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Social media can help CUs increase share of mortgage market

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LAS VEGAS (10/27/10)--Credit unions can use social media to create connections with realtors and increase their share of the mortgage market, according to Terri Murphy, chief information officer of U.S. Learning Inc., Memphis, Tenn. Murphy told the audience at the American Credit Union Mortgage Association (ACUMA) 2010 Annual Conference that realtors typically do not know credit unions offer mortgages. That means credit unions are often “starting from scratch” (National Mortgage News Oct. 25). Social media and personalized Web pages can help credit unions reach Realtors, Murphy said. She described LinkedIn, a professional social networking platform, as “one of the best ways to find strategic partners.” Murphy encouraged credit unions to try other social media tactics, including:
* Blog sites, which are cheaper to operate than a web site. Murphy said blogs should be “at the hub of a credit union’s online presence” because they allow credit unions to provide information about their brand and expertise directly to consumers. * Twitter “microblog” posts, which can offer tips to members about a credit union’s services. Twitter can also monitor what members and nonmembers say about credit unions to provide unfiltered feedback. *YouTube, which responds to consumer’s preference for video over text. Credit unions can record testimonials or make short videos about how they solve problems for members.
Murphy said credit unions should emphasize connections instead of marketing as they reach out to realtors. Building trust will be important to help realtors understand how credit union services differ from competitors.

Mass. CU receives award for helping Haiti earthquake victims

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BOSTON, Mass. (10/27/10)--Medical Area FCU, Brookline, Mass., has been honored for using a low-interest loan program to help employees of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) offer financial assistance to family and friends in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake. The hospital presented an Outstanding Recognition Award to the $66.4 million asset credit union to honor staff members for their support. A hospital representative noted that Ann-Marie Gordon, Medical Area FCU’s vice president of operations, worked with operating room assistants on both day and night shifts to offer confidential financial guidance after the earthquake.

Texas CU Flies Juntos Avanzamos Flag

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DALLAS (10/27/10)--When Fort Worth, Texas, resident Hermes Escobar’s mother-in-law had a heart attack, his family struggled with how they would come up with the money to fly to Nicaragua to be with her. He had been a member at Fort Worth-based EECU for a short time and had only just begun to establish a credit history. With no other options, he visited his credit union’s branch, and within minutes, EECU gave Escobar the loan his family needed to travel to his native Nicaragua. For the efforts the $1.13 billion-asset EECU makes to meet the financial services needs of members like Escobar, the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) awarded EECU with its Juntos Avanzamos designation (LoneStar Leaguer Oct. 27). “This designation is not one that is simply given away,” said Dick Ensweiler, TCUL president/ CEO. “Credit unions must earn it by demonstrating their undying commitment and heartfelt passion to the economic empowerment of Hispanic families. An unfortunate reality is that a significant gap continues to exist between our underserved communities and financial mainstream.” “Access to affordable financial services is critical to building wealth, and EECU is to be commended for their efforts to narrow this gap,” Ensweiler added. Juntos Avanzamos is an outreach initiative TCUL created to empower Texas credit unions to more effectively meet the needs of their Hispanic community. Earlier this year, TCUL partnered with Iowa-based Coopera Consulting to strengthen and expand the Juntos program. The top priority was to evaluate and improve the application process. Coopera had already developed the Hispanic Opportunity Navigator (HON), a comprehensive assessment tool that provides credit unions significantly greater insight into serving the Hispanic population. After completing this assessment, a credit union will have the prioritized steps necessary to become the financial institution of choice serving Hispanics within its field of membership. TCUL has now made it mandatory that any Texas credit union interested in earning the Juntos Avanzamos designation must first go through the HON. EECU was one of the early embracers of the HON. A press conference to celebrate EECU’s “induction” into the Juntos Avanzamos initiative was held at its northside branch Oct. 21, which is International Credit Union Day--a day in which credit unions and their members celebrate the history of the credit union movement. Escobar not only attended the Oct. 21 celebration, he also helped raise the “Juntos Avanzamos” flag--signaling to the Hispanic community that they can receive dignified services at this credit union.

