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Leagues hone in on safetysoundness message

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MADISON, Wis. (2/2/09)--As credit unions assess the proposals from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) on stabilizing the corporate credit union system, leagues took the opportunity to hone in on the message of the safety and soundness of credit unions. It's a message that has resounded consistently throughout the nation's economic turmoil the past several months. Last September and October, the nation saw a wave of media attention as credit unions and leagues informed people about credit unions' safety, their soundness, and their willingness to lend in a tightened market. Expect another wave as the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and leagues help credit unions finetune that message during the latest media attention. The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) noted in a press release Friday that despite losses by the corporate system and actions taken by the regulator, "the credit union system overall is healthy and strong." "Locally, Minnesota credit unions have very strong and stable capital ratios," MnCUN said in the release. Their ratio stood at 10.84% in its most recent reporting period as of Sept. 30, compared with 10.78% at the end of 2003, it said. NCUA's definition of "well capitalized," its highest rating, is 7%. "Consumers can rest assured their money is safe in their credit union," said Mark D. Cummins, MnCUN president/CEO. "This recent action taken by the NCUA has no impact on the ability of Minnesota credit unions to continue serving their members." Credit unions, he said, will continue to lend, offer a safe place for members to save, and provide additional services at no or low cost. "Credit unions are lending responsibly and are still actively extending credit in times when many other financial institutions have cut back," he said. "Due to their prudent lending practices and conservative underwriting standards, the economy has not led most credit unions to face the same problems as other lenders these days." The corporate stabilization plan has prompted leagues to reaffirm the safety message for credit unions. They've begun distributing materials to help credit unions answer questions from media outlets or credit union members. The focus of those materials: credit unions are strong and sound. For example, the Association of Vermont Credit Unions(AVCU) noted that credit unions answering media questions can make several points, the foremost of which is "The national credit union system overall is healthy and sound," and "consumers can be assured their money is safe in their local credit union." "Natural person" credit unions…are well capitalized and strong (nearly 11% capital to assets)," said AVCU. The Michigan Credit Union League created a special Web page with information for credit unions about the plan including similar points credit unions can use to point out their soundness. In its Life is a Highway newsletter (Jan. 30), the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association touted the same information "to help credit unions understand and explain the state of credit unions." Just about every state league has a similar message to member credit unions.

KV members want board minutes in bank conversion

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AUGUSTA, Maine (2/2/09)--More than 180 members of KV FCU, an Augusta, Maine-based credit union whose board has proposed a merger with a bank--signed a petition requesting access to the board's minutes leading up to the merger decision. The proposed merger is with August-based Kennebec Savings Bank, a state-chartered bank that recently applied for a federal charter. The proposal to combine a credit union and a bank is the first of its kind in Maine. Nationwide, there have been about 15 completed mergers or mergers still in progress. Members are requesting access to board meeting minutes over several years, from the time the board began considering the merger, member Lucille Clouthier told the Morning Sentinel-Kennebec Journal (Jan. 29). The petition was delivered to the credit union Friday. The group, which opposes the conversion, wants to see how much background work the board did, the reasons cited in the meetings for a merger, and why the $51 million asset credit union is deciding to merge with a bank instead of another credit union, said Clouthier. National Credit Union Administration regulations allow credit union members access to their credit union's records if they collect signatures from 1% of the membership. The credit union has 8,000 members and would need 80 signatures. The credit union must respond to the petition within 14 days after receiving it. KV FCU President Beverly Beaucage told local newspapers that members are invited to review the regulations and the minutes, but she indicated the credit union would not provide information that would breach confidentiality. When the merger proposal was first announced last fall, the credit union said the move would better position it for future growth. The bank applied for a federal charter Jan. 21. The Office of Thrift Supervision has until April 22 to decide on the application.

