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Donations pour in Texas takes stock of Ike damages

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/19/08)--Houston area credit unions are still assessing damages, credit unions are donating funds for disaster relief, those in the ATM industry are reporting their business continuity plans worked, and all are anxious for the power and utilities knocked out by Hurricane Ike to return to the grid. Of the 177 credit unions affected by Hurricane Ike last weekend, 12 still were not operational at the close of the business day Wednesday, said the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) reported Thursday that to date, it had received about $65,000 in its Disaster Relief Fund. Of that amount, $25,000 was donated Wednesday by Southwest Corporate FCU, which is headquartered in Plano, Texas. "We are proud to be part of this caring and supportive credit union community, and we hope and pray for a quick recovery for everyone affected," said Southwest Corporate President/CEO John Cassidy. The amounts collected do not include pledges, which are expected to flow in the next several days, said TCUF. Already TCUF has issued more than $32,000 in grants to credit union employees in the affected area to help begin rebuilding. Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler and a small contingency of the league team will visit the affected areas next Wednesday through Friday, said the league. "It is through the commitment and dedication of credit union employees and volunteers that the majority of the 180 credit unions in the affected area are at least partially--if not fully--operational today, less than one week after Hurricane Ike ravaged numerous communities in Southeast Texas," Ensweiler said Thursday. "They have put their personal hardships aside so that they can be there for their members, who themselves have suffered great losses. Now it's our turn--we must be there for them in this time of great need," he said. The league posted a video message from Ensweiler on its website at www.tcul.coop. Jill Pharr, executive director of the foundation, noted donations increase by the hour, but so do the requests for emergency grants. "As more and more people are finally able to return to their homes and assess the damage, we anticipate a much greater need for emergency grants," Pharr said. Credit unions in Texas can donate directly to the TCUF Disaster Relief Fund. Those in other states can donate through the National Credit Union Foundation's CUAid. See the link for details. Two Houston-based electronic funds transfer networks--Pulse and Cardtronics--said they experienced little disruption in business operations from Ike, thanks largely to their business continuity plans (ATM & Debit News Sept. 18). Their plans included transferring key operations and personnel to cities further inland. Cardtronics moved its key operations and personnel to Dallas and Portland, Ore. Its Houston headquarters was not damaged and the company planned to move back to Houston this week. Pulse, which processes transactions for 4,500 banks and credit unions, switched its processing to its Dallas facility. The company did not know whether its leased facility in Houston was damaged. The hurricane disabled 327 ATMs owned and operated by Cardtronics in the Houston and Galveston areas. The machines were down largely due to electrical outages and downed communications lines. The company expects the ATMs to return to service soon. According to a league update Thursday morning, all of downtown Houston and areas harder hit on the east side of Houston, such as LaPorte, Pasadena, Baytown and Galveston, likely will see power restored sometime after Sept. 22. "Some areas are so significantly hit that power restoration to existing structures may still be several weeks off," said Rick Grady, vice president of marketing, public relations and communications at the league. Entergy, which supplies electricity to the eastern part of the state, indicated that restoration would be near completion by Oct. 6. However, the Bolivar Peninsula, Sabine Pass, and portions of Port Arthur are still flooded and there is not estimation on completion time for those locations, Grady said.

ICNNI IForbesI on CUs Grab them while you can

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ATLANTA (9/19/08)--"If there's a calm in the economic storm, it may be credit unions, whose investors are sleeping through the night," reported Susan Lisovicz of CNN Thursday during an interview with Neil Weinberg, senior editor of Forbes Magazine. "We've had mergers and bailouts and a lot of us are nervous. Tell us why we should take a second look or in some instances a first look at credit unions," asked Lisovicz, amid banner headlines that said, "Credit unions weather rough seas." Weinberg's answer focused on two reasons why "credit unions are a safe harbor":
* Credit unions are operated as a "stable and profitable business, taking deposits from you and me through our savings and checking accounts, and lending out money for car loans, which earns a spread that is profitable." * Most credit union accounts are federally insured by the government up to $100,000.
"They tend to be conservatively managed and federally insured, which in this day and age is what you want," advised Weinberg. He explained that through lobbying in Washington, credit unions have "managed to open the doors of membership quite a bit" and in many cases a person related to someone in an affinity group can join a credit union. "You want to jump on board," Weinberg advised. When asked what is it about credit unions that doesn't lead to the same kind of forecast for other commercial institutions, Weinberg said credit unions haven't got into the same trouble as commercial banks that specialized in mortgages and made risky home loans. "Typically, credit unions have federal charters and federal inspectors, with strict, tougher rules. Because they began as agricultural cooperatives, they are run conservatively. You want to go for those credit unions." "I got the message," said the Lisovicz. "You want to go for a credit union. Grab them while you can."

