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CUs creative in how they give back to community

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MADISON, Wis. (7/19/11)--Cleaning out frog ponds, donating men's neckties, working as clowns in parades, bowling while dressed up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, swimming in gelatin, helping people get in touch with their inner cowboy … what won't credit unions do to give back to their communities? Beyond the typical food drives, the shred-a-thons, charity golf tournaments, and children's hospitals walks and runs, credit unions are finding creative ways to give back to their communities--and make giving fun. Here's a sampling of some credit unions' recent voluntarism.
* About 20 managers of Kohler (Wis.) CU volunteered at the Riveredge Nature Center in Newburg, Wis., by spending the day cleaning out frog ponds, painting building areas, moving stones, mulching and building a foundation and play area for a toddler house. They finished several projects before the center's summer camp begins. "Our managers love these work days in the community," Ken Sackmann, chief lending officer at the $247.5 million asset credit union, told The Sheboygan Press (July 10)."We know it makes a big difference for the organizations we volunteer for, and it gives us all a chance to work side by side in a completely different setting." * Clowning around to make people happy is a family affair for the volunteer clowns at Northland Area FCU, Oscoda, Mich. The clown troupe is made up of employees who often include their children and grandchildren in their adventures. Northland clown Katie Quigley brought daughters Erika, 7, and Brooke, 10, on their first clown excursion during a Fourth of July celebration in West Branch. Erika was concerned that only children were receiving candy during the parade. She passed her candy out to elderly people seated along the parade route. "They were thrilled--I think she made everyone's day," said Quigley. Also dancing through the crowd were West Branch staffers Janelle Tambling (alias Dazzle) and Dawn Poltz (Bubbles). The Northland Clown Troupe has entertained communities in Northeastern Michigan since 2006, said the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor July 18). * Employees at LBS Financial CU, a $988.2 million asset credit union based in Long Beach, Calif., donated more than 100 men's neckties to the Cal State Long Beach Career Development Center as part of a tie exchange program to reinforce a professional appearance in the workplace (Press-Telegram July 11). * Twenty employees at EECU, a community credit union in Jackson, Mich., dressed in costumes to participate in Junior Achievement's annual Crazy Bowl fundraiser in February. This year's theme was cartoons. Four EECU teams represented the Smurfs, the Flintstones, Scooby Doo and the Teenage Mutuant Ninja Turtles. They raised $930 and EECU added in an additional $1,430 sponsorship to the event. EECU also donated four $25 Visa Gift Cards for door prizes and a number of goodie bag items (Michigan Monitor). * Whitefish (Mont.) CU, Montana's largest credit union will support a number of charities in its branches' six service areas. For example, it will help folks get in touch with their inner cowboy at the Pistol Creek Rodeo in Ronan, near the credit union's Polson branch by donating prizes for victorious contestants. For this year's Glacier Symphony and Chorale's Festival Amadeus, it is underwriting ticket costs for all students in the Flathead Valley to promote the arts among young Montanans. And it revved all engines to provide prizes and ad costs for the 12th Annual Thompson Falls Rods & Classics Show & Shine by a Dam Site, a classic car show with participants from throughout the state. Proceeds go to the Sheriff's Relief Fund, Cancer Network, food banks and the local animal shelter. * American Heritage FCU in Philadelphia held its 18th Annual Gelatin Olympics in Northeast Philadelphia. Sliders gathered pledges from sponsors, dressed up in zany costumes, and plunged into a pool of 700 gallons of bright red gelatin. Employees helped with the Ultimate Gelatin Slide, the Gelatin Eating Contest, and Gelatin Balloon Toss, all to benefit the Kids-N-Hope Foundation for the Children's Seashore House of Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. Last year, the event raised more than $25,000 to support a music therapy program at the hospital (Life is a Highway June 8). * Ticonderoga (N.Y.) FCU concluded its second annual cell phone drive earlier this year. It collected 111 cell phones as well as chargers and accessories and donated them to the STOP Domestic Violence Center of Essex County. The cell phones will be turned into emergency 911 Life Lines for people in need.

