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South Florida CUs brace for impact from Isaac

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MADISON, Wis. (8/24/12)--CUNA Strategic Services has sent an e-mail to leagues in the Southeastern states with information regarding Tropical Storm Isaac, which will be the topic of a webinar today at 11 a.m. ET. Isaac is projected to become a Category 1 hurricane this weekend and may approach landfall in Florida Monday.

The brief webinar will provide an update on the threats Isaac presents and the potential impact to businesses. CSS service provider Agility Recovery is participating in the webinar. It also has provided a hurricane preparedness checklist, a flood checklist, a disaster recovery kit, and a portable generator fact sheet. Use the links for more information.

At press time Thursday afternoon, Tropical Storm Isaac was moving into the eastern Caribbean Sea near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  It was expected to hit Hispaniola--the Dominican Republic and Haiti--as a hurricane. It then was expected to reach eastern Cuba by early Saturday and exit over the Florida Strait early Sunday. That would give it a day over warm ocean to gain strength to a Category 1.

After that projections are uncertain, encompassing anywhere from the Florida Keys to farther up the Gulf Coast of the state--just as the Republican National Convention gets underway in Tampa, which lies halfway up Florida's Gulf coastline. The storm could affect air travel Sunday through Wednesday in the area. Also, Tampa is prone to storm surge near where the convention will be (Washington Post Aug. 23). However, as of Thursday, weather forecasters said there was a 24% chance of Tampa encountering tropical storm-force winds.

The Credit Union National Association, state leagues, and credit unions planning to attend the convention are monitoring the situation. They will be at both the GOP convention in Tampa next week and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the following week.

People in the southern part of Florida are already preparing for the event of a hurricane, which would be Florida's first since 2005.

A Category 1 hurricane is the lowest of the five categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale, said Reuters (Aug. 23).

CU System briefs (08/23/2012)

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  • LANSING, Mich. (8/24/12)--Maurice Phillips, former director of communications and special events at the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) died Aug. 18, the league announced on its website. He was 76. Phillips worked for the league from 1960 to 1998. Before that, he worked at The Detroit Times and The Detroit Free Press. At the league, he first managed the design department, which produced publications and promotional material for credit unions. In 1967, he moved into a newly created position to direct the launch of the nation's first statewide credit union advertising program, the forerunner of today's CU Difference campaign. In 1981, he helped create the Joint Advertising Board.  He became director of communications and special events in 1984 …
  • MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (8/24/12)--The Metro-Boston chapter of the Massachusetts Credit Union League will host a dinner on Sept. 18 in honor of U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who will retire at the end of his current term after 32 years of service (E-Weekly Aug. 23). The league noted that over the years, Frank has helped credit unions achieve passage of key legislation to secure credit unions' future, including HR 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act. He played a vital role in making certain that credit unions were not harmed by legislation, either by bills aimed at credit unions by banking trade groups or by laws so broad that they would have swept credit unions in by mistake, the league added. The league said that after the financial crisis, Frank said, "If credit unions made all of the mortgage loans, then there would have been no subprime crisis and therefore no economic crisis." …
  • WORCESTER, Mass. (8/24/12)--Sean M. Driscoll, 38, of Haverhill, Mass., has been indicted in connection with a June 29 robbery at Digital FCU in Worcester. A Worcester County grand jury handed over the indictment on Aug. 27. The incident occurred when a man entered the credit union shortly before 2 p.m. and handed a teller a note demanding money. It indicated he had a gun and warned that no dye packs be used. After getting the money, he fled. Driscoll was arrested June 30 (Telegram.com Aug. 22) …
  • HARAHAN, La. (8/24/12)--The Louisiana Credit Union League announced that it has promoted three staffers (eNews Aug. 22). Lacey Hyer has been named vice president of communications and public relations. Hyer has been with the league since 2006. She has been instrumental in several statewide public awareness initiatives and award-winning marketing campaigns. In her new role, she will continue to coordinate all communications activities with an increased focus on communications planning, public relations, credit union community involvement and media relations. Jody Brooks has been named director of education. She has been a part of the credit union movement since 2008. In her new role, she will coordinate conferences, seminars and workshops for credit union professionals and volunteers. Jill Kitchens has been promoted to director of governmental affairs. A member of the league staff since 2002, Kitchens served in both the education and governmental affairs departments. In her new role, she will oversee CULAC fundraising, grassroots advocacy and other legislative activities …

  • LIVONIA, Mich. (8/24/12)--Livonia, Mich.-based Parkside CU has announced that Martin Carter will join the organization as president/CEO, according to the Michigan Credit Union League (Michigan Monitor Aug. 20). Carter brings more than 30 years of credit union industry to the position. His expertise spans branch operations, marketing and business development, human resources and training, compliance and risk management, and investment services.  Parkside CU is a more than $73 million asset credit union serving 15,000 members …

Coastal FCU launches interest-free Visa card

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RALEIGH, N.C. (8/24/12)--Coastal FCU in Raleigh, N.C., announced the rollout of a new Big Ticket Card--a Visa credit card that has six months' interest-free financing on all individual purchases or balance transfers of $600 or more.

