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Christian to Write on CU Difference in GoBankingRates.com

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LOS ANGELES (12/11/13)--Social media strategist and cooperative activist Kristen Christian will write a monthly question-and-answer column focusing on the credit union movement.
 
The impending launch of Christian's column was announced Monday on GoBankingRates.com--the website that will publish it (GoBankingRates.com Dec. 9).
 
Christian, who lives in Los Angeles, will discuss the difference between credit unions and community banks--focusing on the fact that credit unions are, by definition, non-profit cooperatives, and that no credit union has ever been bailed out with public funds.
 
Community banks, meanwhile, are largely for-profit institutions that can be sold to big banks, said her first column. Opening savings accounts with them doesn't confer any ownership on account holders, and community banks accepted taxpayer financed bailouts during the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s and the subprime crisis last decade, she wrote.
 
In 2011, Christian shot to prominence within the credit union movement when she launched National Bank Transfer Day--a movement that encouraged customers sick of big banks' fees to become credit union members. After National Bank Transfer Day occurred on Nov. 5 of that year, more than two million people joined credit unions.
 
To read the full article, use the link.

CUs Top of the Consumer Satisfaction Heap, Increase Triple That of Banks

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (12/11/13)--Credit unions continue to hold a high reputation in customer satisfaction, resulting in a 3.7% increase this year over last year's ranking in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
 
For 2013, credit unions have an ACSI benchmark of 85--significantly higher than the bank rating of 78. Banks may have inched upward by 1.3% from 2012, but credit unions' increase in the approval rating --at 3.7%--was triple that of banks, according to the cross-industry survey of customer satisfaction.
 
"Credit unions continue to be recognized as trusted financial providers that put member service first," said Paul Gentile, executive vice president of strategic communications and engagement, Credit Union National Association. "The credit union cooperative model centers around helping consumers improve their financial lives, and these survey results reflect how important that is for consumers in today's challenging economic environment."
 
Free checking and lower interest rates are among the reasons why the credit union rating rose, ACSI reported, and the historically better member experience continues to buoy service ratings. Courteous and helpful staff notched a score of 93--higher than the bank rating at 91--followed by quick and efficient transactions at 90, where banks stood at 88.
 
"Credit unions continue to benefit from a very strong emphasis on customer service," David VanAmburg, ACSI director, told News Now. Credit unions' local feel and the ability of staff to make members feel valued and welcome also are reflected in the results, he added.
 
Credit union members do believe their current credit union offers competitive interest rates (85), compared with bank customers who ranked their institution at 73. "This is an interesting psychological area," VanAmburg said. "Bank customers must be thinking about credit unions and community banks when it comes to the comparison.
 
"Conversely, credit union members are clearly looking at big banks and finding a welcome prospect at their credit union."
 
Banks got their uptick in the satisfaction rating this year, though modest, despite it being a year filled with stories about big banks continually hiking fees and about multimillion-dollar settlements regarding allegations that some megabanks played a role in setting the financial crisis on fire by allegedly misleading investors about the quality of the home loans at the heart of mortgage-backed securities.  (See related story, Court Approves $500M MBS Settlement by BofA/Countrywide, in today's Market News section of News Now). Banks have now reached the score they had in 2007 prior to the financial crisis.
 
The ACSI Finance and Insurance Report 2013 is based on interviews with 5,296 customers, chosen at random and contacted via telephone and email between July 10 and Sept. 4.

Adams Named CEO of Alloya Corporate

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WARRENVILLE, Ill. (12/11/13)--Todd Adams, who has served as interim CEO of Alloya Corporate FCU since September, has been named the corporate's CEO, assuming leadership of the corporate immediately, announced Alloya Corporate's Board of Directors Tuesday.
 
"This appointment brings continuity to the corporate and best ensures that we will continue to build on the positive momentum of the past two years," said Amy Sink, Alloya's chair, who said the corporate conducted a national search and interviewed many candidates. "The corporate has a great story to tell in terms of the value it returns to members, and the corporate is now poised for even stronger success in the future," she said.
 
