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Federation urges NCUA Boost training for CDCULICU exams

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NEW YORK (12/17/10)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions has written a letter to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board urging the agency to increase its examiners' training related to examinations of community development credit union (CDCU) and low-income credit unions (LICUs). The letter is in response to NCUA's announcement that it plans to expand its examiner ranks so it could provide increased examination coverage for credit unions nationwide. Citing concerns from CDCUs and LICUs that examiners have been inconsistent in examining these credit unions, federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal submitted a letter to the NCUA Board requesting that new examiners hired have access to specialized training on CDCUs and LICUs. "In a number of meetings over the last 10 years, agency staff has confirmed that new or less experienced examiners are often assigned to small and low-income credit unions, presumably because these are less complex institutions that represent a smaller degree of material risk to the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF)," Rosenthal said in the letter. However, he added, "because LICUs and CDCUs often do not fit the mold or demonstrate the ratios and operating characteristics of other credit unions, the examination process has often been a rather rocky one… As some of our CDCUs have put it, they have needed to 'educate the examiners [themselves]." While credit unions have reported that implementation has not always been uniform, Rosenthal praised the agency for its efforts to date, referring to the agency's supervisory letter on examination of LICUs and CDCUs, and stressed the need for more consistent implementation. "Given the stress in the credit union industry, and especially in view of the vulnerability of many of our smallest institutions, it is especially important that new examiners are well-trained on this document," he said, adding that training "will be an integral and significant part of the orientation of new, as well as existing, NCUA examiners." Thursday NCUA also announced two rules related to the low-income definition and data determining whether membership fits the low-income definition. (See related story in News Now's Washington section on "NCUA addresses low-income members, CUs during meeting.") The federation and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) have worked with NCUA for years to provide guidance to examiners working with LICUs and CDCUs. CUNA also has urged increased examiner training. CUNA's Small Credit Union Committee worked with the federation and NCUA to ensure examiners know the operational differences allowed LICUs and CDCUs prior to NCUA's January 2010 CDCU/LICU Examiner Guidance Letter (10-CU-01) (News Now Jan. 19).

Web Hunt turns CU site into virtual board game

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GAITHERSBURG, Md. (12/17/10)--CFE FCU has turned its website into a virtual board game for its members, getting thousands of them to explore deep within the site and its Facebook page. CFE FCU’s “You Deserve the Best” Web Hunt game allows members and prospects to explore its website to search for interactive game pieces strategically placed on different pages. During the eight-week campaign, members/players have a chance to win 10 different prizes totaling $3,000 by finding game pieces that correspond to the prizes. When players collect all 10, they are entered for a chance to win a grand prize of $1,000. The promotion runs through Dec. 31 and prize drawings will take place in early January. “The game has created a lot of excitement--especially on Facebook, where visitors could send a ‘shout-out’ to their best friends and receive a free T-shirt or lunch cooler,” said Suzanne W. Dusch, vice president of marketing for CFE FCU. “In fact, CFE’s Facebook friends more than doubled in just two weeks, exceeding 2,200 friends as of Nov. 30.” The CU Web Hunt System, designed by the marketing technology company Code Green, works by using CFE FCU’s entire website as the “game board” for the interactive treasure hunt. A web hunt campaign provides incentives for members to hunt for interactive game piece icons, while exploring its rates, services and strategic pages. CFE FCU, for example, incorporated the system to broaden its members’ knowledge of the ways the credit union helps them with their financial paths. Visits to CFE FCU’s website have increased and time-on-page has doubled since the game began. The credit union embedded one of the game pieces on Facebook and has gone from 944 friends to over 2,200 in a few weeks. Comments on the credit union’s Facebook page have increased dramatically. One recent posting asked players which prize they hope to win and CFE received nearly 50 comments from friends. “On the subject of Facebook, it’s interesting to note that we’ve had a couple of players who couldn’t find one or more game pieces,” Dusch explains. “They comment on our page that they’re having trouble, so we’re able to respond with hints and helpful guidance and they appreciate it. We’ve even contacted a couple of players one-on-one to help them on the game and ensure they have a positive game experience.” CFC FCU has $1.1 billion in assets. (See related story in News Now’s system section, “To woo members, CUs turn to contests”)

Lake Michigan CU aims to double business loans

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (12/17/10)--Lake Michigan CU in Grand Rapids, Mich., aims to double its amount of member business loans (MBL) next year to take advantage of what it says is a marketplace void created when banks cut back on lending during the recession. The credit union took action to bolster its commercial lending arm by hiring a commercial lender to work in specific markets in 2011 ( Dec. 16). “We’re trying to do business where we have people and operations,” Mark Hofhines, senior vice president of commercial lending at Lake Michigan CU, told the publication. “There are a lot of good customers that are not getting what they deserve.” The credit union, which has 31 offices in West Michigan and assets of $2.07 billion, grew total MBL by 55% to $35.1 million from September 2009 to September 2010, according to a quarterly financial report filed with federal regulators. The credit union has a backlog of $15 million in loans, Hofhines told Statewide, Michigan credit unions grew MBL 22.9% for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, according to the Michigan Credit Union League. The article also mentioned Honor CU in St. Joseph, and First Community CU in Parchment for their MBL growth. The Credit Union National Association and credit unions are trying to get Congress to increase credit unions’ MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. Doing so would open up more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $10 billion in loans into the economy and create as many as 100,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers. To read the article, use the link.

