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CU System briefs (09/20/2010)

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* ANCHORAGE, Alaska (9/21/10)--A former chief operating officer of ALPS FCU, based in Sitka, Alaska, has pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court to a $187,348 embezzlement from the credit union (The Associated Press via Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Sept. 18). Vicki Lynn Weidenhof, 46, now of Chatsworth, Ga., took funds from the credit union's general ledger accounts and deposit the funds into her own account and into accounts of others. Sentencing has been set for be Dec. 13 ... * COLUMBIA, S.C. (9/21/10)--John Slack has been named to the new position of chief sales officer of Palmetto Cooperative Services LLC (PCS), a credit union service organization in Columbia, S.C. Slack had served as executive director of the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation since 2006. He also served with CUNA Mutual Group in a variety of roles from business consultant in 1996 to account vice president and division vice president for relationship management. For PCS, Slack will develop and maintain relationships with client credit unions and business partners. His responsibilities will include developing marketing and sales strategies for products and services, acting as primary liaison with strategic partners, pursing new product development, implementation and pricing strategies, and developing the tracking, forecasting and budgeting to support new business line development ... * MONROE, Mich. (9/21/10)--Monroe County Community CU President/CEO Paul Assenmacher will retire on April 1, 2011. During his tenure, the Monroe, Mich.-based credit union has grown from eight to 68 employees, from 2,800 to more than 30,000 members, and from $4 million to $143 million in assets. Mike Newman, current executive vice president/chief operations officer, will become president during the transition process and will become president/CEO upon Assenmacher's retirement in April. Newman has worked with the credit union since 1983. He has served on several Michigan Credit Union League committees and is currently on the league's Governmental Affairs Committee and State Issues Committee (Michigan Monitor Sept. 13) ...

Members United to lay off 27

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WARRENVILLE, Ill. (9/21/10)--Members United Corporate FCU announced Friday it will reduce its work force again and close its Indianapolis, Ind., office. The current reduction will involve 27 employees and will occur in 30 days to allow for an orderly transition, according to Members United Corporate CEO Joseph P. Herbst. "The actions announced today, although difficult, are a necessary response to the ongoing financial crisis, changes in technology, and the pending changes to the corporate regulation," said Herbst in a formal statement from Friday. He noted the changes "are an essential building block toward a new business plan resulting in the rebuilding of Members United as a smaller, leaner corporate credit union while continuing to offer the value-added services, both new and existing, that our members need. "Expenses that totaled $55.6 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2008, have been reduced to a going forward annual run rate of approximately $30 million--a 46% reduction," Herbst said. The layoffs will result in ongoing savings to the corporate's operations of more than $2 million per year. Since October 2008, Members United has reduced its overall staff from 327 to 171, a 48% reduction in force by the end of the 2010 reductions. The layoffs have occurred at all levels of the organization, said the corporate's memo to its member credit unions. Improved telephony and computer technology means the corporate's Indiana branch staff can work seamlessly out of home offices. Much of that work has already been transitioned from the Indiana facility, with no degradation of service, said the memo to members. The corporate will conduct town hall meetings to review its preliminary strategic, business and capital plans with its member owners, beginning Oct. 27.

Mort Jester former Indiana league president dies

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MADISON, Wis. (9/21/10)--Former Indiana Credit Union League President Morton E. "Mort" Jester died earlier this month at age 83 following a two-year battle with leukemia, the league has learned. Jester worked with the league for 15 years before retiring on Jan. 1, 1988.

Irish league votes to push for stabilization fund

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DUBLIN (9/21/10)--The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) plans to campaign for a stabilization fund that would assist credit unions if they encounter financial difficulty. During a special league meeting Saturday, more than 600 delegates from 505 credit unions affiliated with the league voted to push for a cross-border stabilization fund to support all credit unions, including those not affiliated with ILCU (The Irish Examiner Sept. 20). They rejected options outlined by the Central Bank's Registrar of Credit Unions, James O'Brien, in a consultation paper earlier this summer. The paper proposed a statutory bailout fund for credit unions that become insolvent. Instead, they approved a draft submission that favors giving the league full ownership and control of any new plan, and imposing full responsibility for funding the plan on the credit union movement. ILCU plans to submit its proposal by Friday, the newspaper said.

