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Jittery CUs probing suspicious packages

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MADISON, Wis. (8/12/09)--It's hardly an epidemic, but four separate credit unions across the country this week called authorities in to inspect a variety of "suspicious packages." None of them turned out to be dangerous and apparently none are related. Two of the incidents were Tuesday in Michigan. Peoples Trust CU in Warren and Michigan First CU in Eastpointe both had authorities examine packages left outside their credit unions. Authorities determined they were not explosives. The package at Peoples Trust CU, which forced evacuation of about 50 to 60 people from the credit union area, contained trash-- a travel mug and shirt wrapped in plastic. A note with the items made it clear that the package didn't contain death threats against police officers (Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News Aug. 11). At Michigan First CU, a suspicious briefcase-type bag left outside the credit union is believed to be a service call box left by an electrician or someone working in the area, said the Free Press. The other two incidents, in Connecticut and California involved suspicious-looking powders in envelopes. Mutual Security CU, a $224.2 million asset credit union in Shelton, Conn., called the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Monday afternoon after a black powder was discovered in a letter. An employee opened the letter and the substance fell out. The employee was evaluated by emergency service personnel and did not have symptoms of illness (WSFB.com Aug. 10). Police and fire officials also were called to the credit union. The FBI took a sample of the powder and results are expected this afternoon. On Aug. 3, a mysterious white powder found inside a deposit envelope at Schools First CU, Tustin, Calif., turned out to be drywall dust. Two people were checked by paramedics as a precaution. They didn't experience illness symptoms (News Now Aug. 4 and The Orange County Register Aug. 3).

Getaway car injures policeman robbery suspect shot

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SAN ANTONIO (8/12/09)--A San Antonio police office was run over by a getaway car and a robbery suspect was shot Tuesday during a robbery at a branch of San Antonio FCU on Southwest Military Drive. The officer, an eight-year veteran who was not identified, suffered non-life-threatening injuries (Express-News and WOAI Aug. 11). He was dragged by the suspect's small sports utility vehicle after trying to take the keys away. The SUV ran over his chest and arm, and he was taken to a nearby medical center, Police Chief William McManus. An unidentified robbery suspect was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his arm (Dallas News and KENS5.com Aug. 11). The robbery occurred at 8:15 a.m. when a man driving a dark green Kia Sportage demanded cash from the drive-thru teller, telling her he had a grenade. He drove away with an undisclosed amount of cash. Officers spotted the Kia in a gas station parking lot and approached the car. The officer who was injured tried to grab the key out of the ignition, but the suspect hit the gas while the policeman was still halfway in the car. The officer fired two shots, one of which hit the suspect's arm. Police recovered some money but found no grenade or explosives in the car.

CUs special services to state workers breed goodwill

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (8/12/09)--Pennsylvania's budget impasse is in its sixth week, but thousands of state employees are getting paychecks after working through July and into August with little or no pay. Credit unions have received kudos for special services rendered to help them. Credit unions' special programs generated goodwill from members, said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) (Life is a Highway Aug. 11). Superior (Pa.) CU saw a steady stream of state employees filing in to repay their PA NonBudget Advance loans. The Collegeville-based credit union, located near the Graterford Correctional Facility, began issuing weekly $500 advances to current and new members. Eleven employees handed out more than 350 advances through the teller line using the Credit Union Better Choice loan format, said PCUA. "The goodwill this service generated has been outstanding," said Superior CU CEO Matt Jones. The $26 million asset credit union signed up 140 new accounts. One member told the credit union that a bank, which visits Graterford, was not willing to help its customers during the budget impasse. Last Friday morning, Superior's staff, expecting a busy day, received NonBudget Advance Survival Kits, which included a stress ball, bottle of pain reliever, a candy bar, a coupon for a 90-minute sleep in late/go home early/long lunch or $25 gift card, and their own box of new paper clips, which had been in short supply because of all the paper work. Employees at another credit union, the $131 million asset Lebanon (Pa.) FCU, processed seven skip-a-payments on existing loans at no extra charge and assisted two state employee members with payday advance lines of credit. CEO Pat Hain said the credit union set up a member assistance program because "it is the right thing to do…We wanted to lessen the burden on families, especially in these economic times." Gov. Ed Rendell signed a partial budget Aug. 5 that allows state employees back pay and current pay. State Treasurer Rob McCord and PCUA President/CEO extended thanks to credit unions that provided assistance in a letter and asked those who amended their Credit Union Better Choice program to revert back to traditional guidelines now that the affected employees are getting paid.

