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Charlotte Folks in street know CUs

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (9/5/12)--Charlotte, N.C., as well as being host to this week's Tuesday-through-Thursday Democratic National Convention for which the opening gavel fell at 5 p.m. (ET) Tuesday, is corporate home to Bank of America.

However, while BoA headquarters may dominate the Charlotte skyline, random person-in-the-street interviews during the DNC's opening CarolinaFest event Monday show that Carolinians know their credit unions.

While skeptical enough about being approached by a reporter for the Credit Union National Association's daily online news service, News Now, to almost universally declining to be quoted by name or photographed (with the exception of Barbara Malloy, who identified herself as a Charlotte resident), about a dozen people approached at the festival were glad to share their thoughts about credit unions.

The majority of those interviewed--like Malloy--claimed membership in a North Carolina credit union.

They cited the following positives in their credit union relationships:

  • Generally better rates on savings and on loans;
  • More personal service;
  • Friendly;
  • Willing to help;
  • More willing to lend (one man interviewed became a credit union fan after being turned down for credit by local banks, then finding a credit union that, he said, got to know him well enough to lend to him;
  • Good for student loans;
  • Good for car loans; and
  • More open to personal stories to establish a relationship.
All was not perfect for credit unions, however, in these on-the-spot interviews. A lack of understanding about field-of-membership rules came through loud and clear from the first young woman asked if she knew credit unions. She indicated she was still angry that she was denied membership a few years ago at a credit union at which her roommate was a member.

When a CUNA representative asked if she might be interested in a website, aSmarterchoice.org, which would help her find a credit union or credit unions she could join, she adamantly waved off the information declaring,"No longer interested!"

Another credit union feature that lacked clarity among the Charlotte residents was credit unions' shared branching networks. When one interviewee lamented that she was "no longer a member" of a credit union that had moved out of her area, she was asked if she knew about shared branching.

"I don't know….," she said. "It has to be convenient to do my banking."

CUNA leagues busy with fin lit housing issues more at DNC

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (9/5/12)--As delegates of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) awaited the 5 p.m. (ET) opening gavel for the convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and state league staff blanketed the surrounding area to represent credit unions at events beginning early morning.

For instance, in the shadow of the arena, CUNA Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan and a CUNA contingent attended a Financial Services Roundtable event to honor Rebuilding Together, a network of nearly 200 affiliates that provide no-cost improvements to the homes of low-income homeowners.

Click for slide show From morning until well into the night, CUNA and state credit union league officers and staff represented credit unions at DNC-related events, including the evening's official session at the Times Warner Cable Arena. Early in the evening, a delegation of Democratic women members of the U.S. House voiced their support for another four-year term for President Barack Obama. The evening culminated with a speech by First Lady Michelle Obama. (CUNA Photo)
At the event, Donovan discussed such topics as providing financial services to the underserved, a credit union priority. In a conversation with George Franco, president of National Financial Corp., Donovan described credit union efforts to help their communities in this way. Other topics of the morning included housing and real estate finance policy and retirement savings options for Americans.

Sen. Ben Cardin,  a strong Obama supporter from Maryland, addressed the Roundtable gathering.

Meanwhile, North Carolina Credit Union League President John Radebaugh and members of his staff attended a session devoted to the topic of financial literacy, another credit union priority, that was sponsored by the Council for Economic Education.

Also on Tuesday, CUNA was prominent as a sponsor of the National Journal Group's morning convention briefing entitled, "Election 2012: Leading Pollsters Uncover the Real Story." The session features National Journal Editor in Chief Ron Fournier and Bill Plante of CBS News asking questions of DNC pollster Joel Benenson.

CUNA and the leagues also had coveted passes for the Times Warner Forum to be in attendance for the evening's activities, which culminated with an address by First Lady Michelle Obama, whose remarks sought, in part, to paint a more personal picture of the president.

Use the resource link for a list of the scheduled DNC speakers for Tuesday.

CUNA league CUs to unveil DNC community project The bigger story

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (9/5/12)--Credit union involvement in the Democratic National Convention (DNC) leave-behind project to benefit Levine Children's Hospital being unveiled here today is an important showcasing of credit unions' dedication to their communities and the long-term benefits brought by the credit union philosophy of "people helping people." And in many ways this week's event, says Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins, is just a small reflection of what credit unions do daily.

Among the highlights of credit union involvement at this national convention, CUNA, the North Carolina Credit Union League, the South Carolina Credit Union League, the National Journal Group, CUNA Mutual Group, CO-OP Financial Services and others wrap up months of work to renovate a rooftop playground at Levine Children's Hospital to provide a stimulating and therapeutic environment for youngsters being treated there.