New OpSS Council exec committee named

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MADISON, Wis. (9/19/08)--The CUNA Operations, Sales, and Service (OpSS) Council executive committee and officers were announced during the council’s 11th annual conference, taking place this week in Williamsburg, Va. The conference runs through Saturday. Carolyn Jordan, senior vice president of Neighborhood CU, Dallas, moved to chair from vice chair. She replaces Keith Kauffeld, vice president of operations for Air Academy FCU in Colorado Springs, Colo. Kauffeld reached his term limit for chair but will remain on the executive committee. Jennifer Lehn, executive vice president of Numerica CU, Spokane, Wash., was named the new vice chair. Chris Lamb, executive vice president and chief operating officer for E1 Financial CU, Monterey Park, Calif., is the secretary/treasurer. During recent elections, incumbent Sue Douglas, senior vice president and chief operations officer for State Employees’ CU, Raleigh, N.C., and newcomer Debbie Baumann, vice president of operations for Mazuma CU, Kansas City, Mo., were voted onto the committee. Baumann will replace Brenda Dunbar, branch manager for CEFCU in Peoria, Ill., who reached the term limit. Lucy Ito, vice president of research, communications, and public affairs for the California and Nevada Credit Union League, is the new league representative. She succeeds Bob Gallman, senior vice president and chief operations officer for the Texas Credit Union League. Rounding out the executive committee are: Patti Dixon, vice president of service centers for Baxter CU, Vernon Hills, Ill., and Mike Fanelli, chief financial officer and chief operations officer for Atlantic FCU, Kenilworth, N.J.

PCUA Despite market CUs still thrive

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (9/19/08)--Despite the turbulent times in the financial market, credit unions continue to provide a safe haven for consumers' savings or for borrowing through personal, student, car or mortgage loans, says the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA). "We understand there is confusion in the financial markets, [with] conflicting news reports, and it is very difficult for consumers to make sense of the turmoil," said PCUA President/CEO Jim McCormack in a press release. "Yet at the same time, consumers should know that their local credit union is a safe place for their money and for loans," he added. PCUA said that in a non-scientific poll of credit union leaders, virtually all report increased inflows of consumer deposits and a strong demand for consumer loans. The credit unions reiterated they haven't been adversely affected by the mortgage market problems and continue to have funds available to make prudent loans to creditworthy borrowers. "Pennsylvania credit unions have not engaged in the risky lending practices like many other players in the financial marketplace," said Diana Roberts, PCUA chair and CEO of Hershey FCU. "Therefore, we as credit unions have no need to tighten our lending policies since we have always been lending prudently." PCUA noted credit unions in Pennsylvania are federally insured and that the state's credit unions are extremely well-capitalized at 11.7%, compared with the federal regulatory requirement of 7%.

OpSS Advancing sales effectiveness

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (9/19/08)--Credit unions looking to advance the effectiveness of their sales should retain and focus on 5% of the “right” members to generate substantial revenue increases, according to a CUNA Operations, Sales and Service (OpSS) Council presentation at the OpSS Council Conference in Williamsburg, Va. The conference started Thursday and continues through Saturday. During her presentation, “Advancing the Sales Effectiveness of Your Credit Union,” Angela Prestil, director of sales culture development, Creating Member Loyalty programs at the Credit Union National Association, said credit unions need to know that creating a “value experience” for the right members requires proactivity at the front line and back office, and that consistent and proactive sales management drives results and continuous improvement. Credit unions should know that staff and managers have limited time, which requires effective planning for high-gain activities. Consistent and proactive sales management drives results and continuous improvement. About 60% of credit unions don’t know what their members’ needs are. As a result, members won’t know about or use the credit union’s products. They will migrate to another provider, Prestil said. The “top” 20% of members account for 100% to 200% of credit unions’ profits. The rest have a neutral or negative impact. Credit unions should move top members from a “satisfied” position to a “loyal” position to generate revenue, she said. Other critical success factors to enhancing sales effectiveness are relationship management, sales management and organizational alignment. Relationship management involves getting members to use products instead of buy them, and retaining members instead of just selling to them. More attention should be placed on a member’s financial situation, instead of the product or service. This can be tough, because sales managers often have to spend time on non-sales activities. “Sales managers seldom perform the activities that will ensure a strong sales culture,” she said. “Sales managers understand their role but are prevented from doing it. Organizational discipline and support for managers is essential.” To realign branch manager activities, credit unions should:
* Delegate operations and administrative duties to assistant managers; * Centralize lending--manager no longer needs to approve loans; * Eliminate reports and meetings that don’t add value; * Add a new position dedicated to sales management and coaching; and * Offer coaching for managers by senior managers.

