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Irelands regulator plans to stress-test CU loans

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DUBLIN (6/10/10)--Ireland's credit union regulator may start stress-testing loans for about 20 credit unions that it says are having solvency problems. However, the Irish League of Credit unions (ILCU) has produced figures contradicting that claim. ILCU says that only five credit unions have solvency issues out of the country's 414 credit unions (The Independent June 9). In late May, Jonathan McMahon, assistant director general for financial institutions supervision at the Central Bank, told the Oireachtas Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs that the regulator was in the early stage of assessing problems at about 20 credit unions (Irish Times May 28). The 20 are on a watch list for high levels of arrears and potential solvency issues, said The Independent. James O'Brien, the registrar of credit unions, told the committee some credit unions may not be able to stand alone but he did not have legal authority to merge struggling credit unions into stronger ones. He said the only option available if a solvency problem arose would be to liquidate, according to the Times.. ILCU said that its Savings Protection Scheme--the league's deposit insurance fund for credit unions--is assisting five credit unions.

i3 applications due Sunday

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MADISON, Wis. (6/10/10)--Applications to participate in the Filene Research Institute's i3 innovation group are due by noon CT Sunday. Filene is seeking 17 new members for the group, which focuses on ideas, innovation and implementation and will develop an innovation competency for the next generation of credit union CEOs. Candidates will be selected and notified by June 16. Filene said there are typically at least five applicants for each opening. Many successful candidates apply two or three times before acceptance. The positions are available beginning in the fall. Applicants are recruited from natural person credit unions in the U.S. and Canada that are Filene Research Institute members. New this year, CEOs of credit unions under $50 million in assets are eligible to apply. Those applying should:
* Agree to one two-year term; * Obtain support from their CEO to be involved in the group; * Secure credit union commitment to cover travel and hotel expenses for two national meetings per year (or a total of five meetings); * Attend four two-to-three day meetings in the spring and fall: * Make a monthly time commitment to i3-related projects beyond the national meetings; * Gain support from their credit union to pilot and test at least one Filene i3 idea; and * Consent to the i3 participant agreement.
For more information, use the link.

CU purchases five stars

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STOCKTON, Calif. (6/9/10)--Safety. Soundness. Stability. Steadiness. Strength. These are five stars recently purchased and named by Financial Center CU to celebrate Five-Star Superior Ratings for the past 16 consecutive years. The ratings were from Bauer Financial Inc. The purchase of the stars was announced by President/CEO Michael Duffy at the $300 million asset Stockton, Calif.-based credit union’s 55th annual meeting in May. “Now is the time to tout the sound decisions that were made throughout the 2000s,” Duffy said. “Our careful planning is paying off and is creating a true competitive advantage. This is our opportunity to educate the local community and provide consumers a safe alternative for their hard-earned money.” Most recently, Financial Center’s strength and success was showcased in an article that ran in the Stockton Record, a newspaper that circulates to more than 60,000 households in the credit union’s immediate area. The credit union was highlighted as the only five-star institution in the county.

Michigan league launches its largest ad campaign

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LANSING, Mich. (6/10/10)--The Michigan Credit Union League said it is launching the largest advertising campaign in the history of the state credit union industry, to inform consumers that, as credit union members, they own their money. With the tagline, “Own Your Money. Join a Credit Union,” the multi-million dollar TV and radio campaign informs consumers about the credit union difference and the rewards of credit union membership, such as lower fees, better rates and available credit. The campaign also highlights the differences between credit unions and other financial institutions. Despite a tough economy, Michigan credit unions remain strong in 2010, including record growth in membership, savings deposits and small business loans, said league President/CEO David Adams. Therefore, the current economic climate is a perfect time to launch an all-new appeal to Michigan residents to join the 5,000 Americans a day who are joining a credit union, he added. “As not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions have always been owned by their members, not stockholders looking for a profit,” Adams said. “Consumers today want more control over their finances, and credit unions are a perfect alternative for people who want to keep their money close to home, working for them and their community. For 85 years, credit unions in Michigan have been in the business of helping people manage their money by investing in them, in Michigan and in America.” Beginning this week, TV and radio commercials will air statewide. They are produced by McCann Erickson Worldwide, which has offices in Birmingham, Mich., and a client list that includes General Motors. “Credit unions across the state joined together to help fund this historic advertising effort, adding up to a combined total of $4 million, including contributions from our CUcorp affiliate,” Adams said. “There is growing public awareness and support for credit unions and, with consumers looking for a safe and sound alternative for their finances, this is a perfect time to inform them about the credit union difference.” The league plans a second wave of commercials to air in the fall to build on the momentum and awareness generated by the first campaign. The commercials also will highlight the Invest in America program, which offers preferred pricing on General Motors cars and trucks, Sprint mobile services, DIRECTV and other members-only programs. To see the commercials, use the link.

