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Seven students internship Redesign CUs website

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (8/31/09)--Seven seniors at Syracuse University have redesigned Empower FCU's website as part of an internship through the university. Empower, a $794 million asset credit union, told Business Journal (July 31) that it was switching to a new hosting company for its site and decided to redesign it. A credit union employee, who is also a graphics design student at the university, posted signs on campus seeking students interested in working on a redesign. The credit union wanted to appeal to a younger audience and the idea of using students seemed a good one, Empower spokesperson Mary Wilson said in the article. Applicants had to show a portfolio and interview for a slot on the project, said Donna Green, assistant professor of visual and performing arts, who helped coordinate the students' project. The group worked last spring on much of the site's graphic design and gained interview experience, plus experience in dealing with other vendors and working with a real-world client. Empower said it also added a mobile-banking feature during the redesign, so members can access their accounts, perform transfers and pay bills from personal digital assistants and cell phones, said Kelly Sherman, director of market at the credit unions. About 33,000 of Empower's roughly 80,000 members already used its online banking system, which had been in place for years. During the May launch of the mobile-banking feature, 29 members signed up the first week. Now, more than 3,600 are using the mobile feature.

Tampa Bay FCU notes courage of first-time home buyers

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TAMPA, Fla. (8/31/09)--A great impetus for first-time home buying is courage, according to Tampa Bay FCU (TBFCU). “Historically speaking, recessions get worse because people are afraid and cut all their spending with drastic measures,” said Dale Schumacher, CEO of the $278.9 million asset, Tampa. Fla.-based credit union. “Naturally, fear is contagious; I stop spending and you stop spending. “However, part of our management philosophy is to lead by example and that means having courage and faith in tough times,” he continued. “Faith and courage are contagious as well. And that’s what will stop this recession” (PRNewswire Aug. 18). TBFCU said it offers many advantages to first-time home buyers:
* Lower closing costs; * Exemption from intangible state tax; * No origination fees; * No underwriting fees; * No processing fees; * No third-party fees; and * Competitive interest rates.
The time to buy is now, said Dean Clark, TBFCU manager of real estate lending/servicing. “The housing market remains under distress because the mortgage subprime market collapse brought down the average sales price of homes for first-time buyers--qualifying people for homes that would otherwise be out of reach,” Clark added.

HarborOne is Wegner outstanding organization

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BROCKTON, Mass. (8/31/09)--HarborOne CU’s Multicultural Banking Center will receive the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Organization for going beyond a credit union’s traditional role by serving as a gateway for thousands of immigrants. This will be one of four awards presented at the 22nd Annual Wegner Awards Dinner hosted by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) at the Grand Hyatt Washington on Feb. 22--during the Credit Union National Association’s 2010 Governmental Affairs Conference. Online registration for the dinner will be available later this year on the National Credit Union Foundation website.
Immigrants celebrate after completing a class at HarborOne CU's Multicultural Banking Center. The center will receive the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Organization. (Photo provided by HarborOne CU)
“Immigrants who settle in Massachusetts are fortunate to have a caring organization like HarborOne’s Multicultural Center,” said NCUF Awards and Recognition Committee Chairman Bob Schumacher, CEO of MountainCrest CU, Arlington, Wash. “The center has become a national model to deliver critical human services needed for credit unions to reach new immigrants in order to build trusting financial relationships.” Believed to be the only one of its kind in the U.S., the $1.7 billion asset, Brockton, Mass.-based credit union’s Multicultural Banking Center opened in September 2007 when the city was suffering an economic, employment and housing crisis. “Waves of immigrants were coming from many diverse areas speaking many different languages,” said Normand Grenier, executive director of South Shore Neighborhood Housing Services. “Financial institutions in the heart of the economically hard-hit area faced difficult decisions. The factories were gone--and with them, their former deposit bases. HarborOne CU reinvented itself as a lifeline and a beacon, welcoming the new Americans.” “We met with community groups and activists in our marketplace to understand why immigrants and other minorities succumb to unscrupulous lenders,” said Leo MacNeil, HarborOne’s senior vice president of community relations. “It ultimately turned out to be a matter of trust. Minorities in these communities were taken advantage of by lenders of their own ethnic backgrounds. Even though HarborOne for years had been the No. 1 low-income minority lender and had supported affordable housing efforts with numerous minority organizations, the credit union’s efforts could not overcome the trust that minorities felt toward lenders of their own ethnic backgrounds.” So HarborOne built a new brand of trust by opening a gateway for immigrants and other minorities. The credit union refurbished its vacant former headquarters to establish a network of free computer terminals, classrooms, and offices branded as the Multicultural Banking Center. The 11,000-square-foot facility was designed to support four pillars for success:
* Help residents in critical need of housing assistance due to the foreclosure crisis; * Provide educational programs to ensure that immigrants and other minorities are able to make informed financial decisions; * Offer innovative products and services to elevate the level of trust between the credit union and immigrant and minority communities; and * Partner with community-based organizations that provide related services to low- and moderate-income residents.
“HarborOne has empowered many non-profits by offering them free space at the center,” said Barbora Hazukova, regional manager of Training Resources of America. “This has enabled them to collaborate on projects and increase their outreach effectiveness.” “The center has stepped out of the traditional role of a credit union by fostering partnerships throughout our Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language community,” said Sheila Sullivan-Jardim, executive director of the Brockton Area Workforce Investment Board. “This partnership enables us to attract families and independent wage earners, who may need additional language skills, to a business environment where they increase their chances of success in the work force.” Three of the center’s four staff members are first-generation immigrants who speak multiple languages. Classes are taught in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. “Our center works in much the same way as a hospital emergency room,” said MacNeil. “Our receptionist/coordinator performs a triage process on every individual who comes in.” Whether they need a new job, rental housing, foreclosure prevention, credit coaching, or a loan to take the U.S. citizenship test, individuals are referred quickly to an organization and/or a class. Brockton Mayor James E. Harrington documented the positive impact that HarborOne has made on the city. “The center has assisted over 1,000 individuals’ move into mainstream banking products away from payday lending, expensive check-cashing services, unscrupulous pawnshop owners and rent-to-own vendors.” Since fourth-quarter 2007, the center has opened more than $2 million in deposits, saved low-income tax filers over $100,000 in fees and secured over $20 million in first mortgages. Brockton’s foreclosure mitigation success rate has improved from less than 5% in 2007 to over 50% in 2009. “The accomplishments at our Multicultural Center epitomize the National Credit Union Foundation’s mission of ‘improving financial independence’ through self-help, cooperation, economic empowerment and volunteerism,” MacNeil concluded. Use the resource links below.