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Situation reversed for CU that helped in Katrina

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LAKE JACKSON, Texas, and PLAQUEMINE, La. (9/12/08)--In 2005, a credit union in Texas flew to the rescue to help a Louisiana credit union experiencing a liquidity crisis in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Today, with Hurricane Ike aimed at Texas, their roles could reverse. "Now that a storm that may equal the most destructive to hit Texas in two centuries is aimed straight at our credit union, the roles are reversed," said Edward Speed, president of the $1.3 billion asset Texas Dow Employees CU, located in Lake Jackson, Texas. "Our headquarters is directly in the path of the eye of Ike. We sit at 15 feet above sea level in an area that may experience 25-foot storm surges and 125 mph winds," Speed said in an e-mail. However, Thursday morning Speed received an unsolicited e-mail from Jeffrey Hendrickson, president/CEO of Dow Louisiana FCU, a $150 million asset credit union in Plaquemine, near Baton Rouge. Hendrickson wrote that his credit union's board had directed that they offer Speed's credit union full support--including office space, phone centers, taking over the automated clearinghouse and Fed wiring needs and even sending employees after Ike hits. In early September 2005, a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit Hendrickson's credit union, he called Speed. Like many other credit unions after Katrina struck, Hendrickson's was operating on a cash basis. Just before the Labor Day weekend, its cash flow was diminishing rapidly. An expected delivery from the Federal Reserve hadn't arrived (News Now Sept. 7, 2005). Within 15 minutes of the call, Speed added up all the cash on hand at all Texas Dow's branches; within 25 minutes Speed committed $600,000 in cash to Dow Louisiana FCU. Speed, who has a pilot's license, and Lance Wortham, commercial vice president, loaded the cash onto Speed's plane and flew two hours to Baton Rouge. Six hours after the initial call, Speed, Wortham and a armed security representative from the sheriff's department, delivered the cash and saved the day. Hendrickson's letter to Speed said his credit union was "standing by to assist … day or night. "We have put our senior management on alert to be ready. As our sister credit union, you all are very important to us--our board of directors has asked that we do whatever is possible to ensure you have business continuity," said the Louisiana CEO. "You all were here in a moment's notice when we needed you--and we are going to be there for you," Hendrickson wrote. Speed noted that Hendrickson "has also called me twice this morning. This is even as they clean up from Hurricane Gustav that hit them last week," wrote Speed. "There is no way to experience this and not be emotionally moved."

CU closures announced in Texas

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/12/08)--Credit unions along the Texas gulf coast began closing yesterday in preparation for Hurricane Ike. Many are closed today and tomorrow, said the Texas Credit Union League. President Bush declared an emergency in Texas, and Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration and activated 7,500 National Guard troops in preparation for the Category 2 hurricane, which is expected to strengthen today. As of Thursday, officials have issued mandatory evacuation orders in Brazoria and parts of Matagorda County. Voluntary evacuation orders were ordered for Galveston, San Patricio and Victoria counties and parts of Jackson County and the City of Corpus Christi, said the league. Brazoria County, Galveston and other areas already have been hit by one hurricane--Hurricane Dolly in July. All Sabine area credit unions were under "mandatory evacuation" until further notice, said the league Thursday afternoon. A league representative in Corpus Christi, who spent Thursday calling credit unions, said credit unions there are either closed today and Saturday or are "playing it by ear." "The majority have a phone message for the members explaining that due to the weather/Hurricane Ike, they will be closing on such and such a date and will reopen on Monday," the rep told the league. They are referring members to their website and phone messages for updates. So far, several credit unions announced closures due to the weather, according to Linda Webb-Manon, league communications director. "This of course isn't all of them. Our league reps have been working diligently to keep in close contact with our credit unions in the affected areas." Some began closing at noon on Thursday, with an occasional branch closed earlier. All are either already closed today or closing sometime today, and all will be closed on Saturday:
* Mobiloil FCU, Beaumont; * Transtar FCU, Houston; * Houston Police FCU, Houston; * Liberty County Teachers FCU, Liberty; * TexasOne Community CU, Houston, closing at noon today; * InvesTex CU, Houston, closing at ll a.m.; * Houston Highway CU, closing at noon; * Houston Texas Fire Fighters FCU, Houston, closing at noon; * Union Fidelity, Houston, closing at noon; * Primeway FCU, Houston; * El Paso Corp. FCU, Houston, closing at 3 p.m.; * United Energy CU, Houston, closing this afternoon; * First Service CU, Houston; * SPCO FCU, Houston; * Cy-Fair FCU, Houston, closing at noon; * USE CU, Houston, closing at noon; * First Community CU of Houston; * Brazos Valley Schools CU, Houston/Katy, closing at noon; * Smart Financial CU, Houston; * PIE CU, Houston; and * Members Choice CU, Houston, closing at noon.

