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Vantage West pulls ads featuring fired Arizona coach

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TUCSON, Ariz. (10/13/11)--Tucson, Ariz.-based Vantage West CU is discontinuing television ads for a Community Food Bank that featured fired University of Arizona head football coach Mike Stoops. Stoops was fired Monday after a losing streak. The credit union told the Arizona Star that it will actively promote the goal behind the ads--raising money for the food bank as the winter holidays approach. However, it didn't want Stoops' dismissal to distract from or obscure the fundraising goal ( Oct. 12). Monday the credit union will shoot new TV ads with Vantage West CEO Bob Ramirez and Bill Carnegie, president of the food bank. The campaign will run throughout football season. Consumers who use their Vantage West credit or debit card to donate $10 or more to the food bank will receive a 2011 Arizona Football Commemorative Coin from the $1 billion asset credit union.

Follow promote ICU Day events on Twitter at icuday11

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MADISON, Wis. (10/13/11)--Credit unions are preparing for International Credit Union (ICU) Day on Oct. 20--just one week away--with all kinds of activities. They also should plan to follow others' and promote their own activities on ICU Day's Twitter account. Credit unions across the country can use #icuday11 as a hashtag to tweet their efforts. Tweeting will help promote credit unions, show their fun side, and engage the general public by using social media. Users new to Twitter can get some tips from the North Carolina Credit Union League's website. Use the link. This year's ICU Day theme, "Credit Unions Build a Better World," celebrates the economic and social contributions credit unions make to their communities worldwide. Financial cooperatives around the globe will celebrate their heritage and contributions on Oct. 20. "International Credit Union Day offers a unique opportunity to show our appreciation to our members--the folks who make it possible for credit unions to exist," said Sean M. Rathjen, president of Waukegan, Ill.-based Consumers CU. "This is a day to thank members for their business, to share a little credit union history and showcase the many wonderful benefits the movement has to offer." Members stopping by Consumers CU's six branches on ICU Day will be greeted by managers and staff and can enjoy treats and a gift "as a token of our appreciation," Rathjen said. FORUM CU, Indianapolis, Ind., plans to celebrate all week, with its "FORUM Financial Week," beginning Sunday through Oct. 21. Activities at its 12 branches will include free credit checks, budgeting with a branch representative, savings specials and kids' activities. Since October is Co-op Month, the United Nations and the cooperative business sector will launch 2012 International Year of Cooperatives on Oct. 31.

CU locator sites see large increases in traffic

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MADISON, Wis. (10/13/11)--Requests for information about credit unions and where consumers can locate a credit union to join increased dramatically since news of big banks' debit card fees broke in late September. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) reported that the volume of visits to its consumer site more than doubled during the period between Sept. 29 and Oct. 9. The site received 36,000 visits during the period, compared with 16,500 visits on average per month in the previous seven months, said Pat Keefe, CUNA vice president of communications and media outreach. "We had two months' worth of visitors in two weeks," Keefe told News Now. Also, the Facebook page added 2,500 friends during the period, bringing the total friends to 3,500, Keefe said. The announcement about Bank of America's plans to charge $5 a month for debit card use was made public Sept. 28. That announcement was followed by other banks' announcements they were testing similar fees in an effort to recoup loss of revenue from debit card interchange fees under the Dodd-Frank Act. The news brought outrage from consumers and a constant barrage of press reports about ways consumers could avoid the fees--including switching to credit unions. The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) reported that the number of visitors to its during the first week of October increased fivefold, with more than 1,500 consumers logging into the campaign website to help locate a credit union to join (Life is a Highway Oct. 12. The traffic was the highest amount of weekly traffic this year, said PCUA. "We believe the strong press credit unions are receiving since the Bank of America's debit card fee announcement, along with similar announcements from other banks, is resulting in a significant increase in inquiries from consumers and the press on how consumers can switch to a credit union," said Jim McCormack, PCUA president/CEO. Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler, in discussing the response of consumers to the fees and the deluge of positive stories in the media about credit unions as a fees alternative, said, "Consumer frustration with the banking sector creates an ideal opportunity for credit unions to capture more members. "Those of us in the movement already know that credit unions are the smarter choice; however, as these fed-up customers say goodbye to their banks, it’s up to us to ensure they look toward credit unions as their next financial partner,” continued Ensweiler. “Through tools like the, we are able to provide consumers with information they need to make an informed choice.” He urged credit unions to not miss out on the opportunity to educate the public about the credit union difference.