An exclusive feature of the Big Ticket Card is that it holds no limit to the number of times a user can take advantage of the six months interest-free financing, said the $2.01 billion asset credit union.

Also, the card does not accumulate interest during the six-month interest-free period. Unlike most store credit cards, the Big Ticket Card assesses interest charges only on the remaining unpaid balance after the six-month period ends, Coastal FCU said.

"The Big Ticket Card is a great option for members who need to make a big purchase," said Willard Ross, Coastal's senior vice president/chief retail officer.

"Members now have the ability to purchase a new flat-screen TV or a new washing machine at any retailer that accepts Visa, with the option to pay it all off over the six-month interest-free period," he added. "This unique feature opens up the opportunity for our membership to shop with peace of mind by shopping for the best price without being tied to in-store financing."

IFox BusinessI IYahooI IKiplingerI size up CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (8/24/12)--With more public awareness of credit unions today, media such as Fox Business, Yahoo, Kiplinger and Bankrate.com are telling consumers what a credit union is and what to look for when choosing one.

Look for convenience, shared branching, educational opportunities, technology and stability, says Bankrate.com in Foxbusiness.com (Aug. 20). Since members can get the same service at any member credit union that they do at their regular one, shared branching makes credit unions seem much "infinitely larger," said Bruce McClary, spokesman for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions in Seattle in the article.

Because a network of credit unions nationwide shares information, shared branching allows credit union members to access thousands of convenient locations to conduct financial transactions, Bankrate said.  

Costs, services and safety are three key points in favor of credit unions, according to Kiplinger.com (Aug. 23). Since credit unions are nonprofit organizations, they can offer more cost-related benefits. Without the driving force of making a profit, credit unions can pay out more interest on member accounts and charge less in fees. Also, most credit unions impose no minimum-balance requirements, Kiplingers said.  

Checking accounts at credit unions was the topic of a Yahoo! Finance article. About 72% of credit unions surveyed nationwide offer free checking accounts, according to Bankrate's 2012 Credit Union Survey (finance.yahoo.com Aug. 23). Also, 30% of credit unions surveyed charge no fee for ATM use outside the ATM network or provide a minimum  of one free withdrawal per week before a fee is applied, compared with 29% of banks surveyed in 2011, Bankrate said.

Besides better pricing and the convenience of shared branching, credit unions also offer free financial education to members such as advice on improving their credit scores, debt assistance, buying a home and making intelligent investing decisions, said BankVibe.com (Aug. 22).

To read the articles, use the links.

PULSE study Debit continues to grow

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MADISON, Wis. (8/24/12)--Debit card use continues to explode, even amid a turbulent regulatory environment, based on the results of a new study, which includes credit unions.

Financial institutions participating in the 2012 Debit Issuer Study expect 15% growth for PIN debit and an 8% increase in signature transactions this year, according to the 2012 Debit Issuer Study, commissioned by PULSE.

Fifty-seven financial institutions took part in the study--including credit unions, large banks and community banks.

Seventy-six percent of consumers now have debit cards, compared with 73% in 2010. The average active consumer debit cardholder spent $8,326 on the card in 2011, up from $7,781 in the prior year. The increase was driven by more card usage---active users performed an average of 18.3 purchases a month compared with 16.3 a month in 2010.

Much of the growth is driven by an increase in small transactions. While the average price on a debit transaction is $38, the median is just $19, with more than 30% of transactions now less than $10, said the study.

Consumer volume grew by 11% for signature transactions and 9% for PIN transactions, surpassing issuers' expectations of 7% growth in both categories, the study found.

Sixty-nine percent of regulated issuers and 76% of exempt financial institutions surveyed agreed that focusing on improving penetration, activation and usage for debit cardholders is key to growth in 2012.

The Federal Reserve's Regulation II capped the maximum interchange fees that financial institutions with at least $10 billion in assets could receive on debit card transactions. Regulation II includes a cap on debit interchange rates and a prohibition on debit network exclusivity.

The interchange cap went into effect Oct. 11, and applies to issuers with at least $10 billion in assets. These large debit issuers are limited to 21 cents plus 0.05% interchange fee per transaction, in addition to one cent when these issuers qualify for the fraud-prevention adjustment.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) last year urged the Fed to allow debit card issuers to charge four to five cents per transaction to cover fraud prevention costs. That adjustment would better cover costs  incurred when financial institutions investigate the source of a data breach or theft, attempt to stop any instances of fraud, and deal with the aftermath of the theft or data breach, CUNA said. The increased fraud prevention adjustment also would help protect smaller issuers whose fraud prevention costs often represent a larger portion of their total debt card program costs, CUNA added.

CUNA also recommended that the Fed periodically revisit the fraud prevention cost issue to see if the costs have changed and whether any future adjustments are necessary.

Mortgages fewer chargeoffs boost Wis.s large CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (8/24/12)--Mortgage refinances and reduced delinquencies drove positive results for nine of Wisconsin's 10 largest credit unions in the first half of 2012.

