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Hispanic-Engagement 'Don't Tax My CU' Webinar Is Wed.

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/13)--The Credit Union National Association and Coopera remind credit unions that they will offer a free webinar on engaging Spanish-speaking members to help protect the credit union tax status at 2 p.m. CT Wednesday.
 
CUNA has teamed up with Coopera to engage in bilingual political advocacy, beginning with "No Le Cobren Impuestos a Mi Credit Union," a complete, Spanish-language version of the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign.
 
The webinar will offer key message points for Spanish-speakers and offers tips for using campaign tools that include:
  • A video and website (use the link);
  • Form letters that members can send to Congress;
  • A Spanish option on the toll-free number, 877-642-4223;
  • Instructions for social media engagement; and
  • Graphics, poster, statement stuffer, flyer.
  The webinar is beneficial for league representatives and credit union leaders, including CEOs, communications, marketing, and bilingual staff who work with Spanish-speaking members.

Did Members Turn To CUs During Government Shutdown?

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/13)--An informal News Now survey of some of the credit unions that offered assistance during the federal government shutdown found that members indeed took notice of the special offerings. The level of requests varied from credit union to credit union, of course, but even many members that didn't end up in need of assistance inquired if only to consider their options in an uncertain time.
 
All the credit unions contacted reported that members were grateful for those options.
 
Associated CU, Norcross, Ga., offered 60-day, 0% interest federal employee relief loans for up to $750. In what Chad Evans, vice president of the credit union's contact center, described as a "whirlwind" of activity Associated CU granted 350 loans through the program.
 
"It was received very positively. Members really appreciated that we recognized that a core base our membership was being mandated a financial hardship," said Evans, "I give credit to our CEO [Lin Hodges] for seeing this through."
 
Miami (Fla.) FCU, offered a Furlough Relief Loan of up to $3,000 interest-free for 60 days. The credit union received roughly 100 applications and booked about $200,000 in loans, according to the credit union's CEO A. "Buster" Castiglia.  
 
"We had a lot of federal employees that were hurting," Castiglia said. "I honestly didn't realize the depth of their need. Just a couple weeks can put people on bankruptcy's door. We were more than happy to help them."
 
New Mexico Federal Educators FCU, Albuquerque, N.M., offered a $6,000 loan with 0% interest for up to one year for federal workers. As of Oct. 21, New Mexico Educators CU has had about 100 members apply for loans with more "trickling in" throughout the week, said Anneliese Elrod, senior vice president strategic development at the credit union.
 
"In addition to feeling the pinch, there was the uncertain factor of knowing when they were going back to work and when they would be paid," Elrod said.
 
One member, who was not employed by the government, made it a point to stop by the credit union to say she was proud to be a member of a financial institution that offered such assistance, Elrod said
 
"Credit unions are founded to help their members and their surrounding communities and this loan helped to do that," Elrod said.
 
MCLG Family CU in Mason City, Iowa, offered a special loan allowing federal employees to borrow up to $1,000 without collateral at 4.99% interest--lower than its normal short-term small loan rate by 8.51 percentage points. It also allowed members to skip a scheduled monthly payment on loans.
 
CEO Matthew Chizek said that while the emergency line of credit was used by only a small handful of MCLG's 5,300 members, the cooperative got a lot of positive feedback for offering the deal.
 
"It's comforting to the membership that the institution is going to be there for them in good times and bad, and the vision and values are not going to change," he said. "You don't have to be a multimillionaire to be taken care of. Most of our members are blue collar, and we're proud of that."
 
The 35-year old Chizek, who had only been on the job for a week when the government partially shut down, said he was grateful that the board supported the program, which was quickly built as congressional budget talks broke down.
 
Due to a number of mergers throughout its history, MCLG's membership is drawn from a local hospital, a local cement company, and public sector employees at the city, county and federal levels.
 
 M-O FCU, Huron, S.D. launched a "We Stand Ready…" campaign geared toward the federal and postal employees it serves. The credit union also offered penalty-free early withdrawal on certificates, 0% loans for missed payroll and deferred loan payments.
 
The $25 million-asset credit union received about 24 inquiries about assistance and granted eight loans. "I think members were more interested in knowing what their options were," said Tiffanie Gebhart, M-O FCU's marketing coordinator. "There's security in knowing that help is there when you need it."
 