To woo members CUs turn to contests

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MADISON, Wis. (12/17/10)--Credit unions are wooing members--be they potential new members or existing ones--by turning to contests that entertain, reward members for good financial habits, add good will, and provide some financial education.
Click to view larger image Jim and Cheryl Shaw and children Cassidy and Jack walked away with $10,000 after beating out eight other families in Florida Commerce CU's weLiveFIT! Challenge. The family increased its savings to $3,016, reduced debt by $2,798, and boosted credit scores by 161 points. (Photo provided by Florida Commerce CU)
Tallahassee, Fla.-based Florida Commerce CU (FCCU) is a case in point. Earlier this month, it presented the $10,000 grand prize in its second weLiveFIT! Challenge to the Shaw family, who beat out eight other families competing to see who could improve their household finances the most. Jim and Cheryl Shaw, and their children Cassidy and Jack, emerged the winners after increasing their savings to $3,016, reducing their debt by $2,798 and boosting their credit scores by 161 points. "Although only one family received a check for $10,000, each family gained invaluable money management skills that will guarantee them long-term financial independence," said Samantha Strickland, vice president for growth and brand management at FCCU. The Middleton and Mallory families received $2,500 and $1,500, respectively, for making it to the final round. Florida Commerce provided the nine families with a personal finance coach during the 10-month competition. The families increased their credit scores by 422 points, decreased debt by $32,400. They saved a combined $34,901, compared to their $2,698 combined savings in March. Thousands of people followed the families' financial struggles and successes on Facebook and Twitter and in their blog and video postings on They received more than 45,000 votes from the public in June, September and November to determine which families progressed to the next round. In the last two weeks, nearly 14,000 votes were cast online. "The increased community involvement this season made this competition bigger and better, and we hope each family continues to live financially fit," said Strickland.
Click to view larger image Karolyn Wells, left, CEO of EdCo Community CU, Des Moines, Iowa, presents EdCo member Jana McLeod with the winning prize--a 32-inch LCD TV--in a national contest sponsored by the credit union's data processor, CU Answers. (Photo provided by EdCo Community CU)
Sometimes the credit union isn't the sponsor of a contest but a partner is. That happened when Jana McLeod, a member of EdCo Community CU, Des Moines, won a Sony Bravia 32-inch LCD TV. She was automatically entered into a national contest sponsored by EdCo's data processor, CU Answers, when she enrolled in the credit union's Online Bill Payment service and was randomly selected by CU Answers as the winner. More than 2,100 total entries were received from 51 participating credit unions. Karolyn Wells, EdCo CEO, said the contest was a great way to encourage EdCo members to take advantage of the ease and convenience of EasyPay and to begin paying bills online. Other recent competitions:
* In Riverside, Calif., Altura CU presented an Apple iPad to member
Click to view larger image Jessica Larson, a member of Riverside, Calif.-based Altura CU, shows off an Apple iPad she won for using her Altura Visa debit card during the credit union's promotion. (Photo provided by Altura CU)
Jessica Larson of Corona after she used her Altura Visa debit card. Every time cardholders used their card for purchases between Oct. 18 and Nov. 30 they were entered to win the iPad. "We created this promotional campaign to spread the word about Altura's Visa debit card and how easy it is to use for everyday purchases," said Jennifer Binkley, chief operating officer. * San Mateo CU, Redwood City, Calif., presented a 2011 Honda CR-Z Sport Hybrid to Teresa Guiterrez, a member for the past 10 years, as part of its pre-holiday car sale promotion. SMCU had mailed members a key, and Guiterrez's key fit the lock box. Her win came on the first day of the credit union's car sale. "The key giveaway is the highlight of the sale, said SMCU President/CEO Barry Jolette, "and it's always a treat to see the expression on the face of the winner." * Dublin, Ohio-based Ohio Healthcare FCU celebrated its loyal members and paved the way for an upcoming marketing campaign by rolling out its Next Top Credit Union Member contest in October. The contest sought applicants who could share a story about how the credit union made a difference in their life. Applicants fell into three contest categories and were asked to submit a short video about "How has OHCFCU made a difference in your life?" Nine videos were posted on the credit union's microsite, The public cast more than 41,000 votes in two weeks for their favorites. Each winner received $500 and their photo and testimonial will be used in an upcoming marketing campaign. "We want to roll out a campaign that highlights real members and real stories to encourage membership growth and credit union recognition," said Jaime Crooks, marketing director. * FORUM CU, Indianapolis, used savings goals as the basis for its SaveItUp Challenge. Participants entered to win three cash prizes once they enrolled in the program, completed four out of seven financial steps, and met at least one goal. Goal categories were savings, debt reduction and financial education. Savings goal winner Thomas Hasler and debt reduction goal winner Mitchell Butler each won a $3,000 Weekly 5 Club Account, while financial literacy prize winner Eric Normington won the $1,500 Weekly 5 Club prize. * GECU in El Paso, Texas, announced Heather McBride, a physical therapist, as the winner of its year-long competition, GECU Savings Challenge 2010: Back in the Black. McBride won $10,000 after tackling a new mortgage, student loans and other debt. She beat out five other participants in this year's challenge. Since the annual challenge began in 2007, participants have saved more than $174,000 and reduced debt by more than $281,000. * Vantage CU, Bridgeton, Mo., recently awarded $5,000 to Geannette Loftin Walls, who was one of 4,000 qualifying members taking part in the credit union's University of Savings campaign, which began in April. It encouraged savings by setting up automatic transfer to special savings. Walls set up an automatic transfer of $10 a month into an existing special account in April. "Our goal with this campaign was to encourage people to start saving in an automatic and ongoing way," said Kathy Palmer, vice president of marketing. "The promotion was a great success; many of our members continue to build on their savings."
And judging from the smiles on the faces of the winners in most of the photos News Now receives about the competitions, the contests work.