Adams, who joined Alloya in 2003, previously served as its senior vice president and president of Balance Sheet Solutions, Alloya's wholly owned investment and investment advisory credit union service organization. He has diverse experience within the financial services industry, is a certified public accountant and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. His bachelor's degree in business administration/accounting is from the University of Iowa.
 
"Alloya's cooperative business model is 100% focused on supporting credit union success," Adams said. "Through aggregration of resources, Alloya is able to offer over $5 billion in advised lines of credit, a full suite of cash management and investment products, access to a wide range of efficient payment services through Premier View, and free education through Connection webinars.  I believe in the future of the credit union movement and the important role that Alloya plays to support credit union members," Adams added.

aSmarterChoice November Stats Show Increasing Social Media Use

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WASHINGTON (12/11/13)--aSmarterChoice, the credit union movement's website to help consumers locate credit unions and information about credit unions, reported 18,405 visits made at the site during November, much of it from new visitors, said the Credit Union National Association.

Unique visitors to the site totaled 15,569, with 15,523 successful searches made during the month, said CUNA. Of those visitors, 81.7% were new to the site and 18.3% were return visitors, said Amaia Kirtland, CUNA social and digital media manager.

Use of the site's social media faces, in terms of Facebook "likes" and Twitter followers, rose since the aSmarterChoice's October update (News Now Oct. 18). Facebook likes totaled 7,162 and Twitter followers totaled 1,734. Kirtland reported that CUNA's Twitter reach has increased, with @asmarterchoice mentioned 165 times, up from 91 in October.

"Mentions of the site on social media generate an uptick in searches and hits, similar to mentions in the media," said the report. "Content sharing on social media will also expand the potential reach to consumers as posts that are liked, commented on, or shared--especially those with pictures or links--are placed higher on the news feed based on Facebook's algorithm," it continued.

State by state, the most visits were from California, with 2,304 visits of which 34.81% were searches; New York, with 1,339 visits and 41.22% searches; Texas, with 1,133 visits and 36.10% searches; and Florida, with 1,093 visits and 31.38% searches.

aSmarterChoice does not pay to promote any of its posts, tweets or updates. In January, watch for new developments in design and new content.

Survey: New Payments Channels Top Issue Among Card, Payment Execs

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NOTTINGHAM, U.K. (12/11/13)--The proliferation of new payment channels was cited as the biggest issue for the payment and card industry in a survey by Compass Plus, an international provider of retail banking and electronic payments software to processors and financial institutions.
 
About 28% of respondents cited new payment channels as the No. 1 payments issue. A closely related area--the growth of near field communication/contactless technology--was the second-most cited issue, mentioned by 26% of respondents.
 
The annual survey--which was conducted at the international CARTES Secure Connexions Event 2013 in Paris. About 70 executives representing financial institutions, mobile operators, payment processors and other industry professions responded.
 
Credit unions monitoring mobile payments issues will be interested to learn that mobile payments offer the biggest opportunity for card providers in 2014, according to the survey. At the same time, many respondents said they hedged about the immediate prospect for mobile payments. About 40% of respondents do not expect the mass adoption of mobile payments to take place for two to three years.
 
About 28% of survey respondents said mobile would account for 20%-30% of payment channels in two to three years, and nearly a quarter thought mobile would be used for 30%-40% of payments.
 
About 32% of executives expected the mass adoption of mobile payments to take place within one to two years, according to the survey.
 
The wide range of forecasts for mobile's adoption may be explained by its quick rise on the financial industry's radar. It did not make the top five in Compass Plus' 2012 survey.
 
Card-not-present fraud was cited by 34% of respondents as posing the greatest payment fraud threat, followed by Internet banking and phishing, both at 24%.

