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CUs in top 10 for customer experience says research

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (11/29/07)--Credit unions were the only non-retailer brand in the top 10 spots in a new Forrester Research's 2007 Customer Experience Survey. "A credit union" clocked in as the No. 5 brand, sharing the limelight with Costco, Borders and Barnes & Noble. The Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester asked nearly 5,000 consumers about their interactions with 112 firms in nine industries. Consumers weighed in on the usefulness, usability and enjoyability of those experiences, said Forrester (ResearchRecap Nov. 28). Retailers dominated the survey's top 10 spots, while the bottom 10 included communications companies, healthcare providers--and banks. The rise of digital social media such as blogs, MySpace and Facebook means consumers are talking about brands and the quality of their services more than ever, said Forrester (Brandweek.com Nov. 28). These are good news for retailers that work at building relationships with consumers, but it's a hazard for companies that haven't, like Sprint, Charter Communications and Citibank. The Internet allows consumers to find out more about how brands treat their customers and makes it easier for consumers to switch providers, said Bruce Temkin, vice president/principal analyst at Forrester. In the past, when consumers had a bad customer experience, they told 10 people. Today, they can tell 10,000 people, he said. Retailers score high because they understand better the relationship between the customer's experience and sales, Temkin said. However, those who have low rankings either occupy a monopoly across various markets or, like banks, are too focused on a merger-and-acquisition business strategies to address consumer service-related issues. Credit unions and Borders bookstore came in first for "ease of use." Thirty-three firms received ratings of "excellent" in this category. Two organizations received "very poor" ratings: Charter Communications (in the TV and Internet category) and Medicaid. Another 10 companies were ranked as "poor." Of the 12 firms with "poor" or "very poor" ratings, eight were healthcare insurers. Costco and Sam's Club were leaders in "usefulness." Forty firms received a rating of excellent for usefulness. Although none received a "very poor" rating, three brands--Charter Communications, Medicaid and Citibank--were rated by consumers as "poor." No firm received an excellent rating in the "enjoyability" category, and 40 were rated "very poor," said Forrester. Of the 16 firms with "good" ratings, Borders, Old Navy and Citizens Bank were the highest ranked. Cablevision/Interactive Optimum and Charter Communications were the bottom feeders.

Former CUs offering receives insufficient subscriptions

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WAYCROSS, Ga. (11/29/07)--The proposed holding company for a second-step conversion and public offering of a former Georgia credit union-turned-mutual bank has extended the community portion of its second-step offering because subscriptions received to date are not sufficient for a minimum of the offering range. Atlantic Coast Financial Corp., the proposed holding company, extended the public offering to Dec. 28, as provided for in the company's prospectus in October (Business Wire Nov. 27). The recently formed Maryland corporation is the proposed holding company for Atlantic Coast Bank and a successor company to Atlantic Coast Federal Corp. The bank was organized in 1939 as Atlantic Coast FCU to serve employees of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. In November 2000, the credit union converted to a federal mutual savings association charter. In January 2003, Atlantic Coast Federal Corp. was formed as the holding company. Atlantic Coast Federal Corp. completed its initial public stock offering in October 2004 (News Now Oct. 19). Atlantic Coast Financial Corp. will maintain current orders received, with interest accruing on subscribers' funds. It also said it is reviewing market conditions to determine when it can commence a syndicated offering to sell shares to the general public not subscribed for in the subscription and community offerings. Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Inc. will act as sole book-running manager, and FTN Midwest Securities Corp. will act as co-manager for the syndicated offering, which "would also be conducted on a best-efforts basis," said Atlantic Coast Financial's press release. At special meetings held Tuesday, stockholders of Atlantic Coast Federal Corp. and members of the bank's mutual holding corporation approved the conversion and reorganization plan, pending final approval from the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) and the sale of at least 11,475,000 shares. Atlantic Coast Federal Corp. had $915.7 million in assets as of Sept. 30. In October, the bank was offering for sale the 63.8% ownership owned by its holding company--nearly 11.5 million to more than 15.5 million shares at $10 per share. The company can increase the amount by 15% to more than 17.8 million shares (or $178.5 million) without notifying share subscribers as the result of market demand, regulatory considerations or changes in financial market conditions (News Now Oct. 19).