CUs for Kids a cause-marketing model

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MADISON, Wis. (12/17/10)--Credit Unions for Kids provides a model of how credit unions can work together to serve a cause, and how individual credit unions come up with a virtually endless list of ideas to raise funds and make a difference in their communities. The program traces its roots to 1986 when seven CEOs in Oregon and Southwest Washington got together and raised $1,700 for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. The program also began in Texas around the same time. In 1996, Credit Unions for Kids partnered with Children’s Miracle Network (now Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals). Today, Credit Unions for Kids collaborate with credit union chapters, leagues, trade organizations, publications, and business partners to raise funds to benefit 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. CEO involvement is critical to the success of any cause marketing program, said Kasey Rockwell, director of credit union development for the Credit Union Association of Oregon. “We’ve always had two CEOs who are co-chairs and in the beginning were really leaders in the community,” Rockwell added. “They encourage CEOs and other credit unions and put out challenges to come on board and start fundraising. Pretty soon the associations and leagues were supportive of the program as well.” Credit Unions for Kids is “near and dear” to Rockwell’s heart. In addition to working with helping credit unions raise money for Credit Unions for Kids in her current job, Rockwell’s father, Gary VandeVenter, was one of the original seven CEOs who started the program. VandeVenter was CEO of Northwest Farmers Insurance Group FCU--now Northwest Preferred FCU. Rockwell added that support from the CEO and the board is important internally and it is important to gain buy-in throughout the organization. To encourage buy in from employees show them what the charities do. Give them a tour. Or offer them volunteer opportunities. Rockwell makes sure she carves out time to take credit union employees on hospital tours. The Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is named after Credit Unions for Kids because of the organization’s fundraising. “When you get [employees] up there and they see what a difference they are making in helping kids have a better stay, it has a huge impact,” Rockwell said. Credit unions can start small and still have a big impact, she said. She served on a committee at First Tech CU, Beaverton, Ore., which held a Credit Union for Kids fundraising auction in the late 1980s. Back then, the auction items were mostly donated by employees, and might include such items as a batch of cookies each month for a year, or a day of water skiing with lunch served. Now hosted by OnPoint Community Credit Union, Portland, Ore., credit unions from Oregon and southwest Washington donate items, and this year the auction raised $124,000, with more than 250 people attending. (Editor’s note: This part two of a series of articles News Now is featuring on credit unions and cause marketing.)

Greater Nevada CU scholarship receives national recognition

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (12/17/10)--Greater Nevada CU’s scholarship program was recently named one of the “Five Best Scholarships for Nevada Residents” by NewsMax, a national news media organization.
Carson High School graduate Justin Barlow in Carson City, Nev., was one of 16 students who received a $1,000 scholarship from Greater Nevada CU this year. The credit union was recently recognized as having one of the best scholarship programs for Nevada residents. (Photo provided by Greater Nevada CU)
Since its scholarship program began in 2001, Greater Nevada CU has awarded $129,000 to 129 students. Applications are provided to public high schools throughout northern Nevada every spring, and students planning to attend college or a trade school after graduation are encouraged to apply. All submitted applications are reviewed by the credit union’s scholarship committee, and winners are selected based on their academic performance, school and community involvement, recommendations from school and community leaders, and financial need. Also, applicants must be Greater Nevada CU members or the child, spouse or parent of a member. “Two of our students each received $1,000 scholarships from Greater Nevada this year,” said Tim McCarthy, guidance counselor and scholarship chairman at Carson High School, where Greater Nevada also has a student-run credit union branch. “One student is now attending the University of Nevada, Reno, and the other is enrolled at Western Nevada College. “With money and finances as tight as they are, these scholarships are more important than ever for helping kids pursue a post-high school education,” he added. Based in Carson City, Nev., Greater Nevada CU has $475 million in assets.