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Leagues continue media efforts on fed insurance

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MADISON, Wis. (10/1/08)--Leagues continued their efforts with the media to gain positive coverage educating the public and members about credit unions' federal insurance and overall safety and soundness. Among them: Indiana, Virginia and Iowa. In Indiana, the fact that credit unions are a bright spot in the financial services industry was more than apparent to viewers of Indianapolis’ CBS affiliate, WISH-TV 8, during the 6 p.m. newscast Sunday. The Indiana Credit Union League was in the middle of its three-day convention when the station responded to a news release the league had sent statewide media. The league reminded them that credit unions are a safe harbor for consumers and small business owners, especially during tumultuous times in the financial services sector. The station sent a reporter to the convention to interview league President John McKenzie and Teachers CU CEO Rick Rice. The segment opened with a reference to credit unions as the “bright spot,” which McKenzie and Rice emphasized, and with the anchor pointing out, “it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to the financial markets …. Local credit unions are actually growing during these uncertain times.” (Use link to view video) In the interview, Rice said “more people are turning toward credit unions for financial stability.” In discussing positive mortgage growth at credit unions, Rice said, "We’ve seen a lot more business come to us (Teachers CU). The first seven months of this year, we did all of what we did last year in mortgages.” “These interviews and the resulting coverage provided an opportunity to emphasize our message about consumers and business owners looking to credit unions during these difficult times for the economy and the overall financial industry," said McKenzie, who explained on-air to viewers, “Consumers and business owners recognize that credit unions represent a safe haven.” The news is broadcast to 60,000 households in Central Indiana including Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Lafayette, Bloomington, Kokomo, and Richmond. For the complete interview, use the link to the video. The Virginia Credit Union League sent two press releases that were part of an article about Citigroup's acquisition of Wachovia Bank (Daily Press Sept. 30) in Newport News, Va. Credit unions as a safe harbor was the emphasis. League President Rick Pillow said the state's credit unions are on "exceptionally strong financial footing" and the while the credit crunch has affected others, credit unions have money they're ready to lend to members. He also noted Virginia credit unions have low delinquencies. Also interviewed for the article was Jean Yokum, president of Langley FCU, Newport News, who noted the credit union has conservative guidelines and hasn't had to tighten credit as much. In a media statement about credit union federal insuranc, Iowa Credit Union League Chief Operating Officer Murray Williams noted that "credit unions are gaining welcomed recognition due to the fact that we have not contributed to this (economic) crisis. We have remained faithful to sound lending practices, thus avoiding subprime lending." Williams explained the nation's credit unions are guaranteed under the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) at the same levels and safety as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC). Nearly one million credit union member accounts in Iowa and 90 million nationwide are just as safe and sound as those at FDIC-insured institutions, he said.

CU insurance featured on IMSN MoneyI

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NEW YORK (10/1/08)--"Are credit unions insured the same way?" That's one of the 10 issues discussed in MSN MoneyCentral in a column, "Bank crisis: 10 things to know now," written Monday by Liz Pulliam Weston. In a column sparked by the turmoil of the past two weeks in the nation's economy, Pulliam Weston explains that credit unions have insurance similar to that of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC). "All federally chartered and most state chartered credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which is a federal fund that is backed--like the FDIC--by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government," Pulliam Weston wrote. She noted it is an arm of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), a federal agency, and pointed readers to NCUA's website to see whether their credit union is covered. Pulliam Weston wrote that her "e-mail inbox and the MSN Money message boards have been flooded with readers' questions about the financial crisis" (MSN Money Sept. 30). For the full article, use the link.

Mississippi league provides advice on Ikes aftermath

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (10/1/08)--Staff at the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) received advice from Mississippi Credit Union League CEO Charles Elliott on dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Mississippi credit unions went through Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Elliott understands that rebuilding and reclaiming one's life is a difficult process. Brick and mortar is easier to repair than emotional damage caused by a catastrophic event (LoneStar Leaguer Sept. 30). "Hurricane survivors have had their world turned upside down. They’ve lost their homes. The school where they once dropped their children off each morning is no longer there. Their community bears the scars of a natural disaster," noted Elliott. They "must face the reality that things will never get back to normal. Instead, they must adopt a new norm, and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process." He told the Texas league it can expect credit union employees affected by Ike to experience a range of emotions--all of them healthy and important to recovery. They are:
* Hero stage. Adrenalin is high. Victims have a sincere desire to want to help each other and often assist their neighbors in cleaning debris before they clean their own. This stage typically lasts two weeks. * Honeymoon stage. A period of optimism and hope, victims feel a great sense of community and have high expectations. This stage may span three to four weeks. * Anger/hostility. About six weeks after the disaster, victims' focus shifts from the community to their individual situation. They may begin to experience symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome and may need additional support, such as counseling. This stage can linger for months. * Acceptance/rebuilding. This stage can begin at about one year to 18 months after the disaster and last up to 20 years. It is a time of a "new normalcy," where the changed situation becomes the accepted mode.
Elliott commended the Texas league for its aid in the region's recovery efforts and encouraged continued support from the credit union community.

