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CUAnswers Awards Innovator Grants

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (2/14/13)--CU*Answers, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based credit union service organization, awarded grant funds for the second round of its Innovator Investment and Grant Program to three credit unions.

Funds were award to:

  • Jenny Bickel, Frankenmuth (Mich.) CU,  Frankenmuth, Mich., $5,000 for "Field of Dreams";
  • Renee Maeder, Best Advantage CU in Brillion, Wis., $5,500 for "Flix in the Sticks"; and
  • Annie Lepper, Superior Choice CU in Superior, Wis., $5,000 for its "Great Debt Pay Down."
For the 2012 program, the company received 10 entries, which were narrowed to four finalists. Each finalist gave a presentation at CU Answers' CEO Roundtable in November.

At its January meeting, the CU*Answers Board reviewed ballots submitted by audience members, and after deliberation voted to award the grant monies.

The four credit unions who presented at this year's event will receive a new Microsoft Surface tablet for participating. CU*Answers will announce the 2013 Innovator Investment & Grant Program in the next few months.

CU System Briefs (02/14/2013)

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  • LIVE OAK, Texas (2/14/12)--In a version of Pay It Forward, Live Oak, Texas-based Randolph-Brooks FCU distributed gift cards as "Random Acts of Payment" to shoppers at the Steiner Ranch (Austin) Randalls location.  The credit union then asked the shoppers if they would consider using part of their gift card to donate food items for the Capital Area Food Bank. Shoppers responded with generosity, giving enough food to provide 1,300 meals for the food bank and Austin area residents. The concept was inspired by an opportunity to encourage goodwill among local residents and empower them to serve others, said RBFCU Business Development Director Mark Matthews. "Our goal was to thank our local community by giving them the chance to serve others," he said. "We gave local residents both the means and the opportunity to give back, and it was inspiring to see so many willing to share the gifts they received." (Photo provided by Randolph-Brooks FCU) …
  • MIAMI LAKES, Fla. (2/14/12)--Miami Lakes, Fla.-based JetStream FCU, whose membership is 75% low-income and distressed members, is using a $92,500 grant it received to fund a new bilingual position for its Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Community Outreach program. The grant, from the Emerging CDFI Fund, was obtained with the grantwriting help of Tacoma, Wash.-based CU Strategic Planning. Vanessa Ortega, who is bilingual and will assist Spanish-speaking members, is the $152 million asset credit union's new Community Outreach Program manager. Ortega's immediate goals include creating a low-income advisory panel, signing up new community partners, and better connecting with current and prospective members. The award also funded a business lending feasibility study for the credit union to enter the business lending field in Puerto Rico, where it has a branch, as part of its efforts to build an official CDFI program, said the credit union …
  • TACOMA, Wash. (2/14/12)--Richard Brandsma, president/CEO of the $1.067 billion asset Sound CU, based in Tacoma, Wash., will be recognized as theBusiness Leader of the Year by the University of Washington Tacoma Milgard School of Businesson April 30. The announcement was made by Sound CU Board Chairman Dave Wasson. Brandsma has been president/CEO of Sound (formerly Tacoma Telco FCU) since 1981. At that time the credit union had one branch, 26 employees and $18.9 million in assets. Since then, Sound CU has grown to 21 branches, 230 employees and more than $1 billion in assets. Brandsma led the credit union through the transition from federal to state charter and through 14 mergers, including a recent merger with Watermark, the largest credit union merger in the state. "Rick Brandsma is one of the most admired leaders in the Northwest credit union community," said Troy Stang, president/CEO of the Northwest Credit Union Association. "His footprints are on so many positive developments in the financial services industry that have benefited consumers," Stang added …

Identity Theft In Real Life: Not a Laughing Matter

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MADISON, Wis. (2/14/13)--The hit movie "Identity Theft" makes light of the topic, but identity theft is no laughing matter for the 11.6 million adults who were identity fraud victims in 2011, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, a financial services consultancy (lifeinctoday.com Feb. 10).

The top consumer complaint for the past 12 years has been identity theft, said the Federal Trade Commission. It received 279,156 identity theft complaints in 2011, compared with 86,250 complains in 2001.

Identity theft is the fastest growing nonviolent crime in the U.S., according to Purdue University's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security. An identity is stolen every 60 seconds, which translates to 1,440 identities stolen per day, said the center.

Scottsdale, Aris.-based identity fraud management firm Identity Theft 911 puts the number much higher. In the two hours it takes to watch the Jason Bateman/Melissa McCarthy movie, roughly 2,000 Americans will be hit with identity fraud, it said (LoneStar Leaguer Feb. 13).

Identity theft is also popular at tax-filing time. Since January, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)  has identified hundreds of fraudulent tax returns with stolen identities. In fiscal year 2012, IRS's enforcement actions totaled 2,400 against 1,310 suspects. In fiscal year 2013--after just four months--actions totaled 1,703, against 907 suspects (wzzm13.com Feb. 13).

