WASHINGTON (8/22/14)--Two credit unions have been selected as participants for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) mortgage eClosing pilot program.
BECU, Tukwila, Wash., with $12.6 billion in assets, and Mountain America CU, West Jordan, Utah, with $3.8 billion in assets, will participate in the three-month program, slated to begin later this year.
The program is designed to explore how the increased use of technology during the mortgage closing process could affect consumer understanding and engagement.
"We believe that eClosings have the potential to create a better process for everyone involved. This eClosing pilot project will provide valuable insight as we work to improve the closing experience for consumers," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray.
The pilot project is a follow-up to a report released in April by the CFPB that outlined areas of difficulty in the closing process, and offered a vision for how electronic closings could help mitigate some areas. The project will study ways eClosings can enable consumer understanding, make processes more efficient and incentivize consumer engagement.
In addition to the two credit unions, two banks, three mortgage companies and five technology vendors that provide eClosing services will participate.
According to the bureau, the eClosing pilot program is not part of a rulemaking process, but is designed to identify best practices in the marketplace.
Use the resource link below to access guidelines for the program.
WASHINGTON (8/22/14)--The Credit Union National Association reiterated its "strongest opposition" to a Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) proposal involving credit losses in a letter sent to the board today. The letter, signed by CUNA interim President/CEO Bill Hampel, states that the proposed changes are likely to have a "significant detrimental" impact on a number of credit unions and their members.
FASB has proposed credit loss reporting changes that would utilize a single "expected loss" measurement for the recognition of credit losses, replacing the multiple existing impairment models in U.S. generally accepted accounting principles that primarily use an "incurred loss" approach.
The newest CUNA letter states that, during the height of the financial crisis, credit unions overfunded their provisions for loan and lease losses and maintained their allowance for loan and lead losses (ALLL) in surplus. This caused credit union earnings to be understated during the recession, and overstated more recently as credit unions work down the overfunded allowance amounts.
Hampel expressed his concern that, to the extent the proposal requires higher levels of the ALLL, the distortions would be
Click for larger view
"This unwarranted increase to many credit unions' ALLLs would directly result in a further reduction in their retained earnings, which are already understated under current accounting standards," Hampel wrote. "A decrease in earnings can lead to a reduced capital ratio, which could trigger prompt corrective action (PCA) implications for numerous credit unions that currently do not have PCA concerns."
The letter goes on to say that the proposal, if adopted, could further be compounded by the National Credit Union Administration's risk-based capital proposal, which increase minimum risk-based capital ratios for federally insured credit unions with over $50 million in assets. The NCUA is currently revising the rule based on feedback, making its impact unclear.
CUNA stressed in the letter, its official comment letter sent in May and in meetings with FASB, that most credit unions, as not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives, may only build net worth through retained earnings under the Federal Credit Act. This makes it more difficult for them to build capital.
The letter comes on the heels of an Aug. 15
New York Times
article that indicates FASB could adopt the proposal soon.
When available, the letter will be posted on CUNA's comment letters page. Use the resource link to access the page.
WASHINGTON (8/22/14)--Several firms that track U.S. mortgage interest rates all reported this week that rates are sliding, with many relaying that mortgage rates have hit their low points for 2014.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate listed by
fell to 4.24%, which is a 14-month low, while the 30-year fixed rate from the Mortgage Bankers Association's mortgage applications survey recorded a 6 basis-point drop to 4.29% (
Freddie Mac recorded a 4.10% rate for 30-year fixed rates, also a low for the year and down from 4.58% at this time last year (
"Muted inflation readings and ongoing tensions in hotspots around the globe helped fuel demand for bonds, pushing mortgage rates lower,"
said. "Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds. Any time there is a reason for nervousness among investors, their movement into the perceived safe haven of bonds is good news for mortgage rates."
The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate edged down to 3.37%, according to
numbers, while the jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped to 4.29%. Freddie Mac and MBA reported declining rates for those mortgage types as well.
In addition to lower mortgage rates, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday that existing home sales sped up in July.
Sales climbed 2.4% for the month to 5.15 million annualized units, the first time since the fall of last year that sales have exceeded the 5.1 million mark (
Further, single-family sales led the way over condominium sales, although overall sales still sit 4.3% below numbers seen this time last year.
Home-price appreciation also has started to pick up again, Moody's reported, with the median existing-home price climbing 4.9% in July after a slowdown in June.