OpSS Council Generating deposits through checking

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (9/19/08)--Credit unions need to focus on using checking accounts effectively as a springboard for additional product sales, an industry expert said at a conference this week. A session on how credit unions can generate deposits was presented at the CUNA Operations, Sales & Service Council (OpSS) Thursday in Williamsburg, Va. The conference runs through Sunday. Tim Spenny, strategic advisor at Raddon Financial Group, Oak Brook, Ill., gave a presentation titled “Generating Deposits: New Tactics for Success.” Dollar volume in checking deposits has declined from 2006 through 2008, while in the same period, savings/money market account dollar volume has grown at a 5.1% annual rate, and certificates of deposit dollar volume has grown at a 3.5% annual rate, Spenny indicated. From December 2006 to December 2007, the annual growth rate for U.S. credit union deposits was 8%, compared with 5.1% for banks. The growth rate for loans in the same period was 7.5% for credit unions, compared with 6.5% for banks. Higher expense has caused 43% of people surveyed to save less, while 45 % said higher expense has had no impact on savings, according to the Raddon Financial Group Semiannual Survey. Many financial institutions use promotional gifts to encourage people to open accounts, Spenny said. According to the Raddon survey:
* 39% of those surveyed said the promotional gift made no difference; * 38% said it was a big influence; and * 23% said it played a small role.
Spenny gave examples of what financial institutions do to encourage deposits. Washington Mutual pays a best rate for an online savings account when a checking account is opened. CitiBank offers a high interest-rate account that can be opened only online. It is linked to a checking account. To get the best rate, a customer must pay at least two bills online each month. The development of a checking menu requires eliminating many of the benefits often associated with free checking, Spenny said, such as: free checks, interest, surcharge rebates, debit rewards and foreign ATM waivers. An example of a checking menu is:
* Free checking: No minimums or fees. No fee waivers or other benefits; * Interest checking: Pays nominal interest for a minimum balance; * High-interest checking: Pay the best rate for a high minimum balance (e.g., $25,000); * Relationship checking: Offers benefits based on a full member relationship; and * Green checking: Pays interest, rebates ATM surcharges, and forgives one non-sufficient funds fee for debit card usage, online banking and e-statement.
Build-to-order checking allows customers to, for example, build an account selecting two premium features from a menu of items. When asked to assess their interest in the “build your own checking concept,” 17% of survey respondents said they were extremely interested; 29% said they were very interested, 34 % were somewhat interested; 11% were not very interested; and 9% were not at all interested. Sixty percent said they would not pay for additional features. Spenny listed the following checking conclusions:
* Checking continues to be the main focal point for growth; * Financial institutions are not using checking effectively as a springboard for additional product sales; * With checking strategy one account type is not enough, but don’t go overboard; * Premiums are being offered--cash is king; make sure the premium rewards account activity; and * The newest development is “build your own account.”