Southeast Corporate aids CU after burglar cuts power

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (9/21/10)--When Jacksonville, Fla.-based Florida Baptist CU lost its phone lines, security and power during a burglary, Southeast Corporate FCU went to its aid. The more than $24 million asset Florida Baptist CU was burglarized during the Labor Day holiday weekend for the first time since it was founded in 1986, said Southeast Corporate, which is based in Tallahassee. "The phone lines, security, and power were cut by the intruders," said Dottie Rice, Florida Baptist's accounting manager. "The credit union building became a 'crime scene' and we had very limited access to the building," she said. The credit union notified the corporate immediately because "we were not sure of the time frame we would be allowed back into the building or the extent of the damage to our equipment." According to Steve Wildes, Southeast member service manager, "The first thing that we assisted with for several days was emergency cash orders. This enabled the credit union to get cash into the branch quickly, while at the same time keeping the amount on hand at a bare minimum since the vault was damaged." Next, the corporate helped the credit union process automated clearing house (ACH) transactions. "Southeast assisted us in gaining APEX ACH access at an alternate location and alternate IP address in order for us to process our files," said Rice. "Our Southeast representative, Gisli Magnusson, checked on us regularly and stopped in to make sure we were okay. We were very pleased with the service and encouragement we received from everyone at Southeast Corporate," Rice added. Magnusson, who noted that "our credit unions are members of our family," said the corporate was glad no one was hurt and that the credit union "was up and running at full speed in just a day or two." The crisis brought home some definite lessons. "Through this situation, we realized how important it is to have emergency/disaster backup plans in place," Rice said. "We need to have current telephone numbers of all vendors/representatives, and to test these plans before something happens," she added, saying that the credit union's "down time was minimal based on our well-established and tested relationships with Southeast Corporate."

Missouri announces award winners

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ST. LOUIS (9/21/10)--Missouri credit unions were recognized for their activities with awards by the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) at its Credit Union Convention and Exposition Awards Breakfast on Sept. 16. Ten Missouri credit unions earned first-place recognition in the state Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility, Louise Herring Philosophy in Action and Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award Programs from the MCUA (The Missouri difference Sept. 17). Missouri received 29 entries for the three award competitions. First-place winners for the Dora Maxwell award were:
* Southpointe CU, St. Louis, $20 million to $50 million in assets; * Central Missouri Community CU, Warrensburg, $50 million to $100 million; * Alliance CU, Fenton, $100 million to $200 million; * Mazuma CU, Kansas City, $200 million to $500 million; and * CommunityAmerica CU, Kansas City, more than $500 million.
Credit unions recognized as first-place winners for the Louise Herring award were:
* Neighbors CU, St. Louis, $50 million to $250 million in assets; and * First Community CU, St. Louis, more than $250 million.
Desjardins first-place winners were:
* Raytown-Lee’s Summit Community CU, Raytown, more than $50 million in assets: * St. Louis Community CU, $150 million to 500 million; and * Vantage CU, Bridgeton, more than $500 million.

Hudson Valley CUs membership booming in economys wake

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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (9/21/10)--Hudson Valley credit unions in New York state are experiencing booming credit union membership in the wake of the economic recession. Hudson Valley FCU, a $2.9 billion asset, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based credit union, grew its membership by 10,000 in 2009 and is on pace to the same amount of new members this year, said Stephen Nikitas, Hudson Valley president of marketing (Times Herald-Record Sept. 19). “We have been the beneficiary of the general dissatisfaction with all the issues that transpired in 2008,” he told the newspaper. “People who've been customers of big banks are frustrated with what's going on, and are looking more locally, and are looking more at credit unions than they had before.” Hudson Heritage FCU, a $222.4 million asset, Middletown, N.Y.-based credit union, is averaging 4% annual membership growth, and is expecting 10% growth for 2010, Michael Ciriello, Hudson Heritage president/CEO, told the paper. The article described how a local resident switched to Melrose CU, a $1.28 billion asset, Briarwood, N.Y.-based credit union, from her bank to obtain better interest rates on share certificates. The article also mentioned Mid-Hudson Valley FCU, a $697.5 million asset, Kingston, N.Y.-based credit union. “Hopefully consumers are understanding the mission of the credit union movement, which is to help people become financially independent, save more, buy a house,” William Mellin, president of the Credit Union Association of New York, told the paper. “Our purpose is to help American consumers realize those types of financial dreams.” To read the article, use the link.

Banks at near bottom of trust poll

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DALLAS (9/21/10)--About 52% of those surveyed for a recent Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll said they have little or no confidence in banks. The poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications. About 1,007 randomly chosen adults were interviewed through landline and cell phone calls (LoneStar Leaguer Sept. 20). Respondents also expressed distrust with the federal government and Congress (49%), and blogs (54%). Conversely, about 39% said they are “extremely” or “very confident” in small and local business leaders, the scientific community and organized religion. The poll is one of several in a series showing that consumers’ trust in banks is declining. According to a recent Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index survey, 62% of American consumers surveyed said they trust credit unions.That compares with 57% for local banks, 35% for national banks and 27% for banks in which the government has a stake, according to the June poll by the Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index (News Now Aug. 6). The New York Times also reported Sept. 9 that New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio may have lost his bid because of his ties to JPMorgan Chase, where he worked as a lobbyist.

