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New England leagues sponsor Homes for Our Troops event

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MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (3/9/09)--Three New England leagues are joining together as event sponsor for the Homes for Our Troops third annual gala in June. The Massachusetts Credit Union League, the New Hampshire Credit Union League and the Credit Union Association of Rhode Island will sponsor the event in Boston June 13 (eWeekly March 4). All the proceeds will be used to help build another home constructed for servicemen and women who are seriously injured during duty. League President Dan Egan sent a letter to credit unions asking they support the cause. "There is really no better way for us to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the credit union movement than to demonstrate our philosophy of people helping people by giving a helping hand to these men and women who have given so much for us," Egan said.

Wisconsin league CEO interviewed on safetysoundness

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (3/9/09)--Credit unions in Wisconsin are riding out the current economic storm remarkably well, according to an article in Friday. The publication interviewed Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Credit Union League, who said Wisconsin credit unions are in good shape because they stayed away from toxic subprime mortgages and other exotic loans that brought down some lenders. He pointed out that The Wall Street Journal and other national publications have cited credit unions for their safety and soundness during difficult times. All in all, he said, "I think we are safe, sound and ready to lend." Over the past 12 months, Wisconsin credit unions have had the second-highest asset growth of credit unions in the U.S., the highest loan growth and the sixth-highest membership growth. Thompson also addressed the lending cap on member business loans and noted that at least 13 credit unions in the state are up against the 12.25% of assets cap. "Credit unions here in Wisconsin have historically always made small business loans. Many of them can point to the initial minutes of their forming meetings where some of their first loans were to a local small business," he said. To view the entire article or listen to an audio of the interview, use the link.

Kentucky league addresses cramdown opposition on radio

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (3/9/09)--Kentucky Credit Union League President Wendell Lyons described credit unions' objections to cramdown provisions in legislation and told listeners facing foreclosures to communicate with their lenders during two segments of the "Tony Cruise Show" on WHAS 84 in Louisville last week. The five-minute shows aired Wednesday and Thursday. In segment one, Lyons noted that devaluing the house and requiring lenders to write down the loss will lead to less homeownership in the long term, as an unintended consequence of the provision. Lenders will end up increasing rates and fees, and raising credit standards. "The people who qualify may not be the people the administration is trying to help." Credit unions have no problem applying the changes to high-cost mortgages, predatory loans, loans with negative amortization or loans that a bankruptcy judge finds were obtained under fraudulent or abusive underwriting standards. He also said that homeowners taking advantage of cramdowns should not be allowed to remortgage the property, and if the home is sold at a profit, the lender should be repaid from the balance it was required to write down. Segment two discussed the effects on second mortgages and home equity lines of credit. These could become unstable, too, Lyons said. He noted that credit unions and banks in Kentucky have lended more responsibly. When asked if the Clinton administration's policies of providing more housing opportunities pressured lenders into giving unqualified borrowers homes, Lyons noted that credit unions haven't seen such pressure. "Credit unions have done a very responsible job of lending throughout the last 75 years," he said. To those who may have lost jobs and are facing possible foreclosures Lyons advised communicating with the lenders. "Lenders don't want to foreclose on property," he said, noting that foreclosures are expensive. "Get in touch with your mortgage lender and work out a solution." He noted lenders can offer a repayment plan, extend the term of a loan, and make loan modifications of their own to avoid bankruptcy. To listen, use the link to the station's website and click on the "mortgage cramdown" and "facing foreclosure"links.

Texas league announces director election results

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (3/9/09)--The Texas Credit Union League announced election results for its league director positions in two asset categories. Newly elected are:
* Z. Suzanne Chism, president of Texas Health Resources CU, Dallas, for asset category b ($10 million-$20 million); and * Nancy Croix Stroud, president, First Class American CU, Fort Worth, for asset category c ($20 million-$50 million).
The other asset category elections were uncontested. Directors are:
* Carol Murray, president of Southeast Community CU, San Antonio, asset category a (under $10 million); * Kay Stewart, president, North East Texas CU, Lone Star, asset category d ($50-$100 million); and * Buddy Schroeder, president, United Heritage CU, Austin, asset category e (more than $100 million).
Directors serve two-year terms. The 2009-2011 terms officially begin after the league annual membership meeting and board organization meeting in April in Austin.

CUs get national media attention on MBL proposal

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MADISON, Wis. (3/9/09)--Credit unions received national media attention Thursday from various news sources after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he intends to draft legislation that would lift credit unions’ member business lending caps. Articles published by Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal and Reuters have noted Schumer’s plans for the legislation, citing Credit Union National Association (CUNA) statistics, and quoting CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica. Mica commented on credit unions’ willingness to help small businesses thrive in a tough economy if their member business lending (MBL) caps of 12.25% are lifted. “Credit unions want to help but many are chafing against the arbitrary cap that exists under current law,” Mica told the newspapers. Credit unions could lend up to $10 billion in the first year after MBL restrictions are rasied, he added. Schumer announced his intent to draft the legislation on Thursday, saying that the move would “help credit unions fill the gaping void in small-business lending during this credit crisis.” To read the articles, use the links.

