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CU System briefs (10/14/2010)

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* SILVER SPRING, Md. (10/15/10)--The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) has named Ellen Bernards of NFCC member agency GreenPath Debt Solutions as NFCC’s Professional Achievement and Counseling Excellence (PACE) Outstanding Individual Counselor for 2010. GreenPath, based in Madison, Wis., is a CUNA Strategic Services provider. Bernards created an on-site counseling program with Centro Hispano to deliver housing counseling services to predatory lending victims, acted as co-chair of the Dane County Foreclosure Prevention Task Force, assisted Spanish and Hmong individuals with personal finances, and more … * ALBANY, N.Y. (10/15/10)--The New York Credit Union Foundation has announced its LifeSmarts competition for 2010-2011 is now open and live at the program’s online site. The educational competition tests middle school and high school students nationwide on real-life consumer issues through online quizzes and live contests about consumer rights, the environment, health and safety, technology and finance. Students work with an adult coach and compete against other teams from New York, with state playoffs on March 30, 2011, in Schenectady (at the Varsity or high school level).. The state winner will proceed to the National Championship, which will be held April 30-May 3, 2011, in Hollywood, Calif. The winner of the Junior Varsity Competition (for middle schoolers) will be decided online, said the foundation … * ST. LOUIS (10/15/10)--Vantage CU debuted its new personal financial management tool, My$Manager, on Oct. 6 to members of MyVantage online banking at the St. Louis-based credit union. The tool works like other Web-based financial management tools that allow members to pull together and view their financial relationships from all institutions to make budgeting and goal setting easier. It features a dashboard that shows members’ entire financial picture based on accounts they’ve added; tools such as tagging; budgeting that tracks fixed and variable expenses; goal-setting and more. Members also can access their dashboard through their mobile phones, where they can check account balances, track goals and budgets and be alerted to upcoming bill deadlines …

CUs dumpster dive yields 1000 childrens books

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LEWISTON, Idaho (10/15/10--An employee of Clearwater CU, Lewiston, Idaho, found something unexpected in the credit union’s trash dumpster Wednesday morning--1,000 books. Debbie Taylor, an employee of the $30 million asset credit union, went to take out the trash at the start of her shift and discovered a large number of books in the dumpster, Taylor told klewtv.com (Oct. 14). “We went dumpster diving and got them out and saved all but about five of them,” she said. Many of the books—most of them children’s books--appeared brand new. The credit called the Lewiston Police, which is investigating. If the books are not claimed in two weeks, they will be donated to a worthy cause, Taylor said.

Fitch reaffirms then withdraws ratings of old U.S. Central

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NEW YORK (10/15/10--Fitch Ratings, a New York-based agency that rates corporate credit unions, has affirmed and withdrawn its ratings for U.S. Central Corporate FCU (USC) as a result of the formation of a new bridge corporate known now as the U.S. Central Bridge Corporate FCU. The bridge corporate assumed the operations of USC after USC was placed into conservatorship by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Because the conserved charter has ceased operations and has been placed into an asset management estate with its remaining assets liquidated through securitizations, Fitch said it no longer considers the ratings of USC as relevant to the agency’s coverage. It decided to withdraw the ratings, Fitch said in a press release. NCUA created the bridge corporate on Sept. 24 in conjunction with an announcement of its corporate resolution plans, which included new regulations for corporate credit unions, the removal of about $50 billion in legacy assets and the creation of the bridge corporate.

Fake-check scams program launched in Colorado

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (10/15/10)--A new consumer education program to protect consumers and financial institutions from fake-check scams has been launched in Colorado with the support of credit unions and the Credit Union Association of Colorado. Other supporters include the Colorado Bankers Association, the Independent Bankers of Colorado, the AARP Foundation/Colorado ElderWatch program, the Colorado office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Currently, 21 financial institutions—including five credit unions--have signed on to participate. They will hand out CFA’s brochure, Don’t Be A Target--written in English and Spanish about fake-check scams and similar frauds--to consumers who deposit checks or money orders of $1,000 or more, or who withdraw $1,000 or more from their accounts. "The key is to prevent consumers from being victimized by educating them about these scams at the very point where they may be at risk," said Susan Grant, CFA's director of Consumer Protection, who is coordinating the program. In fake-check scams, a consumer receives a genuine-looking check or money order for something and is asked to wire money somewhere in return. Examples include sending an "advance" on a sweepstakes or lottery winnings. Or a consumer--recruited to work at home as a "mystery shopper" or processing payments for a company--is instructed to send money elsewhere as part of the job. The check or money order is phony, and when it bounces, the victim owes the financial institution where it was deposited or cashed. The average loss is $3,000 to $4,000. “Every year, Coloradans of all stripes fall victim to check-cashing scams," said Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers. "One of the best ways to prevent yourself from being victimized is to recognize the warning signs of check scams. The most glaring sign of a check-fraud scam is if the person or organization sending you the check asks you to wire back part of the money. If this is the case, it is a scam.” The Credit Union Association of Colorado said, "Because of the close relationship that credit unions have with their members, they're committed to doing whatever they can to protect them from fraud." CFA provides training materials to institutions participating and advice about handing out the brochures. In addition to the brochures, there are two electronic versions, one in English and the other in Spanish, as well as a PowerPoint presentation for consumers and other educational materials, on CFA's website (use the resource link). Credit unions in Colorado interested in participating should contact Grant at 202-387-6121. The credit unions that are participating thus far in Colorado are:
* Arapahoe CU, Littleton; * Community Choice CU, Commerce City; * Credit Union of Colorado, Denver; * Rio Grande Operating CU, Denver; and * St. Vrain Valley CU; Longmont.