Small CUs consolidating says Celent study

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BOSTON (7/19/11)--Trends in the consolidation of credit unions--especially smaller credit unions, which are "disappearing"--are the topic of a new report. Credit unions with less than $2 million in assets are disappearing quickly, while those with $2 million to $10 million are not far behind, said Celent, a Boston-based research firm, in its report, "Tipping Scale: Credit Union Consolidation." It also noted that credit unions over $500 million in assets are "vastly outgrowing" any other category relative to their tier. "Looking at the entire credit union spectrum, the number of credit unions in the U.S. is declining rapidly, from 10,316 at the end of 2000 to 7,339 at the end of 2010," said the company. "In the past, credit unions simply required a branch or two, a core banking system, and an ATM," said Bart Narter, senior vice president of Celent's Banking Group and author of the report. "In the past 10 years, Internet banking, bill pay, know your customer and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) compliance are table stakes. Going forward, competition will be driven by demand for mobile banking, consumer and business remote deposit capture, and branch capture." Smaller credit unions don't have the scale to create these offerings and even the larger credit unions are dwarfed by the size of their bank competitors, said the report, which examines the overall credit union count within each tier. It also reviews efficiency ratios and examines the trajectory of shares and deposits for each category over the past 10 years.

Court rules Polish and Slavic CU didnt violate ECOA

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. (7/19/11)--A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit against Polish & Slavic FCU, saying the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based credit union did not violate the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) when it denied a Belarusian man membership. Andrei Chizh had filed suit Sept. 13, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, saying he was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of national origin when he was denied application for membership in Jan. 6, 2010. He is Belarusian. The credit union had told him he should fill out an application to a Polish/Slavic organization within its field of membership to qualify for membership, according to court documents. Polish & Slavic FCU, the nation's largest ethic based credit union with $1.4 billion in assets. ECOA makes it unlawful for any creditor to discriminate against any applicant, with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction. According to court documents, Chizh maintained that by applying for plural accounts via membership at the credit union he was an applicant for credit. The credit union maintained he had not applied for credit and was denied membership because the documents he submitted--a driver's license with a post office address instead of a permanent physical address, a letter from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an expired Belarusian passport, and a copy of a bank statement that was "extremely poor quality"--did not meet the credit union's membership standards. Red flags were also raised when he presented 20 different credit cards in his name, many of them issued in 2009. In agreeing with the credit union and dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Sandra L. Townes said in the July 11th opinion that Chizh "seeks to conflate the process of applying for membership with the process of applying for credit. He had asserted that ECOA "protects not only people who filled a credit application, but also people who intend to apply for a credit account. "Neither the facts nor the law support this interpretation," said Judge Townes. "A precondition for credit eligibility is different from an aspect of a direct application…applying for membership in a federal credit union or for a savings account does not automatically constitute a direct application to a creditor for an extension of the right to defer payment. No count has read a requirement into the ECOA that federal credit unions must apply the rules governing an application for a credit card, personal loan, vehicle loan, mortgage or other extension of credit when considering for a savings account, a checking account or membership in the organization." Courts, she said, "have done just the opposite."

Filene brief details six DE training case studies

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MADISON, Wis. (7/19/11)--The Filene Research Institute released a new research brief detailing the solutions to six fictional industry case studies presented from participants of the Credit Union Development Education (DE) Training held April 6-13 in Madison, Wis. The brief, “Credit Union Development Education Program,” is written by Filene’s Mark Meyer, CEO, and George Hofheimer, chief research officer. Meyer and Hofheimer attended the April DE training and completed the research brief as their post-training project. During the training program, participants learn lessons in cooperative principles and credit union philosophy while incorporating challenges credit unions face. In addition to group exercises and speaker presentations, training participants are required to complete and present team case studies proposing solutions for credit unions to help alleviate or eliminate challenging situations in any given area. Filene’s new research brief details the solutions put forward by participants. Included in the April DE Training were case studies on:
* Interchange income; * Mergers and small credit unions; * Plans for credit union growth; * Plans for increasing financial capability in America; * Leveraging 2012 as the “Year of the Cooperative” to promote cooperatives and credit unions; and * Credit union development in Iraq.
“If more professionals apply these concepts in their organizations, credit unions could be poised for a renaissance,” wrote Meyer and Hofheimer. The DE class of 2011 “presents novel ideas about some very realistic issues in the credit union system. While the case studies are fictional, they do represent scenarios your organization may be facing today.” To download the report, use the link. The report can also be found on or It is free to download for both Filene members and non-members.

N.J. league chapters revamped

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HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (7/19/11)--The New Jersey Credit Union League has restructured its chapter system in an effort to make it easier for credit unions to participate (The Daily Exchange July 18). The four new chapters are:
* Northern Chapter of Credit Unions; * North-Central Chapter of Credit Unions; * South-Central Chapter of Credit Unions; and * Southern Chapter of Credit Unions.
Each chapter will have a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. Applications for officer positions are due Aug. 10. Elections will be held online. For a guide on the changes, lists of credit unions by chapter, bylaws for each chapter, and chapter official applications, use the link.

