee groups and "recruited an Advisory Board of members who aspired to become Arrowhead's new Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee," Matz said. "The executive team organized a two-day 'credit union boot camp' for them and provided monthly training on their fiduciary duties. These 10 dedicated volunteers are now willing to lead Arrowhead into a new chapter in its history."

Matz attributed the success story to the "collaborative efforts of NCUA staff, the California Department of Financial Institutions, Arrowhead's interim and current management teams and staff, the new board, and members who never wavered in their support of the credit union."