Two Tucson CUs hire high-profile coaches for ads

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TUCSON, Ariz. (9/21/10)--Two high-profile University of Arizona coaches find themselves as “rivals” in a contest that doesn’t involve athletics, but rather credit union promotion. Mike Stoops, the university’s football coach, is appearing in print ads and TV commercials and on billboards for Vantage West CU, a $1.1 billion asset, Tucson, Ariz., based credit union, while men’s basketball coach Sean Miller is filming TV commercials set to air this month for Hughes FCU, a $491 million asset, Tucson-based credit union (azstarnet.com Sept. 18). Bob Ramirez, Vantage West CEO, said his credit union could have chosen either coach as a spokesman, but chose Stoops because the football coach fit well with the credit union’s University of Arizona commemorative football coin promotion--in which people who open new accounts receive a coin. A campaign that began last year, the publication said. IMG, the sports marketing company that represents Miller, approached Hughes FCU about having Miller represent the credit union through 2013, Kathy Hippensteel, Hughes marketing manager, told the publication. The two credit unions said it’s a good development for the local credit union industry overall to have two well-known coaches become the faces of their credit unions. “I wouldn’t say we’re going against each other,” Ramirez told the publication. “We look at this as University of Arizona athletics promoting credit unions, as opposed to credit unions competing against each other.”

Australian CU speaks to indigenous members

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GALIWINKU, Australia (9/21/10)--Traditional CU (TCU), which is based in Darwin, Australia, will use storytelling and pictures to market to members who do not understand English or read their native languages.
Click to view larger image Morgan Hoyes, left, Traditional CU business development officer, explains to World Council of Credit Unions’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Branch the challenges of serving an indigenous population.
Click to view larger image Robyn Lacey, Traditional CU human resources manager (left), discusses the day’s activities with Galiwinku branch manager Sherilyn Dhamarrandji. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Within the next month, TCU will introduce marketing materials that illustrate its services and use attached audio units--similar to those found in greeting cards--to describe its services in native languages. TCU, founded to serve the country’s Aboriginal population scattered across Australia’s Northern Territory, will resolve long-standing issues of reaching members who come from an oral tradition and who speak but do not read or write Yolngu, Kriol or other tribal languages. “We’re developing posters that show services in pictures and have pop-out audio units that can change as the language or services change,” said Morgan Hoyes, TCU business development officer. “This will better help us serve our diverse members.” The credit union is employing an approach already developed by OneTalk Technology, an Australian firm specializing in audio products to reach the country’s indigenous population. The approach combines graphics with language translations. Healthcare providers use the program for Australia’s indigenous people. It will augment the translation services provided by Aboriginal tellers and managers who make up roughly 75% of staff in TCU’s 11 branches. “We’ve heard a lot about the work TCU does in taking its services to Aboriginal people,” said Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Unions executive vice president and chief operating officer. He recently visited the credit union’s Galiwinku branch on Elcho Island off Australia’s northern coast. “The credit union was established at the request of tribal elders, and that support has been important to their ability to provide financial empowerment.” TCU, which offers basic financial services to 7,000 indigenous members, works to overcome cultural mores requiring families to share their assets with other family members who may have squandered their own funds, according to Robyn Lacey, TCU’s human resources manager. Despite the challenges, the credit union plans to open small branches in 11 more Aboriginal communities in 2011 with a goal to move farther south into the territory in years to come, she said. “Financial literacy is an issue,” Lacey said. “We’re making progress, but it is not going to happen overnight.”

Former White House staffer addresses Maine CUs forum

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FREEPORT, Maine (9/21/10)--Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, spoke to nearly 100 credit union representatives at the Maine Credit Union League’s annual legislative forum Wednesday in Freeport, Maine.
Click to view larger image Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was keynote speaker at the Maine Credit Union League's Annual Legislative Forum. From left are Quincy Hentzel, Maine league director of governmental affairs; Tucker Cole, board member and chair of the league's Political Involvement Committee; Jon Paradise, league governmental and public affairs manager; Fleischer; John Murphy, league president; and Trey Hawkins, Credit Union National Association vice president of political affairs. (Photo provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
Fleischer spoke about the current political climate, noting that Maine voters can be particularly independent. He also provided a reading of notes he took on Sept. 11, 2001, a day that he spent with President Bush. The notes provided a look at the behind-the-scenes conversations and the actions that took place after the attacks. Fleischer plans to donate his notes the George W. Bush Presidential Library, being built at Southern Methodist University in Texas. Trey Hawkins, vice president of political affairs at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), provided a presentation on credit union political advocacy and the role that credit unions can and should have in elections. “When elected officials equate grassroots to strength to votes, numbers matter,” he said.