CUNA Mutual CEO credits reorganization for survival

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MADISON, Wis. (3/9/09)--CUNA Mutual Group initiated wide-ranging changes as part of a company reorganization in 2005 that now leave it in good shape to meet whatever challenges lie ahead, Jeff Post, CUNA Mutual CEO, told attendees at an information technology conference in Madison, Wis., last week. In 2007, CUNA Mutual posted record net income of $184 million on revenue of $2.8 billion (The Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal March 5). The housing and mortgage industry collapse in 2008, along with the subsequent credit crisis and stock market declines, resulted in the company posting a $148 million loss in net income last year. However, the company, as a result of the changes it made over the past three years, weathered the economic turmoil in 2008 and remains ready for the future, Post said at the conference. In 2008, CUNA Mutual had total revenue of $2.9 billion, an operating gain of $150.7 million, and operating revenue growth of 6.8%, Phil Tschudy, CUNA Mutual media relations manager, told News Now. Post said in 2006 the new CUNA Mutual is “developing a performance-based culture” by assembling experienced, world-class senior leaders (News Now June 27, 2006). The company's foundational initiatives--corporate governance, investments, sales distribution and back-office transformation--reshaped its products, services and operations. That resulted in a company that is easier to do business with; is more efficient and effective; which lowers credit unions’ costs; has stronger customer and back-office service; and requires higher performance standards for all employees, Post said in 2006. Among the elements in the three-year plan were:
* A new leadership team leading improved decision-making and priority-setting processes; * Establishment of a single point-of-sales contact for credit unions; * A 90-basis point improvement in investment performance in the company's general account, and investment performance improvement in credit union employee and member products; * The building of a new customer service center with expanded coverage, new technologies and higher service standards; and * A new model for the company's internal services.

ESPN airs Hispanic radio spots for Wisconsin CUs

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MILWAUKEE (3/9/09)--ESPN will air Hispanic radio spots for Wisconsin credit unions that are scheduled to run in the Milwaukee area starting this week, Credit Union Service Centers said.
Ana Martinez (right) records an ad for Credit Union Service Centers that will begin airing on ESPN Desportes in Milwaukee this week. (Photo provided by Credit Union Service Centers)
The one-minute spot will run 17 times a week for 10 weeks between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. CDT on 1510 AM ESPN Desportes in Milwaukee. The station broadcasts sports coverage and news in Spanish. The ad tells credit union members about Credit Union Service Centers and inform non-members they can access other services at the branches. The ad also encourages all listeners to consider credit unions for their banking needs. Through Credit Union Service Centers participating credit unions’members can cash checks and make deposits; make cash and check withdrawals; pay loans; conduct transfers; purchase money orders, traveler's checks and official checks; obtain cash advances; and inquire about balances.

Missouri CUs testify on two state bills

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ST. LOUIS (3/9/09)--Missouri credit unions testified in two state legislative hearings last week and were on hand to monitor bills in several others. In the state’s Senate General Laws Committee, the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) opposed Senate Bill 267, which would institute a complex system of lien waivers between general contractors and subcontractors. Also testifying against the bill were the title company industry, mortgage bankers and Missouri bankers (The Missouri difference March 6). MCUA opposes the bill because the proposed system would make it difficult to determine whether a title is clear. Using a title company to disburse funds for construction and renovation loans would also require credit unions to pass along several hundred dollars in costs to the member. Title companies said at the hearing they couldn’t estimate what they would charge to disburse funds under the proposed language. In the House Special Committee on Urban Issues, credit unions testified against House Bill 753 and House Bill 836, which would require 90-day notices of foreclosure. Credit unions are among a work group talking with bill sponsors to determine if there is an alternate solution to providing renters with notice that the owner of the home they are leasing is going into foreclosure. In Kansas City and Central Missouri, some people have returned home from work to find their belongings on the street--with no prior notice. Missouri statutes do not include a specific requirement in the unlawful detainer chapter to notify tenants. James Spafford, CEO of Postal and Community CU, St. Joseph, visited lawmakers Wednesday and helped explain details of the foreclosure process to legislators. This week, MCUA expects a meeting to be called to work on modifications to S.B. 267. The foreclosure bills are scheduled for a committee vote this week. MCUA also will visit legislators who requested information on payday loan alternative programs offered by credit unions.