Texas CUs league brace for Hurricane Ike

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DALLAS (9/12/08)--Nearly 100 credit unions are in the current path of Hurricane Ike, according to the Texas Credit Union League, which is helping Texas credit unions prepare for the landfall late tonight or early tomorrow morning. "We have nearly 100 credit unions in Ike's current path, and over 800,000 consumers belong to these credit unions," said Dick Ensweiler, league president/CEO. "Fortunately, we have plans in place to handle the challenges hurricanes bring." Thursday the league established a "credit union condition information" page on its website to assist employees of its credit unions in disseminating information to their members. It also informed CEOs of all credit unions about the procedures. Information shared will be placed on the league's Disaster Preparation website (Use the resource link). The league's Disaster Preparation website offers up-to-date tracking of the hurricane's path; links to sites such as the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Texas Credit Union Department and the National Credit Union Administration; and downloadable disaster recovery documents. Members of the potentially affected credit unions can find out if their credit union belongs to the CU Service Center shared branching network by calling 800-919-2872 or visiting its website, www.cuservicecenter.com, said the league. "How well you, your family, your home, or business survive a disaster often depends on how well you prepare beforehand," Ensweiler said. "Hurricane Katrina taught us a valuable lesson on that. Communications and planning is essential, and we are committed to doing our part to ensure our member credit unions and the families they serve are prepared for whatever may come." The league reminded credit union members in Texas that their funds are secure and insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. "As we brace ourselves for the worst and hope for the best, the league wants members to know that it is prepared to serve as a valuable resource for all 500 plus Texas credit unions and the seven million members they serve," Ensweiler said. As of Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Ike was still a Category 2 hurricane but was strengthening. It was expected to reach a Category 3 and possibly as high as a Category 4 before making landfall on the Texas coast. Because of its size, it is expected to produce violent weather and sea surges in states all along the Gulf Coast. For a list of credit union closures, see the News Now story in System News, "CU closures announced in Texas."

CUNA disaster team activates CULocate for Ike

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MADISON, Wis. (9/12/08)--With Hurricane Ike ready to make landfall, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Disaster Preparedness Team is prepared to assist credit unions. CULocate was activated Thursday for the credit unions registered in the state of Texas. The credit unions include:
* AAFES CU, Dallas; * Amarillo Community FCU, Amarillo; * America’s CU; Garland; * Austin FCU; Austin; * Cicost FCU, Sherman; * CTECU, Bellaire; * Dupont Goodrich FCU, Nederland; * Family 1st Texas FCU, Fort Worth; * FedStar CU, College Station; * Lufkin FCU, Lufkin; * NRCS FCU, Fort Worth; * PrimeWay FCU, Houston; * Sabine FCU, Orange; * StarTrust FCU, Houston; * Tarrant County CU, Fort Worth; and * Walker County FCU, Huntsville.
At this time, CUNA has activated the credit unions’ non-emergency messages. Credit unions affected by Ike will have their emergency messages activated when CUNA is contacted. CUNA will continue to include any new credit union submissions as they occur. For assistance, contact:
* Julie Esser 608-231-4213 (office--leave a message with a call-back number), 608-332-2726 (cell), jesser@cuna.coop; * Wes Millar 608-231-4138 (office--leave a message with a call-back number), 608-212-2848 (cell), wmillar@cuna.coop; * Dorothy Steffens 608-231-5719 (office-leave a message with a call-back number), 608-213-1584 (cell), dsteffens@cuna.coop
CUNA is monitoring Hurricane Ike and is ready to respond, if necessary, with resources that include the following: CU Locate: the Credit Union National Emergency Information System provides credit union members with a toll-free number, 1-877-CULOCATE (877-285-6228), to receive information about the status of their credit union affected by a crisis. R.E.S.C.U.: the Relief Effort and Support for Credit Unions is the credit union movement's effort to prepare for and respond to large-scale natural and man-made emergencies and business interruptions. This resource includes Adopt-A-Credit Union. Also, CUNA Strategic Services offers disaster preparedness and recovery services through several alliance programs:
* Agility Recovery Solutions can provide a mobile recovery unit fully equipped with power, communications, computer equipment, and many other amenities within 48 hours of a disaster. * Strohl Systems offers PLANet, the industry's only Internet-based business continuity planning tool designed to help credit unions meet NCUA and Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council regulations for business continuity and disaster recovery. * VoiceGard offers a suite of services to restore telephone capabilities after a catastrophic system (PBX) failure or loss of facilities.
For more information, use the resource links. Also, the National Credit Union Administration has encouraged credit unions to prepare for the pending hurricane. See story in News Now's Washington section, "NCUA encourages CU readiness for Ike."