Allegacy receives patent for card fraud measures

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WINSTON SALEM, N.C. (10/13/11)--Allegacy FCU, a $928 million asset credit union in Winston-Salem, N.C., has been assigned a patent developed by Dean A. Adams, Winston-Salem, N.C., for a “bank card fraud detection and/or prevention methods.” The patent involves setting a threshold for card transaction frequencies--which if exceeded, could indicate potentially fraudulent card activity. The patent application was filed Dec. 13, 2007 (Targeted News Service Oct. 12). The abstract of the patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office states: “Bank card fraud detection and/or prevention methods can generally involve determining a common point of compromise and/or identifying merchants associated with bank card transaction frequencies which exceed a predetermined threshold value which is indicative of potentially fraudulent bank card activity. These methods can further involve identifying other bank cards used at the common point of compromise.”

Coopera develops prepaid card for Hispanics

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DES MOINES, Iowa (10/13/11)--Coopera, in partnership with sister company and card processor The Members Group (TMG), introduced a reloadable Visa prepaid card designed for the Hispanic market. The Coopera Card gives Hispanic cardholders access to a secure financial management tool and eliminates the need to pay high fees for check-cashing, money order or money transfer services. No credit history or taxpayer identification number is required to become a cardholder. Coopera cardholders can load funds via direct deposit of their wages, at an issuer’s branch, online or at any Visa ReadyLink merchant. The cards can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted, and at any ATM branded with the Visa logo. Hispanic cardholders with family in Latin America can add secondary account holders to each Coopera Card account. This offers cardholders a safe and inexpensive way to make money accessible to family, said Coopera. The Coopera Card is supported by Spanish and English cardholder services via and live agents, and bilingual and culturally relevant marketing materials and disclosures. The program also offers bilingual text message alerts. Young and largely underserved, the Hispanic community is a critical group for community-based financial institutions, according to Coopera. Yet, members of this group can be difficult to reach through traditional product and marketing strategies. “Many Hispanics avoid traditional financial services due to a lack of traditional identification documents, language barriers or a mistrust of financial institutions,” said Miriam De Dios, Coopera vice president. “Reloadable prepaid cards are among the most effective ways to introduce Hispanic community members to a community-based financial institution.” Amarillo (Texas) Community FCU is among the first to offer the Coopera Card to its Hispanic members. “We view the Coopera Card as a way to ease our Hispanic members into the financial mainstream,” said Arna Reynolds, Amarillo Community FCU CEO. “A reloadable card does not allow a cardholder to spend more than he has, yet he isn’t operating on a cash basis.” Coopera and TMG will host a free webinar for financial institutions about the Coopera Card on today at 1 p.m. (CT). Registration is open online. Coopera is an Iowa-based economic development firm focusing on emerging markets that present unique growth opportunities for credit unions. It is majority owned by the Iowa Credit Union League and is a strategic alliance partner of the Credit Union National Association.

Iowa commissioner OKs CUNA Mutuals new ownership structure

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MADISON, Wis. (10/13/11)--The Iowa Insurance Commissioner has approved CUNA Mutual Group’s plan for a new mutual ownership structure. The plan, which more than 93% of policyholders voted to approve on Sept. 7, is expected to take effect Jan. 31. It will reorganize CUNA Mutual Insurance Society (CMIS) from a mutual insurance company into a mutual insurance holding company structure. As a mutual insurance holding company, CUNA Mutual will continue to be mutually owned, with policyholders having full ownership of the new parent mutual holding company entity. Approval by the Iowa Insurance Commissioner was the step needed for the reorganization to move forward. “The conversion to a mutual holding company structure will maintain policyholders’ rights and significantly enhance our ability to compete and serve,” said Jeff Post, CUNA Mutual president/CEO. “This is a natural and positive next step in our continuing commitment to credit unions and to the successful and proven strategy we have been pursuing in recent years.” Insurance policies and annuity contracts will remain the same and policyholder benefits and rights will not be reduced or altered in any way, said the company. Premiums will not increase as a result of the mutual holding company reorganization.

WEOKIE Okla. Lt. Gov. to unveil pilot fin ed program

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (10/13/11)--The WEOKIE Foundation in Oklahoma City and TTCU The Credit Union in Tulsa, Okla., are unveiling a pilot high school financial education curriculum project. In 2006, WEOKIE CU formed the WEOKIE Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) public charity that provides a formal avenue of charitable giving for the credit union and offers financial education and scholarship opportunities to Oklahoma City and the surrounding communities. Today at a press conference hosted by Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, the curriculum will be demonstrated to the press at Yukon (Okla.) High School. “Oklahoma becomes the first state in the nation to offer this high-tech and turnkey curriculum for free to all teachers in the state,” Lamb said. “We’re leading the nation in this initiative, thanks to the tremendous effort of WEOKIE and TTCU, who have underwritten the entire “FoolProof Oklahoma’ project. All of our children will benefit from this project.”