CEO hunkered down at CU during Ike

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BEAUMONT, Texas (9/19/08)--On the night of Friday, Sept. 12, MobilOil FCU president/CEO Kim Heinze took air mattresses, her two sons--ages 16 and 20--and stayed at MobilOil’s headquarters in Beaumont, Texas, when Hurricane Ike made landfall in the Houston area early Saturday morning. The headquarters building was built in 2004 and survived Hurricane Rita in September 2005. “I knew how much steel was in it,” Heinze told News Now. “I felt perfectly safe riding this one out here.” Heinze lives in Bridge City, which was one of the areas most affected by the storm. Her home was flooded. She is currently renting an apartment near the credit union. While riding out the hurricane at the headquarters building, Heinze and her sons watched the power go out at 12:45 a.m. Saturday. The credit union’s natural-gas powered generator, which the board agreed to buy two years ago, powered up immediately. “It never skipped a beat,” Heinze recalled. The generator powers the credit union's immediate operations--the security, drive-up teller, ATMs onsite, cash dispensers, outlets in the call center, accounting and information technology areas--even the refrigerators in the break rooms, she said. However, the credit union does not power everything--such as air conditioning. “We’re hoping the power will go back on this week,” she said. “I’ve seen what a benefit [the generator] was,” Heinze added. “Our web, online banking, core data processing and phones never went down.” The credit union never lost water or sewer, and there weren’t any broken windows, she said. The credit union reopened on Monday. Mobiloil has six branches--and its Jasper branch, located about 60 miles north of Beaumont, has been running at full-service. The Treadway and Delaware branches opened Tuesday. About half of Mobiloil’s staff is back to work. Employees had “all sorts of flooding,” Heinze said. They lost cars, had flooded homes, and one employee on the coast completely lost a home. Two of the credit union’s ATMs also were affected by the storm. One was completely submerged in water, she said. Mobiloil has conducted a “huge amount” of transactions through Shared Branching with Credit Union Service Centers, she said. It also has helped other credit unions in the area perform transactions. Members have been arriving at the credit union and thanking staff for service. The marketing team has been interviewing them about the status of their homes as they came in, Heinze said. The credit union also helped local businesses through the ordeal. On Sunday, Heinze went to a CVS pharmacy two blocks from the credit union’s headquarters after Ike hit to buy some sodas and snacks for her sons. She wore her Mobiloil nametag, and one of the CVS employees noticed. “He said, ‘You aren’t open, are you? I’m afraid we’re going to have to close our doors because we’re running out of denominations, especially $1 bills,’” she told News Now. Heinze walked back to the credit union and met the branch manager, who told her that the vault would be locked until Monday. However, the credit union’s cash dispensing system was up and running because of the generator. This enabled them to deliver several hundreds of $1 bills to CVS. “They were so thankful,” Heinze said. “They’ve been open ever since.” Mobiloil employees also have been helping each other with things like cutting up downed trees. “Morale is up,” she said. “Everything is going to be fine.” Mobiloil has $242 million in assets.

CSSAgility comes through for CUs in disaster

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MADISON, Wis. (9/19/08)--CUNA Strategic Services provider Agility Recovery Solutions has supported five credit unions recovering from Hurricane Ike, according to Paul Sullivan, vice president and general manager of Agility. Agility provides onsite business recovery and continuity solutions. Solutions include fully operational mobile office and mobile branch units, satellite voice and Internet access, generators, computer hardware and technology pre-configured to meet requirements, 24/7 emergency help desk as well as annual testing simulation packages. Agility provided generators to the credit unions and a fully operational mobile branch, Sullivan told News Now. Agility also visits the credit unions on-site to show them how to hook up the generators. “The look on people’s faces when you show up with capability--it’s all smiles,” Sullivan said. Since the storm hit, some credit unions have received power. Agility has begun picking up generators. At other credit unions, “the generators could be there for a day or up to a week,” Sullivan said. “We’re used to long-term recoveries. This isn’t the first time we’ve [dealt with] hurricanes.” This year, credit unions and other clients have been asking for larger generators. Agility has provided generators to power a meat packing plant, Tracey Wilder, Agility director of technology and sales support, told News Now. Credit unions signing up for Agility’s services receive access to My Agility, which is a password-protected site with information on preparation and recovery from disasters. Agility representatives talk with clients on the phone, taking them through the services they have and what they need to prepare for a potential disaster. Agility also sends out e-alerts and performs customer care calls. “We let them know that we’re thinking of them,” Wilder said. “We’re proactive and reactive of these events.” Agility also can test programs for its members so they know if the disaster plans work. But while Agility can prep its clients for “a lot of things, we can’t prepare them for eventuality,” Sullivan said. “We can’t prepare for that kind of devastation.”