Consumers should check their credit reports for inaccuracies and initiate a fraud alert on their credit report to make it harder for a thief to open accounts in their name, says the Texas Credit Union League (LoneStar Leaguer Feb. 13).   It warned not to give out information such as Social Security numbers and checking account information to unknown organizations or businesses. It also suggested that consumers:

  • Use a different personal identification number (PIN) or password for each account and change them frequently;
  • Be aware of phishing tactics where an e-mail poses as a financial institution or store to trick the recipient into providing personal data. Instead of clicking links in the e-mail, contact the business by phone or in person;
  • Install firewalls and anti-spyware on computers to prevent viruses or downloads that steal information;
  • Avoid storing Social Security cards, bank account numbers, passwords or PINs  in their wallet;
  • Shred papers with account numbers and other details on them; and
  • Opt out of junk mail and credit offers so they are not delivered to an unsecured mailbox.

Ark, Okla, Texas Leagues Agree To Consolidate, Set Meetings To Vote

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (2/14/13)--Three leagues--the Arkansas Credit Union League, the Credit Union Association of Oklahoma and the Texas Credit Union League--have signed an agreement to consolidate into one regional league, the Cornerstone Credit Union League.

The three leagues announced their intent to pursue consolidation on Dec. 17, and signed the agreement to consolidate on Jan. 3. Members of each league will vote on the proposal at their separate annual meetings in April and May.

"The signing of this agreement comes after years of extensive and productive dialogue," said Michael Kloiber, CEO of Tinker FCU and chairman of the Regionalization Task Force. "The strength of our movement is our ability to collaborate, and this consolidation illustrates the commitment of all three leagues to remain relevant and innovative for our member credit unions," he added.

"An online voter guide that affiliated credit unions of all three leagues can access has been established," explained Kloiber. The member-only microsite contains helpful resources such as frequently asked questions and a sample ballot, he told News Now.

Each state is conducting meetings to inform credit unions about consolidation and the upcoming vote. "These meetings are already under way," he said.

The Arkansas league held its meetings in Little Rock, Hot Springs, Camden, Fort Smith and Pine Bluff. Its last meeting was in Pine Bluff on Tuesday, according to its website. 

Texas league members will vote at its member meeting April 2-5 in Austin. Its annual business meeting is set for April 3.  Arkansas credit unions will vote on the measure on April 11, just prior to its Annual Meeting in Hot Springs. CUAOk members will vote at its annual conference May 13-15 in Norman, Okla.

At the time the intent to consolidate was announced, the leagues said consolidation would allow credit unions in each state to enjoy the services and strengths of a new, larger league, which will maintain an advocacy-focused office in each state's capital to continue a local presence.  All three leagues have worked closely over the years (News Now Dec. 17).

Forbes Features CU's Advice From NerdWallet Article

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NEW YORK (2/14/13)--A credit union's advice to small businesses in NerdWallet this week was singled out in Forbes.com's coverage Wednesday about how small businesses can succeed in obtaining loans.

Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, president/CEO of Travis CU, Vacaville, Calif., was one of 10 credit union CEOs interviewed by NerdWallet for its series. News Now reported on the series in Wednesday's issue.

"Many new business owners might have a great vision, but aren't able to put their ideas down on paper yet," Ouwerkerk said of loan applications in both the original article and Forbes' summary of credit scores, cash flow and collateral as ways to shore up a business loan application.

"[Small Business Development Centers] provide business owners with free classes and provide them with technical assistance with things like putting together a business plan, legal information, financial statements and projects, and anything related to accessing capital," she added.

"At the end of the day, a loan officer at any financial institution cannot spend hours a day helping borrowers put together basic documents. SBDCs can help business owners with their loan package such that when they sit down with the loan officer, they'll be in better shape," Ouwerkerk concluded.

Keeping the ability to make small business loans and help the economy is a key priority for credit unions and the Credit Union National Association. They are urging Congress to pass legislation that would raise credit unions' member business lending cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. Doing so would generate $13 billion for business loans and help create 140,000 jobs, said CUNA.

For both the Forbes and NerdWallet articles, use the links.

Iowa League: State's Savings Rates Boil Down To Competition

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DES MOINES (2/14/13)--Competition among Iowa financial institutions is creating some of the best rates for certificates of deposit and savings accounts, the Iowa Credit Union League told The Des Moines Register Wednesday.

It boils down to competition because consumers reap benefits when a state such as Iowa has an abundance of credit unions and locally owned banks--instead of just a few huge banks, Pat Jury, league president/CEO, told the newspaper.   

"The more choices consumers have, the more responsive financial institutions have to be in the marketplace," Jury told the paper.

River Community CU, based in Ottumwa, Iowa, with $17 million in assets, offers the state's best one-year CD rates, the paper said. The credit union's website lists it at 0.75%.The average rate for Iowa credit unions and banks is 0.54% on a one-year CD--eight basis points better than the national average, the Register said.

GoBankingRates.com says Iowa ranks 13th nationally in interest rates for six-month and one-year certificates, and ninth for savings.

To read the article, use the link.

LA Chamber Board Member First To Represent CUs

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MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (2/14/13)--Kinecta FCU Board Chairman Darryl F. Johnson has been elected to the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Board, serving as its first credit union representative.

