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CUNA Mutual Group joins group partnership with Akcelerant

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MIAMI (11/6/12)--To improve collections activities for credit unions, CUNA Mutual Group and its Collateral Protection Insurance (CPI) alliance partner, State National Companies, announced they are joining forces with Akcelerant, a provider of connected software technology to the financial services industry.

The partnership was announced Monday at the 2012 CUNA Lending Council Conference in Miami.

The three-way partnership will provide credit unions insured by the CPI alliance of CUNA Mutual Group and State National with a connector for the Akcelerant Framework, providing credit unions with a single platform to execute daily collection activities such as accessing CPI details, filing claims, tracking claims and other functions. The connector is in development and will be available for credit union implementation in early 2013.

The Akcelerant Framework connects customers to key services with service providers, creating the optimal work environment for financial institutions looking to get the most out of their collections operations, CUNA Mutual said.

Credit unions that choose the alliance of CUNA Mutual and State National Companies for their collateral protection needs and use Akcelerant for their collections activities will reduce the time their staff spends managing collections and CPI-related activities, freeing them to focus on revenue-generating tasks, said Bob Trunzo, president, CUNA Mutual Group Insurance & Financial Services.

"This partnership is a perfect example of CUNA Mutual Group's commitment to deliver best of breed solutions to credit unions," Trunzo said. "We found the best in State National for CPI, and it shows in how fast our alliance is growing. Connecting with Akcelerant raises the bar even higher in the value our customers will realize from our CPI alliance."

CUNA Mutual and State National Companies formed an alliance in 2009 to provide tracked CPI to credit unions. That alliance protects more than 340 credit unions' collateral and has grown 55% in three years due to strong market demand. State National Companies tracks loans for 600-plus lenders.

Members will have a more consistent experience when working with credit unions' lending and collections staff, according to Trace Ledbetter, senior vice president, State National Companies. "And Akcelerant collections users will be able to tap into the power of State National Companies' CPI program inside the Akcelerant Framework, making the use of CPI data seamless inside their normal collections workflow," Ledbetter said.

The partnership is about giving customers what they want, said Eric Snyder, Akcelerant executive vice president of business development. "Over the years, there has been consistent demand from our customer base for diverse choices and a robust library of connected services," Snyder added. "We recognize the success of CUNA Mutual Group and State National's CPI alliance and are excited about delivering this new functionality to credit unions."

Conference teaches CU philosophy principles

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RALEIGH, N.C. (11/6/12)--More than 40 credit union employees gathered in Winston-Salem, N.C., Oct. 23-25 for the third annual Principles & Philosophy Conference, hosted by the National Credit Union Foundation and the North Carolina Credit Union League.

More than 40 credit union employees gathered in Winston-Salem, N.C. Oct. 23-25 for the third annual Principles & Philosophy Conference. From left, conference facilitators Larry Blanchard, CUNA Mutual Group; and  Lois Kitsch, National Credit Union Foundation; and conference planning committee members Amy Gravitte, Coastal FCU, Raleigh, N.C., and Ashley Ruffin, Local Government FCU, Raleigh, N.C.  (Photo provided by North Carolina Credit Union League)
The conference provides credit union employees a comprehensive look at the history of the credit union movement and the principles that make them different from banks.

"Credit unions have a proud history of serving members and , like all cooperatives, a unique business model that stresses people over profits," said Ashley Ruffin of Local Government FCU, Raleigh, N.C., who chaired the volunteer committee of credit union staff that planned and hosted the conference.

While most credit union "lifers" know and live by the cooperative principles, "there has been a huge influx of new credit union talent that can benefit by understanding how and why cooperatives are different," Ruffin said.

Lois Kitsch of the National Credit Union Foundation and Larry Blanchard of CUNA Mutual Group facilitated the event. Blanchard and Kitsch described the growth and evolution of the cooperative and credit union movements, and shared the nine operating principles that underpin the cooperative business model.