CU System briefs (03/06/2009)

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* SAN FRANCISCO (3/9/09)--The California Senate Rules Committee voted 5-0 Wednesday to support the confirmation of Department of Financial Institutions Commissioner William S. Haraf to that position. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Haraf as commissioner, effective March 8, 2008. Haraf was sworn in on April 8, 2008, by Business, Transportation and Housing Agency Secretary Dale E. Bonner. Haraf said the full Senate will take up his confirmation within two weeks and the process is "generally pro forma." He noted the "vast majority of financial institutions licensed by DFI are healthy and operating with good capital cushions." … * VANCOUVER, Wash. (3/9/09)--Parker Cann, president/CEO of Vancouver-based Columbia CU, will leave the credit union April 30 to become senior vice president and corporate counsel at Boeing Employees' CU (BECU), the two credit unions announced. Cann will start his new position May 4. He will oversee the division that manages BECU's legal affairs and influences its legislative and regulatory environment. Cann joined the credit union four years ago after its attempted conversion to a bank charter failed. He has nearly 30 years' financial industry experience. Prior to joining Columbia, he served three years as executive vice president and chief operating officer at Arrow Head CU and seven years as the head credit union regulator in Washington state. Columbia's board will conduct a nationwide search for a replacement. It expects the search process to take at least three months … * CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (3/9/09)--An alert teller at Chesterfield-based First Community CU helped stop a check fraud scheme that originated in Springfield, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association (The Missouri difference March 4). The credit union's branch coordinator, Berni Roth, sent an alert warning employees of local fraudulent check activity on Feb. 26. The alert, which included surveillance photos of the suspect, arrived a few minutes before the suspect appeared at the credit union's drive-through in St. Charles and allegedly tried to pass a stolen check. The drive-through teller, Jennifer Parker, recognized her from the photos. As employees questioned the transaction, the suspect left. Denecia Simpson, Springfield, was arrested on a forgery charge. "With such a large branch network, it's essential to use technology to communicate," said Glenn D. Barks, president/CEO of the $1.351 billion asset credit union … * FORT WORTH, Texas (3/9/09)--Friday the 13th was a lucky day for American Eagle pilot Cap. William Karr Jr. of Lake Dallas, Texas. On Feb. 13, American Airlines FCU President/CEO Angie Owens called Karr to say he was $50,000 richer and the grand prize winner of $50K Your Way Sweepstakes. The sweepstakes was sponsored by Digital Insight, a third-party provider of the credit union's online banking services. Karr was randomly chosen in the nationwide contest to help raise awareness of the benefits of paying bills online. In the sweepstakes, new Bill Pay users earned $10 by paying 10 bills online. Ten daily instant prizes of $100 were also available, as well as a chance for the grand prize … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/9/09)--Pennsylvania Credit Union Association President/CEO Jim McCormack and State Treasurer Rob McCord gave an overview of PCUA's Credit Union Better Choice payday loan alternative program during a news segment of "Pennsylvania Newsmakers," taped Wednesday in Harrisburg. McCord, who took office in January and is supportive of the program, said he believes all Pennsylvanians should have access to fair and appropriate finance tools. McCormack noted 80 credit unions with more than 200 branches in the state have agreed to offer the program. It was launched in October 2006 through a partnership with the Department of Treasury and a $20 million investment in the credit union system. The program, part of PCUA's monthly financial education sponsorship, can be seen across Pennsylvania from March 15 through 17 (Life is a Highway March 5) … * PITTSFIELD, Mass. (3/9/09)--Greylock announced that its annual employee United Way campaigns collected a record $70,000. President Angelo C. Stracuzzi thanked campaign tri-chairs Dan Dillon and Sherry Van Bramer from Greylock FCU and Kathy Chenail from Greylock Insurance Agency for their efforts. Greylock also donated the services of two employees--Dan Dillon, relationship development officer, and Joanne Billow, marketing services coordinator--and provided an additional $29,691, including a partnership with Johnson Ford to donate a car in a raffle for United Way … * HARAHAN, La. (3/9/09)--Helen Godfrey-Smith, CEO of Shreveport (La.) FCU, is among seven recipients of the Louisiana Legislative Women's Caucus Foundation's 2009 Women of Excellent Awards, says the Louisiana Credit Union League (eNews March 4). The award recognizes extraordinary women of outstanding professional excellence across the state for their achievements and contributions. Each of the seven categories had one recipient, and Godfrey-Smith was chosen in the Banking and Finance category. Awards will be presented at the Women of Excellence Awards Gala on May 6 in Baton Rouge …

Patelco confirms four branches closing

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SAN FRANCISCO (3/9/09)--Patelco CU has confirmed it will close four branches on April 30. The closings come "in the context of historic times. That said, these are more strategic branch network decisions and not cost-cutting measures," Andy Hunter, president/CEO told News Now. In the past year, the San Francisco-based Patelco has made two acquisitions with six branches, opened a branch, and closed a branch, Hunter said. Branches effected are in Eureka, Windsor, Bakersfield, and Pleasant Hill. Closures are based on a matter of their location. One is an acquired branch that is close to an existing Patelco branch. Others are outside Patelco's primary membership area. Members served by those branches have other services available in the areas, including other branches, online banking, shared branches and ATMs, Hunter added. One branch, in Bakersfield, is a shared branch with another credit union under the Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) network. "We are working with the other credit union" for a transition, Hunter said. Of the 520 full-time equivalent jobs employed by Patelco, about 12 jobs will be lost, although some may be absorbed. The closures will leave the credit union with 43 branches.