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Two men killed during robbery at CU in Georgia

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (9/7/11)--Two robbery suspects were shot to death by a police officer Tuesday morning as they fled after allegedly robbing the M.E.A. FCU in Columbus, Ga. The incident occurred at 11:30 a.m. at the $62 million asset credit union on Macon Road when a police officer pulled into the rear parking lot of the credit union and saw a masked man running out of the credit union ( (Sept. 6). The robbery suspects made it to a getaway vehicle, but the officer stopped it from leaving. The officer left the police car and demanded they get out of the car and turn the vehicle off. The driver put the car in reverse and tried to run over the officer, who fired several gunshots. One of the men was dead at the scene. The other died later at a local hospital. As a precaution, police locked down the school district's offices and several schools. No one else was injured, said police.

CU System briefs (09/06/2011)

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* MONTVALE, N.J. (9/7/11)--A loan coordinator at Paragon FCU in Montvale, N.J., has been accused of helping a mortgage broker submit false information for 13 real estate loans in a scheme that could cost the credit union an estimated $5 million, according to the New Jersey Credit Union League. The loans were for 11 multi-family houses in Bergen and Essex counties in New Jersey. Paragon Loan Officer Dawn Woolbert was one of several accomplices who allegedly aided broker Joseph Curcio, who is accused of running CNS Enterprises LLC with the intent of “supplying fictitious invoices to be added to the seller side the settlement statements,” indicating a debt to the company, even though he was the buyer, said Bergen County Prosecutor Joseph Molinelli. The properties all eventually defaulted, and Paragon investigators began a review (The Daily Exchange Sept. 2) … * TACOMA, Wash. (9/7/11)--The merger between Watermark CU, with $542 million in assets, Seattle, and Sound CU, with $510 million in assets, Tacoma, Wash., was effective Sept. 1, completing the largest merger of credit unions in the history of Washington state. Sound CU will continue as the ongoing organization. Sound President/CEO Richard C. Brandsma will lead the credit union. The next step in the merger process will be integration of member accounts, services, online banking and online bill pay, scheduled for spring. After the account and branch integration next spring, Sound will have 21 branches in the Puget Sound area … * SANTA ROSA, Calif. (9/7/11)--Redwood CU (RCU), based here, announced that it soon will provide faster small business loan approvals and credit allocations in the North Bay and San Francisco areas because the credit union has been designated a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Preferred Lender. The Preferred Lender designation allows RCU to streamline the SBA loan process, which in turn can help expedite the lending process. Michael Downey, senior vice president of business services for RCU, said the credit union will be able to “shave about two weeks off the (SBA) loan process.” In 2008, RCU became the first credit union in the North Bay to introduce SBA lending, and the credit union says it has ranked among the top local SBA lenders for the past two years. The faster lending process, Downey said, will help small business members “grow, thrive and create jobs to strengthen our local economies” … * CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (9/7/11)--Patriot FCU, Chambersburg, Pa., started the school year out by opening its first student branch, inside Chambersburg Area Senior High School. The student branch is open five days a week with students employed to run the branch with a Patriot manager. Along with having the branch open for periods of time during the week, Patriot will provide financial education to teachers and students through workshops and classroom presentations. “The ability to partner with the high school and Chambersburg School District with our student branch is a great way to encourage good money management skills across the student body,” said Mike Silvers, Patriot chief operating officer. “At Patriot, we believe that providing financial education and money management information to teens will help them for a lifetime” …

Michigan meetings emphasize value of CUs

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LANSING, Mich. (9/7/11)--The value of credit unions to their members was stressed by Michigan credit unions in recent meetings with staff from the office of U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), one of two Michigan congressmen appointed to the congressional "super committee" charged with trimming the nation's budget. According to the Michigan Credit Union league, leaders from the Mid-Michigan chapter were involved in the meetings (Michigan Monitor Sept. 6). The first meeting occurred two weeks ago, when representatives from Frankenmuth CU participated in Camp's town hall meeting in Mount Pleasant, said the league. Also, credit union leaders from Dow Chemical Employees' CU, Wildfire CU and United Financial CU participated Aug. 30 in a discussion with Eric Friedman, district director of Camp's Midland office. MCUL government affairs staff joined the participants, who provided data indicating the value provided by credit unions to their members. The super committee of 12 has been charged with finding $1.2 trillion in savings from the federal budget within 100 days. The other Michigan representative on the committee is U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Poll Americans value paying down debt over saving