Texas CU kept operations going through Hurricane Ike

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ALVIN, Texas (9/19/08)--Despite losing half its roof Friday night as Hurricane Ike blew through Texas, Chocolate Bayou Community CU maintained all electronic service operations through back-up systems. The $70 million asset, Alvin, Texas-based credit union, was able to run on generator power from Friday night until 3 p.m. Wednesday when power was restored, Gary Davis, Chocolate Bayou CEO, told News Now Thursday. Davis stayed in the credit union office Friday night and weathered the hurricane because the building is a staging area for an emergency response team for a chemical company that leases office space at Chocolate Bayou’s Alvin location. “So I had to be there,” Davis said. “Our disaster recovery plan worked like clockwork,” Davis said. “I sent our information technology people to Dallas last week so they could get us set up. They got us back up and running Monday with all our electronic services switched to back-up service. Nothing stopped processing. “We started serving our members Tuesday,” he added. “As far as I know, we were the only financial institution opened that fast in our area. I know of only one other bank open as of now, and it is located in a Wal-Mart.” On Tuesday, temporary replacement material was used to patch the missing half of the roof at the credit union, Davis said. Several people, upon seeing that Chocolate Bayou was open for business Tuesday, told Davis that they were going to come back and open an account at the credit union because their financial institutions were still closed. “I was somewhat surprised that about 40% of our service requests since the hurricane have been for deposits, not just withdrawals,” Davis said. “I believe a lot of people had payroll checks because they got paid on Friday, right before the hurricane hit.” The credit union’s staff and membership were “very fortunate” to have gotten through the hurricane well, Davis said. “No staff were injured, although some sustained minor damage to their homes and some are still without power,” he said. “Our membership seems to be doing very well.”

Corporates advise Colombian CUs on settlement ops

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MADISON, Wis. (9/19/08)--Members of the newly formed World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Corporate Advisory Group traveled to Colombia last week to assess the credit union movement and current settlement systems there. The visit marked the group's first international exchange since it was established in March.
Click to view larger image Members of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) Corporate Advisory Group--from left, Steve Schaefer, WOCCU program manager John Elden, Corporate One assistant vice president, systems operations; and Nick Gomez, director, product management--met with SumaRed General Manager Juan Jose Camargo in Bogota, Colombia.
Click to view larger image Hugo Fernando Gomez, left, CoopCentral director of technology in Columbia explains the corporate credit union's settlement system to WesCorp's Nick Gomez. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Seven U.S. corporate credit unions, under the direction of the Association of Corporate Credit Unions (ACCU) Executive Committee, joined WOCCU representatives earlier this year to establish an advisory group for foreign WOCCU Services Group (WSG) offices. The WSG offices are a new model of credit union service organizations. The corporate group assists with providing technical, operational, legal and regulatory expertise to credit unions. WSG offices currently exist in Bolivia, Colombia, Kenya, Mexico and Peru. SumaRed, Colombia's WSG office, offers consulting services and national money transfers to member credit unions. Its money transfer network uses a Web-based system that transfers remittance information among credit unions, but because SumaRed is not a financial institution, it must manually move funds through credit union accounts at a local bank. Though the data exchange process works well, the transfer of funds is not as efficient as it could be, said WOCCU. The delegation to Colombia visited SumaRed, key credit unions in three cities, the corporate credit union and two of the country's credit union regulators to assess the settlement system and provide formal recommendations for automating the process. WOCCU Corporate Advisory Group members on the trip were Nick Gomez, WesCorp director, product management payment systems, San Dimas, Calif.; John Elden, Corporate One assistant vice president, systems operations, Columbus, Ohio; and Steve Schaefer, WOCCU program manager. The trip was especially meaningful for Gomez, who came to the U.S. from Colombia when he was 18 years old. “This was an extraordinary experience for me,” Gomez said. “I left Colombia right out of high school, and even though I have been back a few times through the years, this trip gave me an opportunity to connect with the credit union movement in Colombia for the first time thanks to the initiative from the WOCCU Corporate Advisory Group. “Credit unions are a very dynamic and critical part of the economy there with great commitment from the government to their health and prosperity,” Gomez added. “There is a great opportunity to have an impact affecting the health of credit unions and millions of people there.” Juan Jose Camargo, SumaRed general manager, said the group hopes “the Corporate Network sees the importance of SumaRed to the credit unions of Colombia. The exchange of technical knowledge and perspectives on what services a corporate-type institution in Colombia can offer will truly allow us to position SumaRed as a fundamental source of support for credit unions now and into the future.” Brad Miller, ACCU executive director, highlighted the collaboration between the ACCU and WOCCU as a way to leverage the Corporate Network's operational and technical expertise and help strengthen the global cooperative financial system. “This first combined effort to evaluate, design and implement a settlement system for credit unions in Colombia is an important step in improving operating methods,” Miller said. “Creating an efficient transaction processing system [in Colombia] could potentially be replicated with credit unions around the globe.” U.S. corporate credit unions involved with the WOCCU Corporate Advisory Group are: Corporate One, Columbus, Ohio; First Carolina Corporate CU, Greensboro, N.C.; Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU, Middletown, Pa.; Southwest Corporate FCU, Plano, Texas; TriCorp FCU, Portland, Maine; U.S. Central, Lenexa, Kan.; and WesCorp, San Dimas, Calif.

