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Fires prompt FSCC CUs to review emerging services

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (11/21/08)--Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) is encouraging credit unions to review their disaster recovery and business continuity plans after recent wildfires in Southern California affected Los Angeles-area residents. “With a significant number of credit union members residing in the impacted areas, FSCC is reaching out to those credit unions affected by the fires or who have members that are affected,” said Sarah Canepa Bang, FSCC president/CEO. FSCC has an emergency shared branching (ESB) network and is waiving the set-up charge for the program. ESB provides credit unions and their members a method to complete deposits withdrawals at all shared-branching locations. FSCC is not requiring credit unions to sign on to full-blown shared branching. “FSCC’s network also offers more than 500 locations at 7-Eleven stores, which are available to members of shared-branching credit unions or members who have been impacted by the fires,” Canepa Bang said. The California fires burned more than 35,000 acres in Los Angeles, Orange County and in Montecito near Santa Barbara. More than 1,000 people were affected. FSCC is a credit union Shared Branch Network that provides more than 5,500 deposit taking locations in the U.S.

N.C. league CUs host Mexican CU officials

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (11/24/08)--Five executives from Caja Morelia Valladolid, one of Mexico's largest credit unions, visited the North Carolina Credit Union League and several state credit unions last week.
From left, Jeff Hardin, North Carolina Credit Union League director of communications, joins Caja Morelia's Alejandro Rojas and Homero Ambriz to learn about information technology at Truliant FCU, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Their visit was to help them better understand technology and for them to offer marketing tips and techniques to help the state's credit unions better serve Hispanic members. The delegation wasn't the only group of foreign credit union officials to visit the state in recent months. In October, two employees of Godo CU in Suriname visited to learn how to better achieve front-line efficiencies, handle growth and deepen member relations. Both visits were related to the league's partnerships with Caja Morelia and the Suriname Credit Union League as part of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships program. "Many questions are asked and ideas exchanged during these visits," said John Radebaugh, league president/CEO. "In the process, we all see that the worldwide credit union movement seeks a very powerful common purpose--finding new and innovative ways to serve the needs of members." North Carolina has one of the country's fastest growing Hispanic populations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 1990 and 2000, that population grew 394%--to 378,963 from 76,726. Hispanics today comprise nearly 5% of the state's population. More than 65% of its Hispanic population is Mexican in origin, making Caja Morelia's marketing lessons valuable to participating credit unions. The Caja Morelia delegation spent a week touring credit unions, including Truliant FCU, Winston-Salem, where Truliant President/CEO Marc Schaefer demonstrated its advanced delivery technologies. Truliant uses home banking, video kiosks, and smart cards, and soon will implement a program to allow members to scan and cash checks from home. Homero Ambriz, Caja Morelia's IT manager, and Bob West, Truliant's chief information officer, also compared notes on system infrastructure, hardware and design, and programming, software development and data management.
Click to view larger imageThe Caja Morelia delegation visiting Latino Community CU, Durham, N.C., included, from left: Homero Abriz; Illiana Lopez; Amaury Coria Ramirez; Cristian Ramos; Luis Pastor, CEO of Latino Community CU; and Alejandro Rojas. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The delegation also discussed technology with Charlotte Metro CU, and learned about the importance of lobbying from Ryan Donovan, the Credit Union National Association's vice president of legislative affairs, who spoke at a chapter meeting during the visit. The group also met with Luis Pastor, CEO of Latino Community CU in Durham, where they discovered how a strong commitment to credit union philosophy has helped the community development credit union attract and serve members. “Among the very valuable things we are taking away from this visit to North Carolina are the actions credit unions take for preserving the essential principles of cooperation,“ said Amaury Coria Ramirez, Caja Morelia's database administrator. “The universal cooperative principles must be preserved.“ The delegation 's four-hour workshop at the league on marketing strategies to attract Hispanic members attracted more than 15 participants from eight credit unions. Iliana Lopez, Caja Morelia's marketing director, stressed the importance of recognizing the cultural differences and realities of current and potential Hispanic members and their families. Building trust and confidence is critical to attracting and retaining Hispanic members and credit unions should stress personal contact through community outreach and youth programs, Lopez said. Caja Morelia's marketing strategies include: "street promotions" such as parades and festivals; a credit union mascot to support youth marketing efforts; strategic alliances with other Hispanic social groups; and sports marketing, which includes sponsoring the local soccer team. Strong connections with the Hispanic community can also help North Carolina credit unions capture their share of the growing remittance market, Lopez added. North Carolina credit unions should have no trouble meeting the needs of Hispanics, said Alejandro Rojas, Caja Morelia's manager of planning and development. “We saw firsthand how credit unions successfully build trust and confidence with their members,“ Rojas explained. “They thoroughly support their mission and consistently strive to provide additional benefits and added value to members. That's something important that we have learned.“