Conn. Congresswoman on 'Don't Tax': Call Lawmakers' Local Offices

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MERIDEN, Conn. (12/11/13)--In a video interview with the Credit Union League of Connecticut, a congresswoman from Connecticut shared tips for credit unions wanting to ensure their position on preserving their tax status is heard and supported in Congress.
 
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), who is a supporter of credit unions' tax status, told Kelly Fuhlbrigge, league vice president of government relations, in the short video that "it is really important to reach out to your own member of Congress. I pay the most attention to the voices from my own towns and my district."  She tracks the visits, e-mails and calls from constituents, she said.

"If you're in Washington, stop by the office; or stop by the local community office."  A special tip, she said:  "Call the local office in your own state so then we know that local folks care."

"Grassroots really do matter. Voices from home count for a lot," she said.

Esty's interview comes on the heels of another interview with U.S. Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who told the league credit unions must maintain close contact with their legislators during the tax reform process (News Now Dec. 5).

The league aims to collect a video from each member of the Connecticut delegation, said Fuhlbrigge.

The full video can be viewed on the league's new CUBE TV page by using the link.

CUs Can Help Report Illegal Card Surcharges

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MADISON, Wis. (12/11/13)--Credit unions can be an important educational venue for consumers and merchants to learn about credit card surcharges, including what's acceptable and what's not compliant.

Since Jan. 27, 2013, merchants have been allowed to add surcharges to purchases made with a credit card. Both Visa and MasterCard have FAQs on their websites regarding merchant surcharges, and Visa has a form available to file inquiries about potential non-compliance. The Credit Union National Association is providing resources to educate consumers and merchants alike. See the links below.
 
"Letting credit unions know about these surcharges falls right under our consumer protection umbrella," said Michele Johnson, CUNA director of federal legislative affairs.
 
The 2012 settlement between the payment industry and retailers provided that merchants can surcharge card transactions but only if they follow a strict set of rules:
  • The surcharge can only be placed on a credit card transaction, not debit or prepaid;
  • The surcharge has to be relative to the amount of purchase and cannot exceed the cap of 4% of the transaction;
  • Customers must be notified of any surcharge before they make a purchase. This can include signage at the store entrance, at the point of sale or, if online, on the first page that references credit card brands; and
  • Surcharge fees must disclosed on sales receipt.
 
"We don't want members to be charged surcharges when they shouldn't be," said Rod Staatz, president/CEO, SECU, Linthicum, Md. If members have a place to report non-compliance, he added, then Visa can take care of the issue with the merchant.
 
Visa is currently the only card company providing a direct link to report non-compliance.
 
Credit card surcharges are not allowed in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.

Filene Announces Seven CUs Hit Silver Benefactor Level

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MADISON, Wis. (12/11/13)--Seven credit unions increased their financial support of Filene Research Institute to achieve silver benefactor status as part of the Filene's Go Silver! membership program.
 
"These organizations share our vision of a thriving and dynamic future for credit unions dependent on active participation," said Mark Meyer, Filene Research president/CEO. "Their support of Filene enables us to drive change for the cooperative system as a whole."
 
The seven credit unions, which were previously bronze-level members, include:
  • A+ FCU, Austin, Texas.
  • American Airlines CU, Fort Worth, Texas;
  • Coastal FCU, Raleigh, N.C.;
  • Digital FCU, Marlborough, Mass.;
  • Redwood CU, Santa Rosa, Calif.;
  • SchoolsFirst FCU, Santa Ana, Calif.; and
  • State Department FCU, Alexandria, Va.
In recognition of its 25th anniversary in 2014, Filene invited its bronze benefactors to upgrade to silver in a special, limited-time membership program. Credit unions participating earn a credit toward an appreciation program, ranging from impact solutions and technology strategic planning to community engagement and extra membership support.
 
Filene's silver benefactors contribute $24,999 annually.
 
Go Silver! is limited to the first 25 member organizations that commit.