Pa. housing program suspended affects CUs processes

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (7/19/11)--The closing of an emergency mortgage loan program in Pennsylvania may affect the foreclosure notice process for state and federal credit unions, according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) (Life is a Highway July 18). The state Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) has been shut down due to insufficient funding, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) announced. HEMAP allows homeowners to apply for emergency mortgage loans to avoid foreclosure. The PHFA believes that there will not be enough funds to pay out on new applications while continuing to make disbursements on prior approved applications. As a result of the HEMAP suspension, lenders can begin mortgage foreclosure actions without using the Act 91 notice, which provides homeowners with information about access to the program. Mortgage foreclosure in Pennsylvania is a civil legal action, advised Rich Wargo, PCUA executive vice president/general counsel. Notices and procedures apply to state and federally chartered credit unions. Credit unions considering foreclosure action should confer with counsel to ensure the correct steps are taken regarding notice and other aspects of the procedure, Wargo added. The PHFA said it expects funds to be available through the federal Emergency Homeowners Loan Program (EHLP). The agency advised lenders to counsel borrowers to apply for EHLP assistance.

Article highlights Minn. CUs MBL efforts

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/19/11)--Several Minnesota credit unions are ramping up their efforts to offer member business loans (MBL) to small businesses, according to a Friday article in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. The article’s main focus was on Spire FCU, a $523 million asset credit union based in Falcon Heights, Minn., which is bolstering its commercial lending to serve a growing desire for real estate investments. “The credit union has doubled the size of its commercial-lending team to six this year after demand for apartment buildings, duplexes and single-family rentals started picking up toward the end of 2010,” the article said. “… Spire had 53 loan requests averaging $233,000 through June, a marked increase from the 31 requests that averaged $55,000 in the same period last year,” the article continued. “The credit union closed about $1.5 million in commercial loans through June, a figure that Vice President of Business Services Cliff Wantz expects to grow significantly in the quarters ahead.” The credit union is being cautious and paying attention to the importance of borrower relationships, diversified strategies and expertise, Dan Stolz, Spire president/CEO told the Journal. “Diversification is king,” Stoltz said. “When you have a loan mix dependent solely on one product, whether it be autos or homes, if one of those takes a beating, your whole portfolio is going to take a hit.” Postal CU, a $489 million asset credit union in Woodbury, Minn., saw its commercial lending go up roughly 10% during the first two quarters of 2011 from a year earlier, Brian Sherrick, Postal executive vice president of lending member services, told the Journal. However, the credit union mostly has been reactive with business lending, getting involved in a few investment properties but not necessarily marketing the service, Sherrick added. SharePoint CU, a $169 million asset credit union based in Hopkins, Minn., has roughly $2 million in MBL outstanding, but only uses MBL to supplement its business, rather than as a central component of its portfolio, Phil Kopischke, SharePoint President/CEO, told the Journal. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions are asking Congress to increase credit unions’ MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. Doing so would open up more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $13 billion in loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers, CUNA said.

Perkins to lead West. Bridge Corporate successor

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SAN DIEGO (7/19/11)--Philip Perkins, president/CEO of Western Bridge Corporate FCU, has been named president/CEO of United Resources FCU, Western Bridge’s proposed successor. The agreement is contingent on the approval of the National Credit Union Administration and the successful chartering of United Resources FCU. “This is an important step in not only the birth of the new corporate, but [it] also ensures stability and success of our business plan for the next several years,” said Paul Lewis, CEO, San Diego Medical FCU and chair of United Resources Executive Personnel Committee. Also serving on the committee were proposed United Resources FCU board members Bill Before, chief financial officer, Spokane Teachers FCU, Liberty Lake, Wash., and Jim Aley, chief financial officer, Honda FCU, Torrance, Calif. The committee also reached consulted with several local credit union leaders. Prior to joining WesCorp CU (the predecessor to Western Bridge) in 2009, Perkins served as senior vice president and senior portfolio manager of Delaware Investments, Philadelphia. Perkins’ financial career spans more than 25 years and includes executive positions with the Global Markets and Emerging Markets divisions of Deutsche Bank, A.G. in London and Moscow. He began his career as a trader at Salomon Brothers.