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Suncoast Schools advises consumers on avoiding foreclosure

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TAMPA (3/10/08)--More and more members are facing financial difficulty, and Suncoast Schools FCU, based in Tampa, advised them to keep in contact with their lender because early intervention is the key. The advice appeared in Naples News March 6. Don Charron, senior vice president of the $5.921 billion asset credit union, emphasized "how important it is to stay in touch with your lender," in the article. "The earlier you contact us, the better the outcome. Once a mortgage becomes three payments delinquent, we often can't do anything to help," he noted. He encouraged people to meet with a mortgage loan officer face-to-face, noting it may take a simple loan modification from one loan type to another, or combining a first and second mortgage to get payment relief. "Lots of folks in not-so-friendly adjustable-rate mortgages from other institutions are coming to us to refinance," he told the newspaper. Suncoast's new payment forbearance program allows members in temporary financial crisis to move a few payments to the end of their contract. Suncoast also has its asset-pledge program allows an individual to sponsor a member by putting up collateral, such as a certificate of deposit, for a loan. The certificate remains intact while the member uses the loan to pay off other debts. He noted no one likes to deal with foreclosures so the credit union tries to be creative with solutions. "It's not one-size-fits-all, though. We don't claim to be able to help every single member every time, but we have a very high success rate. Early intervention is key."

Missouri CUs 2007 stats show markets challenges

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (3/10/08)--State-chartered credit unions in Missouri grew in total investments, total loans, assets and shares in 2007, according to a state Division of Credit Unions report. Missouri's credit unions grew 2.2% in assets over 2006, to $7.964 billion in combined assets. That compares with a 1% growth the year before, said the division's "December 2007 Missouri State-Chartered Credit Union Consolidated Report." Total loans at year-end 2007 grew 1.8% to nearly $5.660 billion, compared with a 0.6% increase the year before. Total investments rose 9.3% to nearly $1.330 billion, compared with a 6.7% drop in investments during 2006. Net income for state-chartered credit unions totaled $26 million--down 47.6% over 2006. The drop is largely due to a 43.1% increase in non-operating income and expenses. "The net profit figures are a result of last year's volatile economy, year-end bonus dividends paid by credit unions, and a $6.5 million merger bonus dividend paid to members of Midwest United CU prior to the merger with Community/America CU," said Rosie Holub, president/CEO of the Missouri Credit Union Association. "Paying a merger dividend to Midwest United members is most appropriate in this type of transaction and reflects the cooperative structure of credit unions," Holub added. Also, a 22.7% increase in credit unions' provisions for loan/lease losses and a 20.6% increase in the cost of funds ate up some of the overall net income, as credit unions prepare for the aftermath of the subprime lending industry woes on other lending sectors.

CU System briefs (03/07/2008)

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* HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/10/08)--CLARIFICATION: An item in Friday's issue about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court hearing oral arguments last week confused two court cases. The court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that bankers filed against the Pennsylvania Department of Banking related to the department's community chartering process. It is not the same case that appeals a Nov. 13, 2006, lower court decision related to the department's granting a community charter application to Belco Community CU. In that case, the lower court ruled the banking department failed to follow procedural due process requirements related to hearings and making records available to banking groups. The appeal on that case will be heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on April 16. News Now regrets the confusion … * BIDDEFORD, Maine (3/10/08)--PeoplesChoice CU's Biddeford branch was robbed at about 12:15 p.m. EST Friday. No staff or members were injured, said the credit union. The robber handed a teller a note but did not show a weapon. He left with an undisclosed amount of cash. "In our 45 years serving members, this is the first time we have experienced a robbery," said Luke Labbe, president CEO. "Because all of our procedures that are in place in case of a robbery were followed, no one was physically harmed," Labbe said. "This does, however, have an emotional impact on our staff, and their well-being remains our top priority at this time." The branch was closed the rest of the day but reopened for regular hours Saturday. The credit union is working with law enforcement agencies, Labbe said … * SAN ANTONIO (3/10/08)--San Antonio City Employees FCU is now named "generations federal credit union"--with all lowercase letters--effective today. "It was seeing how our credit union kept working with the members as their lives changed from generation to generation that gave us the inspiration for our new name, and our new tag line, 'what's next,'" said Tim Haegelin, president/CEO. The name reflects the credit union's history of serving San Antonio's city employees, who span many generations, as well as its expanded mission to serve the entire community. The $316 million asset credit union converted to a community charter in 2006 … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/10/08)--Credit unions and staff from the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association were among the 40 exhibitors present at a state Consumer Fair Thursday in Philadelphia in celebration of National Consumer Protection Week (Life is a Highway 3/7/08). PCUA Communications Director Diane Powell attended and promoted PCUA's Credit Union Better Choice and iBelong programs. Also attending: American Heritage FCU, Freedom CU, Philadelphia FCU and TruMark Financial CU …