Daily Financial Rates -- 2014-08-22
Friday, August 22, 2014
03:55 AM CDT
TREASURY YIELD CURVE
(based on the $1 million market)
Results of the August 18, 2014 auction of short-term U.S. government bills, sold at a discount from face value in units of $10,000 to $ 1 million
||Last changed December 16, 2008 |
|near closing bid||0.080||0.060||0.080||0.070||0.070|
FREDDIE MAC (Mortgage commitments, 30 days)
FANNIE MAE (Mortgage commitments, 30 days)
COMMERCIAL PAPER (Financial, 90 days)
: Data not available at time of page generation (shown at top of page)
Wall Street Journal
U.S. Dept. of the Treasury
All rates are from the previous business day unless otherwise noted.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (8/22/14)--The credit union movement continues to celebrate reaching its 100 million memberships milestone, and Wyoming's high concentration of credit union members caught the eye of
Wyoming Business Report
Roughly 40% of the Equality State's population is a credit union member, significantly higher than the national total, which equates to one-third of the U.S. population.
"This is a testament to the long-standing principles that guide credit unions, namely that they put members first and operate in a manner to reflect that philosophy," said Scott Earl, president/CEO, Mountain West Credit Union Association (MWCUA). "It's apparent that this principle is working."
Wyoming credit unions added 1,400 members in the first quarter, bringing total membership to 230,000.
Wyoming's membership growth has climbed at a continuously fast clip--to 3.47% in 2013 from 2.91% in 2011--above the national growth rate of 2.9%
"It's much higher than a lot of the other states that we see," MWCUA Director of Corporate Communications Patti Hazlett told
Wyoming Business Report
SEATAC, Wash. (8/22/14)--A financial literacy program by Seattle Metropolitan CU (SMCU) has gained traction and attention for the benefits it is providing to an urban youth educational group.
As a volunteer for Year Up, an intensive one-year job training and educational program for 18- to 24-year-olds, Richard Romero saw an opening for financial education to become part of the curriculum (
The CEO of the $601 million-asset credit union took that opportunity to the business development team of Doug Brisbon and Raina Troupe.
The team worked with the Year Up Puget Sound director to develop the four focus points of what would become "Financially Fit:"
- The power of saving and compound interest;
- The idea that financial stability and building wealth is the "long game;"
- That it's never too early to start a 401(k) or similar savings and investment vehicle; and
- Financial basics such as checking and savings accounts.
"SMCU has provided numerous financial education events in the past," said Brisbon, "however we did not have one that was a perfect fit for the Year Up students, so we created 'Financially Fit' from the ground up."
More than 50 students and staff attended the first Financially Fit presentation at Year Up's office in Belltown.
"The 'Financially Fit' program has enabled us to augment our program offerings to include financial literacy," said Lisa Chin, executive director of Year Up Puget Sound. "SMCU supports our students as they work to not only begin their career, but to take steps toward a financially sound future."
The credit union is working on a three-part educational series that will coordinate with Year Up's yearlong program.
In fact, word of the success of "Financially Fit" is being spread by State Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline). Ryu recently praised the program in an email to her fellow legislators, calling it "very practical and yet effective,"
TAMPA, Fla. (8/22/14)--Tampa, Fla.,-based Floridacentral CU has received the thumbs up from the Florida Office of Financial Regulation to purchase a branch of the First Federal Bank of Florida, an office spokesperson confirmed to
The deal allows the $399 million-asset credit union to take over the bank's office in Sarasota, Fla., buy certain assets and take over liabilities from the bank. The National Credit Union Administration must still sign off on the transaction.
"Buying a bank branch typically allows for quicker geographic expansion and member growth than building a new branch," said Michael Bell, an attorney and counselor from Royal Oak, Mich. (
The undisclosed price tag for the building nets Floridacentral about $11 million in consumer deposits, according to CEO Laida Garcia, who has said that the building's location is desirable because of its central location in an area where 2,000 of the credit union's members live or work.
The bank's 600 remaining customers at the Sarasota branch will have to decide whether to become member/owners of Floridacentral or have their accounts transferred to one of the bank's remaining locations.
WASHINGTON (8/22/14)--The Ice Bucket Challenge that's sweeping the nation to raise awareness for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) continued to make its way through the credit union movement Thursday, as Credit Union National Association interim President/CEO Bill Hampel had not one, but two buckets of ice water dumped on his head in Washington, D.C.