Federal Employees CU, Des Moines, Iowa, offered no-interest loan and payment waivers for current loans to furloughed government workers. Mike Whittie, CEO of the $18 million-asset credit union, said about 30 to 35 members either skipped payments or took advantage of loan offers.
 
"Those who live paycheck to paycheck needed some assistance," Whittie said. "They couldn't go without anything. And they were very grateful," Whittie said. "It was all out of need, and as soon as they got their back pay, all the loans were taken care of."
 
Credit unions received extensive media attention for their efforts to reach out to furloughed employees.  Mainstream press not only focused on credit unions' efforts to assist furloughed federal employees, but also carried general articles touting the benefits of credit unions.

CU System Briefs (10/28/2013)

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  • DALLAS, Texas (10/28/13)--Eight Brazilian credit union trade association executives on educational exchanges in Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma are in the second week of a three-week internship program. The executives, from the Porto Alegro-based Sicredi, have been interning with member credit unions within the Cornerstone Credit Union League, the league for credit unions in the three states. (News Now Oct. 8) Maikel Zenker, director of business for Sicredi Vale do Taquari RS, and temporary intern at Texas Trust CU in Mansfield, described the exchange of knowledge and strategy as "incredible." Luciane Werner, another Sicredi executive interning at Texas Trust, visited American Airlines FCU, Educational Employees CU (EECU), Forth Worth City CU and Unity One CU along with Zenker. The pair also attended the Fort Worth Chapter of Credit Unions' chili cook-off fundraiser for the Texas Cornerstone Credit Union League Political Action Committee.  They also attended Catalyst Corporate FCU's financial management seminar. The other six executives participating in the exchange are interning with Arkansas FCU, Communication FCU, Tinker FCU, TruService Community FCU, A+ FCU, Amplify FCU, United Heritage CU and University FCU. The exchange between Sicredi and the Cornerstone League was first launched in 2010 through the World Council of Credit Unions ...
  • COLUMBUS, Ga. (10/28/13)--A Columbus man who faces one count of making terroristic threats against credit union employees allegedly told them "heads will roll" and reportedly made reference to an arsenal of 30 weapons and ammunition (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Oct. 24). According to court testimony, Herman Wire stands accused of harassing employees at TIC FCU through a weeks-long campaign that included threatening voice mails and a refusal to leave the 13th Street branch. Police testified that TIC had to hire off-duty police officers in response to the alleged disturbances. Wire has several accounts with the credit union and has alleged that it is "stealing his money." He also stands accused of threatening to "kick [the] ass" of a TIC security guard, and calling him a "vile dog." According to police, Wire tried to buy a submachine gun recently, but his request was turned down by clerks at the gun store. When he was arrested on Sept. 12 for making terroristic threats, it was reported that a firearm was discovered in his vehicle. The judge presiding over the case set a bond at $10,000, and ordered an evaluation of Wire's competency ...
  • HARRISBURG, Penn. (10/28/13)--Compliance officials with the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association attended a National Credit Union Association open board meeting on Thursday in Alexandria, Va. (Life Is A Highway, Oct. 25). Senior compliance and operations officer Joanne Broaderick, compliance and operations officer Colleen Mateer, and executive vice president and general counsel Rick Wargo sat in on the federal regulators' meeting, in addition to talking compliance trends with the management team of NCUA Region II. On Thursday, the NCUA finalized a rule on liquidity and emergency funding, and another rule on the electronic filing of financial reports. The federal regulator also proposed a regulation that would mandate capital planning and stress testing for federally insured credit unions with more than $10 billion in assets ...

Minn. Commerce Commissioner Visits Cook Area CU

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COOK, Minn.  (10/28/13)--Cook (Minn.) Area CU hosted a meeting on Tuesday with the Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to discuss the credit union's efforts in providing financial education and to commend the credit union for its educational services to students and the community at large.
 
Click to view larger image Rich Crettol, right, CEO of Cook Area CU, told Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman about the credit union's financial education efforts to benefit its members, the communities and local schools. Commissioner Rothman was in Cook Oct. 22 as part of his statewide outreach tour focused on financial literacy and financial capability. (Photo provided by Cook Area CU)
Cook Area CU was among the commissioner's stops on his fall "outreach tour," in which he is visiting credit unions, banks, community organizations and local businesses across the state.
 
