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CO-OP shared branch campaigns add weight to CU convenience

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ONTARIO, Calif. and RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (11/3/11)--The myth that credit unions aren't convenient because  they don't have nationwide  branches is being debunked by two organizations related to the ATM and shared branching industries.

Just in time for Bank Transfer Day, the movement to switch checking accounts to credit unions by Saturday, CO-OP Financial Services and FSCC (Financial Service Centers Cooperative Inc.)  have informed media  in separate campaigns that convenience is not an issue for many credit unions.

A campaign by  CO-OP Financial Services, which manages CO-OP Network, a nationwide network of 28,000 ATMs for members of 3,000 participating credit unions,  was launched Oct. 12. It was viewed by more than 500 editors and appeared on numerous sites, including, Marketwatch, Investor and Optimum Online  (Life is a Highway Nov. 2).

Its campaign aimed to educate business and personal finance editors, who have chronically characterized credit unions as less convenient than banks, about the advantages of credit union membership, and to obtain coverage in consumer media.

CO-OP, in support of Bank Transfer Day, placed three ads (  in major market weekly newspapers across the country. The first  was published Wednesday.  The ads, which are sympathetic with consumers' negative perceptions of banks, deliver a message that summarizes banks' less-than-remarkable behavior and what CO-OP considers as a superior alternative: "Banks don't like you. Credit unions do."

A link to a dedicated Facebook page, supported by a Twitter feed, gives Gen X and Gen Y targeted audiences direct access to participate in the conversation,  said CO-OP.  The ads also encourages them to spread the word and learn more about the benefits of credit unions.   The campaign will appear in these widely read weeklies: NY Village Voice; LA Weekly; OC Weekly in Orange County, Calif.; Chicago Reader; SF Weekly; Boston Dig; Atlanta Creative Loafing; and The City Paper in Washington, D.C.

FSCC, which is a Shared Branching Network  providing 6,700 full-service, deposit-taking locations in 50 states,  promoted convenience in a press release Wednesday "reassuring consumers that convenience is not an issue for those seeking to support Bank Transfer Day by transferring their accounts to credit unions."

It noted that more than 1,600 credit unions participate in the CU Service Centers Network and explains shared branching allows members at one participating credit union to use the branches of another or use designated service centers or self-service kiosks.

"This cooperation among credit unions allows them to operate locally while offering the same level of national service offered by the top five U.S. banks. Only credit unions, with their focus on member-owners, can achieve this level of cooperation and convenience," said FSCC. 

"We, at FSCC, have been preaching the advantages of credit unions for decades. And we're confident that when consumers experience the high level of convenience, service, and assistance our member credit unions deliver, they'll wonder why they waited so long to switch," said Sarah Bank, president/CEO of FSCC.

Survey One in four Americans use mobile banking

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (11/3/11)--Nearly one in four Americans currently uses mobile banking, and another 17% said they will try it in 2012, according to a new survey, which also found that 36% of those surveyed would switch institutions due to new service fees.

The Intuit Financial Services' Fourth Annual Management Survey also found that many people remain loyal to their financial institutions, with 45% indicating they have been a member/customer of a credit union or bank for more than a decade. However, 36% of survey respondents indicated they planned to switch--or have already switched--institutions due to new service fees.

Intuit, based in Mountain View, Calif., is a provider of online and mobile solutions for credit unions and banks. It is a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.

Consumers who are 18- to 32-years old are three times more likely to adopt mobile banking than Gen X, baby boomers and seniors, the survey found. More consumers prefer to go online with their financial institutions rather than visit in person, said Intuit.

Thirty-eight percent of Americans surveyed already use the online services provided by their credit union or bank to manage their personal finances, and 33% said they would switch financial institutions for one that offers solutions that provide better member/customer experience.

"Banking on customer inertia is not a viable growth strategy," said CeCe Morken, president and general manager of Intuit Financial Services. "Financial institutions should instead lead by engaging customers on their terms and delivering the experience they define."

Other findings:

  • More consumers now have a smartphone--41% of respondents reported owning a smartphone and 23% said they use a mobile banking solution;
  •  Of those, 65% access their account information through the Internet, and 28% use a mobile application from their credit union or bank; 
  • Six percent of smartphone owners use mobile devices to remotely deposit checks, and 54% of that group do so at least once a month while 39% use it weekly;
  • When asked what is the most important feature they use while banking online, 64% of smartphone owners said that tracking account balances; 34% said paying bills, and 28% said transferring funds. However, 70% indicated they would like to see their complete financial picture and manage and pay all their bills in one place, regardless of the source of information.

"Regardless of age, each customer expects to connect with their financial institution in their own way," said Morken. "Whether it is online, mobile or most likely both, financial institutions must provide the right technologies if they are to truly engage their customers."

During the past year, an Intuit study of more than 50,000 mobile banking customers across 12 financial institutions found that people interact on average 45% more often with their financial institution if using online and mobile solutions in combination, as opposed to online alone. Those who used both solutions also held, on average, 9% more deposit and loan accounts than people without digital solutions.