School board debates policy after VyStar names academy

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (3/10/08)--VyStar CU’s proposal to fund a $100,000 mini-branch and obtain naming rights for an academy at Fleming High School in Orange, Park, Fla., has caused a debate among Clay County school board members. The $3.337 billion asset, Jacksonville, Fla.-based credit union’s financial assistance would result in the name, “VyStar Credit Union Academy of Business, Finance and Information Technology at Fleming Island High” (The Florida Times-Union March 6). Board members are worried about potential hassles of naming schools within schools after businesses that fund new programs or improvements at the school. VyStar Credit Union Academy of Business, Finance and Information Technology at Fleming Island High will open in August, Rich Alfirevic, Vystar executive vice president and chief operations officer, told News Now. “The school board is looking to approve our donation and help in setting up the student- run and -managed credit union branch at Fleming Island High on March 20,” Alfirevic said. “The board will be setting policy regarding donations, in terms of what amount of donation merits naming rights, and what to do if an entity’s support is not wanted.” Vystar staff also would train academy students as tellers, helping them learn about the full range of financial services. The branch would provide limited service to faculty students and school staff, but would not be open to the public. There would be no outside credit union signage. In August, VyStar opened a similar branch at Bartram Trail High School in St. Johns, Fla. Vystar will be opening a third credit union branch in a school in August 2008, which will be called the “Vystar Academy of Finance at Pedro Menendez High School,” in southern St. Johns County, Fla., Alfirevic said. The school board took no action, tabling the issue until March 20, while it gathers information about policies regarding academy naming that other Florida school districts use.

CUNA Brokerage Services honors women of distinction

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MADISON, Wis. (3/10/08)--Twenty-eight credit union financial advisors, registered through CUNA Brokerage Services Inc., received “Woman of Distinction” awards at CUNA Brokerage Services Inc.’s national sales conference in Atlanta. The Brokerage company uses face-to-face financial advisors to help credit unions meet member retirement, investment and insurance needs. The 28 women were recognized for superior performance, value and overall contribution to the financial services industry. Each also demonstrated her commitment to the CUNA Brokerage mission by generating a minimum of $250,000 in revenue in 2007. The women will participate in a mentoring program offered through CUNA Brokerage Services Inc. and designed to foster the growth of women new to the financial services industry. The award debuted at FOCUS 2008, a national sales conference for credit union financial advisors. More than 450 members of the financial services industry throughout the U.S. gathered in Atlanta to participate in individual workshops designed to deliver knowledge, insight and new best practices. “CUNA Mutual is impressed with this group’s contributions and their willingness to mentor and help grow the ranks of women in the financial services sector,” said David Marks, chief investment officer and executive vice president of CUNA Mutual Group. Those recognized included: Helen Alexander, CLU, ChFC; Catherine Barnes; Emmor Boslet, CFP; Jane Brockway, CRPC; Monica Chandra; Kathy Chesney, ChFC, CLU; Linda City; Diana Clark; Linda Cohen, CRPC; Wendy Cundari; Theresa D’Amico, CRPC; Carol Diest, CRPC; Marcella Evans; Judy Evers, CFP; Gilda Gilbert; Leigh Glover, CRPC; Kelly Goreham; Breta Grumbois; Lori McNight; Wendy Miletich; Stephanie Morales; Marie Quinlan; Swan Shen, CFP; CRPC; Kathryn Snyder; Sophia Spencer, CRPC; Ernesta Tobin, CFP; Suzanne Williams; and Emily Windolph.