Rep. Frank supports HarborOnes fin ed center

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MANSFIELD, Mass. (6/10/10)--U.S. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) attended the grand opening of a financial education center, HarborOne U, at HarborOne CU on Friday. “Our goal is to provide educational opportunities to help people make better financial choices,” said CEO James Blake. “We believe that education is the key to a better life.”
Click to view larger image James Blake, (left) president/CEO of HarborOne CU in Brockton, Mass., welcomes Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to the grand opening of the credit union’s HarborOne U Friday. (Photo provided by HarborOne CU)
HarborOne U will offer financial education, including youth financial literacy programs, first-time home buyers seminars, credit counseling, and classes on retirement and estate planning. HarborOne U will also offer life and career management programs, such as health and wellness seminars. Classes will teach participants how to search for the right college, select elder care options, and understand Social Security and Medicare benefits. Small business programs include classes on management of cash flow and receivables, working capital, social media, business and marketing plans, succession planning, and business insurance and investments management. “Credit unions are not motivated simply by profit,” Frank said. “They have a commitment to a better community, making sure people in the middle ranges and below middle ranges of income are fully served. This is an example of it. What would be a wise financial decision for some people would be an unwise one for others. That’s why what HarborOne is doing is so important.” HarborOne U stems from HarborOne's award-winning MultiCultural Banking Center in Brockton, Mass. The center opened in September 2007 to provide low- and moderate- income residents with access to financial information to help them avoid predatory lenders and assist those facing foreclosure. The center has helped more than 2,000 people. Since the credit union opened the MultiCultural Banking Center, “many people from all walks of life have inquired about financial education opportunities tailored to their specific needs," Blake said. "Given the state of the economy over the past few years, it’s evident that there is a tremendous need and desire for financial information and education. That need spans all economic levels and cultures." Classes will be offered days, evenings and weekends. Some courses will be in one-session seminars while others will be scheduled as multi-session classes. In most cases, classes will be free. Others will require a nominal fee to cover course materials. Classes and other programs will be presented by HarborOne and other area professionals. HarborOne also has a Business Information Center with free workspace, Internet access and a resource library. The center will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. HarborOne has $1.8 billion in assets.

Kites over Washington CU film wins regional Emmy

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BELLEVUE, Wash. (6/10/10)--A short film, “Kites over Washington,” which documents a temporary art installation of 131 long-tail kites that flew over a Bellevue, Wash., park as a promotional stunt for Washington credit unions, won a Northwest Regional Emmy Award. Bellevue filmmakers Illona Rossman Ho and Shannon Hart-Reed made the film, with Ho producing and Hart-Reed directing (Bellevue Reporter June 8). Credit Unions of Washington and Women in Film/Seattle provided funding for the project. Each of the 131 kites represented a member credit union in the state. “I was really going for a feel-good moment--unexpected visuals, sunny skies and a feeling of relaxation,” Hart-Reed told the newspaper. To read the article, use the link.