At Wisconsin's largest credit union, Landmark CU, New Berlin, net income increased 87% compared with the first six months of the year, said the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Aug. 23). Total loans grew by almost $250 million. Landmark also reported growth in noninterest income as a result of mortgage refinancing.

In addition to taking advantage of lower rates, homeowners are refinancing their mortgages at reduced terms of 10, 15 and 20 years, Ron Kase, Landmark CU CEO told the newspaper.

Royal CU, Eau Claire, reported the biggest percentage increase in earnings, with a 1,743% jum to $6.7 million from $366,530 in the first half of the year. That growth was driven in large part by an increase in mortgage refinances, said Royal CEO Rudy Pereira.

The credit union generated income from selling fixed-rate mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Pereira told the Journal Sentinel.

Wisconsin credit unions grew net income by 83% in the first six months of 2012 compared with same period last year, according the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). Net income totaled $101.8 million, up from $55.6 million in 2011. The increase was fueled in large part by a 28% increase in "other income" and an 11% decrease in provisions for loan-loss expense, according to DFI.

Member wins Mich. statewide Facebook contest

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LANSING, Mich. (8/24/12)--A Cadillac, Mich., woman is the winner of the first Facebook contest held as part of a statewide effort to raise awareness about credit unions.

Click to view larger image From left are Wexford Community CU President/CEO Fred Schuster; Audrey Davis, mother of Secret to Savings Contest winner Rosemarie McConnell, Wexford board member Sandra Roundhouse, father Ken Davis, Rosemarie McConnell, son Will McConnell, daughter Lindsey Westdorp (holding grandson Will McConnell) and board member Mike Dolack. (MCUL photo)
Rosemarie McConnell, 54, received the $700 prize Thursday at Wexford Community CU's Lake City branch, for her winning response.

"I love puzzles and I love my credit union so this competition grabbed my attention right away," said McConnell. "I'm really excited to be able to share the prize money with my family, and to open a credit union account for my 2-year-old grandson. Credit unions have been terrific to our family, so I want to get him started early."

"Michigan credit unions are always looking for innovative and fun ways to give money back to our members, and this Facebook competition is another example of our commitment to the families we serve," said David Adams, CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League.

"Giving back to our members is what we are all about," said Wexford Community CU CEO Fred Schuster.

The puzzle McConnell solved asked entrants to complete a phrase by filling in missing letters and thus highlighting a benefit of credit unions: "Lower fees and loan rates combined with exclusive discounts add up to big savings for credit union members."

More than 50 entries were submitted, and McConnell was the first to solve it. She has been a credit union member for more than 30 years.

The campaign also included the launch of a new online portal for Michigan credit union information, at CU Link.  

The next promotion, "What would you do with $1,240?" began Wednesday and runs through Sept. 23. The new sweepstakes highlights another benefit of credit union membership: lower auto loan rates, which can save members an average of $1,240 over the course of a loan.

Craig to receive Wegner Lifetime Achievement Award

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MADISON, Wis. (8/24/12)--Rick Craig, president/CEO of America First FCU, Ogden, Utah, has been named winner of the 2013 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement, announced the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) Thursday.

"No matter if it's teaching at Western CUNA Management School (WCMS), fighting for credit unions in the Utah State Legislature or Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., or serving on countless local, state or national organizations that make a difference, Rick is there in full force," said Bob Schumacher, NCUA Awards & Recognition Committee chairman.

Craig became executive vice president at the credit union in 1977 and was appointed president/CEO in 1997.  During his watch, the credit union achieved $5.4 billion in assets, 575,000 members and 100 branches, said James D. Likens, president/CEO of WCMS.

He served for many years on the Utah Credit Union Association (UCUA) board and was appointed by the state's governor as a member of the Board of Credit Union Advisors. He also was active in national organizations, including serving on the Filene Research Council, as a board member of CO-OP Financial Services, and on Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Committee on AICPA Audit and Accounting Guide Task Force as well as CUNA's Governmental Affairs Field of Membership Committee.

Through multiple lawsuits and legislative attacks, America First FCU modeled a form of public and governmental advocacy that many in the industry would follow.  In 2007, trade press named it as having the most "Outstanding Political Action" program in the nation.

"One of the most visible actions Rick took on behalf of credit unions was the fight with the Utah bankers who were aggressively attacking the credit union tax exemption," said Diana Dykstra, president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues.  "These efforts increased the awareness that being actively engaged in the political and legislative arena was important for all credit unions."

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) noted that "not only has his credit union supported candidates that support credit unions--especially through member advocacy--but Rick has also made exemplary strides in activating his membership. By gathering a group of member-advocates, he has created a political group of 'minutemen' who can rally on behalf of the credit union at a moment's notice."

"I often say that the world is run by people who show up, and Rick has taught many credit union members to show up and get involved in their government," said the congressman.

Craig also served on WCMS faculty for 31 years until retiring in July.

"When I think of an individual that has dedicated his lifetime to not only his job but also an ideal, I think of Rick Craig," said Scott Simpson, UCUA president/CEO.

Three Wegner awards will be presented at a special dinner hosted by NCUD on Feb. 25, during CUNA's 2013 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.