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Report Violent and property crimes declined in 07

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WASHINGTON (6/10/08)--The U.S. experienced a 1.4% decrease in the number of violent crimes--including robberies--and a 2.1% decline in the number of property crimes committed in 2007, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Robberies were down 1.2% from 2006 robberies, according to the FBI's Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report for 2007, released Monday. All four of the violent offense categories declined nationwide from 2006. Forcible rape dropped 4.3%; murder and non-negligent manslaughter decreased 2.7%; and robbery and aggravated assaults each declined 1.2%. Cities with populations of 250,000 to 499,999 saw the most decline in violent crimes: 3.9%. They also saw the largest decrease in robberies--3%. The nation's largest cities, with one million or more in population experienced 2.9% fewer robberies than in 2006. However, violent crime in non-metropolitan counties rose 1.8% while metro counties decreased 1.7%. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter decreased 9.8% in cities of one million or more population; those crimes increased 3.7% in cities with 50,000 to 99,999 in population. Three of the nation's four regions saw violent crimes drop. However, in the South, it rose 1.7% during 2007 over 2006 data. Property crimes dropped in all city categories, with the greatest decrease--4.2%--in cities with 250,000 to 499,999 inhabitants. Motor vehicle thefts declined in all population groups. For more data, use the resource links.

Two new members elected to CUNA Mutual Board

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MADISON, Wis. (6/10/08)--The CUNA Mutual Group board of directors named two new members to its board, replacing two retiring directors.
The new members are: Robert J. Marzec, retired partner from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Minneapolis; and Randy M. Smith, president/CEO, Randolph-Brooks FCU, Live Oak, Texas. Marzec retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2002 as a partner in the assurance and business advisory services practices. He was with the firm for 36 years. Smith has been president/CEO of Randolph-Brooks FCU since 1987. They replace Neil Springer, managing director, Springer and Associates, Wheaton, Ill.; and James L. Bryan Sr., retired president/CEO, Texans CU, Richardson, Texas. Springer and Bryan’s terms ended May 29. Marzec and Smith join board members:
* Eldon R. Arnold, retired president/CEO, CEFCU, Peoria, Ill.; * Loretta M. Burd, president/CEO, Centra CU, Columbus, Ind.; * William B. Eckhardt, president/CEO, Alaska USA FCU, Anchorage, Alaska; * Joseph J. Gasper, retired president/CEO, Nationwide Insurance, Dublin, Ohio; * Bert J. Hash Jr., president/CEO, Municipal Employees CU of Baltimore, Inc., Baltimore, Md.; * Victoria W. Miller, retired executive vice president and chief financial officer, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.; * C. Alan Peppers, president/CEO, Westerra CU, Denver, Colo.; * Farouk D.G. Wang, director, buildings and grounds management, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii; * Larry T. Wilson, president/CEO, Coastal FCU, Raleigh, N.C.; and * James W. Zilinski, retired chairman, president/CEO, Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America, Pittsfield, Mass.

Community charters help Georgia CUs grow says article

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ATLANTA (6/10/08)--Community charters are helping Georgia's credit unions withstand the ups and downs of serving members in today's economy, according to an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published on Sunday. The article cites two examples in Atlanta: Delta Community CU, the largest credit union in the state with $2.597 billion in assets, and Georgia's Own CU, with $1.109 billion in assets. Both credit unions switched from employer-focused operations to community-based models. Mike Mercer, CEO of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates, told the newspaper that despite recent stalled membership growth in the state, credit unions there will grow rapidly over the next few years as credit unions boost investments in new branches. Many of the branches are in areas where the credit unions already have members. The article reported statistics from the Credit Union National Association: About 18% of the state's residents are credit union members, compared with 29% nationwide. In some states, at least 40% of the population is a credit union member. There's room to grow, Mercer told the newspaper. The article reported that bankers don't like the community charter, but the credit unions noted that they have to diversify to survive and are just trying to improve services for their members by opening branches in members' neighborhoods. "We're not growing for growth's sake," Rick Foley, president/CEO of Delta Community CU, told the newspaper. For the full article, use the resource link.