The Charlotte, N.C., project, to honor the DNC held here this week, mirrors another sponsored by CUNA, state leagues, credit unions and their partners that was unveiled last week at All Children's Hospital to honor the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

At Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, the project has converted an existing rooftop space on the hospital's 12th floor into a dynamic play space that includes a touch-activated light and color "bubble wall," outdoor play equipment, and much needed environmental improvements. More on the project can be seen in the video posted below.



At All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., the playground was designed with special equipment to assist in the rehabilitation of children suffering from a variety of illnesses and accidents.

The two 2012 projects cost a combined $600,000, and credit unions nationwide, as well as the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation and the League of Southeastern Credit Unions Foundation, have raised funds for the projects.

The efforts represent credit unions' tradition of honoring each national political convention city with a "leave-behind" project that will serve the local communities long after the conventions have left town, Hawkins points out.

"This event and the one in Tampa help to spotlight the credit union philosophy to a broad national audience through media coverage. That's important. And sick and injured children and their families will benefit from this project for many years to come. That is significant.

"But these individual projects are not the whole story. The real story is all that credit unions do, day after day, to make a difference in their communities," Hawkins says.

For instance, in total, Credit Unions for Kids, a collaborative effort to raise money for children's hospitals, has raised more than $100 million for Children's Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals across the nation since 1996.

Since the St. Petersburg project, and the similar one in Charlotte where credit unions have worked in conjunction with the DNC, have such a political nature, Hawkins says, it is important to underscore the bi-partisan nature of the credit union efforts.

"Credit union volunteers of all political persuasions have rolled up their sleeves here and in Florida to work to benefit sick children," Hawkins points out.

He adds that that bi-partisan effort reflects CUNA's approach. CUNA is known for having one of the most evenly distributed records of political contributions between political parties.

Currently 48.2% of contributions made through its political action committee--the Credit Union Legislative Action Committee (CULAC)--have gone to Democratic candidates. Republicans have received 50.3% of CULAC donations. And Independent candidates have received 0.5%.

Cheney advises new-car buyers in iHuffPoi column

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WASHINGTON (9/5/12)--With 2012 shaping up to be the strongest year for new auto sales since the start of the recent recession, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney in a new column in The Huffington Post encouraged potential car buyers to shop around carefully when it comes to financing, noting they may well find amid dealers' 0% ads that their best option is to finance through a credit union.

On average, new car loan rates are substantially lower at the nation's credit unions compared to the banks, Cheney wrote. Financing through a credit union could save consumers more than $1,000 over the life of their auto loan, he added.

While many of the older model cars that remain on the road are a sign of the recent financial crisis, Cheney noted that improving labor markets, and steadily aging automobiles, are resulting in increased demand for new cars. Cheney advised potential auto buyers to maintain good financial habits and shop around when they look for financial products and services. "Besides purchasing a home, buying and financing a new car is one of the biggest financial decisions you'll ever make. Cautious and informed purchasing can save consumers thousands," Cheney said.

He noted that September, when dealers are looking to get rid of this year's models, is an excellent time to negotiate with dealers. He also advised buyers to be wary of rock-bottom interest rates offered by some dealers, as those interest rates, in many cases, are only made available to the top 10% of all purchasers.

Loan terms for low-rate financing through dealerships may be for short terms, such as three- or four-year loans, and buyers may need to go without some offered rebates or cash-back options if they accept a low-rate loan from their auto dealer, Cheney said.

Inside Washington (09/04/2012)

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  • WASHINGTON (9/5/12)--The U.S. Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund has announced the deadline for New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) program applications, which is scheduled to pass on Sept. 12, may be extended for some entities impacted by Hurricane Isaac. NMTC applicants that are located in a Federal Emergency Management Agency-declared disaster area or are being impacted by disaster conditions in nearby areas may be eligible for a due date extension, the CDFI Fund said. Credit unions are among those eligible to participate in the NMTC, which seeks to spur the investment of new private sector capital into low-income communities. The CDFI Fund has said it plans to make up to $5 billion in tax credits available during the 2012 round of the NMTC, pending authorization by the U.S. Congress …
  • WASHINGTON (9/5/12)--Loan guarantee fees charged by government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be increased by 10 basis points (bp), the Federal Housing Finance Agency  (FHFA) announced last week. The FHFA said the fee increase is a bid to increase private-sector involvement in the secondary mortgage market. The 10 bp increase would bring the average loan guarantee fee to 38 bp. FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco said the fee increase will move the GSEs "closer to the level one might expect to see if more credit risk was borne solely by private capital." The FHFA said the increase will take effect on Dec. 1 for loans exchanged for mortgage-backed securities. The increase will take effect on Nov. 1 for loans sold for cash. The GSEs will work with lenders to implement the changes …
  • WASHINGTON (9/5/12)--Although it appears the Treasury department will not pursue litigation against most of the nine failed banks it has investigated since 2007 for possible criminal conduct that contributed to their failures, other agencies could bring civil charges or levy fines against former officers and directors, an outside lawyer told American Banker (Sept. 4). Treasury did not file charges against any of the banks, due to a lack of evidence. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. did file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against former bank directors of Silverton Bank in Atlanta in August 2011. The failed banks could face investigation from other regulators, said Larry Kaplan, a lawyer at Paul Hastings …