CU System briefs (01/30/2009)

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* PEORIA, Ariz. (2/2/09)--Alice Jean Maloney Shipe, 97, the widow of former Credit Union National Association Managing Director J. Orrin Shipe, died Jan. 24 in Peoria, Ariz. Shipe is the mother of five children, including two credit union CEOs--James Shipe of First American CU of Casa Grande, Ariz., and Thomas Shipe of Sun Country CU, Sun City West, Ariz. J. Orrin Shipe was also former league president in Arizona. Funeral services were held Friday in Sun City with burial in Madison, Wis. ( Jan. 31) ... * SEWICKLY, Pa., and PHOENIX (2/2/09)--A friendly Super Bowl wager has been struck between PA Healthcare CU, Sewickly, Pa., and Southwest Health Care CU, Phoenix. A Pittsburgh Steelers victory will aid the HeritageValley Sewickly and Heritage Beaver community-based healthcare initiatives. An Arizona Cardinals victory will benefit the Pediatric Center at St. Joseph’s Center in Phoenix. “This is our third such wager over the years and is a great way to showcase how credit unions make a difference in our communities,” said Paul Fero, CEO of PA HealthCare CU (Life is a Highway Jan. 30) … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (2/2/09)--Cross Valley FCU, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., is using its ATMs to promote itself as a community credit union serving members in three counties. The credit union wrapped several ATMs with colorful artwork and its logo. "The newly wrapped ATMs standing in local businesses has provided us with a cost-effective way to advertise our credit union and provide a much needed makeover to machines that are still in good working order," Colleen Phillips, vice president of marketing, told the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway Jan. 30) … * YORKTOWN, Pa. (2/2/09)--A man grabbed a money box from two employees of Langley FCU's Yorktown branch as they were preparing to load it with cash. The incident occurred about 9:40 a.m. Thursday. The man fled the scene ( Jan. 30) …

CUs on the Tube Ad turns to history in the making

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TAMPA, Fla. (2/2/09)--GTE FCU, Tampa, Fla., rolled out a commercial Friday that shows the credit union’s 74-year history in the making. GTE created the ad to promote its products and services, and to raise awareness of all credit unions in Tampa Bay. The 60-second spot will air on TV stations in the Tampa Bay market Friday through Sunday during local and national news programs. The commercial first highlights the dark days of the Great Depression, then moves to the 1934 signing of the Federal Credit Union Act by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and finally to the credit union’s birth in 1935. With the growing numbers of area residents experiencing financial challenges because of the economy, GTE FCU leaders said that now was the time to raise awareness of why credit unions were created and to emphasize their stability. “We wanted to take a step back to remind people about what makes credit unions so unique,” said Doug Richardson, GTE senior vice president of marketing. Future television ads will expand upon the range of financial products and services available through GTE FCU, the credit union said. GTE FCU has $2.189 billion in assets. To see the commercial, use the link.

New Mexico Little Guy unveiled for campaign

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (2/2/09)--A new customized Little Guy will be unveiled by the Credit Union Association of New Mexico (CUANM) during Credit Union Day at the Legislature Wednesday in Santa Fe. The original Little Guy was developed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in 2007 to symbolize the everyday, hardworking credit union member. The New Mexico Little Guy was a joint project between CUANM communications coordinator Mary Beth King and John Hardiman, an account executive of Demand Printing Solutions, Albuquerque. Other states have personalized the standard icon to better fit their regions. CUNA's Little Guy is a roundheaded man wearing a polo shirt and khaki trousers. King changed his costume to a western shirt, jeans, a cowboy hat and boots, a rodeo belt buckle with the Zia sign from the state flag and a turquoise bolo tie. He clutches another state icon, a red chile ristra. The New Mexico Little Guy, reproduced as cutouts, standups and banners, is the symbol of CUANM's grassroots advocacy campaign. Juan Fernandez, CUANM vice president of governmental affairs, said that the campaign "will spread awareness and educate legislators about the credit union commitment to serving the Little Guy." Other Credit Union Day events include a legislative luncheon followed by candy deliveries to legislators at the Roundhouse. Legislators are special guests at a reception that evening.