FoundationCUNA report features CUs community outreach

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MADISON, Wis. (10/1/08)--The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) have partnered to produce a supplement to Credit Union Magazine featuring stories of the credit union movement’s community outreach and social impact. The Community Outreach and Social Impact Supplement highlights the 48-page NCUF Annual Report packaged with the October issue of Credit Union Magazine. The supplement features stories from 16 leagues participating in NCUF’s signature program, REAL Solutions. The stories focus on how credit union members’ lives changed as a result of products designed to help people with low wealth and modest means. The supplement also tells how national credit union service providers and individual credit unions make a social impact in their communities. “Our foundation is committed to working with CUNA and the leagues to help the credit union movement share success stories,” said NCUF Executive Director Steve Delfin. “Socially responsible credit unions are succeeding in achieving a triple bottom line that benefits their credit unions, their members, and their communities.” Credit Union Magazine will share NCUF's stories with more than 133,000 readers in the credit union community and on Capitol Hill. “We are thanking all investors in the Community Investment Fund, NCUF corporate supporters, and all our donors in front of the largest possible audience,” Delfin explained. In other developments over the past year, NCUF:
* Expanded REAL Solutions to 28 states and built an online REAL Solutions Impact Center; * Partnered with the World Council of Credit Unions to introduce an international designation for Credit Union Development Educators; * Served as the largest donor in the credit union underwriting group for the Biz Kid$ financial education series airing weekly on 311 PBS television stations reaching 230 million viewers in 49 states; * Managed more than $4.4 million in grants to help credit unions in 23 states provide members with financial education, transaction services, savings, credit, and homeownership; * Granted nearly $3 million from the Community Investment Fund to state credit union foundations and leagues for local initiatives; * Made nearly $600,000 worth of Innovation Grants to help credit unions reach new members in innovative ways; and * Granted more than $400,000 in disaster relief to credit union employees and members with losses from tornadoes in Alabama, wildfires in California, floods in Iowa and Maine, and hurricanes in Louisiana and Texas.
The report also documents how state credit union foundations and leagues put their Community Investment Fund grants to work on the local level.

TCUF distributes 239487 in 485 grants

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (10/1/08)--The Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) has distributed 485 grants totaling $239,487 to help those affected by Hurricane Ike. Ike made landfall in Galveston, Texas, Sept. 13. The foundation continues to receive grant applications from credit union employees (LoneStar Leaguer Sept. 30). Actual dollars received into TCUF’s disaster fund amount to $239,585.81. “We are very grateful for the level of support from our credit union family, not for us, but for the hundreds who have experienced such devastation and upheaval in their lives,” said Jill Pharr, TCUF executive director. Michelle Washington is one credit union employee who experienced devastation. While her apartment wasn’t damaged by the storm, she lost her valuables to looters, according to the Texas Credit Union League. Veronica Cromie of Galveston Island, Texas, lost her home in the storm. Cromie is homeless but continues to work at her credit union to serve members. Tara Caldwell, another credit union staffer, fled from the storm once the power went out. She ran out of gas while driving on the road. “It was a nightmare,” she told the league. Her home sustained water damage. “We’ve seen the devastation a disaster like this can have on property,” said league CEO Dick Ensweiler. “But the devastation to people is far grater. Families are pulling together, but there is a limit to everyone’s resources. We can and must do more to lend a hand throughout the region.”

CUs on the Tube Summit CU on the economy

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (10/1/08)--What happened to Washington Mutual won’t happen to credit unions, according to an official of Summit CU in Greensboro, N.C. “There is so much misinformation out there,” said Matthew Mecham, Summit chief operating officer. Mecham was interviewed by a WFMY-TV in Greensboro about the safety of credit unions amidst numerous bank failures and acquisitions, including Washington Mutual, which was sold to JPMorgan Chase and Co. Credit unions’ accounts are safe and insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. No taxpayer has ever paid a dollar to protect the shares of a member’s account, Mecham said. Summit has $118 million in assets.