PCUA assisting 90 CUs through student loan changes

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (3/10/08)--The 90 Pennsylvania credit unions affected by Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency's (PHEAA) suspension of funding of certain student loans can work with the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) to transfer their loan programs. PHEAA's suspension of funding all new student loans in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) went into effect Friday. The credit unions affected participate in the SELECT referral program, where credit unions referred members to PHEAA for student loans and PHEAA handled the application process and funded the loan (Life is a Highway March 7). The Education Asset Management System (TEAMS) program is available for credit unions to offer members through the FFELP. TEAMS is a cooperative program developed for Pennsylvania credit unions by PCUA and AES/PHEAA. PCUA said 171 credit unions currently participate in the TEAMS program. Those credit unions won't be affected by the change, said Bob Hinchey, PCUA senior vice president, fee services. "The association will continue to work with those affected credit unions that want to transition to TEAMS." Although PHEAA will no longer participate as a federal STAFFORD Loan Lender in the FFELP, it still will provide the federal guarantee, origination and servicing for FFELP loans, essentially providing the system and process for loan delivery and repayment. Students and others with existing student loans are not affected by the suspension. PCUA said will schedule a webinar in early April to assist credit unions in transferring from SELECT to TEAMS. More details will be announced later.

Calif. league tells Senate of mortgage-proposal impact

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (3/10/08)--The California Credit Union League (CCUL) addressed a California Senate committee Wednesday about the impacts of proposed mortgage lending revisions. Chris Collver, CCUL regulatory and legislative analyst, presented facts about proposed Regulation Z revisions to members of the California Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee during an informational hearing. The revisions are designed to promote responsible mortgage lending practices, the league said. Credit unions believe that loans should be prudently underwritten and should not be granted to the borrower’s detriment, Collver told the committee. Therefore credit unions support several of the proposal’s provisions. “We have concerns about some provisions, but we feel the general goal of the revisions is beneficial to consumers,” Collver said. The committee’s goal was to attain perspectives on the impact of, and reaction to, Regulation Z revisions from state regulators, consumer advocate groups, and members of the regulated community. Collver’s comments, as well as those made by representatives from other organizations, will be included in a letter the California Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee plans to distribute to members of the state Senate for review.

Wisconsin Assembly set to vote on data security bill

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (3/10/08)--Wisconsin data security legislation has passed the state Senate and is scheduled for a vote by the full Assembly tomorrow, says the Wisconsin Credit Union League. The Plastic Card Data Security Bills (AB 745/SB 439) prohibit merchants from retaining consumers’ secret personal identification numbers or security codes after processing a credit or debit card transaction. Lobbyists and individuals who represent merchants, retailers and other special interests have launched a massive campaign to kill this legislation it in the state Assembly, said the league. Losses to credit unions due to credit and debit card fraud were $177 million nationwide in 2006 and 2007, according to CUNA Mutual Group. "This legislation is just common sense," said Brett Thompson, league president/CEO. "It has no effect on the state budget, but enormous impact on every consumer in Wisconsin who uses plastic cards for purchases." (News Now Feb. 27). Sensitive authentication data from credit and debit cards often is retained without cardholders' knowledge and lost by companies who, by the credit industry's existing standards, shouldn't have collected and kept it in the first place, Thompson explained. The proposals would toughen industry standards dictating what information can be taken, transmitted and stored from a consumer's credit or debit card. The Community Bankers of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Bankers Association, the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, CUNA Mutual Group and the Wisconsin Federation of Co-ops also support the legislation.