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CU System briefs (12/17/2008)

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* NILES, Mich. (12/18/08)--Two men convicted of robbing Berrien Teacher’s CU in Niles, Mich., were sentenced Friday. Travis Lamar Curry, 21, will serve 7 years in prison while Glenn Maurice Porter, 22, will serve 12 years. Both are from Elkhart, Ind. The two men robbed the credit union Jan. 18 with Deverance Kimbrough (States News Service Dec. 12). Porter and Kimbrough entered the credit union with handguns and fired at the credit union’s security guard, who fired back. Both Porter and Kimbrough were wounded and fled in a stolen car with Curry. Kimbrough died from his wounds ... * WHITTIER, Calif. (12/18/08)--Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal) awarded $33,600 in grants through the 2008 Student Impact Grant program. The $300 grants were given to 112 Southern California teachers in 26 school districts. Each fall, local teachers in eligible schools can apply for the grants by describing the activity the grant would be used for and judging the impact it would have on students. CU SoCal has $541 million in assets ... * CAMDEN, S.C. (12/18/08)--William Duncan Corbett, 87, founding member of May Plant CU in Lugoff, S.C., died Monday (The State Dec. 17). Corbett was a former DuPont employee and a U.S. Army World War II veteran ...

CDCU wins national community impact award

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (12/18/08)--Syracuse, N.Y.-based Cooperative FCU (Cooperative Federal) was awarded a 2008 Wachovia NEXT Award, according to the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. Cooperative Federal was one of six award recipients. The awards were presented at the 2008 Opportunity Finance Network Conference in Albuquerque, N.M. The award also includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant. “I commend Cooperative Federal for winning this award in a very spirited competition against many high-performing community development financial institutions,” said Federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “This award highlights the vital role community development credit unions play in bringing affordable financial services to low- and moderate-income people across America.” Cooperative Federal won the award for its city-wide programs to counter predatory lending. Since 1982, the credit union has invested $70 million in city neighborhoods to promote homeownership, small business growth and financial strength. The credit union also made more than 100 payday alternative loans, lent more than $2 million in alternative-to-predatory mortgages and provided housing and credit counseling to more than 300 low-income individuals. “We share the mission of the nationwide community development financial institutions movement--to do the seemingly impossible work of strengthening neighborhoods and empowering under-resourced people,” said Ron Ehrenreich, treasurer/CEO and cofounder of Cooperative Federal. Cooperative Federal has $14 million in assets.

Best boss secrets revealed by CUNA webinar

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MADISON, Wis. (12/18/08)--Credit union professionals can learn the secrets to becoming the best bosses possible during a new Credit Union National Association (CUNA) webinar in the first quarter of 2009. “My Best Boss Ever” will feature Rory Rowland, consultant and author of “My Best Boss Ever: How the Best Bosses Earn Trust, Respect, and Admiration of Their Employees for a Lifetime.” The Jan. 14 webinar will reveal how the best bosses motivate their employees without money or bonuses, along with strategies and tips to improve leadership skills. Other webinars highlighted during the first quarter include:
* Members can be helped to understand what elements from their credit reports most affect their credit scores during “Credit Reporting--How to Use This Tool” Feb. 4. The webinar will also help lending professionals, financial counselors, and member service staff learn to identify issues their members need to address to improve creditworthiness. * Credit union professionals can learn how to improve credit union incentive plans during “Incentive Plans That Work.” The March 18 webinar will highlight incentive plans from credit unions and how they were implemented. It will also demonstrate how a good plan can mean success and growth for a credit union. * “Residential Mortgage Underwriting for Self-Employed Borrowers” will help lending professionals work through different income sources and multiple situations to qualify self-employed members for loans. The March 24 offering will also explore different types of businesses and how to use a worksheet to reconcile tax return figures.
More than a dozen webinars will take place during the first quarter of 2009 to educate credit union personnel about: finance and economics; human resources and training; security; lending and collections; management and leadership; marketing and business development; operations, sales, and service; and regulatory compliance. Archived versions of many recent webinars are also available. During a webinar, students hear and see a presentation, ask questions of the instructor, and refer to handouts. For a complete list of classes, additional information and registration materials, use the link.