CU System briefs (11/28/2007)

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* DES MOINES, Iowa (11/29/07)--The Iowa Credit Union Foundation has hired Marybeth Foster as executive director, effective Oct. 29. The new position was created with an anonymous grant to be used to fund the position and the first Iowa credit union Individual Development Account program. Foster will help develop partnerships within the community to help the foundation fulfill its mission of eliminating poverty in the state. Prior to joining the foundation, Foster was director of development and marketing for Iowans for Social and Economic Development. She also served as director of county extension education of Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and as executive director of Grundy County Development Alliance … * ARVADA, Colo. (11/29/07)--Rick A. Cranston is the new director of product and business development for Credit Union Strategic Partners (CUSP), a wholly owned credit union service organization of the Credit Union Association of Colorado. He will be responsible for product development, cultivating relationships with credit unions, market research, overseeing the sales function and managing staff. Cranston is a former vice president of client services for The Knowledge Network. His background also includes: managing partner owner of Sensible Hire; senior director of business development for Idea Integration, regional branch manager of Sage Financials, and other executive positions with several firms … *
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (11/29/07)--Neighbors CU has named John Servos as president/CEO, replacing Larry Geising, who will retire at the end of the year. Servos has served as chief financial officer and vice president of finance at the $200 million asset credit union since 1999. He joined the credit union staff in 1998 as vice president of compliance and audit services … * TEMPLE, Texas (11/29/07)--Tony Hale been selected as president/CEO of $100 million asset Texell FCU, based in Temple, Texas. He will succeed Eldon Wulbrecht, who will retire in January. Prior to joining the credit union, Hale was chief operating officer of the Associated Credit Union of Texas, Texas City, where he helped lead the credit union to record growth. There he introduced new programs and services to strengthen the credit union's financial base and bring members improved rates and convenience … * NEW ORLEANS (11/29/07)--Prentice J. 'Jake' Jacob, former Louisiana Credit Union League board member, died Nov. 22 at the age of 92. He retired in 1975 from Naval Air Station New Orleans after 29 years as a civil employee. Jacob was president/CEO of NAS CU (now NAS JRB CU) for more than 40 years, helping it grow from a "mom and pop" operation to a full-service operation serving more than 4,000 members. He is survived by one son, a sister, and numerous nieces and nephews (Times-Picayune Nov. 27) …

Guam banks oppose bill to remove tax exemptions

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AGANA, Guam (11/29/07)--A Guam bill that would remove at least nine tax exemptions for lending institutions is being opposed by the island's banks, and they're using a credit-union-like approach. Acting Speaker Eddie Baza Calvo, chairman of Guam's Legislative Committee on Finance and Taxation, heard public testimony on Bill 91, authored by Adolpho Palacios, a Democrat. Banks and other lenders have several tax exemptions under island law. Repealing the exemptions would cause higher fees for services, which would affect consumers, said Guam Banking Association President Ed Untalan, using a point familiar to credit unions defending their tax exemption in the U.S. However, the similarity ends there. Untalan added that federal credit unions can't be taxed by Guam law, and Bill 191 would place banks at an even greater disadvantage against federal credit unions and off-island lenders. He then brought up the level-playing field rhetoric.