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WASHINGTON (9/7/11)--Is it better to be debt free or have a robust savings account? Roughly 89% of people polled in August by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) say it's better to pay down debt, but NFCC says the answer is "both." Today's savings rate is 5% of disposable income, better than the 1% before the last recession hit, but much less than the 8.3% registered in January 1959, when the first savings report was made by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, said NFCC. History indicates that the rate of savings increases during difficult economic times as consumers cut back on purchases, and it declines during good economic times, said NFCC. Consumers use access to credit not only as a convenience but also as a piggy bank. "Credit replaced savings as the family's savings net, with some arguing that saving was unnecessary since they could charge or borrow their way out of any unplanned event," said Gail Cunningham, NFCC spokesperson. Now that consumers have learned their lesson about overspending, they must focus on saving in five key areas, said NFCC. The five areas:
* Rainy day fund for everyday emergencies such as home and vehicle maintenance, insurance co-pays and deductibles; * Income replacement account to sustain members if they experience job loss, major medical event, divorce and so on; * Down payment for a mortgage; * Known future expenses such as education, vehicles and vacations; and * Retirement.
"In bad times, people save out of a fear of tomorrow, and in good times they spend as if there were no tomorrow," said Cunningham. "To turn this savings/spending cycle into financial stability, consumers should recognize the unarguable importance of savings and develop a systematic plan to meet their personal savings goals." Credit unions can gear their promotions to each area to attract members' savings and provide information about financial goal setting.

ICNN MoneyI Alliant one of seven Best of 2011

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NEW YORK (9/7/11)--Alliant CU, based in Chicago, was named one of the seven “Best Banks of 2011” by CNN Money’s September issue of Money Magazine. The magazine cited Alliant CU for combining “an open-door policy with competitive offerings.” “Credit unions traditionally best the big banks for customer service and account terms …,” the magazine said. “Alliant offers 1.15% on savings. Plus, no fees on non-interest checking, but a direct deposit to the interest-bearing option gets you 1.1% with no charges,” the article added. The $7.86 billion asset Alliant has branches in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia. To read the article, use the link.

Branch manager gives stranger a chance at life

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (9/7/11)--Linda Spain, a branch manager at Lorillard FCU, Greensboro, N.C., is anxiously awaiting a phone call. Spain will soon learn if the bone marrow she recently donated to a stranger has been accepted by the grateful recipient’s body.
Linda Spain, a branch manager at Lorillard FCU, Greensboro, N.C., donated bone marrow in early August. She is anxiously waiting to learn to the status of her recipient. (Photo provided by the North Carolina Credit Union League)
“About all I know is he is a 39-year-old man living in the U.S.,” Spain told the North Carolina Credit Union League in discussing her donation of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). She donated some 10 million units of PBSC on Aug. 1 and 2, quite a bit more than is usually taken. “They told me he was probably a really big guy,” Spain explained. “So I imagine he’s a weightlifter or a former football player or something like that.” While Spain may never know who the recipient of her gift is, she does know that her donation has given the man his best hope of successfully fighting a particularly deadly form of cancer: Acute Myelogenous Leukemia or AML. AML is a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow in which the white blood cells do not form fully and therefore cannot fight infections, according to the Be the Match website. Spain first learned about the Bone Marrow Registry in 1997, when a high school classmate of her daughter’s developed leukemia. “They had a blood drive at the school and they were screening people there, so that’s when I first joined,” Spain said. She had received two screening phone calls in the past, “but it never went any further than that.” But this time, “they wanted me to come in for confirmatory testing,” she said. Conducted at the end of June, the blood tests confirmed that she was the best possible match. “I was so happy I would able to help somebody,” she said. Spain received a DVD outlining how the donation procedure works and the risks, which include pain, and more serious side effects such as bleeding of the spleen. “A lot of people back out when they hear about the risks,” Spain said, “and my boyfriend wanted me to back out.” But Spain never gave a thought to changing her mind. At Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC) in Winston-Salem a few days before her donation, Spain received an injection of filgrastim, which increases the production of white blood cells. The surge in white blood cells increased the pressure within Spain’s bones, leading to a few days of pain. But Spain fought through the pain until donation day. Her blood pressure also spiked, but medication brought it back down to safe levels. Spain administered subsequent injections of filgrastim at home for three days. She then returned to WFUBMC for a final filgrastim shot, and--two months after the initial phone call, it was time for Spain to donate PBSC. Spain received needle sticks in each arm, and a cell separator machine pulled blood out of one arm and cycled it back into the other. The machine spins the blood at high speeds, which separates it, allowing the machine to collect blood-forming cells, platelets and some white blood cells. The remaining plasma and red blood cells were then pumped back into Spain’s body in the other arm. During the five-hour process, Spain could not get up or move for any reason. “My nose itched right after it started,” Spain said. Luckily a dutiful volunteer was on hand to help out. Due to the physical size of the recipient, Spain returned to WFUBMC a second day for another five hours with the cell-separator machine. Other than feeling tired for a day or two and the the bone pain, there were no complications or side effects. After one day at home to rest and regroup, Spain was back at work. An avid motorcycle rider, Spain shows the world a tough exterior. But her commitment--and the risk she took--for a total stranger, belies a caring individual underneath it all. “This is somebody’s brother or father or son,” Spain said. “I would want someone to do it for me.” Spain’s phone call will let her know if the transplant was successful and how the patient is responding. If he continues to progress and stays cancer-free, there is a chance they will one day get to meet in person. “But that’s probably a year or two away from happening,” Spain said, “because they have to make absolutely sure.” The phone call comes with no guarantees of a happy outcome. “I keep telling myself I’ve done everything I can do.” Registry participants are able to donate twice in their lifetime. Spain says no matter what happens with her mystery recipient, she is willing to donate one more time if called upon. “I’ll do it again in a heartbeat,” she says.