The nine principles are organized in three key areas--democratic structure, service to members and social goals--and serve to differentiate cooperatives from other business models. The nine principles fall into three categories. They include:

Democratic Structure:

  • Open and voluntary membership;
  • Democratic control; and
  • Non-discrimination.
Service to Members:

  • Distribution to members;
  • Building financial stability; and
  • Service to members.
Social Goals:

  • Ongoing education;
  • Cooperation among cooperatives; and
  • Social responsibility.
Attendees were organized into groups and through a series of discussions and assignments were asked to integrate the cooperative principles more fully in their work. Participants also received tips on how they could share the cooperative principles at their credit union, and ensure that fellow staff members were aware of their value.

Prior to the cooperative principles session, Brandon McAdams and Patrick Livingston of Coastal FCU, Raleigh, N.C., provided an in-depth look at the history of the cooperative and credit union movements in the U.S. and world. Jeff Hardin of the North Carolina Credit Union League (NCCUL) shared a timeline of the development and spread of credit unions in North Carolina, and Vicki Parker of the Support Center provided the history of the African American credit union movement in the state.

"The league is committed to ensuring that the principles that make credit unions unique will continue to light the road ahead," said NCCUL President/CEO John Radebaugh. The conference was planned and hosted by a volunteer committee of Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs). "We are deeply grateful to the CUDEs for their hard work in making this conference such a remarkable success. Each of these volunteers is a terrific reflection of the people helping people philosophy of credit unions," Radebaugh said.

One more CUNA board nomination received

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MADISON, Wis. (11/6/12)--One more nomination has been submitted for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) board positions.

The nomination was made in District 6, Class D, for Troy Stang, president/CEO, Northwest Credit Union Association, Federal Way, Wash.

Other previous nominations include:

  • District 4, Class C: Dennis Pierce, CEO, CommunityAmerica CU, Lenexa, Kan.;
  • District 6, Class A: Susan Streifel, president/CEO, Woodstone CU, Federal Way, Wash.;
  • District 5, Class D: J. Scott Sullivan, president/CEO, Nebraska Credit Union League, Omaha, Neb.;
  • District 5, Class B: Incumbent Roger Heacock president/CEO, Black Hills FCU, Rapid City, S.D.'
  • District 2, Class A: Incumbent John Graham, president/CEO,  Kentucky Employees CU, Frankfort, Ky.
Positions up for election are:

  • District 1, Class C;
  • District 2, Class A;
  • District 3, Class B;
  • District 4, Class C;
  • District 5, Class B;
  • District 5, Class D;
  • District 6, Class A; and
  • District 6, Class D.
A nominee must be an employee or voting board member of the nominating credit union to be an eligible candidate elected by credit unions. The nomination must be seconded in writing by at least two other credit unions from the same district and class.

League candidates must be a league president and nominated in writing by their league, and seconded in writing by at least one other league from the district.

Nominations are due through Nov. 16. For contested elections, ballots will be sent Nov. 21, with voting continuing through Jan. 4. Results of contested elections will be announced Jan. 8.

Directors will take office upon the adjournment of CUNA's Annual General Meeting on Feb. 25 in Washington, D.C.

Nomination packets are available by calling 800-356-9655, ext. 4013; using the resource link; or e-mailing

Savings Sleuth--Solve the Mystery is 2013 Theme for Youth Week

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MADISON, Wis. (11/6/12)--Credit unions nationwide selected "Savings Sleuth--Solve the Mystery" to be the theme for the 2013 National Credit Union Youth Week, which will take place April 21-27.

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The concept was chosen from ideas submitted by credit union staff this fall.

"Savings Sleuth--Solve the Mystery" will present youth with the mystery of how to save their money to purchase the things they want. By visiting credit unions, they'll be able to find clues toward solving that mystery and learn a good deal about early finance and credit unions in the process.

The theme was based on a submission from Cynthia Tong with Audobon FCU in Owensboro, Ky., who suggested a focus on savings detectives. "We have to remember that in order to attract the next generation of credit union members, we need to engage them at a young age," advises Tong. "Consider examples like McDonald's--if the youth love your services, their parents will enjoy coming in too! We love having kids visit our credit union, and they get plenty of attention when they do."

Joanne Sepich, CUNA's Youth Week coordinator, expressed full support for this year's theme selection. "If becoming a detective gets a child interested in setting a goal and saving for it, I say go for it," Sepich said. "I'm all for making a little financial fun."