INPRI media barrage highlights pro-CU efforts

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WASHINGTON (11/3/11)--National media were busy Wednesday, debunking myths and highlighting the benefit of credit unions as Bank Transfer Day drew closer and as consumers saw success in forcing big banks' hand on debit card fees. National Public Radio, Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Baltimore Sun and AOL were among those contacting the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) for help in explaining that consumers are switching to credit unions to avoid the fees.

In more than one report Wednesday, National Public Radio spoke with Pat Keefe, CUNA vice president of communications and media outreach, who told NPR that consumers have been turning to credit unions in an attempt to escape debit card fees that big banks had announced in late September.

In the report, Norma Garcia of Consumers Union said consumers' reaction taught banks that consumers will have little tolerance for fees.  The segment also reported that social networking efforts, including a Facebook page on the upcoming Bank Transfer Day, are urging consumers to switch their deposits to credit unions before Saturday.  These efforts will live on even though the major banks have now turned their backs on the debit fees, the segment said.

While the banks' debit fees were transparent, consumers may now have to comb their through their statements to determine whether the fees will be reincarnated, the segment said.

WESH-ORD (NBC) in Orlando, Fla., reported that customer feedback led the banks to reverse the charges. In that report, CUNA said that members are reporting "tens of thousands" of new members in the past month.

In a Bloomberg News earlier this week, reported that three out of four large credit unions offer free checking and an additional 20% waive a fee in certain conditions, and CUNA's Keefe  noted that about 90% of credit unions don't impose debit-card fees ( Nov. 1)

AOL's, in an article entitled "5 Credit Union Myths Debunked, " and written by The Motley Fool columnist Matt Cropp, acknowledged the public outcry on fees and the fact that "normally low-profile credit unions have been receiving a great deal of attention as an alternative to the big banks." It cleared up five misconceptions about credit unions. Instead it reported that:

  •  Many credit unions have community charters and are easy to join (readers were referred to to locate a credit union);
  • Credit unions offer a full range of competitive products and services;
  • Credit unions through ATMs and shared service centers offer nationwide convenience;
  • Savings at credit unions are safe and sound and backed by the government; and
  • Members buy a share and "own" the credit union.

Leagues work on CU awareness for Bank Transfer Day

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MADISON, Wis. (11/3/11)--Credit union leagues nationwide have provided local and state media with credit union information and credit unions with resources to assist them in preparing for Bank Transfer Day, which is Saturday.

Michigan Credit Union League President/CEO David Adams was featured on a front-page Detroit News article Nov. 1. "U.S. consumers save $6.3 billion a year thanks to those lower fees and rates, he told the newspaper

"That's $69 per person, on average, but in Michigan, which has 4.5 million credit union members, the savings are about $200 million a year, which is $81 per person," Adams told the Detroit News. The Texas Credit Union League released a study that indicates consumers who move their accounts to credit unions save even more when they also transfer their debt. Texas credit union members save more than $436 million on better rates on loan products, according to the study.

When combined with savings on fees, Texas credit union members save $717.9 million when compared with banking fees and loan rates.

The biggest savings on loan rates is on personal unsecured loans, the type of loan that allows members to borrow for emergencies or holiday spending. The study, which compares rates from banks and not-for-profit credit unions, was conducted by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and is based on data from Datatrac, the National Credit Union Administration and CUNA.

"Our cooperative not-for-profit model really makes a difference," said Dick Ensweiler, Texas Credit Union League president/CEO. "Seeing so many new credit union members means that finally the 'secret' is out. Credit unions deliver the best value for members."

The Wisconsin Credit Union League noted that, the website that helps consumers find credit unions has seen an increase of 76% in searches for Wisconsin credit unions in the final week of October.

"People are excited not just because of the hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year they can save by using credit unions, but also because credit unions keep money local in a way that sustains jobs and help the communities where they live," said Brett Thompson, president of the Wisconsin league.

To help prepare credit unions for a possible increase in membership inquiries, leagues are providing resources on their websites. For example, the Louisiana Credit Union League has these resources on its site:

  • Bank Transfer Day talking points;
  • A model press release;
  • A "ready sheet" to help credit unions prepare; and
  • A Q & A to address banker myths.
Among other steps, the Louisiana league is encouraging state credit unions to:

  • Have switch kits or other switch support ready;
  • Extend business hours on Saturday; and
  • Reach out to local media (eNews Nov. 2).
Leagues are also asking credit unions to collect and share stories from consumers who join their credit unions on or before Bank Transfer Day.

CUNA announces ELLy Award winners

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MADISON, Wis. (11/2/11)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) honored outstanding credit union trainers and training programs at the 2011 CUNA Experience Learning Live! (ELL) conference, held Oct. 16-19 in Las Vegas. 

The ELLy awards are the only national awards presented to credit union trainers that recognize excellence in professional staff development.