St. Louis FIs playing the rates game

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ST. LOUIS (11/24/08)--The competition is on for the consumer's deposit dollar in St. Louis, with banks and credit unions paying unusually high certificate rates, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Nov. 21). Last week a saver could have landed 5% interest on a 14-month certificate at a St. Louis branch of lst Financial CU, based in St. Charles, Mo., reported the newspaper. Neighbors CU, a $205 million asset credit union in St. Louis, was offering 4.25% on seven- to 10-month certificates. And a local bank was offering 4.3% on 20-month certificates of deposit to customers who opened a checking account. The credit freeze is adding to the pressures of the recession. First Financial CU CEO Nina Pilger told the Post-Dispatch that its loan demand is up but it hasn't been able to attract the deposits. And deposits are what finances loans. The demand is largely for auto loans, fueled by auto manufacturers whose captive finance companies are turning down buyers. "We're financing cars right and left," Pilger said. The car loans have a 5.5% interest rate. With CDs paying 5%, that leaves a slim profit margin and makes for a lean bottom line, the article said. The St. Louis market has always been known as a high-deposit cost market because it has 140 banks vying business there, said analysts, who predict the rates likely will come down. Nationally, CD rates are already dropping and have been the past five weeks, said

Nations first CU turns 100 today

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (11/24/08)--Today is the 100th anniversary of America’s first credit union--St. Mary’s Bank, located in Manchester, N.H.
Click to view larger imageStaff members from St. Mary’s Bank traveled to New York City to invite Today Show host Meredith Vieira to the credit union on its 100th anniversary. The staff met Vieira and gave her the invitation and token gifts. (Photo provided by St. Mary’s Bank)
“We’re balancing honoring our heritage and how we can continue to meet members' needs,” said Elizabeth Stodolski, St. Mary’s Bank director of marketing. “We have many activities planned. All of our employees feel like they’re taking part in history.” The event is so historical that the governor of New Hampshire has proclaimed today as St. Mary’s Bank Credit Union Day, Stodolski added. The celebration starts Monday morning with a tour of America’s Credit Union Museum, which is located in St. Mary’s original site. The credit union has invited a group of fourth graders from a local elementary school to tour the museum and learn about New Hampshire history and the credit union movement. Costumed characters depicting individuals such as St. Mary’s founder, Monsignor Pierre Hevey, also will be present. St. Mary’s Bank hired a historian to brief the characters on the history of the credit union and the credit union movement, so “they are well-prepared,” Stodolski said. This afternoon, St. Mary’s will host a reenactment of its founding. The reenactment will be taped and broadcast on St. Mary’s website. Afterward, the credit union will host an evening reception. The credit union also will bury a time capsule. Members and the general public voted for items placed in the time capsule through the credit union’s website. St. Mary’s Bank staff also traveled to New York City to invite Today Show host Meredith Vieira to the credit union. Credit union staff wore Meredith Vieira masks to get the host’s attention, and brought a DVD with a video invitation to the credit union. “It worked,” Stodolski said. “We put the DVD into her hands.” The staff also gave Vieira token gifts, including silver dollars from 1908 and 2008. St. Mary’s Bank hosted member thank-you days Thursday and Friday, where staff handed out gifts and refreshments to members. On Saturday, members were invited to America’s Credit Union Museum. Horse and carriage rides were available. On Saturday night, the credit union staged its own show at the Palace Theater. The theater seats 900. “We completely sold out,” Stodolski said. At the theater, viewers saw a history video about the credit union. The event also featured professional entertainers and singers. A reception held after the show honored the credit union’s employees and board members. On Sunday, St. Mary’s Parish, which was the foundation for St. Mary’s Bank, held a special church service to honor the credit union. Hevey was the reverend of St. Mary’s Parish when he founded the credit union, which aimed to serve modest-earning millworkers and their families. In the 100 years since St. Mary’s opened, the credit union has undergone changes--such as moving to a new location and becoming more tech-savvy. The credit union launched mobile banking and e-statements this year, and gave away Garmin global positioning systems and iPods to members in contests, Stodolski said. But although times have changed, the mission of St. Mary’s Bank has not. “We opened to serve people of modest means,” Stodolski said. “We never strayed from that.” For more information, use the link.