Bank on San Francisco program nets 11000 unbanked residents

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SAN FRANCISCO (11/29/07)--Financial institutions, including credit unions, reported that they have opened 11,110 new accounts as part of a Bank on San Francisco program designed to help the unbanked. The program was launched in September 2006 by City Treasurer Jose Cisneros, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, non-profit EARN and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The program’s goal was to open 10,000 accounts in two years. Because this goal was exceeded, Bank on San Francisco aims open 20,000 accounts by fall 2008 (San Francisco Sentinel Nov. 26). Through the program, families are saving hundreds of dollars per year in check cashing fees, Cisneros said. One person that the program has helped is Virginia Johnson of San Francisco. Johnson, 71, has been cashing her checks at check cashers since 1974. She learned about the Bank on San Francisco program through her care worker. She now has her income deposited into an account at Northeast Community FCU and receives free money orders each month. Johnson “didn’t know about the credit union,” she said, noting that she’d paid $200 each month to cash her checks. She is enrolled in a financial management course through Northeast Community FCU and expects to receive her first ATM card upon completion in December. Other credit unions involved with the program include Mission Area FCU, Patelco CU, San Francisco FCU, and Spectrum FCU. Because of the national attention the program has received, the National League of Cities, along with the cities of Seattle and Los Angeles, reported that they are working on similar initiatives, said the newspaper.

Illinois league board member named to state treasurer council

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (11/29/07)--A board member of the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL), Peggy Cummins, was appointed to Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias’ Southern Illinois Affairs Council. Cummins, who is CEO of Three Rivers Community CU in Mt. Carmel, also represents the Southern Illinois Chapter of Credit Unions on the ICUL board. The council’s mission is to strengthen the relationship between the treasurers’ office and southern Illinois communities. The council also seeks to develop new programs and services to help area residents. Earlier this month, Giannoulias convened the council’s first meeting during a two-day visit to Effingham. The council is composed of area leaders, business people and community members. Council members, such as Cummins, serve on a voluntary basis. “I look forward to working with [Peggy Cummins] and her peers to improve services to an important, and sometimes overlooked, part of the state,” Giannoulias said. “Through this council, I hope to better serve this region and its residents.”

NFCDCU NCUF announce first partners in CU Development Corps

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NEW YORK (11/29/07)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions and the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) announced the first four partnerships in the Credit Union Development Corps. The Corps is an exchange program between Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs) and the federation’s network of community development credit unions (CDCUs). The pairings are:
* Selfreliance FCU, Chicago, with Vernon-Commerce CU, Commerce, Calif.; * Philadelphia FCU with Lower East Side Peoples FCU, New York; * AEA FCU, Yuma, Ariz., with Triumph Baptist FCU, Philadelphia; and * Washington State Employees CU, Olympia, Wash., with NRS Community Development FCU, Birmingham, Ala.
Participating development educators will visit a CDCU for one week to learn how it serves low-income members. A representative from the CDCU will then spend one week at the CUDE’s credit union to learn about the its programs and operations. During the exchanges, representatives will aim to help their hosts and learn about the credit union’s operational strengths. “We hope that the CU Development Corps will create strong bonds between participants as well as their institutions--partnerships that will bring together large and small credit unions, foster the cooperative spirit, and create a stronger and more unified credit union movement,” said Cliff Rosenthal, federation president/CEO. Exchanges will begin in early 2008 and are expected to be completed by the end of the year. The program is managed by Pamela Owens, CUDE and director of education and training for the federation; and by Tom Decker, national director for the Credit Union Center for Social Impact Management. Major support for the program is provided by the Ford Foundation and CUNA Mutual Group.