In recent years, financial literacy and financial capability have been a major focus for Rothman and the Department of Commerce. Through the outreach tour, the commissioner is learning more about the efforts of organizations across the state to help improve the lives of consumers by stressing the importance of personal financial management.
 
Rothman applauded Cook Area CU for its financial counseling and educational programs for members and the community, and for its involvement in the North Woods School, a K-12 school in Cook.
 
"It's really amazing and terrific to see how they have reached out to the local school district and kids--to be able to show the value of personal finance and financial education," Rothman said. "I commend them for doing that."

Credit union staff spent the afternoon discussing their various programs, including:
  • Educational workshops and financial counseling through a partnership with Lutheran Social Services;
  • Contributions to schools as guest speakers on topics such as buying a car, balancing a checkbook and obtaining student loans;
  • A partnership with BizKid$, the PBS financial education TV show and curriculum that the credit union offers free to all five schools in its district;
  • Cook Area CU's Credit Builder Loan Program, which helps members with poor credit or no credit reduce debt, improve their credit rating, and establish good savings habits;
  • Participation in National Credit Union Youth Week in April, which works to engage students of all ages and teach them basics of personal finance;
  • College scholarships for high school students, a program that was established in 1982; and
  • An annual Family Fun Night in October, which welcomes hundreds of kids, and uses the opportunity to teach financial education to attendees.
 "With the financial education we provide, people know that we're here to help them," said Rich Crettol, Cook Area CU. "This is how we take care of our members."

In The Media: Advocacy, Tax Status, New Regulations

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/13)--The Credit Union National Association and credit unions were featured in local and national media this week weighing in on core advocacy issues including credit union tax status, and the impact of new regulations on mortgage lending activity.  
 
CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney was featured in a The Hill's "On the Money" blog discussing a CUNA survey released Monday showing that 60% of the respondents say they will have to discontinue, delay or reduce their mortgage loan product offerings because of the changes, potentially leaving consumers with fewer options.
 
"CUNA has urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to allow more time for compliance, since seven rules will hit within a two-week period, which poses a monumental compliance challenge," said Cheney told The Hill.

Paul Gentile, CUNA executive vice-president of strategic communications and engagement was interviewed for a Oct. 25 Fox Business article on warning signs of elder financial exploitation.
 
"Ideally, if you are older, you need a trusted circle and that trusted circle could be your lawyer or it could be your financial advisor," Gentile counseled in the article. "Let your adult children know where all the money is."
 
Ryan Donovan, CUNA senior vice president for legislative affairs, was interviewed for a Politico article that discussed credit union tax reform. "We're out there helping consumers get loans and helping consumers acquire and maintain savings, while banks exist to make money for their shareholders," said Donovan. "They are completely different organizations."
 
CUNA was featured in a Bankrate.com banking blog about stress tests for credit unions. The article said CUNA has expressed concern about disclosing the results of stress tests.
 
"In addition to questions surrounding what these tests would look like, another large issue looms--cost," the article said. "According to unofficial estimates included in a release from CUNA, arranging the tests could carry a potential tab of $4 million in the first year alone."
 
Twelve credit unions were included in a GoBankingRates.com article on 20 banks and credit unions that are building strong local economies through financial education. The credit unions include:
  • America First CU, Ogden, Utah;
  • Cy-Fair Federal CU, Houston;
  • Dakota Plains FCU, Lemmon, S.D.;
  • Flag CU, Tallahassee, Fla.;
  • Foothill CU, Arcadia, Calif.;
  • Great Lakes CU, Chicago;
  • LA Financial CU, Los Angeles;
  • Mission FCU, San Diego;
  • MONEY FCU, Syracuse, N.Y.;
  • Space City CU, Houston;
  • Travis CU, Sacramento, Calif.; and
  • Ventura County CU, Ventura, Calif.
The Oct. 22 edition of Buffalo Business First featured two are credit union officials that were honored as credit union rock stars by Credit Union Magazine. Featured in the article were Cara Carlevatti, member development coordinator for Great Erie FCU in Orchard Park, N.Y., and Emma Smalley, financial counselor for Boulevard FCI in Amherst, N.Y.
 