Corporate Central OKs 600000 patronage refunds

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MUSKEGO, Wis. (11/24/08)--Corporate Central CU's board approved a $600,000 patronage refund for 2008 for its member credit unions--the largest payout in the 20 years it has offered refunds. The patronage refund is in direct recognition of the commitment Corporate Central's members have shown to its success. "In a year filled with incredible challenges and remarkable market dislocations, our members continue to do what they have done for years--partner with us, support us, and rely upon us to meet their investment, liquidity, and service needs," said Corporate Central President/CEO Robert W. Fouch. Because of that commitment, Corporate Central "had a very successful year, as evidenced by our decision in March to increase the rate we paid on Membership Capital Share Deposit (MCSD) balances well above what the rate environment would warrant. Through October 2008, we have given back to our members over $1.9 million," Fouch said. The $600,000 patronage refund, coupled with the increase rate paid on MCSD balances, will represent more than $2.5 million given back this year, he said. The refund will be distributed to member credit unions based on their patronage of Corporate Central's investment, loan and correspondent services throughout the year.

CEO letter CRA not to blame for subprime mess

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CHICAGO (11/24/08)--A writer in American Banker is "dead wrong" in blaming the subprime mortgage crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), says the CEO of a Chicago-based credit union. David Mooney, CEO of Alliant CU, a $5.693 billion asset credit union based in Chicago, expressed the opinion in a letter to the publication's editor published Friday. Although he agreed with writer Eric Grover that the government shouldn't be involved in allocating credit, Mooney noted that CRA considerations "had nothing to do with lenders' abandoning sound underwriting practices." Instead, "it had everything to do with producing income from the origination and securitization of loans. There weren't enough prime loans to feed the beast, and lenders increasingly went down market to keep the fees flowing," Mooney wrote. He noted the CRA explicitly does not require banks to engage in activities that are not safe and sound, and many of the participants in the subprime market were not subject to the regulation in any event.

Economy will affect philanthropic activities

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (11/24/08)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation (PCUF) approved its 2009 budget during its annual year-end meeting Wednesday and noted that the economy will impact philanthropic activities. "The uncertain economic climate will have negative repercussions for all philanthropic activities in the U.S. in 2009," Foundation Treasurer George West said (Life is a Highway Nov. 21). However, PCUF anticipates "far less fall off in revenue than the national average because of the foundation's continuing impressive grants track record," West said. Foundation Chairman Norb Kaczmarek said that despite the conservative projection of grant awards for 2009 that mirrors projected revenue decreases, "We may actually see an increase in project grants, given the uncertain economic position of small credit unions and the anticipated increase in demand for financial literacy projects. At the meeting, the PCUF board also:
* Approved 20 grants with a combined value of $68,476.85; * Welcomed new board member, Jeff DeBree, CEO of Penn East FCU, Scranton; * Heard a report from Matt Bergman, business teacher at Cocalico High School about foundation funds providing virtual business education to students and 30-second to one-minute business ads about financial education that are broadcast to the student body during home room period; * Reviewed fundraising results for its ongoing vendor campaign; and * Reviewed its 2007 audit report.