CUNA Board election ballots due Dec. 14

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MADISON, Wis. (11/29/07)--Ballots for the election of the board of directors at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) are due Dec. 14 to the outside auditing firm. In District 3, Class C, the candidates are Tom Dorety, president/CEO, Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla. and Bruce Burns, chairman, SRP FCU, North Augusta, S.C. The successful candidate will begin a full three-year term March 3, 2008. In a special election to fill the unexpired term of Mary Shipe, whose resignation from the board is effective Dec. 31, four candidates will vie for the District 5, Class A position. The winner of that race will take office Jan. 1, 2008, and the term will expire in 2009. Candidates are:
* Brian J. Barkdull, president/CEO, American Southwest CU, Sierra Vista, Ariz.; * Paul J. Brucker, president, Railway CU, Mandan, N.D.; * Winona Nava, president/CEO, Guadalupe CU, Sante Fe, N.M.; and * Marsha Tynsky, president, Trona Valley Community FCU, Green River, Wyo.
Incumbents who ran unopposed and were re-elected to the board include:
* District 1, Class D: Joseph G. Bergeron, president, Association of Vermont Credit Unions, South Burlington, Vt.; * District 2, Class B: William A. Herring, president/CEO, Cincinnati Central CU, Cincinnati, Ohio; * District 2, Class D: Paul L. Mercer, president, Ohio Credit Union System, Dublin, Ohio; * District 4, Class A: Pat Wesenberg, president/CEO, Point Plus CU, Stevens Point, Wis.; and * District 5, Class C: Harriet May, CEO, GECU, El Paso, Texas.
New board members Mary Cunningham, president/CEO, USA FCU, San Diego, and Edwin L. Williams, president/CEO, Discovery FCU, Wyomissing, Pa., will take office March 3, 2008. Cunningham represents credit unions in District 6, Class B. Williams represents District 1, Class A. Each ran unopposed in their district categories.

Texas foundation awards 28000 to JA programs

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (11/29/07)--The Texas Credit Union Foundation (TCUF) has awarded $28,000 to Junior Achievement (JA) programs in six Texas communities. JA programs in Abilene, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Longview and Tyler will receive the grants, which are used to implement JA’s youth financial and entrepreneurship programs, using local credit union volunteers in schools (LoneStar Leaguer Nov. 28). To receive the grants, local JA organizations had to have partnership with a local credit union or chapter. The grants are being used in various ways:
* In Longview, East Texas professional CU volunteers will help bring in the second grade program, “Our Community” to more than 2,750 students; * Volunteers from Texans CU, Dallas, will share their time and experience at a local high school that is 95% Hispanic, and 300 students will participate in the JA Financial Literacy five-unit program; * In Houston, Smart Financial CU employees will volunteer at the JA BizTown--a life-size replica of a city--and participate in a daylong interactive program educating students about various aspects of running a business; and * The Fort Worth Chapter of Credit Unions will offer volunteers to help administer the full JA curriculum to its two partner schools in Fort Worth.
The JA grants also will leverage Bizkid$ financial literacy series for kids, produced in partnership with Junior Achievement Worldwide and America’s Credit Unions. Ten Texas PBS stations expect to begin airing Bizkid$ in January 2008. TCUF is one of the charter sponsors of Bizkid$.

Navy Fed Freddie Mac launch military homebuyer effort

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HAMPTON, Va. (11/29/07)--Get the Facts! workshops, created through a partnership with Navy FCU of Vienna, Va., and Freddie Mac, kicked off Wednesday to expand homeownership opportunities for military families. The workshops premiered at the Active Duty Home Buying Fair at Navy Federal’s Hampton, Va., branch. Participants were provided with information and advice about all aspects of homeownership. The Hampton Roads Planning District, Child and Family Services of Eastern Virginia, and Community Housing Partners Corp. will continue to offer the workshops, which are designed to break down barriers of misinformation that can keep military families from buying homes. Active Duty Choice Mortgage, which provides buyers with competitive rates, flexible credit terms and financing up to $417,000 with no additional private mortgage insurance, also debuted at the fair. “We understand the hardships that many of our active duty, reservists and their families face during a time of conflict,” said Cutler Dawson, Navy Federal president/CEO. “We wanted to offer a mortgage option that went above and beyond for those members.” Many potential homeowners at Navy Federal are first-time buyers, minorities, and low-to-moderate-income earners, according to Paul Mullings, senior vice president of Single Family Sourcing for Freddie Mac. Navy Federal, which serves military and civilian personnel and their families, has $31 billion in assets.