ACUC adds CUNA Mutual breakouts to sessions

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WASHINGTON (10/27/10)--Always seeking to increase excellence in its conference offerings, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has announced an agreement with CUNA Mutual Group to bring its Discovery Conference breakout sessions to the 2011 America's Credit Union Conference (ACUC) & Expo taking place June 19 through June 22 in San Antonio, Texas. The ACUC & Expo is an annual educational conference known for innovative learning experiences and one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Attendees become better prepared to address the critical issues that their credit unions face, as well as prepare for future challenges that effect strategic growth. The conference attracts attendees from full-service credit unions who are key decision makers and their volunteer boards. “America’s Credit Union Conference & Expo is consistently rated as the most innovative and progressive conference in the industry,” said Bill Cheney, president/CEO of CUNA. “By collaborating to bring the Discovery sessions to America’s Credit Union Conference & Expo, we are leveraging our collective strengths to create a truly diversified and educational experience.” “Collaboration is more important today than ever before in the credit union market. By joining forces, CUNA and CUNA Mutual are collectively demonstrating true commitment to supporting and serving the credit union movement,” added Jeff Post, CUNA Mutual president/CEO. This year, in Las Vegas, the ACUC teamed with the World Council of Credit Unions to bring attendees The 1 Conference in July, bringing together a national and international focus on credit union issues. For more information, use the link.

CUNA Mutual challenges Kentucky CUs to strategize growth

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (10/27/10)--Scott Powell, managing director of MEMBERS Capital Advisers, Madison, Wis., challenged credit unions at the Kentucky Credit Union League Annual Meeting and Convention to generate ideas and strategies to grow their loan business. Powell told Kentucky credit union leaders that the global economy and capital markets face continued challenges that will hamper economic growth and keep short-term interest rates lower than expected. Meanwhile, consumers will struggle with job loss and underemployment. American households will engage in “de-leveraging” practices such as paying down debt, dealing with defaults and bankruptcies and remaining risk-averse in their spending and investments. While the Kentucky outlook is slightly better than the national economic recovery, margins for Kentucky credit unions are still tight and will continue to shrink. To grow their loan business in this environment, Powell said credit unions must become more aggressive. Powell advised credit unions to develop highly-targeted, value-added lending programs that appeal to higher-quality credits within their member profiles to build the asset side of the balance sheet.

Bank of Tanzania invites WOCCU to develop reg. framework

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MADISON, Wis. (10/27/10)--At the Bank of Tanzania’s request, the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) will soon begin developing and implementing a regulatory framework for the country's savings and credit cooperative societies (SACCOS), or credit unions. Bank of Tanzania is the country's central bank.
Click to view larger image The World Council of Credit union’s new regulatory framework will help strengthen Tanzania’s credit unions to bring safe and sound services to communities that only have access to informal savings and loan groups, such as the one pictured. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
WOCCU’s program will involve training regulators from the Cooperative Development Department (CDD)--part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives on risk-based supervision and regulatory systems and policies, and effective operational and financial standards for SACCOS. WOCCU’s initiative is its first credit union development program in Tanzania, an east-central African country. Tanzania’s SACCOS range from informal, community-based cooperatives to employer-based institutions that took root as part of a government-sponsored microfinance initiative in the 1960s. The institutions follow traditional operating guidelines whereby members are required to establish a particular amount in savings to obtain a loan, and loan sizes are determined as a multiple of the member’s total savings. Liquidity is scarce, and waiting periods to obtain a loan are long. Many SACCOS employees are volunteers, and despite being the most prevalent semi-formal financial intermediary in the country, regulation and supervision to date have been virtually non-existent. Though SACCOS lack proper guidance and oversight, the number of financial cooperatives in Tanzania has exploded in recent years. In 2009, more than 5,500 licensed savings and credit cooperative societies were in operation, an increase of more than 50% in three years. Despite the proliferation of SACCOS, no single entity provides centralized financial or statistical information on the institutions. SACCOS can be found operating for as long as six months in arrears without reliable data, and regulatory authorities have conducted little analysis of the information that does exist. As the SACCOS’ sector continues to grow, it faces an increasing need for central oversight to ensure appropriate financial discipline to protect member savings. With the increasing prevalence of SACCOS in Tanzania, potential outreach is high. Recent studies show that just 11% of the country’s population has access to some type of financial institution. In a 2007 appraisal of the SACCOS sector, WOCCU found that the system was capable of broadening the availability of financial services beyond its current outreach of 800,000 people nationwide, but that it needed to overcome a series of constraints before significant development could occur. “Tanzania’s SACCOS sector has enormous potential to provide safe and affordable financial services to a broad cross-section of the population, but its relative size and lack of regulatory resources have hindered growth,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Establishing proper reforms, a framework for safety and soundness and financial disciplines to protect member savings are the biggest hurdles and the first steps to reaching that potential.” WOCCU is working closely with CDD to develop and implement a modernized regulatory framework, train key staff in risk-based supervision, create an early warning system, develop policies for intervention and provide guidance in helping SACCOS improve their financial structure and operations.