The Oct. 25 edition of the Boulder County Business Report discussed area credit unions that have capitalized on the member owned Credit Union Direct auto loan program. Premier Members CU in Boulder grew 35% in membership in 2012, largely because of an uptick in lending through the statewide auto loan program Credit Union Direct Connect, Carlos Pacheco, the credit union's CEO told the Business Report. Boulder Valley CU of Boulder was also featured in the article.

Filene Offers Report on CU Financial Sustainability

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/13)--A new white paper from the Filene Research Institute explores the sustainability of the credit union model, and offers credit unions ideas for maintaining sustainably "excellent" organizations.
 
"Credit Union Financial Sustainability: A Colloquium at Harvard University," is based on a series of presentations made at Harvard University earlier this year.
 
The report identifies four traits for sustainably excellent organizations. They include:
  • Have the stomach to be bad. The No. 1 obstacle to service excellence is actually an emotional obstacle. The paper cites a financial institution that became the fastest growing banking in the U.S. on deposits by bucking conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom holds that the most attractive rates will attract members and customers. The bank offered the worst rates in every local market, but it differentiate itself by offering the best hours and offering the best customer interactions.
  • Avoid gratuitous service. Simply put, gratuitous service is giving members stuff for free. Unfortunately, service excellence is unsustainable if a financial institution offers too much gratuitous service. The paper advises credit unions to design reliable funding mechanisms into the service offerings. One example is offered by the financial institution with extended hours. But if members are asked to pay for services, it must be palatable. For example, charging for a teller is not palatable.
  • Design systems so the typical employee can be excellent. Most organizations try to set their best employees up for success-but they are the most difficult to retain. But sustained excellence comes from aiming at the middle of the pack, not at the top. Credit unions shouldn't optimize for their best employees because they can never have enough of them.
  • Teach customers to behave differently. When members are blocking a credit union's path to sustainability, they must be convince to behave differently for the credit union to thrive. It's pretty easy to get members to behave differently and have them dislike you for it. But great organizations can get members to behave differently while simultaneously boosting satisfaction. Starbucks did it by training customers to order drinks "the cool way," which is also the way baristas prepare drinks most efficiently.

SafeAmerica CU Lends Expertise to Members

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/13)--Members don't just get an auto loan at SafeAmerica CU--they receive an education on the car-buying process that makes them better consumers, according to an article in Credit Union Front Line Newsletter.
 
"The car-buying process has become so competitive, so intimidating--even with promises of no haggling--that during or after a sale, members often feel like they've been taken advantage of," says Amrita Prasad, lending manager at the $309 million-asset credit union in Pleasanton, Calif. "We want to walk them through the process, step by step. They feel someone is on their side."
 
Consider these two recent examples in which loan officers went above and beyond to help members choose a vehicle and loan that fit their budget.
 
Barbara Reddy, a SafeAmerica employee for 23 years, consulted with a member seeking a new vehicle to accommodate her growing family. The woman acknowledged a lack of confidence in negotiating a favorable price at a dealership.
 
In handling the preapproval application, Reddy not only gave the member a competitive interest rate but explained the process. She showed the member how to conduct research through the credit union's website, and Reddy obtained the vehicle's invoice price and specifications before the member went to the dealership.
 
In a letter to the credit union, the member thanked Reddy for her honesty and training.
 
"She eats, sleeps, and breathes SafeAmerica," Darrell Kazak, vice president of lending, says of Reddy. "No one knows the company better than she does on a consumer lending level.
 
"She consistently receives thank-you letters, meets goals, and sets a great example for newer staff as a team leader, always providing coaching and assistance. I can't speak highly enough of her."
 
Meanwhile, Shena Sunsin assisted a member who desperately needed a commuter car after experiencing some life-changing issues. Two banks denied the woman an auto loan due to substandard credit before she applied to SafeAmerica.
 
After learning the circumstances contributing to the member's credit score, Sunsin structured an auto loan with monthly payments that fit her budget. Sunsin also contacted one of the credit union's preferred dealerships and located a car for the member, who then purchased it.
 
"She's one of those loan officers who won't stop at the first challenge," Kazak says of Sunsin, an employee for two years. "It's not about meeting a sales goal-it's about being there for the members. She's getting a loyal following, too.
 