John Magill, CUNA executive vice president of government affairs, left, douses the trade association's interim President/CEO Bill Hampel Thursday as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. See video of the event, below. (CUNA Photo)
For those unaware, individuals are invited to participate in the fundraising effort by someone who has already completed the challenge, which requires someone to take a video of themselves having ice water dumped on them and then to upload the video onto social media.
After the challenge has been completed, the person nominates several more participants, who then have 24 hours to complete the challenge or pay $100 to the ALS Association (ALSA).
So far, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $41.8 million nationwide, according to ALSA. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
CUNA also continues to be a strong supporter of the National Credit Union Foundation, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and the Credit Unions For Kids campaign.
Patrick Conway, president/CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, and the entire Credit Union Association of New York challenged Hampel.
Hampel then challenged four new people, including Bill Cheney, president/CEO, SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif., with $10.3 billion in assets; Jill Tomalin, CUNA executive vice president/chief operating officer in Madison, Wis.; John Worth, chief economist at the National Credit Union Administration; and Cam Fine, president/CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America.
John Magill, CUNA executive vice president of government affairs, and Ryan Donovan, CUNA senior vice president of legislative affairs, got into the spirit of the day as well when they became the subjects of surprised dousings.
MADISON, Wis. (8/22/14)--There are two sides to every balance sheet, and credit unions that want to remain financially sound now and into the future must start focusing on the revenue side, rather than only cutting back expenditures, according to a recent white paper from Filene Research Institute.
In "Addressing the Revenue Growth Challenge," Ron Shevlin, senior analyst for Aite Group, argues that focusing on efficiency only solves short-term profitability, but does nothing for future long-term growth.
Surveying 137 credit union leaders from institutions of all sizes to ferret out insight about how to find new revenue types, Shevlin examines existing sources of revenue and compiles ideas on where else credit unions can turn.
"It will take actual innovation and credit unions that build and strengthen their own product design competencies to drive more than marginal revenue growth in the future," Shevlin said.
From the survey, Shevlin found that many credit unions aren't being innovative enough in the products they offer.
His findings included:
- Many credit unions plan to increase revenue through sales of existing products to existing members, as only one-quarter of those polled said they make it a priority to offer new products that can attract new members;
- Credit union leaders largely said they believed interchange was the most promising path to enhancing revenue growth, with credit insurance and debt protection next on the list; and
- Three-quarters of those surveyed said they expect to introduce less than two new products this year, with one-quarter expecting to introduce none.
Despite an increase in revenue growth in debit card interchange and fees in 2013, Shevlin wonders whether counting on similar gains year after year is sustainable, especially as U.S. debit card penetration has declined the past two years.
Further, Shevlin says credit unions place their hopes for revenue growth on a narrow set of products and services, but this can be overcome by taking several steps, including:
- Creating credit card rewards programs, or strengthening the plans credit unions already have implemented;
- Reinventing and crafting informative credit-related product marketing that can help members make decisions about loans, and potentially drive them to in-house loan products;
- Bolstering personal financial management services by offering products such as payment-, advice- and insight-oriented services that are valuable enough for members to pay for; and
- Focusing on member needs and desires.
About 15% of credit unions offer debit cards that feature a rewards program, which is an increase from 10% in 2010, according to the Credit Union National Association's 2013-14 Fees Report.
Offering these programs is important, Shevlin says, because studies have found that "rewards programs can significantly affect the preferences for cards relative to cash payments," and that, "the impact of rewards on card usage is higher for debit cardholders than for credit cardholders."
ATLANTA (8/22/14)--Add shipping giant United Parcel Service (UPS) to the list of merchants that have suffered a data breach that compromised its customers' credit and debit card information.
The Atlanta-based company said Wednesday it learned from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service that malware found on computer systems at some The UPS Stores had exposed names, payment card numbers and postal and email addresses from about 100,000 transactions (
At-risk transactions took place in 51 stores in 24 states between Jan. 20 and Aug. 11. There are 4,470 franchised locations that are individually owned and run independent private networks that are not connected to other franchised center locations, the company said.
The UPS news follows on the heels of last week's breaches at grocery chains SuperValu and Albertsons. Since the Target breach last year--the granddaddy of breaches so far, affecting 40 million debit and credit card numbers and 70 million customers' information--the list of compromised merchants includes Neiman Marcus, Sally Beauty Supply, Michaels, P.F. Chang's, Goodwill Industries International and Jimmy John's.
