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CUNA service institute taps Ritz-Carlton expertise

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MADISON, Wis. (12/29/14)--Registration is now open for the Credit Union National Association's World-Class Service Leadership Institute, which offers credit union leaders an opportunity to go behind the scenes of legendary The Ritz-Carlton service culture.
"Once again, the team has worked hard to ensure that this program is one of the most immersive experiences a credit union leader can have," said Angela Prestil, CUNA director of sales culture development.
The three-day institute , set for May 18-20 at the Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix, aims to provide credit union management with skills and strategies for redesigning their overall approach to service in ways that will fit the spirit of their credit unions.
"Our attendees not only learn how to bring their cultures to a top-tier level, but they see and experience those lessons being put into practice during every staff interaction. It's really eye-opening," said Meghann Dawson, CUNA director of learning events.
Attendees will:
  • Break down the Ritz-Carlton's legendary service process by experiencing it first-hand;
  • Get behind-the-scenes insights during an exclusive Ritz-Carlton employee discussion panel;
  • Design a world-class experience to implement at their credit unions;
  • Foster a culture of accountability among their teams; and
  • Develop skills to coach--not manage--employees for service excellence.

Mich. league revamps, refreshes website for new year

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 Mich. (12/29/14)--The Michigan Credit Union League revealed its revamped website after nearly a year of work on the redesign.
The website aims to be more visually appealing and simpler to navigate. It also is organized by both topic and by audience type, such as CEOs, volunteers and small-asset credit unions.
The site also uses responsive design, which allows users to easily navigate the site regardless of the size or type of the device being used.
The league's communications and technology teams continue to work on the website, which will soon integrate photo galleries, videos and the weekly Monitor newsletter.

CU System briefs (12/29/14)

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  • ASHEBORO, N.C. (12/29/14)-- A man who was apparently upset by not being able to access a credit union account became physically violent, breaking windows and damaging computer equipment at the Asheboro, N.C., branch of $1.7 billion-asset Truliant FCU. No one was injured during last week's incident. Corey Brower, 26, was charged with two counts of injury to personal property, one count of injury to real property and one count of communicating threats . Brower "thought he had access to some funds in the credit union," Asheboro Police Major Jim Smith told the Courier-Tribune (Dec. 22). However, when he found out he couldn't make a withdrawal, Brower became upset and reportedly said, "If I don't get my money I'm going to come back and it's going to be ugly." When police arrived on the scene, they were able to arrest Brower with no resistance ...
  • BATON ROUGE, La. (12/29/14)-- The new name of E FCU, Baton Rouge, La., with $292 million in assets, will pay tribute the credit union's roots serving the Exxon refinery. EFCU Financial will tease its new look in January, although the name change isn't official until March. Senior management and the board wanted to stay true to E FCU's roots, but, said President/CEO Tyler Grodi, "they also felt the need to embrace the fact we now serve a broader group of members living and working in the nine parish area of Greater Baton Rouge" ...
  • HELENA, Mont. (12/29/14)-- The board of Valley FCU of Montana, Billing, named Darla Card as the CEO of the $197 million-asset credit union ( Weekly Report Dec. 19). Card, who previously was chief lending officer, had been serving as interim CEO since the July 11 resignation of Jean DeVerniero ...
  • WALTHAM, Mass., and RICHMOND, Va. (12/29/14)-- Charles Anastasia, one of the founders of RTN FCU, Waltham, Mass., died Dec. 5 ( Wicked Local Waltham Dec. 20). He was 94. As a longtime board member and vice chair of the $807 million-asset credit union, "Charles truly embodied the credit union spirit of people helping people. He was instrumental in creating a culture of service and respect for our members that prevails today," said CEO Richard Wright. In 2013, he was named director emeritus in recognition of more than 50 years of service to the credit union.  Cornelius Wright Sherman of Richmond, Va., died Dec. 18. He was 80. During his 35-year relationship with $32 million-asset Hampton (Va.) Roads Educators CU, Sherman served as a board member and as vice president . He was a teacher, assistant principal and principal for Hampton City Public Schools ( The Richmond Times-Dispatch Dec. 21) ...