What CUs are telling the media about the economy

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MADISON, Wis. (10/1/08)--It’s okay to be concerned about the U.S.’s financial turmoil, but consumers should sit tight, according to one credit union president/CEO. The country’s economic problems are too large to simplify, and it is too early to know their impact, Navigator CU President/CEO Laurin Avara told WLOX in Pascagoula, Miss., where Navigator is based. Money at credit unions is insured by the federal government, Avara said. He also encouraged concerned families to meet with a financial planner to discuss assets (WLOX Sept. 30). Navigator does business “the old conservative way,” which has led to fewer losses. Avara said he is hopeful that the nation will pull through and that consumers can “look for opportunities in this,” he told the news outlet. Much of the media’s reporting has focused on the safety and soundness of investment companies and banks, while credit unions “continue to provide a safe haven for consumers,” wrote William Lavage, president/CEO for Service 1st FCU, Danville, Pa. in a letter to the editor of The Daily Item. He noted that credit unions were formed after the Great Depression in the 1930s to help consumers afford financial services, and reiterated that credit unions are backed by the National Credit Union Administration and the federal government. “Credit unions are the stewards of their members’ hard-earned money and take that responsibility seriously,” he said. “Investments are made conservatively, and credit unions cannot be bought and sold as commodities.” Service 1st has $129 million in assets. Navigator has $197 million in assets.

Wachovia customers use their feet head for CUs

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SANTA ANA, Calif. (10/1/08)--Some Wachovia customers are heading to credit unions for their financial needs after the bank’s deposits and other assets were sold to Citigroup Monday. Branna Banks, a Wachovia customer from Santa Anna, Calif., decided to move her money from the national bank that sustained $1.7 billion in losses this year. She opened an account Friday at Bay FCU, Capitola, Calif. (Santa Cruz Sentinel Sept. 30). In the past two weeks, the $654.2 million asset credit union has opened 1,270 new accounts totaling 14.7 million--a 40% increase, compared with a month when a promotion was not running, Tonee Picard, Bay FCU senior vice president and chief marketing officer, told News Now. “The lobbies are really full and business is good,” Picard said. “We’ve prepared a lot of user documentation and are answering questions about rates. Education is a key component for the community right now to get them through this. We’ve also conducted extensive one-on-one training with 230 employees about National Credit Union Administration insurance. We’ve equipped them with information and handouts.” The $72.2 million asset Santa Cruz (Calif.) Community CU also has seen numerous new members come through its doors in the past few weeks, with some saying they were moving their accounts from other failed financial institutions, Shelia Schat, spokeswoman for the credit union, told the newspaper. The Wachovia takeover, along with several other recent bank takeovers, have left the country with three so-called superbanks: Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. One economist is not that concerned about higher costs and consumer prices caused by the “quasi-monopoly” of recent bank takeovers, including Citigroup’s absorption of Wachovia, because there are more than 8,000 banks nationwide, he told the Associated Press (Orlando Sentinel Sept. 30). Michael Pagano, finance professor at the Villanova University School of Business, also said credit unions are viable alternatives, from big ones “to small mom-and-pops with $10 million in assets.”

Suze Orman on Today Deposits with CUs are fine

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NEW YORK (10/1/08)--TV Personality and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) spokesperson Suze Orman has taken note of the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA's) reminder that credit unions have federal insurance backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. During a broadcast about the rescue bailout of the financial industry Monday on CNBC's Today Show, Orman twice noted that credit unions are insured by federal insurance, which is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. "If funds are insured by FDIC, if your money is in a credit union and it’s insured, if it's in Treasuries, then you're fine," Orman said. She reemphasized later that credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration. Orman also featured an item on her website about credit union insurance after CUNA informed her last week that credit unions have federal insurance just as good as the FDCI. During an appearance last week on The Oprah Winfrey Show," Orman told consumers to make sure their institution was insured by the FDIC but failed to mention NCUA's insurance fund for credit unions, the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund.

Connecticut league honors Maxwell Herring recipients

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MERIDEN, Conn. (10/1/08)--The Credit Union League of Connecticut announced the winners of the state-level Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Recognition Award and the Louise Herring Award for Philosophy in Action. Dora Maxwell first-place winners are:
* 360 FCU, Windsor Locks, $100 to $200 million in assets, for its literacy and financial literacy program for youth and young adults; * Franklin Trust FCU, Hartford, $20 million to $50 million, for conducting “Charity Fridays” in which staffers chose a charity and asked staff and members to contribute to it; and * Hartford (Conn.) FCU, $50 million to $100 million, for organizing a “Photo with Santa” holiday celebration with the proceeds donated to the South Windsor Fuel Assistance Program. The credit union also collected food for Hartford FoodShare.
Louise Herring Award first-place winners:
* Personal Care America FCU, Trumbull, less than $50 million in assets, for its P.A.C.E. (Planning Ahead for Cash Emergencies) program; and * Pitney Bowes FCU, Stamford, $5 million to $250 million assets, for creating a series of informational sheets for its members.