Illinois league Financial fairs a reality in state

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (9/7/11)--Several interactive financial reality fairs, hosted this year by Illinois credit unions and chapters and the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL), are providing information about money matters to students heading back to school. Fairs allow participants to make mistakes--and suffer the consequences of their decisions--in a realistic, but safe, environment. During a fair, a growing trend in teen financial education, students assume the role of an adult with a career, income and family situation--single or married, with or without children. Students make choices about how they will spend their money on needs--such as housing, food, clothing and transportation--and wants--such as home decor, leisure activities and optional purchases. Unexpected expenses and income from outside sources also are included in the fair to simulate real life. The goal is for participants to have enough income to pay for all of their monthly expenses with funds going into short- and long-term savings. The events attract large groups with several hundred students to small groups of 10 to 30 students. Fairs are attended by teens, pre-teens and young adults aged 12 to 20. ICUL conducted two financial reality fairs earlier this year. The first was for about 75 teens at the Naperville Public Library during Money Smart Week in April. The second was at Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland for nearly 100 teens in July. Volunteers from local credit unions assisted at each event. At least four sources in the credit union community provide materials for financial reality fairs. The Credit Union National Association offers Mad City Money, the Credit Union Museum offers CU4Reality, and the Connecticut Credit Union League and Harbor One CU, Brockton, Mass., each offer their own guidebooks. In addition to the credit union sources, other organizations have created similar programs, such as University of Illinois Extension’s “Welcome to the Real World” and Junior Achievement's “Finance Park.” “Teens respond well to the interactive nature of a financial reality fair,” said Melanie Murphy, ICUL manager of member services. “Most of them are surprised at how challenging it is to live within their means.”

In the media MBL cap debit fees more

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MADISON, Wis. (9/7/11)--Credit unions' member business lending (MBL) cap, low fees at credit unions, and the advantages of credit unions over giant megabanks found their way into media reports the past week and a half. In an article entitled "Free the Economy, Free the Credit Unions," ( (Sept. 2), Eli Lehrer notes that credit unions are pushing Congress to lift the MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%, and says a lot of members of Congress agree. "Total elimination of the cap would be much better and economically helpful idea," Lehrer said, noting lifting the cap "makes a lot of economic sense: credit unions have funds they would gladly lend to businesses at competitive interest rates if the government would simply let them do so. More business loans would create jobs and improve the economy." He added the limitation is a "good example of a burdensome and pointless regulation that holds back the economy." In's "Nightly Business Report" (Aug. 24), a story on savings advice and options points out that consumers can "wring more value" out of savings by moving their money to a community institution or a credit union. "While rates aren't significantly higher, you'll find fewer fees and penalties, which means more money in your pocket," the article said, adding "The majority of credit unions offer free checking accounts with no strings attached. That's a good deal any time." Another article in the Orlando Sentinel Aug. 31, discusses advice by Clark Howard, host of a personal finance radio show and author of Clark Howard's Living Large in Lean Times. It notes that on banking issues, Howard urges people to think twice before doing business with "giant monster megabanks." "He likes small banks, especially consumer-friendly credit unions, known for lower borrowing rates and superior customer service," the article said. An article in the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Aug. 31), discusses how big banks are phasing in monthly fees on debit card usage while smaller banks are taking a "wait and see" stance before making the decision whether to charge for bank card purchases. Smaller institutions fall under the Dodd Frank Act's $10 billion asset exemption, but electronic payment networks are built and owned by the big banks, the article said. One credit union CEO, Blake Strickland, of Chattanooga-based Tennessee Valley FCU, told the publication that he is expecting some ramification from the act. "Nine times out of 10, when they do stuff like this, it trickles down," he said.