CUs stand against interchange bill in media

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MADISON, Wis. (6/10/10)--Credit unions continue to reach out to regional media to oppose an interchange provision in pending federal regulatory reform legislation that would allow the government to set interchange fees. Credit unions also are teaming up with other financial industry groups on their anti-interchange efforts. Dick Ensweiler, president/CEO of the Texas Credit Union League, wrote a joint op-ed with Christopher L. Williston of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas that was published by The Cherokeean Herald Wednesday. The piece, “When Reform Hammers Swing Too Wide, Consumers Get Nailed,” reiterates that interchange legislation would ultimately cost consumers. Other efforts:
* Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) President/CEO Mark Cummins wrote a letter to the editor that was published in Wednesday’s edition of Finance & Commerce. Cummins was asked by the publication to provide a comment for a separate article on how the interchange amendment will affect credit unions. His perspective was included in the story. * First Class CU, Westown, Iowa, published a letter in the Des Moines Register Wednesday opposing interchange. President/Manager Kent Strawn wrote in response to a letter written to the paper by Pat Drennen, Iowa Credit Union League board chair, and Roger Claypool, Iowa Bankers Association board chair, also opposing interchange. * Arrowhead CU President/CEO Larry Sharp sent an e-mail statement to 77,000 members asking them to write their federal representatives opposing the interchange amendment, said the Redland Daily Facts (June 3). Arrowhead CU is based in San Bernardino, Calif. * The Disclosures, a credit union band featuring Christopher Morris, CUNA Council manager of communications and Web resources, and Chad Helminak, Web producer and media relations manager for the Wisconsin Credit Union League, wrote a song, “Don’t Change Interchange,” and created a video on YouTube about interchange fees (use the link).
The coverage comes as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) hosts a “fly-in” this week with state credit union leagues and credit union representatives to oppose the interchange amendment. The “fly-in” was organized by CUNA so state leagues and credit union representatives can demonstrate to lawmakers how the interchange fee would affect them. Total credit union contacts with Congress on the interchange issue since May 24 is between 375,000 and 400,000, CUNA said. Credit unions continue to contact lawmakers on interchange. CUNA and its credit unions oppose the interchange amendment because it would be costly for credit unions to continue offering their members card products and portfolios as a part of their services. The interchange language is included in the Senate version of the bill, and CUNA is working to keep the language out of the final bill.

Card fraudsters turn from high tech to old-school skimming

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DES MOINES, Iowa (6/10/10)--Skimming is making a resurgence as a favorite method of card fraudsters to siphon cash, according to a new white paper from TMG (The Members Group). What is attracting fraudsters back to this "old school" method of theft? Fraudsters steal millions of dollars through skimming, and the skimming process is inexpensive, said Karen Postma, TMG Card Risk senior manager and author of the paper, "A Throw Back Threat." "High-profile data breaches achieved through high-tech thievery have been grabbing headlines steadily over the past five years, forcing criminals to dream up new and more devious ways to steal valuable information," said Postma. "Skimming, however, is a proven, relatively inexpensive way to grab small amounts of data over a very short period of time. A criminal with access to a couple thousand dollars and an Internet connection can procure a skimming device within a week, maybe less," she added. Skimming is achieved when a fraudster places a look-alike device over the card slot of an ATM or gas pump. The device can read the magnetic strip as credit, debit and prepaid cards pass through. It is often used with a pinhole camera that picks up the cardholder's personal identification number (PIN) as it is typed onto the keypad. This allows criminal access to the code before the PIN pad can encrypt it. The second installment of TMG's three-part series of white papers on fraud, "A Throw Back Threat" looks at skimming's comeback and some tricks-of-the-trade to help financial institutions combat this foe. "Staying on top of the latest and greatest in fraud tools and technologies is a must, of course. But, so too is keeping your eye on the mainstays of crime," says Postma. To download "A Throw-Back Threat," use the link. In the next few weeks, Postma will wrap up the series by unraveling how "Card Fraudsters Get Tricky with Travel." TMG is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Affiliates Management Company, which is owned by Iowa credit unions and their members.