Official National Credit Union Youth Week art, articles, and celebration materials will be available online in January. For the latest information on Youth Week, credit union staff may sign up for the free Youth Week e-Newsletter. Use the link.

Financial Trust Index shows CUs outpace banks

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (11/6/12)--As the economy continues to be a top issue for voters in the final days of the presidential campaign, said the Illinois Credit Union League, trust in credit unions has remained high at 61% among Americans, according to the latest Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index.

The index also found that 23% of Americans say they trust the U.S. financial system. That is an increase of two percentage points since the last issue of the index in June and reflects a rebound of trust in the banking sector.

The index measures public opinion during three-month periods to track changes in U.S citizens' trust in the private institutions in which they can invest their money, including the stock market, banks, mutual funds and large corporations. The index has consistently reported notably more trust in credit unions than local and national banks, quarter over quarter, since it began in December 2008, said the league.

Monday's report is the 16th quarterly update and is based on a survey conducted in September.

The gain in the banking sector was largely driven by an increase of trust in national banks in particular, which rose by five percentage points to 28% since the last report, said Luigi Zingales, co-author of the Financial Trust Index and the Robert R. McCormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Also, trust in community banks remained at 56%.

The Financial Trust Index also was developed and spearheaded by Paola Sapienza, Merrill Lynch Capital Markets Research Professor of Finance at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Professors Sapienza and Zingales define trust as "an expectation that a person (or institution) will perform actions that are beneficial or at least not detrimental to others. While trust is fundamental to all trade and investment, it is particularly important in financial markets, where people part with their money in exchange for promises."

Data is analyzed quarterly from more than 1,000 U.S. households, randomly chosen and surveyed via phone by Social Science Research Solutions. In different quarters, this information is supplemented with data on additional topics.

"This is a story we all already knew. Credit unions are trusted," said Dan Plauda, president/CEO of the Illinois league. "To have this kind of academic pedigree backing what we knew to be fact, is great."

Credit unions also have scored high in other national and local surveys on trust, loyalty and member satisfaction studies this year. They include:

  • Credit unions were rated No. 1 in a survey of 5,000 consumers asked to rate the reputation of 34 business sectors in a study conducted by Denver-based Prime Performance (News Now May 14). Credit unions topped all business sectors in reputation with an average reputation score of 5.78 on a seven-point scale with seven as "very good."  They were followed by grocery stores (5.50), and community banks (5.40). Regional banks came in seventh at 5.04 and national banks 18th at 4.15.
  • Credit unions topped the list of U.S. financial institutions in member/customer satisfaction, according to the 2011 Customer Experience with Call Center Representatives Survey by Prime Performance (News Now March 9). Members/customers claim they were more satisfied last year in their interactions with credit union and bank call center representatives than in 2010. Based on a recent interaction with a call center representative, credit union members rated their overall satisfaction with a net score of 83%. The comparable score for small banks is 79%. The industry average is 70%.  Falling below that are: large banks, 66%; Chase, 62%; Wells Fargo, 61%; and Bank of America, 56%.
  • Credit unions were among the top customer satisfaction rankings in Temkin Group's release of its 2012 Temkin Customer Service Ratings, which examines how U.S. consumers rate the customer service of 174 large companies across 18 industries (News Now June 28).
  • A National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA)/Consumer Federation of America (CFA) survey found more Americans think credit unions and other cooperative businesses have the best interests of their members and customers in mind more than do for-profit businesses (News Now May 3). The survey also revealed a favorable view of cooperatives in regards to their business trustworthiness and quality of service. Co-ops received higher marks across the board than for-profit businesses.
  • Credit unions outshone banks in consumers' perceptions of safety and soundness, with 40% of respondents saying they believe credit unions are the safest financial institutions, compared with 34% naming banks (News Now Feb. 23). Nineteen percent of respondents said they trusted both types of institutions equally. The numbers are the results of the 2012 Credit Union National Association (CUNA) National Voter Survey.
  • A CUNA survey in February found that 43% of respondents said credit unions were the best place for consumers to keep their day to day savings and checking accounts (News Now Feb. 22).