CUNA federation urge LICUs to accept NCUA designation

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WASHINGTON (9/5/12)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) on Tuesday joined the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to encourage interested and eligible credit unions to accept their low-income credit union (LICU) designation before the Sept. 10 response deadline passes.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) early last month notified 1,003 credit unions, indicating they are eligible for low-income designation. That designation brings benefits that include the ability to accept supplemental capital and an exemption from the small business lending cap under certain circumstances. LICU-designated credit unions are also eligible for Community Development Revolving Loan Fund grants and low-interest loans and may accept deposits from non-members.

To qualify as a LICU, a majority of a federal credit union's membership must meet low-income thresholds based on 2010 Census data.

The federation in a release noted that the LICU designation does not commit credit unions to only serving low-income members. "Don't miss a chance to gain access to regulatory powers that will strengthen your credit union's capacity to better serve your members," the federation release added.

The LICU notification initiative, which was incorporated into a relief and recovery package for drought-stricken states announced at the White House in early August, could double the number of LICUs and increase their member business lending by nearly 75%.

According to NCUA estimates, this initiative could unlock between $250 million and half a billion dollars in new, near-term business lending if all qualified federal credit unions participate. The NCUA said the expanded access to credit should translate into job creation.

Starting in October, the federation and CUNA will offer a series of monthly online events aimed at providing a more in-depth understanding of the different benefits and next steps low-income credit unions can take to maximize their impact.

Servicemember financial issues to be webinar focus

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WASHINGTON (9/5/12)--Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) compliance, Permanent Change of Station guidance and other financial issues facing active-duty military personnel and their families will be central topics at a Sept. 10 interagency webinar.

Representatives from the National Credit Union Administration, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Justice, the Department of Treasury, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency will also discuss their work to address servicemember financial issues and their efforts to protect servicemembers.

Federal Reserve Division of Consumer and Community Affairs Director Sandy Braunstein will introduce the webinar, and Holly Petraeus, CFPB assistant director for servicemember affairs, will also present on the agency's servicemember financial protection efforts.

The 1.5 hour-long webinar is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET. Recent Home Affordable Modification Program enhancements, enforcement actions, and short sales for home-owning servicemembers are also on the agenda.

To register for the webinar, use the resource link.

NCUA prohibits three from CU work

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (9/5/12)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has prohibited three individuals from participating in the affairs of any federally insured financial institution.

They are:

  • Former Great Falls Regional FCU, Lewiston, Maine, employee Kelsey Cyr, who was convicted of theft. Cyr was sentenced to 364 days in prison, but that sentence was suspended to one year of probation. Cyr will also be required to pay $10,424 in restitution;
  • Former South Atlantic FCU, Boca Raton, Fla., employee John Ercolino, who was convicted of grand theft greater than $20,000. Ercolino was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to pay $110,000 in restitution; and
  • Former Financial Center CU, Stockton, Calif., employee Brandie Marie Roach, who pleaded guilty to unauthorized use of personal identifying information of another person. Roach was sentenced to probation.
Violation of a prohibition order is a felony offense punishable by imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million. For the full NCUA release, use the resource link.

NEW CUNA federation urge LICUs to accept NCUA designation

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WASHINGTON (UPDATED: 2:25 p.m. ET, 9/4/12)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has joined the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to encourage interested and eligible credit unions to accept their low-income credit union (LICU) designation before the Sept. 10 response deadline passes.

The National Credit Union Administration early last month notified 1,003 credit unions, indicating they are eligible for low-income designation. That designation brings benefits that include the ability to accept supplemental capital and an exemption from the small business lending cap under certain circumstances. LICU-designated credit unions are also eligible for Community Development Revolving Loan Fund grants and low-interest loans and may accept deposits from non-members.

To qualify as a LICU, a majority of a federal credit union's membership must meet low-income thresholds based on 2010 Census data.

The federation in a release noted that the LICU designation does not commit credit unions to only serving low-income members. "Don't miss a chance to gain access to regulatory powers that will strengthen your credit union's capacity to better serve your members," the federation release added.

The LICU notification initiative, which was incorporated into a relief and recovery package for drought-stricken states announced at the White House in early August, could double the number of LICUs and increase their member business lending by nearly 75%.

According to NCUA estimates, this initiative could unlock between $250 million and half a billion dollars in new, near-term business lending if all qualified federal credit unions participate. The NCUA said the expanded access to credit should translate into job creation.

Starting in October, the federation and CUNA will offer a series of monthly online events aimed at providing a more in-depth understanding of the different benefits and next steps low-income credit unions can take to maximize their impact.