Polands president optimistic about CUs future

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WARSAW (9/19/08)--Facing potentially damaging legislation before Poland's Parliament, the country's credit union movement has been bolstered by support from many of the Baltic nation's legislators and the office of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who remains "optimistic" about the movement's future.
Click to view larger imageWorld Council of Credit Unions' WOCCU Poland Engagement Program participants pose in front the presidential palace in Warsaw. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
During three separate events this week, members of a World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) delegation to Poland met with a dozen Polish lawmakers, including Piotr Kownacki, head of the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, the country's equivalent of the U.S. presidential chief of staff. In June, pro-banking groups introduced amendments that seek to change Poland's credit union law, passed in 1995 at the rebirth of the Polish credit union movement. Among other issues, the amendments would end all lifetime membership provisions, requiring members to leave their credit unions if they no longer work for employers in the credit unions' field of membership. The amendments also would limit credit unions' access to certain funding sources and reduce credit union oversight authority by the National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU), one of WOCCU's member organizations. "The new regulations will have a devastating impact on Poland's credit unions if passed," said Grzegorz Bierecki, NACSCU president and WOCCU treasurer, during Thursday's meeting with Kownacki and the delegation in Warsaw's presidential palace. "These laws place important limitations on the member, who will be asked to leave his credit union and pay back all his loans. Essentially, the member will be punished by these laws," he said.
Click to view larger imageBill Cheney (left), president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, explains the power of credit unions to Piotr Kownacki, head of the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland (right), while Andrzej Duda, Poland's undersecretary of state (center), looks on.
WOCCU delegation members shared their concerns and U.S. credit union examples with both Kownacki and Andrzej Duda, Poland's undersecretary of state, during the hour-long meeting. Mike Mercer, president of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA), explained that recent limitations on consumer lending by U.S. banks in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis have made U.S. credit unions an even more critical resource during the current economic downturn. GCUA works with NACSCU through WOCCU's International Partnerships program. "A credit union system, if it's healthy, can provide strong and vibrant support in troubling times," Mercer told the group. "All of us thought the situation here critical enough to come all the way to Poland to support our international colleagues." The President of Poland's office attempted to submit more favorable legislation, but it wasn't supported and didn't survive, said Kownacki. If the Polish Parliament passes legislation damaging to credit unions, President Kaczynski must sign the legislation into law, an obligation that allows him to make adjustments he feels are more appropriate to the movement, Kownacki added. "I do agree the current draft goes too far, and I don't believe it will be passed into law," Kownacki said. "I can be quite optimistic on behalf of Polish credit unions, and I believe this group's visit has been very important." Parliamentary discussions about the legislation came to a halt earlier this month when the President submitted alternative amendments. The Polish movement expects as much as a year of discussion and no definitive action before mid-2009. However, support from the President's office and the chief executive's veto power has made Poland's 67 credit unions optimistic about the future. "The 1.8 million ordinary people [and credit union members] interested in keeping and developing the credit union system is the most important strength of that system," Kownacki added. "I think it will be impossible to destroy credit unions in Poland." The WOCCU delegation, led by Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer, includes Mercer; Joe Bergeron, president of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions; Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues; Barry Jolette, CEO of San Mateo CU in Redwood City, Calif., and WOCCU first vice chairman; Jim McCormack, president of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association; Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and statistics for the Credit Union National Association; and WOCCU staff.