Strategic partner VoiceGard ready to assist Texas CUs

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CHERRY HILL, N.J. (9/12/08)--CUNA Strategic Services provider VoiceGard, a voice recovery services provider, is ready to assist credit unions if Hurricane Ike hits Texas. The Cherry Hill, N.J.-based company provides credit unions with message mailboxes through CU Locate. Members can call during a disaster to find out information relevant to their credit union’s status. VoiceGard is working with the Credit Union National Association to prep credit unions for Ike. “We’re getting credit unions ready to go,” said Mark Mowad, VoiceGard vice president of sales. Credit unions can sign up with VoiceGard to create mailboxes and have the option to change their own mailbox settings or information during times of disaster. They also can sign up to receive a toll-free number to publish on their websites or other correspondence for members to call in the event of a disaster. The toll-free numbers serve as alternate numbers and are routed to the VoiceGard recovery center where members can receive information or leave messages if the credit union’s branch is unreachable. VoiceGard can redirect calls to cell phones, alternate locations, home phones or IP phones. IP phones, or Internet phones, can be plugged in anywhere there’s an Internet connection, Mowad told News Now Thursday. During previous storms, VoiceGard successfully helped credit unions, and it is prepared to do that again during Hurricane Ike, Mowad said. “Hopefully we won’t have to, but we have the staff and we’re prepared to help if needed,” he added.

Council papers view rewards programs employee retention

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MADISON, Wis. (9/12/08)--Credit unions can learn how to create consumer rewards programs that deepen member relationships, and what benefits to offer to retain employees in two new white papers from the CUNA Councils. “Credit Union Rewards Programs That Enhance Member Relationships,” by the CUNA Operations, Sales, and Service (OpSS) Council, discusses how to develop a program that deepens member relationships. The paper outlines the reasons for rewards programs and the types of programs available. It uses tips and credit union case studies as examples. Credit unions need to combine “head and heart” when it comes to what kind of program they offer, said Denise Wymore, a credit union consultant who helped create a member points program used in about 20 credit unions. “Let’s say you have 30,000 aggregate points and as a reward, you get unlimited ATM use,” Wymore said. “I don’t really feel the reward. I’m not consciously aware, every time I use the ATM, that I’m not being charged by my credit union. And if I’m being charged by the ATM but not by the credit union, that’s negative. I’m not feeling the love.” The rewards should connect with both parts of the member, she added. The second white paper, “Retaining Key Employees,” by the HR/TD Council, investigates strategies and retention factors employed by credit unions--beyond the obvious attractions--for recruiting and keeping officer-level employees. Executive benefits programs and coaching, advanced educational opportunities, and organizational culture are all addressed as prime retention factors in this paper. Tips for identifying key employees during the interview process are provided. For example, Lee Alderman, assistant vice president of employee relations and development at Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif., identified two traits that the credit union’s star employees all share. They are all good relationship-builders/networkers with members and staff, and they take responsibility for their own learning, he said. “These are the type of people we want to hire,” said Alderman. “We redesigned our education and hiring process based on what we learned from these 10 individuals. We added behavioral questions on our interviews to recruit their type of individual.” For more information on these white papers and a list of other topic papers from both councils, use the resource link.