CU System briefs (06/09/2008)

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* MONTGOMERY, Ala. (6/10/08)--Alabama State Employees CU (ASE CU) is attracting twice as many new members each month since it began offering its Visa ClearCheck card last year (Montgomery Advertiser June 10). Before, about 200 new members joined the $139 million asset credit union each month; now it's about 400 a month, said Barry Mask, marketing director. The debit card won the 2008 Elan Award for the best secure financial card design from the International Card Manufacturers' Association, beating out cards from more than 100 banks and credit unions. ASE CU ordered 8,000 of the card and already has distributed more than 1,000 to new members. The credit union decided to offer the card after focus groups indicated they wanted a clear relationship with their financial institution … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (6/10/08)--Erie, Pa.-based Erie FCU has experienced two cases of fraudulent use of relay services for the hearing impaired, says the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) (Life is a Highway June 10). A relay service contacted the $243 million asset credit union in both cases and attempted to have funds wired-transferred from a member's account. The individuals knew the member's name, account number, Social Security number, address, phone number and mother's maiden name, said PCUA. In one case, the caller did not know the account's password and the credit union avoided a large loss. In the other, a call center representative knew the member was not hearing impaired. The credit union contacted the member while the fraudulent caller was still attempting to gain access to the account. The member placed a password on the account with no loss to the credit union … * RALEIGH, N.C. (6/10/08)--Coastal FCU announced Monday that as of May 31, it had surpassed $2 billion in assets, putting it in the Top 45 largest credit unions in the U.S. The Raleigh-based credit union has added more than $139 million in assets since Jan. 1 and increased membership by 8,000 to 177,000. Growth has been fueled by an influx of new checking account deposits and a spike in new mortgage business. The credit union's rates and commitment to helping people refinance out of adjustable loans led to nearly 100% increase in mortgage loan applications the past year. "When you've been around for more than 40 years, you can achieve this kind of growth," said President/CEO Larry Wilson. He noted that the average community bank is around for about five years before being considered a takeover target. The growth has resulted in a realignment of management responsibilities among staff, effective April 21 … * SAN DIMAS, Calif. (6/10/08)--Financial Service Centers Cooperative Inc. (FSCC) has named Ken Facer, executive vice president of Arrowhead CU, San Bernardino, Calif., as the 2008 Callahan Award winner. The award is presented annually to an individual whose dedication to FSCC has helped expand the reach of shared branching. Shown with Facer is Bonnie Kramer, FSCC executive vice president/chief operating officer, who presented the award on Thursday in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (Photo provided by the Financial Service Centers Cooperative Inc.) …

Nominations open for Lending in Excellence awards

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MADISON, Wis. (6/10/08)--Nominations are being accepted for the ninth annual Excellence in Lending Awards, which recognize outstanding lending results and practices by credit unions. The deadline for submitting applications is Aug. 8. The awards identify and share examples of lending excellence within the credit union movement by recognizing individual credit unions for their ability to serve members while sustaining sound financial performance. Credit unions demonstrating an ability to meet their members’ needs through innovation are excellent award candidates, said the awards sponsors, CUNA Mutual Group and CUNA Lending Council. Credit unions may be nominated for the 2008 award in several categories:
* Consumer Lending Excellence Award: two categories--assets under $250 million and assets greater than $250 million; * Mortgage Lending Excellence Award: two categories--assets under $250 million and assets greater than $250 million; * Low/Modest Means Excellence Award: Any asset level; and * Business Lending Excellence Award: Any asset level.
For more information, use the link. Awards will be presented at the CUNA Lending Council annual conference Nov. 2-5, in Orlando, Fla. Airfare, hotel and conference registration for one representative of each winning credit union is included with the award. CUNA Mutual and the CUNA Lending Council established the Excellence in Lending Awards in 2000.