Membership Growth Series Quincy CU

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QUINCY, Mass. (9/19/08)--By “embedding itself” in the area it serves to create community awareness, and by focusing on select employee groups (SEGs) and the youth market, Quincy CU (QCU) is experiencing strong membership growth. The $290 million asset, Quincy, Mass.-based credit union experienced 7.1% membership growth from 2006 to 2007. QCU is a community credit union that serves members and their families who live or work in Norfolk and Plymouth counties, and the town of Dorchester, Mass. This is the 10th installment of News Now's Membership Growth series of interviews with fast-growing-membership credit unions. The series is part of an initiative of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Membership Growth Task Force. The series focuses on fast "organic" membership growth, not growth by merger or indirect loans. The task force, chaired by Dick Ensweiler, president of the Texas Credit Union League, was convened at the request of CUNA's Immediate Past Board Chair Allan Kemp McMorris. Its purpose is to investigate, report on, and encourage credit unions to embrace opportunities, techniques and processes that will increase credit unions' membership retention and growth. In 2006, QCU merged with Braintree (Mass.) Educator’s and Municipal Employees CU that had about 800 members. However, that was just a small part of QCU’s membership growth. QCU had 23,329 members as of Aug. 31, Judy Brazil, QCU vice president of marketing, told News Now. “One of the major ways we promote QCU, in addition to the traditional print advertisement channels like radio, print and statement inserts, is to make community awareness a priority,” Brazil said. “We work with people in the area to position QCU to help with community events. We’re very visible in the community.” As an example, Brazil is on the board of the Quincy School Community Partnership organization, working with the public school system on its various issues. QCU has a good relationship with the city of Quincy and city public schools, stemming in part from the fact that until 2005, the credit union was Quincy Municipal CU, serving city employees, Brazil said. Another example of community involvement is the Quincy public schools backpack initiative in which QCU collaborated with local businesses to stuff 400 backpacks with school supplies for elementary school students. QCU paid for the backpacks and delivered them, while other businesses donated the school supplies in the backpacks. SEG awareness is another key component to QCU’s membership growth, Brazil said. “Right now we are focusing on local SEGs such as the Quincy Medical Center and the local ambulance service, so we can offer credit union membership and benefits to their employees,” she said. “We’ve hired a part-time business development specialist to help with SEGs.” QCU tries to raise awareness with SEGs by adhering to its tenet of visibility in the community. By becoming involved in events such as a cancer benefit walk, or having credit union staff visit a local homeless shelter to prepare holiday baskets, QCU tries to “go beyond just writing a check” in its support of the community, Brazil explained. “This helps our membership grow because people see us around town,” she added. “We do have a very loyal membership base and a strong word-of-mouth recommendation that helps our growth.” Youth is another major membership segment on which QCU focuses. Over the past year-and-a half, the credit union has developed two youth programs. Student Advantage targets youth ages 15-25 to help them manage money and credit to become fiscally responsible adults. The program contains a component of financial literacy, utilizing printed booklets and an online site--the Credit Union National Association’s Googolplex. QCU also introduced a First-Time Auto Buyers Program geared to help first-time buyers--namely students--learn about auto financing. Participants have to pass a quiz to show that they understand what an auto loan entails. “We also visit schools in our area to give presentations on financial literacy,” Brazil said. “We teach students how to write checks and how to handle credit cards. They always want to talk about credit cards.” QCU became a community charter in 2005 because it reasoned that to obtain new members and to sustain growth, it had to remove the restrictions of its old charter, which limited membership to only municipal workers and their families in the city of Quincy. “We realized we needed to take steps to make the charter-change happen,” Brazil said. QCU plans to open its first branch in Weymouth, Mass., in 2009. “There is significant potential to grow the credit union’s presence and to realize membership growth,” Brazil said. To contact the CUNA Membership Growth Task Force, e-mail its account at cunamgtf@cuna.coop.

SACU deploys mobile ATM to assist Houston

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas (9/19/08)--San Antonio FCU (SACU) has set up a mobile ATM at its Fallbrook Branch in Houston, Texas, to help get its members and other residents affected by Hurricane Ike access to their money.
Click to view larger image After Hurricane Ike, San Antonio FCU (SACU) sent its Mobile ATM to Houston Fallbrook Branch to assist members and others with access to their accounts. (Photo provided by San Antonio FCU)
"Utilities are being restored in parts of town, but the traditional ATMs are not back on line at this time,” SACU Senior Vice President Chuck Smith said. “Our credit union wants to make every effort to help out in this crisis. The mobile ATM is a perfect way to bridge the gap until services are restored. Because credit and debit cards aren’t working in many places, having access to cash is essential.” The SACU Fallbrook Branch will reopen as soon as it can, and the ATM will remain in place as long as it is needed, the $2.6 billion asset credit union said.