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Filene CU ring NYSEs closing bell

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MADISON, Wis. (4/13/11)--Representatives from the Filene Research Institute and the Brooklyn Cooperative FCU were among celebrants of Financial Literacy Week to ring the Closing Bell Tuesday at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Filene Research Institute CEO Mark Meyer and Denise Gabel, chief innovation officer at Filene, joined the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) staffers Jennifer Tescher and Sarah Gordon to ring the bell. They were joined by funders of CFSI's Financial Capability Innovation Fund and the fund's five grantees. Filene and Brooklyn Cooperative FCU/Grow Brooklyn with Piggymojo are among the grantees. The fund supports initiatives that provide Americans access to the financial products and educational tools. It was the second day in a row that credit unions were on hand to ring the bell. Monday representatives of Biz Kid$, the Emmy award-winning financial literacy series on public television underwritten by America's Credit Unions, and the Washington Credit Union Foundation rang the closing bell.

Texas CEOs concur Confidence is up

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (4/13/11)--Several credit union CEOs in Texas say they concur with the latest Conference Board Measure of CEO Confidence, according to the Texas Credit Union League. Last week the board said the CEO confidence measure, which "bounced back" in the final quarter of 2010, also improved in the first quarter of 2011. The measure read 67, up from 62 in the last quarter. A reading of 50 or above indicates more positive than negative responses. The league said several credit union CEOs weighed in on the report. Bob Peterson, president/ CEO of El Paso-based One Source FCU, said he is not only optimistic about current and future economic conditions, but his expectations for the credit union are also positive. El Paso was in a unique position during the economic downturn, he said. The local economy, while challenged, probably was less impacted by global conditions than other areas. One Source FCU saw an increase in bankruptcies, heightened delinquencies and charge-offs, and some members were under high financial stress. However, the economy is "indeed turning positive" and the credit union's core membership "has remained highly loyal to One Source as their institution of choice," Peterson told the league. Also, the past two to three years of challenges have seen credit unions emerging "as the financial partner of choice for countless more consumers in the economy," he added (LoneStar Leaguer April 8). Angie Owens, president/CEO of American Airlines FCU, Fort Worth, said its Trade, Industry , Profession (TIP) charter allows it to serve employees of companies supporting the air transportation industry--not just the airlines. The industry as a whole is a vital part of the U.S. economy "so we continue to grow membership and believe we will continue at a steady pace" in the industry, she told the Texas league (LoneStar Leaguer April 11). Owens said she is confident the economy will continue to improve "although slowly. We have maintained a strong balance sheet through the difficult times and do not see that changing either." James Boyd, president/CEO of Abilene Teachers FCU, has always been confident about his credit union's future, he said. It has hired 26 employees since last August, bringing its staff to 108, and opened its new 33,000-square-foot main office in February. "Funds continue to roll in our door putting us over $300 million in assets. Loan demand is lagging that cash influx, but still positive," he reported to the league. Abilene is on the fringe of the main oil activity in West Texas so the local economy is less volatile than the Midland/Odessa area. "Oil prices continue to climb, and that's good for this part of the country," he said (LoneStar Leaguer April 11). The Conference Board survey was conducted between mid-February and mid-March. Among its findings:
* Nearly 61% of CEOs surveyed said current conditions within their industries have improved, up from 55% who said so last quarter; * For short-term outlook, 66% expect an improvement in economic conditions during the next six months, up from 56% last quarter; * The outlook for their own industries were slightly less optimistic--49% of the CEOs expected their industries to improve, down from 51% last quarter; and * Half expect an increase in employment levels in their industry, up from 30% a year ago. Those who expect a decrease in hiring declined to 16% from 22% last year.

CUs checking accounts best Schenk to IBankrateI

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MADISON, Wis. (4/13/11)--When it comes to offering higher interest rates, credit union interest checking accounts regularly outdo other types of accounts--including those of banks--Mike Schenk, vice president of research and statistics at the Credit Union National Association, told Bankrate Tuesday. The article was also picked up by Fox Business and Yahoo! Finance websites. “On average, there’s about a 15-basis-point advantage with credit unions,” Schenk said. He expects the advantage to increase when the economy improves, he added. “Credit unions are not for profit,” Schenk said. “They’re owned by their member depositors, so any profits go back to those members.” Interest checking accounts that earn more than the industry average typically have conditions attached, such as requirements for a minimum number of debit transactions per month or direct deposit, Schenk told Bankrate. Bankrate listed five general ways consumers can qualify for credit union checking:
* Regularly use a debit card--Many credit unions require members to use their checking account debit card a minimum number of times per month; * Accept electronic statements--Credit unions may require their interest checking account holders to sign up for electronic monthly statements instead of receiving paper statements by snail mail; * Sign up for direct deposit--Another common requirement for high-interest checking depositors is to sign up for direct deposit on their accounts; * Deposit up to the maximum amount--Many credit unions put a cap on the amount of money in a checking account that can earn the highest yields on interest checking. This cap is usually about $25,000; * Don’t forget membership--All the interest-checking perks a credit union offers are available only to its members.
To read, the article, use the link.