CUNA Technology Council announces new board

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MADISON, Wis. (8/12/09)--The CUNA Technology Council announced its executive committee and officers during its 14th Annual Summit, Aug. 5-8 in San Francisco. Rudy Pereira, senior vice president of operations and technology for Alliant CU, Chicago, will remain the chair. Jackie Buchanan, chief information officer for Genisys CU, Pontiac, Mich., was re-appointed vice-chair. During the recent elections for four seats on the executive committee, incumbent Buchanan was re-elected along with Belinda Caillouet, vice president of information technology for Spokane (Wash.) Teachers CU. Two new members elected to the executive committee were:
* Jennifer Weiss, vice president technology services, Sandia Area Laboratory FCU, Albuquerque, N.M.; and * Jeff Johnson, senior vice president information technology, Baxter CU, Vernon Hills, Ill.
The council’s executive committee also includes:
* John Morawski, chief technology officer, Massachusetts Credit Union League; * Robert Reh, chief information officer, Nassau Financial FCU, Garden City, N.Y.; and * Brian Warfel, executive vice president of sales and service, Power Financial CU, Pembroke Pines, Fla.
The two outgoing committee members are Gordon Gregory, vice president of technology for Mazuma CU, Kansas City, Mo., and Ron Broaddus, chief information officer for Potlatch 1 FCU, Lewiston, Idaho. Both stepped down after fulfilling three- year terms on the committee. In addition to the elections, Heather Moshier, executive vice president of information technology, San Diego County CU, San Diego, Calif., joins the Council's leadership, as an appointment to fill the vacancy created by Juan Luna, chief technology officer, Xceed Financial CU, El Segundo, Calif., who recently stepped down from the executive committee.

Consumers flock to Wisconsin CUs for better rates service

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (8/12/09)--Consumers are flocking to Wisconsin credit unions for better rates and personal service--many of the same reasons cited in the August issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine--said the Wisconsin Credit Union League. “Big banks want your money, too, but they’re turning customers off with higher fees and tighter lending--not to mention stress tests and troubled assets,” Kiplinger’s said. “They continue to raise fees, even as the grab for business intensifies and consumers are more cost-conscious.” In Wisconsin, interest payments on a credit union’s 60-month $25,000 car loan would be $830 less than from a bank, according to CUNA economists. “Consumers are fed up,” says Brett Thompson, league president/CEO. “Even people with good credit feel they’re being punished by banks looking to boost profits, especially prior to new federal credit card rules being implemented. They’re not waiting. They’re seeking refuge now.” Wisconsin credit unions have benefited from the trend, he added. Wisconsin credit unions experienced some of the largest membership growth among member-owned financial institutions nationwide, as of the end of 2008. And as of the first quarter, 250 Wisconsin credit unions saw their assets grow 15.74% and savings grow by 26.11%. Regulators have cited this performance as a good sign in a still-unstable economy, the league said. “Because credit unions are owned by the members who do business with them--not shareholders--consumers are realizing they’re going to get a better deal because of that,” Thompson said. “We think as more consumers discover the financial benefits of this difference in institutions, the trend will only intensify.” The magazine touts credit unions’ lower fees by citing statistics from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) that reveal the difference between what credit unions and banks charge for services. On average, credit unions charge $25 for overdrafts while banks charge $30. Credit unions charge $20 for a late credit card payment while banks’ fees are $35. The publication also cited credit unions’ typically lower rates for auto loans.

Top 20 best CU brands named by Bancography

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (8/12/09)--Bancography has named its top credit union brands for 2009 in its Bancography Brand Value Index. Top-ranking credit unions with assets under $1 billion included White Sands FCU, Las Cruces, N.M.; American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia; and My Community FCU, Midland, Texas. Police and Fire FCU, Philadelphia, earned the top ranking for the $1 billion asset category, followed by Chevron FCU, Oakland, Calif., and Tinker FCU, Oklahoma City.
Click to view larger image Click for larger view
In the large credit union asset category, 14 of the top 25 in 2008 remain in this year’s top 25. In the smaller credit union asset category, eight of the current top 10 ranking institutions appeared in last year’s top 25. In calculating brand value, Bancography quantifies the proportion of each institution’s long-term value based on factors including reputation, service quality, image and market awareness. The brand value index identifies institutions that produce financial results beyond what their capital base, market conditions and competitive environments would predict. Bancography’s Brand Value Index quantitatively ranks the brand strength of all U.S. credit unions, banks and thrifts. The index ranks financial institutions brands by the premium they add to each institution’s underlying tangible value.

IUSA TODAYI cites Student Choice as student loan option

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NEW YORK (8/12/09)--In an article about getting last minute financial aid before school starts, a USA TODAY personal finance columnist cites the Credit Union Student Choice lending program as an option for student loans. The article, "Even as kids pack to go college, it's not too late for aid," by columnist Sandra Block, outlines several options, including private student loans. "Recently, though, some credit unions have started offering private student loans, often at more favorable rates than for-profit lenders," she wrote. More than 80 credit unions are participating in Credit Union Student Choice, a group that helps credit unions offer private student loans, Executive Vice President Scott Patterson told Block. The article said the average interest rate on the loans is 5.8%, with no origination fee, and that the rates are variable. She referred readers to www.studentchoice.org for a list of participating credit unions. "We think it's a terrific acknowledgment of the fair-value private student loans that credit unions affiliated with Student Choice are currently offering," said Michael Weber, vice president of marketing at Credit Union Student Choice. "With nearly 80 credit unions from all across the country offering loans through the Credit Union Student Choice network, we're very pleased that a personal finance expert like Sandra Block is recommending that consumers consider credit unions for private loan funding options," Weber told News Now. He said the network recently revamped its website to make it easier for users.