The Training Professional of the Year award recognizes achievements of a visionary credit union training professional or department for exceptional contributions to the learning and performance development of credit union staff.

Training Professionals of the Year honorees included:

  • Don Vaughn of Sioux Falls CU, Sioux Falls, S.D., first place for credit unions with less than $250 million in total assets; and
  • Training staff of Spokane Teacher's CU, Spokane, Wash.,  first place for credit unions with more than $250 million in total assets;
The WOW! award is presented to the credit union with the best overall training curriculum or event that inspires learning, teaches skills that go beyond the classroom and leaves participants empowered.

WOW! award winners include:

  • Tiffany Goodman and Tiffanie Walls of Seattle (Wash.) Metropolitan CU, first place;
  • Amanda Swartz of Christian Community CU, San Dimas, Calif., award of merit; and
  • Training and Staff Development of Educators CU, Racine, Wis., award of merit.

The Catalyst award recognizes a person or department who gives energy to something or someone else, someone who knows that by giving the best of themselves, they become better, too.

Ken Kelly, Matt Milligan, Rod Snyder and Michelle Trekas of Red Canoe CU, Longview, Wash., were first-place Catalyst award winners. (Photos provided by CUNA)

Don Vaughn
Training staff of Spokane Teacher's

Tiffany Goodman and Tiffanie Walls
Amanda Swartz
Training and Staff Development of

Educators CU
Ken Kelly and Michelle Trekas

Corporate forms three Catalyst Councils

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PLANO, Texas (11/3/11)--Catalyst Corporate FCU will create three member-engagement groups designed to help shape the future of the corporate credit union.

The groups, to be known as Catalyst Councils, will focus on service delivery, product development and enhancements, and "over-the-horizon" planning, Catalyst Corporate said.

The announcement was made at a meeting Oct. 25 held in conjunction with Catalyst Corporate's annual Economic Forum. About two dozen credit union representatives attended.

The three councils, slated to begin meeting in early 2012, will gather input from the eastern, central and western regions of the U.S. Each councils will be comprised of about a dozen credit union leaders.

Credit union representatives attending the input session suggested that councils should "advocate innovation"--expressing hope that Catalyst Corporate would help credit unions be first to market with emerging products and services.

"Those attending the meeting said they would like the councils to promote the development of products and technologies that will be useful in recruiting younger members," said Amy Fuller, Catalyst Corporate vice president of communications, who facilitated the meeting with Mark Meyer, CEO of the Filene Research Institute.

Attendees also suggested the councils should emphasize continual expansion of product and service education. Others suggested council members could act as a "sounding board" and liaison between the corporate and credit unions at chapter meetings.

Creation of a listserv to keep council members in touch between four meetings slated for 2012 was also discussed.

Catalyst Corporate is kicking off its recruiting effort for the councils this week with notices in its newsletter and in an e-mail to its 865 member credit unions.

New Fed holds rates steady says 3Q growth stronger

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WASHINGTON (11/2/11--FILED 1:15 p.m. ET)--The Federal Reserve's policymakers, saying that third quarter growth is stronger, today held the target rate for federal funds at 0% to 0.25% and indicated that it would hold rates at "exceptionally low levels" at least through mid-2013.

The vote was nine to one, with Charles L. Evans supporting further easing at this time.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which sets the Fed's monetary policy, acknowledged that economic growth reflects "in part a reversal of the temporary that had weighed on growth earlier in the year. Nonetheless, recent indicators point to continuing weakness in overall labor market conditions, and the unemployment rate remains elevated."

The target rate has been near 0% to 0.25% since December 2008.

Household spending "has increased at a somewhat faster pace in recent months," the committee noted.  It said business investment continued to expand "but investment in nonresidential structures is still weak, and the housing sector remains depressed. Inflation appears to have moderated since earlier in the year as prices of energy and some commodities have declined from their peaks. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable."

The committee is mandated to seek to foster maximum employment and price stability, and its statement after its two-day meeting said it expects "a moderate pace of economic growth over coming quarters and consequently anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only gradually toward levels that the Committee judges to be consistent with its dual mandate."

It recognized "significant downside risks to the economic outlook, including strains in global financial markets." The FOMC said it anticipates that inflation will settle during the coming quarters "at levels at or below those consistent with" its dual mandate as the effects of past energy and other commodity price increases dissipate further. However it will monitor inflation and inflation expectations closely, it said.

The FOMC said it will continue its "Operation Twist" program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities, as announced in September, and will maintain its existing policies of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. It will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and "is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate."

The committee's statement indicted it will "continue to assess the economic outlook in light of incoming information and is prepared to employ its tools to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability.'

Voting for the policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, chairman; William C. Dudley, vice chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Richard W. Fisher; Narayana Kocherlakota; Charles I. Plosser; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Daniel K. Tarullo; and Janet L. Yellen. Evans was the lone dissenter.