CU System Briefs (11/05/2012)

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  • MADISON, Wis. (11/6/12)--Mike Bunge has joined CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. (CBSI) to lead new-business development for the broker-dealer. Bunge most recently served as the senior vice president of business and community development at Summit CU in Madison, Wis. In that role, he promoted financial literacy by launching a credit union branch in a local high school as well as coaching families participating in the credit union's "Project Money" program, which helped members work to reduce debt, increase savings, and learn how to make every dollar count. Bunge also was responsible for 24 Summit Credit Union branches with $1.6 billion in assets and 118,000 credit union members …
  • ROCHESTER, Minn. (11/6/12)--Kelly McDonough, president/CEO of First Alliance CU Rochester, Minn., was named one of Finance & Commerce's Top Women in Finance. Each year the independent daily newspaper recognizes women who have made significant contributions to the financial services industry by positively influencing their businesses and communities. McDonough has served as president/CEO of $125 million First Alliance CU for nine years. The credit union serves nearly 12,000 members …

CMG Six must-have skills for compliance officers

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MIAMI (11/6/12)--Preparing for changes in today's regulatory environment demands a new toolbox of skills for regulatory compliance staff, attendees of the CUNA Lending Council annual conference were told Monday by Bill Klewin and Lauren Calhoun of CUNA Mutual Group. 

At the CUNA Lending Council Conference in Miami on Monday, Bill Klewin, CUNA Mutual Group director of regulatory compliance, outlined six skills every compliance officer should possess. (Photo provided by CUNA Mutual Group)
"The role of the compliance officer is changing and finding staff with the right skills is a higher priority than ever before," said Klewin, CUNA Mutual Group director of regulatory compliance.   "A critical component to managing all of the complex regulatory changes will be finding competent compliance staff and giving them the tools and resources to upgrade their skills and influence."

Klewin outlined six skills every compliance officer should have. They included:

  1. Ability to interpret. There are very few black-and-white rules so the ability to interpret the spirit of the rule, as well as the actual language, is important. Compliance staff need to be able to work within the gray areas.
  1. Attention to detail. This seems obvious because so many regulations require detailed analysis, but it's important to attend to the details while maintaining a view of the big picture.
  1. Attention to the big picture. Compliance officers must understand the bigger picture and what the regulators are trying to accomplish with the regulation. They must also have the attention to detail to help them figure out how to implement it.
  1. Ability to apply rules to real-life facts. Knowing the regulations inside and out is great, yet staff must have the ability to apply their fact situations to the rules and regulations.
  1. Risk assessment capabilities. The ability to assess the alternatives and make a decision based on the risk is critical.  Compliance officers must understand the risk tolerance of the credit union as well as litigation environment in their area
  1. Communication skills. Written and verbal communication skills are essential. The compliance officer must have the ability to communicate at all levels in the organization from front-line staff to the CEO and board of directors.  Having compliance expertise adds little value if it can't be communicated effectively.
A key question facing credit union managers is how and where to find staff with these comprehensive skills, Klewin said. He believes that there are three options for credit unions to upgrade the skills of their compliance staff: They can buy, build or partner with others.

"Buying," or hiring, someone who already has these skills is very expensive because they are in great demand.  Building the skills in current staff takes time and is a risk because of turnover.  Outsourcing the entire compliance operation does not position credit unions well for the long-term. Therefore, most credit unions will likely need to do a combination of all three tactics to meet their needs.

Calhoun, CUNA Mutual regulatory compliance manager, also provided an update on lending compliance issues on the horizon in 2013.

"Depending on the timing of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), 2013 could be the year of mortgage compliance changes for credit unions," said Calhoun.  The CFPB has issued seven proposed mortgage rules, each with comment period closing dates in October or November.  The majority of these rules will be issued in final form by the end of 2012 or in January, while one or two others will come later in the yea

Other potential regulatory changes on the consumer lending radar include:

  • Know Before You Owe: Student Loans and Credit Cards;
  • Overdraft Protection;
  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act;
  • Payday Lending and Payday Alternative Loans;
  • Pre-paid Reloadable Cards; and
  • Business Lending Data Collection.