Texas CUs act to aid families during tax season

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (11/24/08)--Credit unions in Texas are participating in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA), according to the Texas Credit Union League. The El Paso Affordable Housing Credit Union Service Organization (AHCUSO), Neighborhood Centers Inc. (NCI) and Generations FCU, San Antonio, are involved with the initiative, which expands free services to taxpayers (LoneStar Leaguer Nov. 21). AHCUSO includes eight El Paso credit unions: GECU, West Texas CU, El Paso Teachers FCU, First Light FCU, Mountain Star FCU, Golden Key FCU, El Paso Employees FCU and One Source FCU. The credit unions received an $86,400 grant from the IRS. AHCUSO also has served as the managing organization for the El Paso Coalition for Family Economic Progress. The coalition has helped El Paso residents access the IRS’ Earned Income and Child Tax Credit Programs. NCI is a social service agency that offers support to families. Two years ago, the agency applied for a credit union charter. NCI Community Development CU will open next February. San Antonio also is an IRS grant recipient, and like Generations FCU, is a partner organization in the San Antonio Coalition for Family Economic program. The city was given $119,000 to expand the VITA program. Last year, credit unions participating in VITA funded 1,129 refund anticipation loans (RALS), totaling $2.8 million. In 2008, they funded 2,164 RALs, totaling $5.7 million and the average loan $2,860, according to Bonnie Contreras, director of business development, Generations FCU. “Not only did this program save taxpayers money because they were not charged the exorbitant fees they would likely pay elsewhere, but the credit union gained 1,067 members in 2007 and 1,515 members in 2008,” she told the league. “The VITA program helps prevent equity stripping,” added AHCUSO president and coalition chair Larry Garcia. “If not for our free tax preparation sites, these families might turn to high-cost tax preparation services, and even worse, fall victim to the costly RALs.”

2008 national Desjardins award winners announced

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MADISON, Wis. (11/24/08)--The 2008 national Desjardins Youth Financial Education Awards have been announced. A new record was set for participation, with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) receiving more than 50 entries. “This year’s awards recognize extraordinary achievement in youth financial education that occurred before the current economic downturn,” said CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica. “Now that more and more Americans are struggling to stretch their finances in a time of rising unemployment and budgetary stress, these programs can serve as a model response. “The credit union movement has always championed financial self-reliance. The 2008 Desjardins winners show us the way to preparing today’s youth--and their families--to plan and work for a return to economic prosperity,” he added. The awards recognize leadership within the credit union movement on behalf of youth financial literacy. Credit union organizations winning Desjardins Awards include:
* Arapahoe CU, Centennial, Colo.; * LA DOTD FCU, Denham Springs, La.; * Rogue FCU, Medford, Ore.; * Sonoma County Grange CU, Santa Rosa, Calif.; * Credit Union Association of New York; and the * Maine Credit Union League.
Desjardins Award honorable mentions went to:
* Arlington Virginia FCU; * Syracuse (N.Y.) Cooperative FCU; * Dakota Plains CU, Edgeley, N.D.; * Denver (Colo.) Community CU; * DuPont Community CU, Waynesboro, Va.; * MECU of Baltimore (Md.) Inc.; and * Winston-Salem City (N.C.) Employees' CU.
Desjardins judge Amy Crowe of Summit CU, Madison, Wis., singled out Rogue FCU. The credit union responded to a request from local schools for money for a field trip by supplying staff to help teach the 20-hour entrepreneurial curriculum that related to the trip. "Rogue FCU made a deep impact in youth financial literacy in a specific area that showed direct results with students,” Crowe said. Summaries of the winning and honorable mention programs will appear on CUNA’s website. The entries also will be displayed at CUNA’s 2009 Governmental Affairs Conference, where the Desjardins awards will be presented in conjunction with the Dora Maxwell and Louise Herring awards. The Desjardins Award is named in honor of Alphonse Desjardins, the founder of the North American credit union movement. It considers all activities supporting the personal finance education of young members and nonmembers, including, but not limited to, face-to-face teaching of youth, publicity and issue education, lobbying for curriculum and/or testing requirements, and teacher and classroom volunteer training. Desjardins established the first "caisse populaire" (people’s bank) in Quebec in 1900, and helped establish the first American credit union in New Hampshire in 1909. He was an ardent believer in the value of teaching children to save, and he actively promoted the idea of in-school savings programs (caisses scolaires).

