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CUs still getting their day in the sun
MADISON, Wis. (12/6/11)--Credit unions were still getting their day in the sun in media reports last weekend.  CNNMoney reported on their  member business lending (MBL) efforts, a league opinion in a state newspaper touted the benefits of credit unions, and consumers' continued movement to credit unions from banks garnered attention in several media.

In the Worcester (Mass.) Business Journal (Dec. 5), an opinion editorial written by Dan Egan, president of the Massachusetts Credit Union League, told about the influx of new members into credit unions as a result of the Bank Transfer Day events prompted by debit card fees introduced (but later rescinded) by mega-banks and how credit unions are structured differently than banks..

"I've traveled around the state for the last 30-plus years touting the benefits of joining a credit union. Thankfully, people have been fairly receptive to my message. But nothing can top the response we've seen over the last two months. And we've only just begun," Egan wrote.

He estimated that at least 20,000 consumers in Massachusetts have joined a credit union, adding more than $136 million in new deposits. He wrote that Digital FCU, the largest credit union in New England,  reported signing up 133 new members on Nov. 5. That's a 56% increase from the 85 account openings the $3.8 billion asset, Marlborough-based credit union averages on Saturday.

Another article, "Credit unions bank on consumer backlash," in Friday's Pacific Coast Business Times told about California credit unions that experienced increases in membership from the consumer backlash. It featured CoastHills FCU, a $632 million asset credit union in Lompoc;Ventura County CU, a $543 million asset credit union in Ventura.; and SESLOC FCU, with $530 million assets in San Luis Obispo.

CoastHills didn't see a dramatic increase in members as a result of Bank Transfer Day largely because it already has a strong foothold in its markets. Ventura County, however, added more than 1,100 members since the beginning of October. It typically averages about 420 new members a month.  In October, it added 750, with 315 of those on Nov. 5, Bank Transfer Day, the article said.  About 90% of people who came in on Bank Transfer Day opened new checking accounts and many brought along their other banking relationships, including lines of credit, savings accounts and direct deposits from employers.

SESLOC FCU said it noticed more people wanted to learn more about credit unions.  The article also featured membership statistics from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

Small business loans were also in the news.  In a Friday article entitled "Small biz loans: Credit unions to the rescue?" CNNMoney noted how credit unions, seeing an opening in the credit crunch for small businesses, expanded their offerings to entrepreneurs declined by banks. The article featured three credit unions' programs: Brooklyn (N.Y.) Cooperative FCU; Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Bellco CU; and Amplify CU, based in Austin, Texas.

CUNA and credit unions continue to urge Congress to raise credit unions' MBL limit to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%, which would produce $13 billion in new small-business loans to help boost the economy. Lifting the cap could generate about 140,000 new jobs created by small businesses through these loans.
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