Missouri regulator State CUs surpass 10B assets

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (9/7/11)--Missouri’s 125 state-chartered credit unions have surpassed $10 billion in assets for the first time, the Missouri Division of Credit Unions announced. The division also noted that a new state law signed by Gov. Jay Nixon also took Aug 28. Senate Bill 306, passed unanimously by the Missouri Senate and House, includes a provision that has a direct impact on all state-chartered credit unions. As of Aug. 28, Missouri state-chartered credit unions are no longer required to perform a reserve transfer calculation or transfer an amount to regular reserves. There also is a regulation that requires a “recapture” or transfer amount between equity accounts equal to the amount of the quarterly provision for loan loss expense. The previous law, Section 370.320, required each credit union to perform a “reserve transfer calculation” to determine if an amount must be transferred to regular reserves, the division said in a press release. Several years ago, a federal law was enacted that established new minimum capital levels for all federally insured credit unions. As a part of this legislation, a quarterly calculation and potential transfer to regular reserves was eliminated for all credit unions above the minimum prompt corrective action thresholds, of which nearly all Missouri credit unions are.

NCUF releases first state reports on making a difference

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MADISON, Wis. (9/7/11)--The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) released three state pages that will be part of its forthcoming national report showing how the credit union movement is making a difference through financial education and counseling. The Delaware, Illinois and Kansas pages were put together from data collected by NCUF for its 2011 Credit Union Member Education Inventory.
Click to view larger image Above is a look at Kansas’ state page from the National Credit Union Foundation’s 2011 Credit Union Member Education Inventory, which will culminate in a free report showing how the credit union movement makes a difference through financial education and counseling nationwide. (Graphic provided by the National Credit Union Foundation).
Sponsored by state credit union leagues and NCUF’s REAL Solutions program, the report “Credit Unions: Focused on Financial Capability Across the Nation,” will give each league/association a section that contains state-specific data and comparisons to national figures. The three state pages released by NCUF are the first glimpses of what those look like. The report will be used for communications, advocacy and outreach efforts, and will be accessible to participating credit unions at no charge through the REAL Solutions Impact Center. A companion tool detailing member financial education/counseling products and credit union best practices will be published in conjunction with the report. Preliminary survey data indicate credit unions are strong providers of financial education. For example, in Kansas, 164 classroom presentations were made to 5,509 youth at Kansas schools in 2010. Nationally, more than 1.7 million members received financial counseling or advice from credit unions last year. “While the information collected so far is certainly impressive on its own, it is still important to gather more data,” said Lois Kitsch, NCUF’s national program director. “Once more credit unions complete our survey, we’ll know the true impact our industry has across America through our numerous financial education efforts.” NCUF has been using an online survey tool to gather the data since March. To date, more than 550 credit unions from 46 states have completed the survey. All U.S. credit unions are invited to participate, said NCUF. For questions and additional information, contact Lois Kitsch at or 414-793-1991. For more survey information, use the link.

WOCCU offering CUs opportunities in Kenya

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MADISON, Wis. (9/7/11)--Credit unions can work alongside field personnel during the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) engagement program, Oct. 30-Nov. 6 in Kenya. The program provides credit union leaders with hands-on opportunity to become directly involved with credit unions internationally.
The World Council of Credit Union (WOCCU) engagement program will be held Oct. 30-Nov. 6 in Kenya. Engagement program participant Patricia Wesenberg, president/CEO of Central City CU in Marshfield, Wis., attends to a young child. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions).
The deadline for registration is Sept. 30. During the trip to Kenya, located in East Africa, participants will help develop savings and credit products tailored for the rural poor and see how small credit unions are reaching the unbanked through a new technology that WOCCU developed. During the trip, participants will also volunteer at Busia Compassionate Centre, a local orphanage. The engagement program is offered through the Global Women’s Leadership Network; however, both men and women alike are eligible to participate. Participants do not need to be members of the network. Participation is limited.