CO-OP Network CUs services on equal footing with big banks

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (10/13/11)--Local credit unions of any size are now competing on an equal footing with large national banks offering consumers easy, convenient access to their accounts, according to CO-OP Financial Services. At the same time, credit unions continue to maintain their traditional advantage of offering low loan rates and fewer service fees compared to banks, the company added. “With banks announcing more fees and tougher fee exemptions, they have partially tried to justify these measures by emphasizing the scope of their ATM and branch networks,” said Stan Hollen, president/CEO of CO-OP Financial Services. “However, credit unions cooperate with each other in a way banks will not, so credit unions can offer the same level of convenience, along with service that survey after survey confirms is superior to banks in consumer satisfaction,” Hollen added. CO-OP Financial Services manages CO-OP Network, a nationwide network of 28,000 ATMs that allow members of 3,000 participating credit unions to access their accounts without incurring a surcharge. These ATMs are located on credit union premises and retail locations, including 5,500 7-Eleven stores, and Costco, Walgreens and other outlets. CO-OP Financial Services also allows members of participating credit unions to access 4,400 physical branch locations throughout the U.S. via CO-OP Shared Branching. The shared branching concept is unique to credit unions and allows members to enter any of the 4,400 locations marked with the CU Service Center logo and transact their business as if they were visiting a branch of their own home credit union.

CUs keep mortgages on books not much loan growth

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MADISON, Wis. (10/13/11)--In a time when overall loan growth is weak, credit unions are keeping a lot of mortgages on their books, according to a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) economist. “Interest rates won’t go up any time soon, but at some point they surely will,” Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economic and statistics, told News Now, adding that 34% of total credit union assets are in long-term assets, up from 26% in 2007.
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“That shows longer-term assets are growing because credit unions are holding more mortgages on their books and suggests credit unions have more interest-rate risk, so that you get liability sensitivity as liability costs rise faster than asset yields,” he added. “This can very negatively affect earnings, and in some cases, capital.” So, what should credit unions do, given that environment? “Credit unions should be writing loans that are up to secondary market standards, so they can be sold if they need to be sold,” Schenk said. CUNA’s U.S. Credit Union Profile for mid-year 2011 indicates that while credit unions are holding on to about half of their mortgages, the percentage of originations sold has doubled from 2007 to 2010. “That shows that credit unions are actively engaged in measuring, monitoring and controlling interest-rate risk,” Schenk said. What credit unions have seen during the past few years with overall loan growth is that members are focused on paying down debt, so loan growth is very weak, Schenk explained. With current mortgage rates at historic lows, housing affordability is high, and therefore there is a lot of refinance activity and stealing of loans from other lenders. At mid-year 2011, about 62% of mortgage originations were refinancings--down from 70% in 2010, Schenk added, citing figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Should credit unions get more aggressive in pursuing mortgage loans? “Credit unions should respond to what their members want,” Schenk advised. “They are doing that. Credit unions should market effectively, and establish relationships with realtors--some have realtors in their CUSOS [credit union service organizations]--to be more effective lenders.” Credit unions are aware of the need to diversify their portfolios, but demand for loans is very low, and consumer credit scores have come down, Schenk said. “The financial position of the average consumer has deteriorated,” he added. “Members are in an extended process of trying to mend their balance sheets.” Last week, it was widely reported in the media that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dipped below 4% for the first time on record. The economics of the mortgage lending business is such that the secondary market--the government-sponsored enterprises of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--can’t afford to let rates go significantly below 4% because then they couldn’t cover their costs, Schenk explained. “So even though the 10-year Treasury rates may go down because of the Federal Reserve’s recent ‘twist’ [of the yield curve by lowering long-term market interest rates], 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages may not follow it down,” Schenk said.