Meanwhile, the website security flaw Heartbleed resurfaced in the hacking of 4.5 million patient records from Community Health Systems of Franklin, Tenn., which runs a network of 206 hospitals and satellite doctors' offices across 29 states.
In April, the Heartbleed bug in the Open Secure Socket Layer technology--used to establish secure links between servers and users--exposed millions of usernames, passwords and other information.
The stolen records from Community Health Systems go beyond card data; they include addresses, birth dates, telephone and Social Security numbers--all prime fodder for identity theft (
Bank Technology News
Damage from the compromised information could exceed that of Target, John Zurawski, vice president of security software company Authentify, told
Bank Technology News.
"Target lost credit card information, but Community Health has lost Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, phone numbers--everything a fraudster needs to capitalize on the individual's credit rating and more," he said.
Thus, financial institutions should be wary on two fronts: Protect against the potential of increased credit fraud and redouble efforts to ensure their own systems are safe.
NEW YORK (8/19/14)--Any retiree wants the best return on retirement accounts. But trying to achieve strong returns by using managed investment accounts could backfire, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (Marketwatch
Managed accounts involve professionals making decisions about what vehicles the products invest in, versus passive investing that tracks common indices such as the Dow or a market sector such as small cap funds. That hands-on management requires investors to pay higher fees, which may offset some or all of the gains. The GAO report looked at eight managed account providers accounting for 95% of the market.
Since regulatory changes in 2007 gave employers the OK to automatically enroll 401(k) participants into managed accounts, these kinds of investments have become more popular, offered in 36% of plans in 2012, up from 25% in 2005. Many observers think the plans will only become more popular as baby boomers approach retirement, a time when many workers turn to the more tailored advice managed accounts offer.
The GAO observed that fees for managed accounts--fees in addition to the expense ratios participants already pay to invest in mutual funds--range widely, from nothing to as much as 1% of the account balance each year. As a result of the added fees, the GAO found that "401(k) participants who do not [consistently] receive higher investment returns from the managed account services risk losing money over time."
Some managed account providers claim the funds earn a bonus of as much as three percentage points a year. But the GAO study, citing Vanguard data, reported that "published returns for managed account participants" were "generally less than or equal to returns" of other popular 401(k) investments, including target date funds or balanced funds invested in a mix of stocks and bonds.
In addition, the GAO study noted a lack of standards allowing consumers to compare managed account performance with that of other 401(k) investments, leaving investors with no way to accurately size up an investment. The GAO report also noted that the Labor Department, the 401(k) plan regulator, does not mandate disclosure of performance benchmarking for managed accounts, although it does for other 401(k) investments.
The report also cited a possible conflict of interest for managed account providers, who may have a financial incentive in recommending that retirees stay in the former employer's 401(k) plan and continue to pay managed account fees. It might be a better choice for retirees to transfer assets to an annuity or individual retirement accounts, the GAO report noted.
The report noted, too, that some managed account providers might not serve as fiduciaries; a fiduciary must make decisions based on what's financially best for you and also has to disclose any possible conflict of interest. The Credit Union National Association's Home & Family Finance Resource Center
has reported that, "Three-fourths of investors incorrectly believe that financial advisers are fiduciaries and two-thirds wrongly believe stockbrokers are fiduciaries ... That ignorance can be costly."
The Labor Department requires a managed account provider to act as a fiduciary, and assume liability for flawed advice, when participants are enrolled automatically in these accounts. But if participants opt in to managed accounts, the rules do not "have a similar explicit requirement," according to the GAO report. "[S]ome providers may actively choose to structure their services to limit their fiduciary liability," the report noted.
For related information, read "Making Dollars and Sense of Financial Planner Designations" and "Your 401(k) Manager Not Always Best Adviser" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center
EAST HANOVER, N.J. (8/22/14)--Symbionce Financial Solutions, a credit union service organization based in New Jersey, was named to
magazine's list of America's fastest-growing private companies.
Symbionce specializes in residential mortgage brokerage, compliance and internal audit services. With its 478% growth in sales over the past three years, Symbionce landed at No. 945 in the 2014
500|5000 ranking (
The Daily Exchange
"Besides being the only credit union service organization to be honored this year, we are the 26th highest-ranked company in New Jersey out of 166 honored this year," said managing member Ann South.
Symbionce was founded in 2009, and its revenue has grown to $3.2 million in 2013 from $565,991 in 2010.