"We're a financial family network--that's what we preach," Kazak continues. "We're a full-service credit union that'll protect our members every step of the way."

Champion CU Hosts Elder Fraud And Exploitation Conference

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CANTON, N.C. (10/28/13)--Credit unions are at the forefront of the fight again elder fraud. As an example of that dedication, Champion Credit Union hosted an Elder Fraud and Financial Exploitation Conference earlier this month in Canton, N.C.
 
The conference featured Caroline Farmer from the North Carolina attorney general's office, Postal Inspector Eric Wise who spoke on mail fraud, Mitchell Rathbone and Daniel Blagg with the Haywood County Sheriff's Department, who discussed Project Lifesaver, and Sarah Wenzel with Wenzel and Wenzel Attorneys at Law, who explored powers of attorney and estate planning.
 
Project Lifesaver is a free program that uses radio-frequency technology to find seniors who stray and return them safely to their families.
 
Following the speakers was an informational fair featuring representatives from the Alzheimer Association, Haywood County Department of Social Services, the Senior Resource Center, the Postal Inspection Office, the Attorney General's Office, the Haywood County Sheriff's Department, and Champion CU.
 
In September, National Credit Union Administration Chairman Debbie Matz issued a letter to credit unions strongly encouragomg them to ensure their staff members are  trained on the potential signs that might trigger a report of elder abuse or financial exploitation.  News Now Sept. 25)
 
"Elder abuse involves the illegal or improper use of an older adult's funds, property or assets. Older adults can become targets of financial exploitation by family members, caregivers, financial advisors, home repair contractors, and scam artists. If you or your staff know the older adults in your membership, you may be able to spot irregular behavior or account activity," Matz wrote.
 
She also urged credit unions to review their own policies and procedures "to ensure they are consistent with state law and the interagency guidance regarding reporting requirements when a financial institution suspects elder abuse or financial exploitation."
The letter followed the release of joint federal financial regulatory guidance which clarifies that financial institutions may report suspected elder financial abuse to appropriate authorities.

Wis. CUs Formalize Commitment To Guardsmen, Reservists

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MADISON, Wis. (10/28/13)--A ceremony highlighting credit unions'
Click to view larger image Those participating in the credit union ceremony honoring military servicemembers employment rights include: (back row, from left) Tom Thomas (ESGR), Christopher Morris (National CU Foundation), Brigadier General John McCoy (Wisconsin Air National Guard), Robin Marohn (Heartland CU), Mike Williams (ESGR), Lora Denniston (Dane County CU), Chad Helminak (Wisconsin CU League); and (front row, from left) Cassie Thom (St. Mary's & Affiliates CU), Michele Lehmann (St. Mary's & Affiliates CU), Dave Stark (Bull's Eye CU), Brett Thompson (Wisconsin CU League), Anita Rauch (Heritage CU), Heather Ristow (Heritage CU), Janet Brereton (Dane County CU). (Wisconsin Credit Union League Photo)
commitment to supporting the rights of National Guard and Reserve employees--as well as the signing of statements of support for the guard and reserve members--was held Oct. 22 by the Wisconsin Credit Union League.
 
The ceremony, held at Credit Union House in Madison, included credit union leaders from throughout Wisconsin, military leaders, and representatives of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). The ESGR is an office of the U.S. Department of Defense. It was established to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers.
 
Two statements of support were signed by the Wisconsin league at the event: One on behalf of the league itself, the other on behalf of all credit unions in the Badger State.
 
"Since their inception, credit unions have valued the service of the men and women who are committed to protecting our country," said Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League. "In working with ESGR, we proudly reaffirm our collective support for military personnel's workplace rights and employment in Wisconsin."
 
The support statements reinforce existing laws under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which are intended to protect servicemembers' re-employment rights when returning from a period of uniformed service, including those called up from the reserves or National Guard, and prohibits employer discrimination based on military service or obligation.
 
The support statements exhibit appreciation for the values, leadership and unique skills guard and reserve members bring to the workforce.
 
"We appreciate the values, leadership and unique skills Service members bring to the workforce and will encourage opportunities to employ Guardsmen, Reservists and Veterans," the support statement reads, in part.
 
Following the ceremony, framed copies of the signed ESGR Statement of Support were made available to credit unions for display.