Regulations addressed in four LSCU meetings with regulators

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (10/13/11)--The League of Southwest Credit Unions held four meetings with representatives from Alabama, Florida and federal regulatory agencies to discuss issues and look ahead to potential issues in late September.
Click to view larger image The League of Southeast Credit Unions (LSCU) recently held four meetings with regional regulatory agencies. From left, NCUA Supervisory Examiners Ricky Crews and Sharon Daigle; Bill Berg, LSCU vice president, regulatory affairs; Laura Vann, LSCU vice president, cooperative initiatives; and Rosanna Jacobsen, LSCU director, compliance solutions. (Photo provided by League of Southeast Credit Unions)
The League’s meetings with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation’s Division Director Linda Charity and Bureau Chief Bruce Ricca centered on upcoming issues and ways the league and its service corporation, LEVERAGE, can help credit unions with products and services. Charity and Ricca talked about four areas of concern:
* Increased scrutiny of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA); * Interest-rate risk; * New regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and * Enterprise risk management.
In meetings with Alabama Credit Union Administration (ACUA) Administrator Larry Morgan and Credit Union Assistant Administrator Lloyd Moore, the league once again emphasized the services it provides. The ACUA talked about the issues that concern its staff:
* Flat-loan demand/commercial lending; * Troubled debt restructuring (TDR); * Earnings; and * Yield on assets.
LSCU’s meetings with National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) supervisory examiners addressed many of the same issues. NCUA Supervisory Examiners Dave Freeman, Sharon Daigle and Ricky Crews said credit unions can expect increased examiner attention to:
* Asset-liability management program and interest-rate risk; * Enterprise-wide shocks on credit risk; * BSA annual training for staff and volunteers and independent testing; * TDRs on loan modifications; * Operating expenses for small and mid-size credit unions; * Elevation of documents of resolution (DORs) and repeat DORs to letter of understanding and agreements; * Financial literacy training for board members; and * Full disclosure of allowance for loan and lease loss.
The NCUA Supervisory Examiner in Alabama, Robert Parrish, told the league his office is looking at a number of issues, including:
* Member business lending--NCUA is looking for a proven track record of ability to underwrite and manage these types of loans. * Loan participations--Participating credit unions should do the same underwriting as the originating credit union. * BSA--NCUA expects documentation of training and may require independent testing. Robust documentation when not filing a SAR helps build confidence in a BSA Program. * TDRs--Credit unions should follow accounting guidance. TDRs are a concern if credit unions made accommodations because members were experiencing financial difficulty.

iCNNMoneyi names two CUs among seven awesome FIs

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MADISON, Wis. (10/13/11)--As big banks continue to feel the heat in the media for charging high fees, a CNNMoney article Tuesday identified two credit unions as awe-inspiring in a recent article. In the article, “7 banks that are still awesome,” Alliant CU, Chicago, and Connexus CU, Wausau, Wis., were spotlighted for their free checking and accessibility. “Alliant is one of the largest credit unions in the U.S.,” the article said. “And while it’s located in Illinois, residents in any state can join if they meet certain requirements.” Alliant, with $7.8 billion in assets, offers a checking account with no monthly service fee and no minimum balance requirement, according to CNNMoney. Connexus CU, with $341 million in assets, offers a checking account with no monthly service fee and no minimum balance requirement. The credit union offers a 1.75% annual percentage yield on checking account balances of up to $25,000 for members who use their debit cards at least 10 times a month, make one direct deposit each month and receive electronic statements. “The account is free, carries no minimum balance requirement and comes with free online banking, mobile banking and online bill pay,” the article said. To read the article, use the link.

CU System briefs (10/12/2011)

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* MADISON, Wis. (10/13/11)--For first time, a credit union has been named Madison, Wis.'s Metropolitan statistical area's top home purchase financing lender, according to annual Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) data. Madison-based UW CU, with assets more than $1 billion, was reported as advancing nearly $83 million for residential home purchases in 2010 in the area, which includes Dane, Sauk and Iowa counties. "This is the first time the federally published data has reported a credit union in top position" for the area, said Paul Kundert, president/CEO of UW CU. "Although home purchase volumes have been trending down, our home purchase mortgage lending market share has been on the rise and has more than doubled since 2005," he added. The credit union offers FHA, VA, WHEDA, My Community and Home Attainable loan programs to "help us provide the greatest possible access to affordable ownership," he said … * SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (10/13/11)--Springfield, Ore.-based Northwest Community CU has named John Iglesias as its new president/CEO. He succeeds Helen Byrnes, who recently retired. A former president/CEO at Salal CU, Seattle, Iglesias also has executive level experience with two of Washington State's largest credit unions--BECU and Washington State Employees CU. He also recently retired from the Navy Reserves as an intelligence officer. Northwest Community said Iglesias will build on the credit union's strong financial position to expand and improve services. The credit union, which served primarily wood products professionals, currently serves 15 counties between the Portland and Medford as well as between North Bend and Redmond. It has almost $700 million in assets … * HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (10/13/11)--The New Jersey Credit Union League
New Jersey Radio Spot

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began airing a 60-second radio spot on a statewide radio station this week, encouraging listeners to urge members of Congress to raise credit unions' member business lending (MBL) cap. With today's challenging economy, New Jersey's small businesses need financial support. "Congress can help do something about that," and New Jersey's credit unions stand ready to help, the ad says. By raising the MBL cap, New Jersey credit unions would have $185 million freed up for small business loans and 2,000 jobs without costing taxpayers a dime. It pointed listeners to for more information. The Credit Union National Association and credit unions have been pushing for Congress to raise the MBL cap to 27.5% from 12.25% to enable credit unions to assist the economy by offering more small business loans.
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