How Wisconsin CUs captured CUNAs Best of Show

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (11/29/07)--Wisconsin credit unions’ work--through their REAL Solutions initiative to meet needs in communities statewide--was the reason they captured Best of Show honors in the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Pro Award Competition. Through REAL Solutions, Wisconsin’s credit unions help Wisconsinites build financially strong self-supporting families and communities, said the Wisconsin Credit Union League. For example, Wisconsin credit unions offer:
* Affordable loans--Credit unions make loans whenever possible to meet members’ needs. This is a way to establish or rebuild creditworthiness and help members make it until payday, said the league. * Alternatives to predatory financial services--Credit unions have saved Wisconsin consumers $1 million in fees by offering short-term loans for less than half of what payday lenders charge. Credit unions also offer lower cost alternatives for check-cashing. * Safe, reasonable mortgages--As part of their Home Loan Payment Relief (HLPR) program, credit unions make below-market-rate mortgages available to first-time homebuyers with household incomes at or below the median in their market. * Financial education--Wisconsin credit unions provide free to all Wisconsin public high schools this fall the brass student program, a personal finance initiative that promotes responsible financial management to high school students through a lifestyle money magazine produced for young adult by young adults. * Financial intervention--Credit unions refer their members to state-regulated offices of Consumer Credit Counseling Services for assistance with debt and money management. * Outreach to other cultures and immigrants--Wisconsin credit unions are creating and tailoring services to address the state’s expanding diversity. * Creative partnerships--By partnering with local businesses, non-profits, government agencies and others, credit unions are solving problems locally. Credit unions and Wisconsin counties partnered to help single parents obtain loans for affordable used cars or child care, so they can access or maintain employment, added the league.

Maine CUs media bonanza results in 115 stories for month

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WESTBROOK, Maine (11/29/07)--Maine credit unions have been featured in 115 media stories this month, according to the Maine Credit Union League. Credit unions have been featured in 42 radio news stories or interviews, 61 newspaper articles and 12 television news stories. Topics have ranged from coverage of the Maine Credit Unions’ Ending Hunger Walking Tour, and a holiday CD of Christmas songs featuring Maine artists that the credit unions have partnered to offer. Maine credit unions also are receiving attention through several public service announcements that have aired on TV and radio stations. The announcements promote the “ending hunger” campaign and the league’s website. “The coverage has included every Maine media market at least twice,” said Jon Paradise, a governmental and public affairs manager. “This has been a very strong month for building and creating awareness of credit unions.” The league has scheduled coverage in December on credit union growth, what credit unions do to serve young members, efforts to support ending hunger, and youth financial education through holiday shopping. October also proved to be a successful month for credit union coverage. Media activity focused on Maine credit unions during International Credit Union Week, with coverage ranging from radio interviews to Credit Union Week supplements with editorial content supplied by the league.

CUNA Mutual ranks sixth in InfoWorld 100 IT awards

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MADISON, Wis. (11/29/07)--CUNA Mutual Group has been ranked sixth in the 2007 InfoWorld 100 awards, which annually recognize 100 Information Technology (IT) organizations that have made the best use of technology in pursuit of their business goals. Other top 10 recipients include: AT&T Services, Bank of America and Capital One. CUNA Mutual was recognized for development and implementation of its Claims Express project. The claims-processing solution includes end-to-end automated workflow, resulting in a 75% decrease in claims-process payment backlogs and a 30% increase in automatic payments. Partnering with business units, the CUNA Mutual IT team conducted a closed-file audit to determine best practices and then incorporated changes to improve the claims process. A critical component of CUNA Mutual’s transformation strategy is to improve its focus and new-product development process, so it can bring new concepts to market faster and more effectively, said Tom Gosnell, CUNA Mutual chief information officer. The InfoWorld award represents the fourth time that CUNA Mutual has been nationally recognized for the Claims Express project. Earlier this year, the project received honors from CIO magazine, Insurance Networking News and InformationWeek.