RMJ Foundation donates to Calif. CU fin-lit. efforts

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (12/18/08)--The Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, the state foundation for credit unions in California and Nevada, recently gave out four grants totaling $138,850 for various youth financial literacy efforts. A community service grant of $100,000 went to Biz Kid$, while ByDesign Financial Solutions received $35,000. Sacramento District Postal Employees CU received a $3,000 grant and Travis CU, Vacaville, Calif., received $850. The Biz Kid$ grant will go toward funding the third season of the program. The new season will begin airing Jan. 6. Biz Kid$ is now airing on PBS stations in all 50 states, with 323 of the nation’s 343 PBS stations expected to carry the show next year. In addition to production of the television show, funding also supports the development of lesson plans that correspond with each episode. ByDesign Financial Solutions was provided a grant of $35,000 to continue its partnerships with credit unions in presenting its Financial Firsts program to at-risk youth. The grant will allow the organization to teach 170 at-risk youth throughout California at workshops delivered with credit unions. Financial Firsts is a youth financial education program targeted to youth preparing to make their first independent financial and employment decisions. It covers topics such as first checking account, first job, first car purchase, first credit card account, first home-away-from home, and first college degree. ByDesign Financial Solutions is a nonprofit organization based out of Los Angeles, with regional operations in Sacramento, Fresno and Stockton. The $3,000 grant to Sacramento District Postal Employees CU will help the Sacramento, Calif.-based financial institution continue its quarterly Young Member Matters newsletter. The newsletter is distributed to youth through branches, mailings, and at weekly onsite visits at postal facilities. It features financial education using resources, such as the National Endowment for Financial Education. The $850 Community Service grant awarded to Travis CU will help the credit union in continuing its program to educate local high school students about the Cal Grant program, and how to budget for college. While the Vacaville, Calif.-based credit union covers the costs related to the program itself, the grant will help cover the costs of busing the students from Yolo County, a local farming community.

CDCU changes lending for low-income business members

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BRONX, N.Y. (12/18/08)--Bethex FCU, a $15 million-asset community development credit union (CDCU) serving more than 10,000 low-income residents throughout the Bronx, and other underserved areas in New York City, Mount Vernon and Yonkers, recently announced a series of comprehensive changes to its lending practices. The move comes in response to the recent mortgage meltdown and subsequent contraction in the credit markets, in which mainstream financial institutions have been tightening their lending standards across the board, but especially to low-income consumers whom they consider to be high-risk. Bethex is a niche lender focusing on low-credit borrowers, many of whom have previously been turned down by banks. The credit union specializes in lending to small and micro-business start-ups, particularly those run by women and minorities. In response to requests from its business borrowers, Bethex has recently modified its business loan policy to include an interest rate reduction for business and micro-enterprise members. In some cases, the credit union may lengthen the term of a loan, resulting in lower monthly payments while extending the life of the loan. As an approved Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, Bethex’s reduced interest rate is based on the SBA’s permitted rate of prime plus 2½% (4% + 2½% = 6½%). By monitoring this rate on a daily basis, Bethex is able to offer its members the best possible rate for each loan that is approved. Bethex loan officers do not give much weight to credit scores, or employ risk-based lending in their loan decisions. Instead, loan approval is based on knowledge of the community they serve and the relationships they have developed with their members over the years, Bethex said. Raising capital is frequently a challenge for financial institutions working with impoverished populations, but over the years Bethex has been fortunate in receiving support from New York State, New York City, and from the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, the CDCU said. Now that the economy has continued to deteriorate, that support may not be as readily available. Bethex FCU said it hopes that the government rescue plans will look holistically at the nation’s economic problems and support community-based financial institutions that can effectively deploy resources to low-income population. Bethex FCU was chartered in 1970 by the federal government and designated as a low-income credit union. Its organizers were women receiving Aid for Dependent Children.

Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless collaborates with CU

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LATHAM, N.Y. (12/18/08)--Community Resource FCU’s Community Involvement Committee, a committee made up of employee volunteers, selected Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless as the recipient of its charitable activities for 2008-2009.
Click to view larger imageCommunity Resource FCU’s Community Involvement Committee presents 15 baskets of personal care items for the Sheridan Hollow Drop-In Center at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. Pictured from left are: Yvonne Vickery, Community Resource’s processing specialist; Janine Robitaille, executive director of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless; Amy Conners, loan officer at Community Resource; Kathy Leyden, program director of the charity’s Drop-In Center; Janice Kemp, Community Resource’s head teller; Elissa Chovan, loan officer at Community Resource; Rhonda Teal, Community Resource’s accounting manager; and Bonnie St. Onge, director of development at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. (Photo provided by Community Resource FCU)
“The committee selected Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless because the organization addresses a troubling and growing problem in our community,” said Amy Conners, Community Involvement committee chairwoman. “We also liked that they provide on-site access to services and counseling to help homeless people find jobs and affordable housing.” Located in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood of Albany, N.Y., Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless is a non-denominational charity that provides shelter, food, personal care services and counseling to homeless people. The committee’s first act of charitable giving was on Tuesday, when it presented 15 laundry baskets filled with personal care items, towels, socks, and sweatshirts to the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless for its Drop-In Center. The items were purchased with $500 of employees’ donations. Throughout the year, Community Resource will collect new or gently used socks, gloves, hats, scarves, towels, blankets, and pillows, as well as personal hygiene items including travel sized soap, shampoo and toothpaste, tooth brushes, laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet tissue. Also, the credit union will participate in the Pennies for Haven program and provide collection containers for Community Resource’s members to donate their loose change. “We’re so thankful to be working with Community Resource FCU to help us spread the word about our mission and what we need to accomplish it,” said Janine Robitaille, executive director of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. Community Resource FCU, Latham, N.Y., is a community credit union serving those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Albany County and their families. Community Resource has $62 million in assets and 5,700 members.

CUs noted by ICBS NewsI

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NEW YORK (12/18/08)--Credit unions received a positive mention from CBS News Tuesday night during a story that aired about credit card practices. CBS interviewed a consumer whose Bank of America credit card’s interest rates ballooned, even though she told CBS that she pays all of her bills on time. The card’s rate jumped because the rate the consumer had on another card increased. Frustrated, the consumer closed her Bank of America account and joined Ascend FCU in Tullahoma, Tenn., where CBS said “she has a voice in making the rules.” Ascend FCU has $1.142 billion in assets. To watch the video, use the link.

Detroit area CU thrives in economically depressed city

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HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (12/18/08)--When Communicating Arts CU (CACU) of Detroit announced plans to open a branch in economically depressed Highland Park, some weren't sure it was a good idea.
Click to view larger imageCommunicating Arts CU’s Highland Park Branch, which opened in April, recently held a session to educate local high school students about credit reports. The credit union is located in the Detroit area. (Photo provided by Communicating Arts CU)
Highland Park is a small city surrounded by Detroit. According to 2000 census bureau figures, about 38% of Highland Park’s residents live below the poverty level. “But we wanted to be there,” Henry Hubbard, CACU president/CEO told News Now. “We thought it was the right place to be.” CACU is Highland Park’s only credit union. It opened the branch in April and has attracted 800 members. “It’s exceeded all of our expectations,” Hubbard said. “We’ve totally been embraced by the community.” CACU also was recently awarded with the Highland Park Business Association’s President’s Award. “It’s a huge honor,” Hubbard said. The $25 million-asset CACU offers products for low- to moderate-income members, including a payday loan alternative. About 500 members have taken advantage of the alternative so far, Hubbard said. Because Highland Park is located in a high-crime area, CACU was concerned for the safety of its members and staff. Many local businesses have retrofitted bulletproof glass windows, Hubbard said. To keep everyone safe, CACU installed a security vestibule with a metal detector. “A door behind you closes before the next one opens,” Hubbard said. Members who trigger the system are asked to put their metal objects on a tray. “Our members are comfortable with that,” Hubbard said. “It seems totally normal to them.” While local banks have installed bulletproof glass windows--which isn’t welcoming, according to Hubbard--CACU has managed to stay safe and inviting. “We can come out and hug our members--which we do all the time,” Hubbard said. “People say that this is nice, and they feel safe.” CACU also has reached out to the Highland Park community. On Thanksgiving, it provided food to 700 families. The credit union also will distribute 65 blankets to needy families on Sunday. The initiative was trigged in response to a house fire that killed a local woman and her grandchildren. The fire was caused by a space heater, so the credit union is encouraging residents to stay warm safely with the blankets. “We’re happy to be able to help,” Hubbard said.