Governed by a 140-member Board of Directors, the L.A. Area Chamber works to shape the region through strategic initiatives and advocacy on key issues facing Southern California.

"Given his extensive experience in L.A. area business, including his current board chair position at Kinecta FCU, coupled with his strong commitment to serve the community, he is an ideal addition," said L.A. Area Chamber President/CEO Gary Toebben.

Kinecta is a $3.17 billion asset credit union based in Manhattan Beach.

Johnson said he "can contribute to enhancing the region economically and culturally.  My ties are strong to Los Angeles and its businesses, schools and communities. Having the opportunity to give back in this way is an honor."

He is a retired aerospace executive and a retired colonel in the Army Reserves. Before retiring, he held leadership positions at Raytheon Systems Co. (formerly Hughes Aircraft Co.), including director of group administration and executive in charge of enterprise services.

He is active in a number of community organizations, including the University of California at Los Angeles, where he was former chair of the Chancellor's Cabinet, former chair of the UCLA Fund, board member of the UCLA Foundation, member of the UCLA Board of Governors, and more. He also served as president of the Hughes Black Professional Forum, vice president of the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of America, Long Beach, and board member of the African-American Unity Center of the Brotherhood Crusade of Los Angeles.

SECU Foundation Announces First Of Four Innovation Grants

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McKinley Wooten, board chair at State Employees' CU in Raleigh, N.C., announced the SECU Foundation Prize for Innovation Grant at the Emerging Issues Forum at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. (Photo provided by the State Employees CU Foundation)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (2/14/13)--State Employees' CU Foundation Tuesday announced the first of four planned $200,000 annual grants in support of the newly named SECU Emerging Issues Prize for Innovation through the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at North Carolina State University.

The 2014 Prize for Innovation competition will help college-level students collaborate and respond to challenges facing their communities and state, in the areas of education, health, natural and built environments, and the economy. SECU Foundation's gift will allow IEI to expand on its Prize for Innovation competition, offering $50,000 in prizes to winning college teams in each issue area.

"The Prize for Innovation has been one of the most effective and engaging programs we've managed at IEI," said Anita Brown-Graham, IEI director. "With the support of SECU Foundation, we'll now be able to engage even more young people. This means more ideas, more innovation and more opportunities for a new generation to lead the way to a brighter future for our state. "

McKinley Wooten, SECU Board of Directors chairman, presented the grant at the Emerging Issues Forum on behalf of SECU members, who fund the foundation.

IEI developed the Emerging Issues Prize for Innovation in 2010. The prize engages and energizes North Carolina's young people about the role they can play in policy and economic development, and highlights the collaborative spirit, talent and initiative it takes to put ideas into action, SECU said.

Florida's Grow Financial Expands Into S Carolina

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TAMPA, Fla. (2/14/13)--Tampa, Fla.-based Grow Financial FCU has announced plans to expand into South Carolina. The $1.8 billion credit union will open three branches in Columbia, S.C., in the next two years.

Grow Financial said it will open two branches this year and one in 2014. One office will serve as a home base for Vice President of Operations in South Carolina Chase Clelland and Dealer Relationship Representative John Paul (Business Wire Feb. 12).

The Columbia branches will feature an alternative design to traditional financial-institution lobby designs, with interactive technology and contemporary colors.

Grow Financial will provide member business services in addition to personal financial services at the Columbia branches, said Jason Moss, senior vice president of delivery channels.

The credit union plans to establish 15 branches in South Carolina, eventually expanding to the Greenville and Charleston markets. Currently, it has 19 branches in Florida, with two others in development. It will also open branches in Lakeland, Fla., and Wesley Chapel, Fla.,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         later this year.

#iHeartMYCU: aSmarterChoice Says Share the Love

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WASHINGTON (2/14/13)-- aSmarterChoice.org, the consumer website designed to bring people together with the benefits of credit union membership, wants to share a little love for Valentine's Day.  For all the "tweethearts" out there, the site asks: What says 'I love my credit union' better than a tweet? How about 1,000 tweets--or more--saying the same thing!

"Initiating a conversation through Twitter with credit union members about what they love about their credit unions is a terrific way to display the loyalty of credit union members," said Jill Stevenson, Credit Union National Association consumer website coordinator for aSmarterChoice.org. "And Valentine's Day is just the day for sharing the love."  aSmarterChoice.org is sponsored by CUNA and the state credit union leagues.

Credit unions on Twitter can get the ball rolling today by reaching out to their members and asking for a  "love tweet"--a short personal message about how they enjoy the credit union difference.

"All credit unions have to do is let their members using Twitter know that Valentine's Day is the perfect day to tweet what they love about their credit union--and to be sure to include the hashtag #iHeartMYCU," Stevenson said, encouraging credit unions to show a little self-love by creating this great buzz for the movement.  The #iHeartMYCU idea originated with Patrick Harris, director of Media & Public Relations at the Ohio Credit Union League.

The twitter handle for aSmarterChoice.org is @aSmarterChoice.