North Carolina league testifies on underserved

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (11/24/08)--Dan Schline, North Carolina Credit Union League senior vice president of association services, testified Thursday about North Carolina credit unions’ role in helping underserved North Carolinians. Schline testified before a special study committee of the North Carolina General Assembly. The assembly is looking for new ways to give North Carolina residents stable and affordable access to financial services, according to the league (Weekly Update Nov. 21). “It’s important for legislators to know that many of the programs that they’re exploring are already offered by credit unions,” Schline said. “Hopefully the committee came away with a sense of how credit unions save North Carolina consumers more than $500 million dollars annually, and we are eager to help as many North Carolinians as we can to financial freedom.” Schline noted credit unions’ special programs to help members. Allegacy FCU, Winston Salem, offers the “Totally Free Checking” program, State Employees CU, Raleigh, offers a salary advance loan program, and Marine FCU, Jacksonville, has boot camp program. Schline also told the committee that credit unions provide small loans and member education. The committee also heard testimony from community credit lending institutions and consumer advocates. Eventually it will suggest legislative solutions to help North Carolinians’ access to financial services.

CU System briefs (11/21/2008)

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* JACKSON, Mich. (11/24/08)--Jackson Community FCU, based in Jackson, Mich., announced it will close one of its three branches at the end of the year. CEO James Francis, in a letter to members, said the Wildwood Avenue office will close, with employees of that branch moving to the $24.9 million asset credit union's main office on Ganson Street (Jackson Citizen Patriot Nov. 21). The move is an effort to reduce expenses to satisfy the credit union's regulators, the letter said. The closure will allow the credit union to have four or more teller each day of the week. The Ganson Street's office also will expand drive-through hours. Beginning Jan. 5, the drive-through will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday … * RALEIGH, N.C. (11/24/08)--Local Government FCU (LGFCU) is boosting its scholarship program by investing an additional $100,000 in it, bringing the total amount available for scholarships to $120,000. For the first 10 years of the program, the Raleigh-based, $829 million asset LGFCU awarded 16 annual scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,500 to graduating seniors and post-secondary students for their education. The awards now are all $1,000 scholarships, which will be awarded to as many as 120 students for college expenses such as laptops and textbooks. "From now on, we would like to help students pay for something in full," said LGFCU President Maurice Smith. "While $1,000 may go a little ways toward helping with tuition, it will go most of, if not all, the way in helping to pay for a laptop and textbooks," he said … * GREENSBORO, N.C. (11/24/08)--The Carolinas Credit Union Foundation is awarding a $15,000 Micro Community Grant to Hope for the Warriors, for its Warrior's Wish Program, which grants wishes to severely injured service members (Weekly Update Nov. 21). Micro Community Grants allow credit unions in North and South Carolina to partner with local nonprofit agencies to bring community benefit. The grant proposal was put together with the help of the Southeast Chapter of Credit Unions and Marine FCU. Since it began in late 2005, the program has awarded more than $700,000 to agencies throughout the Carolinas …