Homeowners lowball their own homes, Quicken says

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WASHINGTON (12/29/14)--Conventional wisdom might say that homeowners tend to overvalue the price of their homes, but recent research has found that in most cases the opposite is true.

Statistical analyses from Quicken Loans, the nation's second-largest mortgage lender, find that on average homeowners underestimate the value of their homes by 1.6% when compared with appraisers' valuations ( Daily Pilot Dec. 21).

"Appraisers are looking at the market all the time," said Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Loans, who added that homeowners who are only interested in refinancing, rather than selling, are less likely to stay on top of current home valuations.

Using its new home price perception index, which relies on a database of more than 50,000 new applications for mortgage refinancings per month, Quicken found in November that three-quarters of the major metropolitan areas in the United States had lower estimates of home values from homeowners than appraised values.

The majority of regions did not see wide gaps between appraiser and homeowner estimates--most shortfalls were between $2,000 and $4,000 on a $200,000 home--but several metros did see considerable differences in opinion.

In San Jose, homeowners lowballed their own homes' prices by 6% compared with appraiser estimates. With a median sale price of $860,000, that translates to a $51,600 error.

Refinancing applicants in Los Angeles, meanwhile, underestimated values by 3.8% on average; Seattle homeowners came in 2.8% below appraisers' estimates; Miami 2.3% and in Boston 2.2%.

On the other hand, several metros saw homeowners overestimating the value of their homes as well.

In Philadelphia, homeowners estimated 1.6% over appraiser estimates, while Charlotte, N.C., homeowners were 1.3% too high, and Chicago 0.3%.

In either case, the gap between homeowner expectations and the appraiser's final number appears to be narrowing, likely because of new tools available to consumers.

"Today's homeowners have access to numerous (online) valuation tools and multiple listing service systems that they didn't have" until recently, Gary Crabtree, appraisal expert, told the Daily Pilot . The result: They "tend to more closely track the market conditions in their neighborhood."

Maine Harvest aims to help small farmers, CUs

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BANGOR, Maine (12/29/14)--A credit union may soon be established in Maine for the first time in a quarter-century and, should it come to fruition, not only will it provide financing to small farmers and the local food economy, it may help other Maine credit unions do so as well.

The prospective credit union, called the Maine Harvest Credit Project--as it has yet to receive the necessary go-ahead from state regulators to call itself a credit union--is spearheaded by two gentlemen steeped in the world of finance and who are greatly interested in supporting the local organic food movement.

Several years back, that common interest propelled Scott Budde, formerly a manager of social and community investment strategies for TIAA-CREF, and Sam May, who comes from an extensive background in investment banking and equity research, to begin investigating how they could provide this specialized financing to small farmers.

A little more than a year ago, the two joined forces and set out to form a credit union that focused on the relocalization of agriculture in Maine. 

The new team carried out extensive research on the small farming industry in the state, and they learned that despite the rapid growth Maine was seeing in small farming--agricultural sales in Maine climbed 24% between 2007 and 2012, and the number of young farmers in the state continues to rise--there was still an apparent lack of financing options available to farmers and business owners.

Some farmers told Budde and May that they were nearly laughed out of banks when they approached them for financing for their farming operations. Others said government programs had too many restrictions.

"If you're in this sector or you want to get into this sector and be part of that growth, which is crucial, you don't have that many financing options as you would if you were doing another type of small business," Budde told News Now .

Ultimately, both Budde and May felt that a credit union was the most well-equipped financial institution to serve the industry.

"(I thought) a credit union structure or organization really could play a significant role," May told News Now . "If we're relocalizing agriculture, we're going to have to relocalize the infrastructure for agriculture, and that's going to require finance."

Added Budde: "What seemed to be necessary was a need for some larger-scale and longer-term financing than loan funds were capable of doing, and that's what kind of confirmed that a credit union structure would work--because we could tap longer-term deposits."

With the help of credit unions in Maine, which Budde and May say have been very encouraging as they develop the cooperative financial institution, the initiative's leaders are nearing the point at which they can formally apply for a state charter ( The Bangor Daily News Dec. 15).

Should they gain approval, which also will require them to secure grant funding to support the application, the organization's two leaders hope to provide small farmers with products such as mortgages that range between $100,000 and $500,000, equipment loans between $5,000 and $50,000, and seasonal loans of the same amounts.