CU System briefs (09/30/2008)

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* WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (10/1/08)--Pacific Service CU has introduced a mobile service allowing anyone to receive current auto, certificate of deposit, and money market rates using text messaging technology, the Walnut Creek-based credit union announced. By texting a simple message to 60529, the user will receive a reply with the credit union's current rates. In August it released a mobile service to locate the nearest surcharge-free ATM using the text messaging search technology … * TRI CITIES, Wash. (10/1/08)--Spokane Valley, Wash.-based Numerica CU is sponsoring the "Hispanic Heroes" television campaign in the area as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15. The $784.7 million asset credit union is sponsor of two of the heroes' vignettes, which pay tribute to the first Latina astronaut to travel in space, Dr. Ellen Ochoa (shown here), and Puerto Rican-born MLB Baseball Hall of Famer, Roberto Clemente. These and other vignette tv spots are airing daily in the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Richland and Pasco, Wash.) and Columbia Basin region on local CBS affiliate KEPR-TV and the local Univision Hispanic station, KUNW-TV. The vignettes can be seen at numericacu.com. (Photo provided by Numerica CU) …

UT FCU breaks ground on branch amid Wall Street turmoil

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (10/1/08)--Knoxville-based UT FCU broke ground Monday on its fifth branch amid all the fiscal turmoil and debate over the $700 billion rescue package for the U.S. financial system. Debbie Jones, CEO of UT FCU, was expecting Tennessee U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan (R-2nd District) to speak at the groundbreaking, but Duncan was busy casting his vote on the rescue package in Washington, D.C. (Knoxville News Sentinel Sept. 30). Although Jones said she believes the $161.2 million asset credit union’s branch will be a success, owing to months of business due diligence and market research, the shaky U.S. economy may cause UT FCU to delay future growth plans, she told the newspaper. Jones reassured the credit union’s 28,000 members that its business is healthy, and conservative financial practices have kept it away from subprime mortgage loans that have harmed other lenders. However, like many other CEOs of financial institutions nationwide, Jones is concerned about tighter credit conditions for credit unions and how they will affect lending. UT FCU is still lending but has had to tighten its standards, she told the paper. A lack of lending oversight led to bad loan decisions that have had broad effects nationwide and will take time to correct, Jones added.

CUNA Mutual in strong position despite economy

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MADISON, Wis. (10/1/08)--CUNA Mutual Group is in a strong financial position, despite the troubles afflicting the U.S. economy, the company said in a statement posted on its website. “As you read the headlines and hear the financial news, it's important you know CUNA Mutual stands committed to credit unions, credit union members, and its policyholders through these challenging times,” CUNA Mutual said. “Despite the current economy, CUNA Mutual’s operating performance remains strong in 2008--results that follow a three-year period of growing revenues by 25%, doubling our profitability, and increasing benefits to customers by more than $500 million,” the company added. CUNA Mutual’s exposure to AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Lehman Bothers and Merrill Lynch is less than 0.1% of it general account, the company said. The compnay had $8.3 billion of cash and investments in its general account at the end of 2007. Despite economic challenges throughout the rest of 2008 and into 2009, CUNA Mutual predicts solid growth the rest of this year and a strong overall operating outlook.

Spire FCU touts National Co-op Month

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MADISON, Wis. (10/1/08)--October is National Co-Op Month, and Spire FCU, Roseville, Minn., is gearing up to celebrate. National Co-Op Month is sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA). Spire’s CEO, John Gisler, is on the Credit Union National Association’s Cooperative Alliances Committee. The credit union is involved with a number of marketing activities for the event. It created a poster recognizing cooperatives and cooperative products that will be placed in bubble displays at all 10 of Spire’s branches, Louis Doering, vice president of personal development, told News Now. Doering is on NCBA’s board. During the month, Spire will run full-page ads in two of Minnesota’s largest newspapers congratulating all of the cooperatives in the state. Spire also is challenging all of its branches to create displays identifying all of the cooperatives within a 10-mile radius of the credit union. Coupon books for local cooperatives are available in the branches, and Spire would like to offer member applications for camping and outdoor supply store REI at the credit union as well. The $593 million-asset Spire also bought advertising that will be aired on National Public Radio. “With the crisis in banking, it’s one heck of an opportunity [for credit unions],” Doering said. “It’s time to stand up and not be quiet about the wonderful things we do to improve our members’ financial well-being.” Long-term, the credit union also will use Enlighten, a media display with a television screen to feature individual cooperatives and tell their stories. "Co-op Month provides a great platform for credit unions to embrace their cooperative nature and differentiate themselves from conventional banks,” added Carissa Heckathorn, NCBA manager of marketing and multimedia. “A simple poster with the seven principles of cooperatives can begin the learning process for their members. Or use an ad from the Co-op Month Toolkit for their October member newsletter." For more information, use the link.