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Pew Trusts: Prize-linked savings gaining nationwide momentum

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PHILADELPHIA (7/29/14)--Prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts, an idea invented and incubated by credit unions to encourage members to save money, continue to gather steam nationally.
Nine states have passed laws that allow credit unions to operate programs that incentivize members to put away money by offering opportunities to win cash when they save, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts, which recently featured the growing popularity of the product on its news page  Stateline.
The article noted that savings rates in the United States are low: In March 2014 the aggregate personal savings rate, defined as the ratio of total savings to after-tax income, was only 3.8%. And a 2013 survey found 27% of all Americans had no emergency savings, while another 23% had some but could not cover three months of living expenses. Low-income families struggle the hardest to accrue savings.
With as little as $25, a credit union member can open an account and enter a drawing for monthly and annual grand-cash prizes. The beauty is that those who aren't lucky enough to win still benefit from having started an interest-generating savings account, advocates say.
"Most of the things we do in the Legislature are so abstract, and it's hard to see the benefits," Sen. Amanda McGill (D-Neb.) told  Stateline . "But this really gets people happy and engaged, and they are saving."
Credit unions have played an integral role in developing PLS programs as part of the movement's ongoing effort to help members enhance financial literacy, save money and improve spending and debt management habits ( News Now  July 19).
With the help of their state leagues, Nebraska, Michigan, North Carolina, Washington, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland and Rhode Island have passed laws to allow credit unions to offer PLS accounts. New York only awaits the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass its own law, which was approved by the state's Legislature earlier this year.
Since 2009, thousands have won prizes worth anywhere between a $15 monthly payout to a $100,000 grand prize, which was handed out in Michigan in 2012.
Currently, federal law prohibits banks from offering prize-linked savings promotions, the Pew article points out.  However, it added, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have proposed the American Savings Promotion Act that would amend banking laws to allow banks to offer prizes to savers.
To read the full Pew Charitable Trusts article, use the link.

CU System briefs (07/29/2014)

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  • BUTTE, Mont. (7/29/14)-- Kathy Shea, president/CEO of Heritage FCU, Butte, Mont., with $18 million in assets, will retire at the end of July, the Montana Credit Union Network reported ( The President's Report July 28).  Erin Johnston will replace Shea. Johnston previously was in upper management at Rocky Mountain CU, Helena, Mont., with $155 million in assets ...
  • EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (7/29/14)-- The RCU Foundation, the charitable arm of Royal CU, Eau Claire, Wis., with $1.4 billion in assets, presented a $20,000 donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Chippewa Valley July 25 at the club's Mary Markquart Center in Eau Claire. Earlier this year the RCU Foundation selected the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Chippewa Valley to be the recipient of the funds raised at RCU's Charity Classic race, which took place June 28. The donation will be used to construct two new high-tech classrooms in the Eau Claire club. The space will be used for students to complete homework and other educational presentations and activities ...

Allegacy FCU heart health program saves $150K in employee costs

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WINSTON SALEM, N.C. (7/29/14)--An investment into the health of its employees has allowed Allegacy FCU, Winston Salem, N.C., to shave $150,000 off of its heart-related health care costs over the past five years.

Spurred by the desire to help employees make healthier choices, and to rein in swelling health insurance costs, in 2009 the $1.1 billion-asset credit union launched AllHealth: a comprehensive program that educates and coaches employees on how to live a healthier lifestyle ( Triad Business Journal July 25).

Since implementation, the credit union has seen a 47% return on investment through declines in absenteeism and increases in productivity.

The program incorporates screenings that measure blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, while Allegacy's partner in the program, Novant Health, makes available a wellness coach who meets with employees on a regular basis to offer exercise, diet and fitness invites.

Further, the credit union sends out a weekly newsletter and hosts "lunch and learn" sessions as part of the educational component of the program, which can be crucial to its success, Garrick Throckmorton, Allegacy human resources manager for organizational development, told Triad Business Journal.

"Consistent education is the key to allowing someone to understand the change in lifestyle they need," Throckmorton said. "We ensure they are connecting back to the wellness coach on-site to be able to get the resources they need that are customized to their situation."

One employee told Triad Business Journal she lost 50 pounds through the program and reduced her blood pressure medication from three prescriptions to one.

"I've been battling high blood pressure for years," said Berlinda Little, a loan officer for Allegacy. "I knew I needed to do something to prevent it and control it."

The program, which enjoys a 96% employee participation rate, recently earned Allegacy the designation of 'Best in Class' by Triad Business Journal in its 'Healthiest Employers' awards program.