CU System briefs (06/09/2010)

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* TAMPA, Fla. (6/10/10)--Joseph "Joe" Brancucci has been named president/CEO of Tampa-based GTE FCU, effective in early July, announced the credit union's Board of Directors. He succeeds Wendell "Bucky" Sebastian, who retired in December and was recently named executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation. Brancucci is executive vice president and chief operating officer of the $8.6 billion asset Tukwila, Wash.-based BECU (formerly Boeing Employees' CU). At BECU since 1995, he was instrumental in leading BECU's efforts in paperless consumer and real estate lending, tellerless branches, risk management, talent management and development and operating efficiencies. He founded Prime Alliance Solutions Inc., a provider of mortgage technology and business solutions to more than 100 credit unions. He will remain chair of the board and CEO of Prime Alliance. Brancucci also has held senior executive positions in financial services for nearly 40 years, including at Freddie Mac and a South Florida credit union. He is the former chair of the CUNA Council Forum and the CUNA Lending Council. He is chair and founder of the CU Housing Roundable and is a member of the board of Balance and board secretary at CUDL ... * ANTIOCH, Calif. (6/10/10)--A former teller at Concord-based Metro 1 CU's Antioch branch was sentenced to five years in a federal prison for helping mastermind a $74,000 robbery at the branch on Feb. 25, 2009. Daniel Ramsey, 21, of Pittsburg, Calif., also must pay more than $37,000 in restitution. He was charged with conspiracy to commit bank robbery, armed bank robbery and being an accessory after the fact. According to prosecutors, Ramsey used his inside knowledge of Metro 1's layout and security procedures to help carry out the heist, which was modeled on a takeover robbery of the credit union Ramsey witnessed in 2008. Authorities said the planning was made by Ramsey and a local community college student, Angelo Leyesa, 21, of Antioch. Two gunmen, Jarrett Sermeno, 20, and Kevin Michael Taylor, 39, allegedly carried out the robbery. Leyesa, Sermeno, Taylor, and Shannon Sorrell, the alleged getaway driver, are expected to plead guilty and be sentenced today ( June 9 and Targeted News Service June 8) ... * SANTA ROSA, Calif. (6/10/10)--Redwood CU has added "Peanuts" character Lucy Van Pelt to its stable of "Peanuts on Parade"
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statues, honoring the work and contributions of longtime Santa Rosa resident and "Peanuts" creator Charles M. Schulz. The program, which began in 2005, allows local businesses to sponsor statues of "Peanuts" characters, when are decorated and placed on permanent display around town. RCU conducted a design contest among employees. This year's winning design was submitted by RCU Marketing Specialist Jon Lehre. Titled "The Advisor is In," the statue features Lucy behind her psychiatric stand doling out financial advice. In true credit union spirit, the five-cent charge has been changed to "Free." She offers budgeting tips for items such as a football, a kite, and even a sad little Christmas tree. A team of volunteer RCU employees constructed and painted the statue. (Photo provided by Redwood CU) ...

NEW IMSNBC.comI CUs picking up steam

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NEW YORK (Filed at 9:43 a.m. CT 6/10/10)--More than 1.2 million Americans joined a credit union in 2009, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) told The growth is significant, with credit unions now having nearly 10% of the household savings in the U.S.--their biggest share ever, the news outlet said. The article attributes the growth to "public backlash from the financial meltdown and government bailout" of banks. "Memberships increased more than one-and-a-half times faster than the growth in the U.S. population," CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica said in the article. Nearly one in four Americans now belongs to a credit union. "Twenty years of surveys show credit unions are really trusted and highly regarded; the most trusted sector in the financial services industry," Mica told "Credit unions have always invested rather conservatively, so they didn't get caught up in all of the recent loan losses." The article cites a new study that shows "free checking is alive and well at credit unions." It also points out that members are owners, not stockholders, and quotes Noreen Perrotta, money editor at Consumer Reports, who says that at credit unions, "you are as important as the next depositor. In a mega bank, if you don't have a large amount on deposit, you may get slammed with more fees and you may feel like you're not that important to them." Consumers saved $7.3 billion--$81 per member--in 2009 by using credit unions, said the article. It also cites Tukwila, Wash.-based BECU's aggressive advertising campaign, "Switch Now or Pay Later" and discusses shared branching. The article also points to CUNA's credit union locator at For the full article, use the resource link.