Mich. consumer survey findings mean CU opportunities

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LANSING, Mich. (10/15/10)--The economic crisis has hit Michigan consumers hard, presenting new challenges but also opportunities for credit unions in the state, indicates a 2010 Harris Interactive consumer study commissioned by the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL). Despite the current economic conditions--job losses, foreclosures and falling home prices--a majority of Michigan consumers describe their personal financial situation as “fair” or “very good.” More credit union members (79%) describe their financial situation as good than bank customers do--67% (Michigan Monitor Oct. 11). Overall, 81% of respondents reported that they pay their bills on time and have no debts in collection. However, 11% of credit union members and 8% of bank customers struggle to pay their bills and are receiving calls from collectors. And 5% of bank customers and 2% of credit union members have considered filing for bankruptcy or have filed already. Although several programs can help, the study shows that, overall, consumers are not knowledgeable about them. This could present opportunities for credit unions to better inform members, MUCL said. For roughly one in three Americans (32%), the key to financial security is having a steady income. This is down from 37% in first quarter 2009, according to a national consumer study done by Market Strategies International. A steady income and the ability to pay bills on time each account for one-third of what makes people feel secure in their financial situation. Also, 11% of credit union members and 8% of bank customers said that adding to their savings each month would contribute to their sense of financial security. And, 8% of bank customers and 7% of credit union members say that ability to pay their mortgage or rent each month would add to their sense of financial security, while 11% in both groups said that nothing contributes to their financial security in the current economy. Little difference exists between bank customers and credit union members when it comes to planning for unexpected financial trouble, the study indicated. Only two in five respondents have a financial emergency plan for unexpected changes to their household income. Only one in four consumers would talk to their lender if their household income changes and they are faced with some financial problems or a foreclosure threat. This implies that few consumers are aware of federal or state programs to help with financing their mortgages. Consumers say they know more about personal finance than they actually do, MCUL said. Almost nine out of 10 credit union members say they are “extremely” or “very” knowledgeable about personal finance, but the self-assessment is not reflective of consumers’ true financial literacy, MCUL said. For instance, when compared with bank customers (58%), more CU members (71%) describe their credit scores as “good” to “excellent,” but this difference is not reflected when people report their actual credit score. Only 37% of credit union members and 34% of bank customers have credit (FICO) scores of 700 or more. While nearly two-thirds of Michigan residents have a mortgage or own a home, only 37% of credit union members, and 33% of bank customers accurately know when a mortgage payment is considered delinquent. Similar numbers of bank customers and credit union members keep track of the money they spend, with 64% of bank customers and 61% of credit union members using a budget. Thirty-eight percent of credit union members and 33% of bank customers say they have an idea of how much they spend, but do not keep track of spending. Only 3% in each group admit that they have no idea of how much they spend and do not keep track of their overall spending. Credit union members are more likely than bank customers to say the safest place to invest money is a savings account (24% vs. 15%, respectively) or certificate of deposits (14% vs. 12%). Twice as many credit union members (6%) are using money market accounts, compared with bank customers (3%). However, more than one-third of consumers overall do not believe there is a safe place to invest money at this time.