N.Y. CU association announces awards

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ALBANY, N.Y. (8/12/09)--The Credit Union Association of New York recognized state credit union professionals, volunteers and Hall of
Click to view larger image William Mellin, Credit Union Association of New York president/CEO, presents Linda Garboczi of AmeriCU CU with the 2009 Professional of the Year Award.
Click to view larger image George Bauer, a board member of AmeriCU CU, received a Volunteer of the Year award at the Credit Union Association of New York’s annual convention.
Fame inductees during its annual convention last week. The conference, which was attended by more than 500 individuals, was held in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The theme was “Credit Unions: The Odds on Favorite.” During the conference, several individuals received awards. Linda Garboczi, vice president of member relations and marketing at AmeriCU CU in Rome, N.Y., received the Outstanding Professional award. Receiving Outstanding Volunteer awards were:
Click to view larger image Yvette Rubio, Alternatives FCU board chair, was presented a Volunteer of the Year award by the Credit Union Association of New York.
Click to view larger image George Wilkinson, Fidelis FCU, received a Volunteer of the Year award. (Photos provided by the Credit Union Association of New York)
* George Bauer, recording officer, board of directors, AmeriCU CU; * Yvette Rubio, board chair, Alternatives FCU, Ithaca, N.Y.; and * George Wilkinson, board president, Fidelis FCU, New York City.
Hall of Fame inductees included:
* Kathleen Frawley, Buffalo (N.Y.) Metropolitan FCU; * Patricia McManus, Buffalo Metropolitan FCU; * Richard Moore, Reliant FCU, Sodus; and * James Thierman, Olean (N.Y.) Area FCU.
Kathy Pelletier, whose grandfather was Roy F. Bergengren, a pioneer of the credit union movement, served as a keynote speaker. Fire Department of New York Battalion Commander Richard “Pitch” Picciotto, the highest ranking firefighter to survive the Sept. 11 collapse of the World Trade Center, also spoke as a keynoter. Pelletier and Picciotto have both spoken at the Credit Union National Association’s America’s Credit Union Conference and Expos in the past. Next year, the New York association’s annual convention will be in June in Cooperstown, N.Y.

CU System briefs (08/11/2009)

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* MUNCIE, Ind. (8/12/09)--Bond has been set at $300,000 for Stanley Dewayne Wills, 30, Muncie, Ind., who pleaded not guilty to robbery charges stemming from a May 27 holdup at Industria Centre FCU, in which more than $250,000 was stolen. Wills and another man, John D. Repass, 29, were formally charged July 23 in a Circuit Court with robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, but authorities were unable to locate Wills until he showed up at a hearing Thursday. Repass was recently arrested in Utah, where he waived extradiction and is waiting to return to Indiana (The Star Press Aug. 7). He told authorities that he, Wills and Wills' girlfriend, Maranda Conley, 28, committed the robbery. On May 27, two men wearing disguises and armed with a handgun entered the credit union. They took the male employees to a back room and the female employees to the vault. They left in a car allegedly driven by Conley, 28 (The Star Press July 26) … * RALEIGH, N.C. (8/12/09)--State Employees' CU (SECU) members, through the SECU Foundation, approved a 0% , $470,000 construction loan to help build a 3,120 square- foot group home for people with traumatic brain injuries or developmental disabilities. Rowan Way would house six people on a 0.41-acre site in northwest Charlotte, N.C. SECU is partnering with the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) for the housing project, which is sponsored by Autism Services of Mecklenburg County Inc. (ASMC). At the July 2nd groundbreaking were, from left: Ken Bell, architect; Margaret Stamey, ASMC board member; J. Marc Phillips, ASMC executive director; future resident Owen Gordon; Mary Reca-Todd, NCHFA supportive housing manager; Jerry Harmon, SECU senior vice president; Mark Twisdale, SECU Foundation executive director; and Stephen Kelly, ASMC board president. (Photo provided by SECU Foundation)

Hampel outlines financial strategies for IFox BusinessI

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NEW YORK (8/12/09)--Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Chief Economist Bill Hampel outlined Saturday several financial strategies for consumers on a Fox Business News personal finance show. The show offered consumers the chance to call in and talk with Hampel and several other economists about personal financial
Click for videoWatch Bill Hample on Fox Business News (Photo provided by CUNA)
concerns. During one call, Hampel advised a 54-year-old consumer with $75,000 in credit card debt to pay off the debt since it likely carries a high interest rate, but also encouraged him to continue maxing out his $400,000 retirement fund. “Use your extra income to pay off debt, while putting as much as possible into the 401(k),” Hampel said. The CUNA economist also emphasized the importance of investments--especially for younger consumers under the age of 35 who are discouraged by the recent downturn in the stock market. Investing in retirement “is still the way to go,” he said. Other points Hampel made on the show include:
* One can’t try to time the market when managing an investment portfolio. “That strategy doesn’t work,” he said. “What works is an age-based portfolio.” * Some risk is necessary in any investment portfolio; and * When asked if one should buy gold, he said: “Only buy gold if you believe in hyperinflation. If you don’t believe the world is going to end, don’t buy gold.”