Colorado CUs support fin lit legislation

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DENVER (6/10/08)--The Credit Union Association of Colorado was pleased to see financial literacy legislation (House Bill 08-1168) signed into law by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
Click to view larger image Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, flanked by credit unions, signs into law House Bill 08-1168, a financial literacy measure supported by the Credit Union Association of Colorado.
The financial literacy legislation passed the Colorado State General Assembly on May 5 and was effective immediately upon the governor’s signature. A group of credit union CEOs and the association government affairs staff attended the signing ceremony held at the State Capitol. The law requires school districts statewide to adopt financial literacy education into their curriculums. It not only heightens awareness for financial literacy in the state's communities, but also presents an opportunity for credit unions to partner with their school districts and offer a turnkey financial literacy program, said the association. “Financial literacy and education have been one of the cornerstones of the credit union movement,” said Timothy Dore, association senior vice president.
Click to view larger image A group of credit union CEOs and the Credit Union Association of Colorado's government affairs team pose before attending a signing ceremony for the state's new financial literacy law. (Photos provided by the Credit Union Association of Colorado)
“We have had success in promoting financial literacy to our credit unions’ membership and the communities we serve, but as a result of the signing of this law, credit unions have a window of extending that success in working with our school districts by providing objective financial education tools," said Dore. "This law is as much about providing financial literacy for the future as it is about providing financial literacy today, and credit unions are happy to have the opportunity to serve our communities in this manner,” Dore noted.

What Americans know about their finances--not much

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SILVER SPRING, Md. (6/10/08)--Credit unions have an opportunity to help those struggling to pay their bills and mortgages on time, with a recent survey indicating that the majority of Americans don’t know how to handle their finances. The 2008 Financial Literacy survey, by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and MSN Money, indicates that one in 10 Americans with a mortgage, or 10 million adults, reported being late or missing a mortgage payment in the last year. One quarter of Americans also say they do not know enough about owning a home to consider buying one, the survey said. Other highlights of the survey:
* Roughly 15 million adults receive calls from collectors or are considering filing for bankruptcy. Only two in 10 keep track of their spending--regardless of gender, age, or income; * Higher income households and older Americans are more likely to stay on top of their bills. Whites and Latinos are more likely to pay their bills on time and stay clear of collections than blacks, and 59% of young adults in Generation Y pay their bills on time each month; * The majority of the public does not have sufficient emergency funds, defined as three to six months’ income saved. More than 76 million adults say they do not have retirement savings; and * One-quarter of Americans expect their income to outpace inflation. More than half of Americans believe their income will shrink or not keep pace with inflation. The worry is the greatest among Americans in the Midwest at 70%.

First Basin member seeks regulator intervention

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ODESSA, Texas (6/10/08)--A member of First Basin CU has sent a letter to the commissioner of the Texas Credit Union Department, requesting that a state examiner investigate the April annual meeting of the credit union in which three incumbent directors’ were re-elected. The commissioner also is being asked to investigate the credit union’s earlier attempt to convert to a mutual savings bank. The five-page letter to Commissioner Harold Feeney also was sent to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Texas U.S. senators, several state legislators and the National Credit Union Administration, among others. In her letter, Karen J. Howard-Winters outlines several points in her complaint against CEO Shem Culpepper and the board of directors of the $115 million asset, Odessa, Texas-based credit union. She alleged that they:
* Withheld important information regarding the election on the meeting notice postcard; * Did not allow conversion opponents to distribute documents outlining their concerns; * Did not allow the opponents to speak during the meeting or to refute claims made that they were influenced by an outside organization formed as a resource to help small credit unions protect themselves against predatory leadership aimed at insider enrichment; * Appeared to be “stacking the deck” with votes from employees and their families; * Spent First Basin funds for a parliamentary attorney who did not contribute to the fairness of the election; and * Spent First Basin [funds] to hire a firm already on the payroll and not a neutral third-party, to count ballots.
The day before First Basin’s annual meeting, the group opposed to the earlier conversion attempt petitioned the courts, seeking depositions from key officials of the credit union (News Now April 15). The depositions related to a potential claim of defamation and breach of fiduciary responsibilities, said the court document. However, a suit was not anticipated at that time. The group announced at a press conference at the Ector County Courthouse that it filed the petition because the credit union had spent roughly $500,000 “of member-owned funds trying to convert” the credit union to a mutual savings bank earlier this year. In an April 8 letter, The Texas Credit Union Department responded that it did not believe it would be appropriate at that time “to insert itself into the credit union’s election process.” The letter, written by Feeney, continued: “Dispute resolution involving an election process is a specialized field. People in this type of dispute resolution generally have undergone extensive training, and depending on the dispute in question, have experience in the field. Examiners are experts in their field, but have not undergone training in dispute training. “While the department declines to send an examiner to observe the proceedings of the upcoming meeting, the department will continue to monitor this situation and will take appropriate action should it be determined necessary,” the letter added. A call to First Basin was not returned to News Now by press time. For more information, use the links.