Mica selected for 2011 Co-op Hall of Fame

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WASHINGTON (10/15/10)--Former Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Dan Mica is one of five outstanding cooperative leaders who will receive the cooperative community’s highest honor on May 4, 2011, when they are inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame. In addition to Mica, the 2011 inductees include: agri-business leader Noel Estenson; international cooperative developers Gloria and Stanley Kuehn; and civil rights leader and cooperative developer, Shirley Sherrod. They will be recognized at the annual Cooperative Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony at Washington’s National Press Club. A public forum—the first held with the event—will meet the afternoon of May 4. The forum, also at the National Press Club, will feature current and future Hall of Fame inductees in moderated panel discussions about the role of cooperatives in the U.S. and world economics. “Our congratulations go out to Dan Mica,” said CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney. “Entry into the Cooperative Hall of Fame is a distinct honor and well-deserved recognition for his wide-ranging record of accomplishment on behalf of credit unions, the cooperative community and the millions they serve." “The roster of the Cooperative Hall of Fame tells the story of the U.S. cooperative community through the lives and accomplishments of extraordinary individuals,” said Gasper Kovach Jr., board chair of the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF), which administers the Hall of Fame. He pointed out that the induction is “reserved for those who have made genuinely heroic contributions to the cooperative community,” and added that only 147 individuals have been inducted since the Hall of Fame was established in 1974. Mica’s 14-year tenure, from 1996 to 2010, as CUNA president/CEO represented a period of significant accomplishment for the credit union movement, said CDF’s press release. “At a time of fierce battles with the banking industry, this former Member of Congress led a proactive legal defense and legislative/regulatory agenda that won landmark battles for credit unions and made CUNA into one of the most respected trade associations in Washington, D.C.,” said CDF. “In addition to putting programs in place that raised the movement’s political stature in Washington and strengthened its grassroots networks, Mica is also a savvy communicator who is credited with boosting the credit unions’ visibility in the national media, leading to greater consumer awareness and increased membership growth.” CDF is the 501(c)(3) non-profit affiliate of the National Cooperative Business Association. The Hall of Fame gallery is on display in NCBA’s offices in Washington, D.C. and on a website (use the resource link). For dinner attendance or sponsorship information, contact CDF at 703-302-8097 or at tbuen@cdf.coop.

Two new nominations submitted for CUNA board

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MADISON, Wis. (10/15/10)--Two new nominations have been received for seats on the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) board of directors, bringing the total nominees to nine. The deadline for nominations is Oct. 22. Voting will take place from Oct. 27 through Dec. 17. The most recent nominations were for Stephen G. Behler, president/CEO of Kemba CU, West Chester, Ohio, for the District 2, Class B seat; and Jeff York, president/CEO of CoastHills FCU, Lompoc, Calif., for the District 6, Class B seat. Nominations also have been received for:
* Brett Martinez, president/CEO, Redwoods CU, Santa Rosa, Calif., running for a District 6, Class C seat in a special election; * Harriet May, president/CEO, GECU, El Paso, Texas, District 5, Class C. May is currently CUNA's chairman; * Paul Gentile, president/CEO, New Jersey Credit Union League, Hightstown, N.J., District 1, Class D; * Ed Williams, president/CEO, Discovery FCU, Wyomissing, Pa., for District 1, Class A; * Patricia A. Wesenberg, governmental affairs liaison, Marshfield (Wis.) Medical Center CU, District 4, Class A; * Wendell Lyons, president/CEO of the Kentucky Credit Union League, District 2, Class D; and * Maurice Smith, CEO, Local Government FCU, Raleigh, N.C., District 3, Class C.
Positions up for election are:
* District 1, Class A; * District 1, Class D; * District 2, Class B; * District 2, Class D; * District 3, Class C; * District 4, Class A; * District 5, Class C; and * District 6, Class B.
There is one special election: CUNA's current District 6, Class C director will step down from the board at the end of this year. The successful candidate in that election will be seated Jan. 1 and serve through the 2012 CUNA Annual General Meeting. The others elected will take office Feb. 28 and serve a three-year term that expires at the adjournment of the 2014 CUNA Annual General Meeting.

Michigan league endorses Snyder for governor

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LANSING, Mich. (10/15/10)--The Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) Board of Directors Thursday announced its endorsement of Rick Snyder (R) for governor, citing his understanding of financial institutions and his balanced policies regarding the role of state government in the financial sector. Snyder is the candidate who understands the importance of the financial services industry for strengthening Michigan’s economy, MCUL said. “As some lawmakers advocate concepts such as a state-owned bank and a two-year moratorium on foreclosures, credit union leaders, who represent main street financial institutions, believe that Michigan’s next governor should carefully limit the role of government in the financial sector,” MCUL & Affiliates CEO David Adams said. “Michigan’s credit unions and other lenders have been battered by economic conditions and additional government regulations,” he continued. “They are finding it difficult to lend in this environment. Our next governor will need to help all main street financial institutions get stronger in order to unfreeze credit markets. Rick Snyder has the leadership skills and market understanding to achieve that. “Many things are necessary to bring Michigan’s economy back and to create jobs. Access to capital from local lenders is one of the most important factors for a revitalized Michigan economy,” Adams said. A moratorium on foreclosures would have a chilling effect on Michigan’s economy and hurt credit unions and other lenders that are struggling to control mortgage-lending related losses stemming from Michigan’s high unemployment rate and struggling housing market, the league said. Credit unions have been lending during the economic crisis while other lenders have not been able to do so. During the past 12 months ending June 30, credit unions’ total loans were up by 1.2%. Michigan banks’ total loans went down 12% in the second quarter, according to data from MCUL. During the same period, all types of credit union lending rose. Small-business loans were up by more than 17% while Michigan banks’ business loans declined 5.7% in the first half of 2010. Michigan needs a governor who understands the important role local lenders, such as credit unions, play in strengthening the economy by making credit available to consumers and small businesses, said the league. This needs to be done without unnecessary government regulations and policies that would serve to further restrict access to credit by adding to lenders’ costs and restricting their ability to grow their loans and deposits, MCUL concluded.