This would open opportunities for small farmers and small food businesses to apply for loans to acquire land, or to acquire used equipment that's almost nearly impossible to finance right now.

Budde says that they've received much interest from the industry in Maine Harvest and they hope to be up and running in roughly two years.

But there's more to Budde and May's mission than simply running a successful credit union and supporting the local small farm industry in Maine.

It's the duo's goal, after the credit union industry has helped lift them off the ground, to return the favor and become a resource to credit unions throughout the state that are interested in providing this type of financing to members.

Many credit unions in Maine simply don't have the capability to provide this type of financing to farmers in their communities, and Budde and May believe they can bridge that gap.

"If you have a community field of membership and you draw a circle around your branches and you see who's in that food economy sector, and you find a couple of food businesses and a half-dozen farms, even if they're growing rapidly, it's still not enough to justify developing the expertise to do smart lending in the sector," Budde said. "It's hard for them to find enough scale within their footprint to develop the expertise to make it worth it."

John Murphy, president/CEO of the Maine Credit Union League--to which Budde and May recently gave a presentation about their operation--says the idea for the credit union in general, and this idea of becoming a resource to other credit unions that want to get involved in financing this industry, is certainly something the league supports.

"What they're saying, if you have a credit union that doesn't have the experience maybe in that kind of lending, then they would want to be a resource because it would help the organic farmers across the state," Murphy told News Now . "I think that's a great opportunity for credit unions to help each other and to work together to serve a need."

"They're very thorough, they're serious about this, they've put a lot of work into this and they continue to do so," Murphy added. "We support any group that does their homework, and that is looking to expand credit union service to consumers."

Signature debit highest cause of FI fraud losses: Minn. Fed

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MINNEAPOLIS (12/29/14)--The amount of payments fraud and the losses incurred continue to concern financial institutions and non-financial firms alike, according to the recently released 2014 Payments Fraud Survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Of the top three payment types, signature debit was the top when it came to fraud attempts, with 87% of financial services firms ranking it as the most common target of fraud attempts. Checks and PIN debit were significantly lower at 57% and 54% respectively.
The biennial survey tracks fraud trends for payment types such as checks, cash, debit and credit cards, automated clearinghouse transactions and wire transfers.
Financial services firms also identified signature debit as having the highest loss rate in value and volume compared with other payments. Signature debit had the highest loss rate based on volume at 67%, and at 78% it had the highest loss rate based on value of the fraudulent transaction.
Seventy percent of financial services respondents experienced fraud losses in 2013, while only a quarter of non-financial companies reported losses.
Non-financial companies cite checks as the highest contributor to payments fraud losses.

CU Direct's 20 for 20 brings $60K to 6 CMN Hospitals

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ONTARIO, Calif. (12/29/14)--The votes are in and two Children's Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals will receive $20,000 from CU Direct as part of its 20 for 20 campaign to celebrate 20 years of serving the credit union industry.

The winners, which received the most votes from credit unions and their members throughout December, are Salt Lake City's Primary Children's Hospital and Hurley Children's Hospital in Flint, Mich.

Each hospital will receive $20,000 from CU Direct, which decided to double the amount it would donate for the campaign because of the overwhelming response to the event. At the midway point of the campaign, CU Direct had received 80,000 votes for various CMN Hospitals across the country.

Hurley Children's Hospital also received a second $20,000 prize from a local dentist, Dr. Alan Klein, who pledged to donate a matching $20,000 if Hurley won the 20 for 20 competition ( Dec. 22).

The credit unions whose membership bases voted the most for the winning hospitals will be invited to present the $20,000 checks sometime early next year.

Four runner-up CMN Hospitals will receive $5,000 donations from CU Direct as well, including Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis; OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Ore.; McLane Children's Scott & White Hospital in Waco, Texas; and Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, Conn.

Overall, CU Direct will donate $60,000 to CMN Hospitals nationwide, "and that's all because of your help and commitment to voting and getting the word out," CU Direct said on its website.

CU Direct operates a lending network comprised of 1,100 credit unions and 11,400 dealers. It has facilitated more than 7.4 million auto loans totaling roughly $157 billion since 1994.