Study IDs eight underbanked consumer segments

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CHICAGO (6/10/08)--A new study defines eight underbanked consumer segments and reports on their preferences and attitudes about financial services. The Chicago-based Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) released its initial findings at the third Annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum, which continues through today in Miami. The eight underbanked consumer segments include:
* Cash is King: This group includes consumers who are most likely to rely on cash and least likely to have or have had checking or savings accounts. They earn lower household incomes and are more likely struggling to make ends meet. They are highly unlikely to make financial transactions in a bank or credit union. * The Next Wave: This group tries to cover its needs and hopes to reach financial goals like owning a home. It's more likely to make financial transactions at non-banks, less likely to have checking or savings accounts, and cash still plays a key role. They are motivated to save money and are interested in earning interest. * The Strivers: Members of this financially aggressive group take an active role in money management, use checking/savings accounts actively and make many financial transactions. They like checking accounts so they can keep track of their spending and it makes it easier to pay bills while savings accounts are seen as keeping their money secure. More than half have checking accounts. However, some do not; among the reason they cite are concerns about personal information. * Middle of the Road: They also actively manage money, with nearly 70% having a checking account and 60% a savings account. They hold these accounts to facilitate paying bills and make purchases easier. They are less likely to come from families who have banked. The majority do bank and those that do most likely make their financial transactions in a stand along bank or credit unions. They prefer this to do what they need to quickly and the employees are most friendly and helpful. * My Way: This group's members are more likely than other groups to hold a checking and saving account. They enjoy the ease of paying bills and making purchases with checks, and indicate that earning interest is a key reason for their savings account. They make frequent bank and non-bank transactions at various places, including convenience stores. They want transactions completed quickly, conveniently and safely. They don’t want hidden fees or high minimum balances. * The Savers: Saving money is their key reason to have banking accounts. About half hold a checking and/or savings account. Keeping money secure is another key reason for these accounts. Savers who do not have an account cite the security of their personal information as their No. 1 concern. They make more frequent transactions at non-bank locations such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and discount/dollar stores. They look for access to information on products and services--either through classes or brochures. They are less likely to borrow money. Keeping themselves and their spending in check is key. * Almost There: This group's members are more likely to use traditional financial institutions, through a checking account. More than 60% of the group has checking accounts to make bill paying easier and to track their spending. A smaller portion has savings accounts. They are more comfortable making transactions in a bank or credit union than non-banks. They rate their banking experience more positively than the average adult and are likely to keep returning. They prefer banks or credit unions that are contained within a store rather than stand alone buildings. * Borrowers: This group borrows money frequently and for a variety of reasons. They have student loans, personal loans, lines of credit, home equity loans, payday loans, auto loans--all with higher rates than the average adult. This group is more than twice as likely to have borrowed money in the past year. The amounts are lower--under $1,000--but they are more likely to borrow from their bank than family or a friend. Borrowers make above-average transactions at a variety or places--banks/credit unions, supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores and super centers. Seventy percent have a checking account; nearly 60% have a savings account.
The study linked survey respondents to their credit scores to better understand the credit profiles of the underbanked. Twenty-six percent have a prime credit score, 32% are considered subprime, and 42% had thin or no credit file. Consumers' perceptions of their credit profile largely mirrored their actual profile, the study revealed. The study was co-sponsored by CFSI, Citi, Fidelity National Information Services, H&R Block and MasterCard, and was conducted by Experian Consumer Research. It collected information nationwide from nearly 3,000 unbanked and underbanked consumers with a median household income of $26,390. For more information on the market segments, use the resource link.