WOCCUs Crear named OCDC chairman

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MADISON, Wis. (2/2/09)--Pete Crear, president/CEO of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), has been named chair of the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC). He has served on the OCDC board since 2005. Crear's one-year term as chair of OCDC, an association dedicated to applying cooperative techniques to help disadvantaged people in developing countries, began this month. “The goals of OCDC align perfectly with those of World Council in terms of helping the poor in developing countries,” Crear said. “My goal as chairman is to contine expanding those influences in ways meaningful to the goals and objectives of both OCDC and World Council.” OCDC is made up of eight member organizations, all of which have served as international development partners with the U.S. government. OCDC members, of which WOCCU is the only credit union movement representative, currently have multi-year projects in progress in more than 70 countries worldwide. “With a new administration taking office and Congress planning to reauthorize the legislation that guides U.S. policy on foreign assistance, this is a critical time for cooperatives and credit unions to create opportunities for increased emphasis on achieving economic growth through member-owned businesses,” said Rob Nooter, OCDC executive director.

Wisconsin CUs get kudos from state lawmakers

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (2/2/09)--Lawmakers speaking at the Wisconsin Credit Union League's 2009 State Government Affairs Conference recently shared their appreciation for credit unions and their hard work, according to the Wisconsin Credit Union League in its new online newsletter, The League News (Jan. 30).
Wisconsin Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee), chair of the state Assembly Financial Institutions Committee, speaks at the Wisconsin Credit Union League's 2009 State Governmental Affairs Conference. (Photo provided by the Wisconsin Credit Union League)
Rep. Tom Nelson (D-Kaukana), Assembly majority leader, talked about contacting a credit union for loan information when his car broke down on a trip to Madison. He noted that relationships credit unions make with lawmakers truly hold public officials accountable, the league reported. "I have been, and continue to be, a supporter (of credit unions) because Al Zierler (Capital CU) and Rick Sense (Community First CU) wouldn't have it any other way," Nelson said. Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) cited his longstanding credit union membership and applauded Pioneer CU, Green Bay, for its signage proclaiming, "No bailout here." Credit unions do a great job taking care of people's money and returning it to members when possible, he said. He also praised credit unions for sponsoring youth-run branches inside Wisconsin schools to teach saving and responsible use of financial products. Homebuyers who use credit unions are lucky for avoiding the rash of bad lending practices seen in the nation, Hansen added. He also thanked credit unions for working for those on Main Street, not Wall Street, and said, "You're not too large or too small to fail, you're too smart to fail." Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee), chair of the Assembly Financial Institutions Committee, talked about his experience as a former branch manager of Guardian CU, was well as in banking and insurance. He emphasized the need to avoid overregulation and mandates that make it more difficult for credit unions to do the many good things they're already doing to prevent foreclosures and more. Fields urged credit unions to be part of the dialogue and solution regarding payday lending, and noted that, as an identity theft victim, he appreciates credit unions' urgency for action on data security legislation. Two other speakers, Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), discussed bipartisan legislation and the upcoming legislation session and the budget process.

Joe Knows Mortgages campaign touts experience

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (2/2/09)--Executives of Carolina Postal CU (CPCU) turned to a familiar face to spearhead a campaign to help ease any fears their members might be experiencing due to a troubled economy. “We wanted to promote our strong, secure mortgage program in 2009. What better way to do that than show off our most experienced and well-known employee, Senior Mortgage Loan Officer Joe Jones,” said Joy Watts, CEO of CPCU (Weekly Update Jan. 26).
The ‘Joe Knows Mortgages’ campaign at Carolina Postal CU, Charlotte, N.C., uses an experienced senior mortgage loan officer to spearhead a campaign to help alleviate any fears its members may have about a troubled economy. (Photo provided by North Carolina Credit Union League)
Jones has been a part of CPCU for more than 17 years. “We were brainstorming on what was going on in the mortgage industry, how to answer members’ concerns about their mortgages, their financial situation, and every time we had a question it was ‘let’s ask Joe,’… ‘why don’t we call Joe’…. or ‘Joe knows,’” said Watts. “We finally turned to our marketing vice president and said …. well … what do you think about using Joe in a promotion?” “I loved it,” said Deb McLean, vice president of marketing and business development. “I’ve worked with Joe at the U.S. Postal Service and member functions in the past, and to our members, Joe is a rock star,” she said. But while Joe has the knowledge and capability to front the campaign, the $65 million asset, Charlotte, N.C.-based CPCU knew it couldn’t rest the entire campaign on his shoulders. He may be the face of the campaign, but he has a team of account managers to assist him. “We came up with a ‘Team Joe’ concept,” said McLean. “[We] had a lot of fun playing off a ‘Petticoat Junction’ theme with our account managers--they all have nametags with their names listed as Chrissy-Joe, Lindsay-Joe, Maddie-Joe.” McLean also sent out a YouTube video of “Petticoat Junction” since some younger staff weren’t familiar with the show, a situation comedy than ran from 1963 to 1970. Initial reaction has been positive to the point of being overwhelming, the credit union said. “When the first postcard went out to our members, Joe got 98 voice-mails in one week,” said McLean. “Many were teasing or just congratulatory, but most were ‘Oh yes, please help me understand my situation.’” When a follow-up e-mail blast went out the next week, Joe received 78 voice-mails and multiple e-mails in one day. The biggest challenge? “Joe takes his reputation with the members seriously and wanted to follow up personally with every single response,” Watts said. “We had to encourage him to rely on his Team of Joes to help out with the initial response.” “Joe Knows Mortgages” will run for three months, and if the response continues to be strong, the campaign will be incorporated throughout 2009 with other CPCU loan products. “This campaign truly supports the credit union difference,” Watts said. “In a time when long-term, experienced employees are being laid off by corporations with a misguided attempt to impact their bottom line, we celebrate and promote our experienced employees and their depth of financial knowledge because they are the ones who will make a positive difference to our members.”