American Partners FCU opens student branch

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REIDSVILLE, N.C. (9/12/08)--American Partners FCU opened a student-run credit union branch in Reidsville, N.C., Wednesday, according to the North Carolina Credit Union League.
American Partners FCU opened a student-run branch at Reidsville (N.C.) High School Wednesday. From left are: Dorina Edwards, American Partners president/CEO; American Partners Marketing Specialist Stephanie Wilson; and student branch employees Yuridia Serrato and Illya Winstead. (Photo provided by the North Carolina Credit Union League)
The Ram branch will provide students, teachers and school employees the option of opening accounts with the credit union. Reidsville, N.C.-based American Partners also will provide financial education to students at the school (Weekly Update Sept. 11). The branch will be open three days a week for two hours each day. It will offer checking and savings accounts, online banking and debit cards. Rockingham County School Superintendent Rodney Shotwell supported the credit union opening the branch at the school. “If we can teach them here not to pick up that credit card application in college [and rack up a lot of debt], we will have accomplished something,” he said. Stephanie Wilson, American Partners marketing specialist, was credited for bringing the branch to the school. She was inspired to open the branch after visiting a branch of Henrico FCU at a high school in Richmond, Va. State Rep. Nelson Cole (D-N.C.), U.S. Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) and U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan, along with members of the Reidsville city council, attended the branch’s opening ceremony. American Partners has $49 million in assets.

CU System briefs (09/11/2008)

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* ST. LOUIS (9/12/08)--Credit union leaders at Postal Federal Community CU, Springfield, Mo., visited with U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt (R- Mo.) Sept. 8. Blunt talked about credit union issues with Steve Pierson, president/CEO of Postal Federal, and Cathy Stroud, president/CEO of Community Financial CU, Springfield (The Missouri Difference Sept. 10). “Congressman Blunt was interested to hear how the mortgage crisis has affected credit union members in Southwest Missouri and what credit unions are doing to help the situation,” Stroud said. From left are Pierson, Blunt and Stroud. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association) ... * ST. LOUIS (9/12/08)--U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) met with credit union representatives during a breakfast meeting in Wildwood, Mo., Sept. 5. Attendees thanked Akin for co-sponsoring the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act and gave him a copy of the Missouri Credit Union Association’s (MCUA) recent study on the subprime mortgage crisis in Missouri (The Missouri Difference Sept. 5). Other attendees included Akin staffers Kevin Roach; Laura Alfeldt, First Community CU, Chesterfield; Kathryn Chillson, Electro Savings CU, St. Louis; Randy Yeck, Vantage CU, Bridgeton; Rosie Holub, MCUA president/CEO; and Amy McLard, MCUA vice president of public and legislative affairs. From left are: Chillson, Alfeldt, Holub, Akin and Yeck (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association) ... * COLUMBIA, Md. (9/12/08)--The Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association (MDDCCUA) board of directors named congressional candidate Frank Kratovil (D-Stevensville) a “Friend of Credit Unions.” MDDCCUA supports Kratovil’s effort to gain the seat being vacated by another longtime “Friend of Credit Unions,” Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.). MDDCCUA confers “Friend of Credit Unions” status on those who demonstrate a willingness to protect, promote and advocate for a positive legislative and regulatory environment for credit unions (Focus Newsletter Sept. 8) ... * CAPITOLA, Calif. (9/12/08)--Bay FCU, Capitola, Calif., sponsored the 26th annual Capitola Art and Wine Festival in Capitola Sept. 6 and 7. Thirty-two Bay FCU volunteers handled ticket sales during the event. The credit union has sponsored the festival for the last five years. About 25,000 were in attendance. About 25% of the proceeds from the festival are donated to local schools for art and sports programs. Bay FCU has $654 million in assets. From left are: Chris Bond, Terry Beech and Bay FCU employees Ruby Stiga, Tiffany Zachmeier, Martha Getchell, Laura Simmons, Lucy Sierra, Jalene Gladstone and Brooke McDonald. (Photo provided by Bay FCU) ... * KINGSPORT, Tenn. (9/12/08)--A woman accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from Appalachian Community FCU pleaded guilty Sept. 6 in the U.S. District Court of Greeneville, Tenn. (Times-News Sept. 8). Trena Bledsoe faces up to a $1 million fine and 30 years in prison. She is accused of taking $105,900 from Appalachian Community FCU, Kingsport, Tenn., between April 2006 and 2007. She was employed at the Rogersville branch as a teller and flagged members’ accounts so that no statements would be sent to the members. She then took $27,000 from the accounts ...