Weidler leads Western CUNA Management School graduates

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CLAREMONT, Calif. (7/29/14)--Matthew Weidler of Evangelical Christian CU in Brea, Calif., just became the sixth student in the history of Western CUNA Management School to graduate with highest honors. He was one of 89 students who graduated from the school on July 25.
Click to view larger image Matthew Weidler of Evangelical Christian CU in Brea, Calif., with Western CUNA Management School Board Trustee Chair Shruti Miyashiro, is just the sixth person in the history of WCMS to graduate with highest honors. He earned high honors on the three examinations taken over the three-year period as well as on each of his two projects. (California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues photo)
Weidler earned high honors on the three examinations taken over a three-year period, as well as on each of his two projects. Evangelical Christian CU has $1 billion in assets.
Five students graduated with high honors while seven graduated with honors. Students accepted their diplomas at a ceremony held July 24 at Pomona College.
Students graduating with high honors were:
  • Christopher Curry, Hawaii
  • Sharee Dickey, Utah;
  • Dohnia Dorman, New Mexico;
  • Tina Estes, California; and
  • Missy Key, Utah.
Honors students this year included:
  • Ethan Bambock, Washington;
  • Joy Deonna Grimes, California;
  • Ryan Kane, California;
  • Lynda Joy Mahoney, New Mexico;
  • Molly Roberts; California;
  • Jennifer Krystal Trejo, California; and
  • Teresa Ward, California.
Over a three-year period, students have five opportunities to earn academic honors. Honors and high honors are awarded to the highest achievers on the examinations taken by all students at the end of each school year.  Students may also earn honors and high honors for the analysis of each of their two projects. 
In addition, senior student Marci Gannon of Washington won the Charles M. Clark Memorial Award, which goes to the graduate who best represents high moral character, leadership, credit union dedication and academic achievement. The winner is nominated by his or her class and Gannon's peers said of she deserved the award for "being enthusiastic, a great leader, and motivator."
WCMS 2003 graduate Jon Hernandez, CEO of both CalCom FCU, Torrance, Calif., with $64 million in assets, and  Mattel FCU, El Segundo, with $31 million in assets, received this year's James D. Likens Alumni Recognition Award for significant achievement in the credit union field since graduating from the school.
Christopher Curry won the Rick Craig Prize for Excellence in Project II. This award recognizes excellence in a student's second-year project.
According to its time-honored tradition of giving back to WCMS, the graduating class presented WCMS President Jim Likens with fundraising checks totaling $101,796--$17,795 from a class auction event by the three classes, and $100,001 raised over the past three years by the class, representing the largest class gift in WCMS history.
Rudy Hanley, who recently retired as CEO of SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif., with $10 billion in assets, served as the commencement speaker. He spoke passionately about the credit union movement. "We're a movement not an industry," he said. "An industry is about numbers ... about dollars. A movement is about people."
He challenged the graduates to remember it's about the members, and to use their newly earned skills and knowledge to improve the quality of members' lives. He believed all of them would be up to the challenge.
"You are a great example for us; you inspire us," he said.
WCMS serves credit unions in the 13 western states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. It is sponsored by the Alaska Credit Union League, California Credit Union League, Credit Union Association of New Mexico, Hawaii Credit Union League, Idaho Credit Union League, Montana Credit Union Network, Mountain West Credit Union Association, Nevada Credit Union League, Northwest Credit Union Association, and Utah Credit Union Association, in cooperation with Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.

Commonwealth CU CEO takes spotlight in marketing campaign

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (7/29/14)--Karen Harbin, president/CEO of $973 million-asset Commonwealth CU, Frankfort, Ky., is becoming something of a local celebrity, and it's all thanks to a recent marketing campaign highlighting Harbin as the face of the credit union. Literally.

Click to view larger image Click for larger view
An image of Harbin with her feet up on her desk next to the hashtag #HeyKaren has been plastered on three large billboards in the Frankfort and Lexington areas, and the advertisement has become so popular that Harbin is often recognized around town ( Lexington Herald-Leader July 23).

The billboards encourage people to message the credit union's CEO directly using the hashtag #HeyKaren and ask for financial advice.

So far, Harbin has fielded questions about mortgages, credit cards, switching accounts and mobile banking, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"#HeyKaren is answering questions about things the average person will want to know, but has not thought to ask," Commonwealth Marketing Director Andrea Hayes told the Lexington Herald-Leader . "We want people to know who we are. ... The whole purpose is being down to Earth."

The campaign also includes a website,, and TV ads are coming soon, according to Hayes.

Commonwealth leaders also hope the campaign will raise awareness for the credit union, as it recently opened branches in Lexington.

Belvoir revamps military checking, sees 23% growth

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WOODBRIDGE, VA. (7/29/14)--In July, Belvoir FCU, Woodbridge, Va., with $313 million in assets, revamped the checking account it offers to active duty military members, and in one month achieved a 23% growth rate on the product.
Enhancements to the account include a higher dividend rate of 3.04% annual percentage yield, unlimited rebates on ATM surcharge fees, an automatic $500 line of credit and discounts on consumer loans.
The newly named Armed Forces Checking account is open to active duty military, reservists and National Guard members.
"Belvoir Federal believes in financial readiness for our military members," said Patricia Kimmel, Belvoir FCU president/CEO. "It is our duty to serve these men and women as they serve our country. The Armed Forces Checking is an outstanding way to help our military members build their savings arsenal and obtain affordable loans while they concentrate on protecting our freedoms."

CUNA to host four-part eSchool on sales excellence

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MADISON, Wis. (7/29/14)--The Credit Union National Association will host a four-part eSchool on inspiring sales team excellence. The sessions will be held between Aug. 13 and Sept. 3.
The CUNA Succeeding in Member Sales eSchool will introduce attendees to proven strategies and expert advice on how to fulfill their members' needs and increase exposure to their credit unions' products and services. Session content, presented by sales culture expert Angela Prestil, CUNA director of business development, will also provide a sales process to ensure consistency and success among both sales staff and coaches.
"People often assume that great sales teams are born with the enthusiasm and vigor to stay perpetually positive and make every member feel appreciated," said Prestil. "During this eSchool, we'll go over some of the best ways to maintain that level of member-centric sales without losing steam--and have some fun along the way."
After maximizing their sales potential, attendees will leave prepared to inspire new sales people, rejuvenate veterans and help integrate non-sales professionals, allowing their credit unions to make the most out of every member conversation.
Session dates and topics:
  • Aug. 13: Developing outstanding member service;
  • Aug. 20: Inquiring and listening for member needs;
  • Aug. 27: Linking member needs to credit union service; and
  • Sept. 3: Closing member sales with confidence.