Keystone opens student branches with foundation grant

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WEST CHESTER, Pa. (2/2/09)--Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Joe Wambach presented a $10,000 grant to Keystone FCU, West Chester, and three local high schools for three new student branches.
From left, Michelle Merkley, director of marketing and business development for Keystone FCU; Deb Tobin, business teacher, Henderson High School; and Joe Wambach, executive director, Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation, during a presentation of a $10,000 grant to the credit union and three high schools for building three new student branches. (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
The student branches are strategically located near each school’s store or the student cafeteria to afford maximum convenience for student transactions, noted Rick Dunlap, principal of East High School; Jason Sherlock, assistant principal of Bayard Rustin High School; and Deb Tobin, business teacher of Henderson High School (Life is a Highway Jan. 28). Speaking about the firm relationship between the credit union and the three schools were: Keystone FCU Representatives Michelle Merkley, director of marketing and business development, who developed the project; Chuck Jackson, director of information technology, who established the computer linkage; and Jose Colon, director, lending and member services. They also discussed with school officials the possibility of expanding the classroom education component to all students in the schools. The three facilities bring the total of operating-credit-union-student branches in Pennsylvania to 21. Keystone FCU has $69.3 million in assets.

SECU testifies on mortgage help to members

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RALEIGH, N.C. (2/2/09)--Phil Greer, State Employees’ CU (SECU) senior vice president of loan administration, testified before a North Carolina legislative body about providing mortgage help to members, according to the North Carolina Credit Union League. With the North Carolina General Assembly poised to come back into session, Greer appeared before the Joint Study Committee on Housing, which wrapped up its work with a final meeting on Jan. 26 (Weekly Update Jan. 30). “In today’s economy, helping members has become even more important, as there are some members who are experiencing significant financial difficulties due to income impairment,” Greer told the committee. He shared ways that SECU helps members who have lost their jobs and face foreclosure. SECU meets face-to-face with each member dealing with foreclosure to find a solution, including partial payment options and loan extensions. “We’re prepared to make mortgage-loan adjustments and investigate all opportunities to assist members,” said Greer. "We have long felt that foreclosure is often as much the fault of the lender as it is the borrower,” Greer told the committee. “You would not choose a surgeon who has a high failure rate. We believe consumers should be advised to look at the failure rate, which in this case is the foreclosure rate, of the lender as well.” The committee approved a number of recommendations for proposed legislation during the upcoming session. "Providing support for folks that have lost their jobs and are facing foreclosure will certainly be a focus of the North Carolina General Assembly this session,” said Dan Schline, league senior vice president of association services. “We are pleased that the committee had the opportunity to hear today about the good work that SECU is doing here in North Carolina.” Raleigh, N.C.-based SECU has $16.4 billion in assets.