Oregon and Wash. CU Foundations to merge

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (4/13/11)--The boards of directors of the Oregon Credit Union Foundation (OCUF) and the Washington Credit Union Foundation (WCUF) have signed a letter of intent to merge. In the April 1 letter, the two groups state their intent to “proceed in mutual good faith to continue discussions and complete work required to consummate the proposed merger.” The foundations will continue their regular support--including scholarship, grants and landmark programs such as the Credit Unions for Kids program--of credit unions in the two states. The combined foundations would have $2.5 million in reserves and a goal of improving operational efficiencies and expanding their reach, said the two board chairs, Carlyn Roy of OCUF and Paula Slaye of WCUF. This is the second merger this year involving credit union agencies in Oregon and Washington. The memberships of the Credit Union Association of Oregon and the Washington Credit Union League voted “overwhelmingly” in early November to create the combined Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), which began operations on Jan. 1 (News Now Nov. 12). Operational priorities for the new NWCUA are focused on government affairs, regulatory relief and compliance services. During months of merger discussions, which included the formation of committees and conversations with the membership, both trade associations united in identifying objectives and strategies for the NWCUA.

Members 1st in second suit over M trademark

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (4/13/11)--Members 1st FCU, based in Mechanicsburg, Pa., has filed a second trademark infringement lawsuit over the use of its "M" logo. This time the suit is against South Jordan, Utah-based Merrick Bank Corp. The latest suit, filed April 5 in the U.S District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg), seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys' fees for "trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin of goods." According to the complaint, Merrick recently began soliciting credit card customers using the logo in $1.5 billion asset Members 1st's territory. The credit union began using the mark, which incorporates "1st" into the "M" logo, in early 2003. It received registration of the mark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Jan. 31, 2006, said the complaint. The credit union has "consistently promoted its brand and services using the mark on television, radio, billboards, email, print advertising, public relations, community sponsorships, giveaways and the internet," said the document. It added that market research shows its brand is "well known across its target audience, with 94% of survey respondents associating the mark with Members 1st." "Merrick's use of a virtually identical logo to sell competing products in the same geographic area is likely to cause consumer confusion and is exacerbated by the fact that Merrick's credit card products are identical and are likely to be sold in the same markets, through the same trade channels, and to similar and overlapping customers," said the complaint. The complaint alleges the infringement would cost the credit union sales, "with the bank likely to unfairly gain recognition and sales at Member 1st's expense by benefiting from the reputation, goodwill and recognition already established and embodied in Members 1st's distinct trademark." It also would result in loss of control over its brand reputation and injure Members lst if consumers are dissatisfied with Merrick's products for any reason. In 2009, Members 1st filed a similar suit against a local bank Metro Bank of Harrisburg, which uses a big red M as its symbol. The bank unveiled its logo in June 2009 as part of a conversion of Commerce Bank/Harrisburg to Metro Bank (News Now July 7, 2009). Members 1st and Metro Bank have since settled the suit.

NCUF opens Wegner Award nominations

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MADISON, Wis. (4/13/11)--Nominations are due June 17 for the 24th Annual Herb Wegner Memorial Awards, to be presented by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). The awards are named in honor of late Credit Union National Association (CUNA) CEO Herb Wegner, whose innovative ideas and deeds revolutionized the ways credit unions serve their communities. The awards carry on Wegner’s spirit of “innovative, creative, risk-taking” leadership, said NCUF. Winners will be honored at the awards dinner on March 19, 2012 in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. “The Wegner Awards are widely considered the highest national honors in the credit union movement,” said Bucky Sebastian, NCUF executive director. “Therefore, we encourage credit union supporters from every state to nominate their best and brightest for the awards.” The following award categories are open for nomination:
* The Individual Achievement Award honors an unsung hero for innovative concepts and accomplishments that have made a significant impact on the national and/or international credit union movements within the past 10 years--or have a significant potential impact now. Nominations must cite a specific subject of achievement. Examples include financial literacy, service to the underserved, alternatives to predatory lending, and/or new products. * The Outstanding Organization/Program Award honors an organization or program for innovative concepts, products or services that have made an impact with measured results on the national and/or international credit union movements. * The Lifetime Achievement Award honors an individual who has dedicated his or her life to promoting the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.” This person must have created innovative concepts and provided leadership that has made a significant and lasting impact on the national and/or international credit union movements.

HRTD Council exec committee announced

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MADISON, Wis. (4/13/11)--Officers and executive committee members for the CUNA Human Resources & Training Development (HR/TD) Council were announced during the council’s 17th annual conference, this week in San Francisco. The annual election by the council membership was held in the months preceding the conference. Incumbents who were re-elected are:
* Robert Davis, senior vice president of human resources, VyStar CU in Jacksonville, Fla.; * Jeffrey Duke, organizational development and leadership manager, BECU in Seattle; and * Michelle Greear, assistant vice president of training and career development, Technology CU in San Jose, Calif.
Newly elected to the executive committee is Roberta Smith, senior vice president for Missoula (Mont.) FCU. Smith replaces outgoing committee member Jennifer Morse, vice president of human resources for Empower FCU in Syracuse, N.Y. Also, Jennifer Huggard, director of business administration for the Northwest CU Association in Federal Way, Wash., replaces Danielle Brown, vice president for the Northwest Credit Union Association, whose position has changed within her organization. Suzanne Oliver, senior vice president of educational services and chief learning officer for Mountain America FCU in West Jordan, Utah, is the new council chair. Diane Wozniak, manager human resources for Tampa Bay FCU in Tampa, Fla. was elected vice-chair. Jeffrey Duke, organizational development and leadership manager for BECU is secretary/treasurer. The CUNA HR/TD Council executive committee includes:
* Robert Carmichael, senior vice president of human resources and training and development for Maine Savings FCU, Hampden, Maine; * Jennifer Godel, vice president of human resources and training and development and quality for Desert Schools FCU, Phoenix; and * Kathy Spahr, human resources, training and development director, EECU, Jackson, Mich.
The conference ends today.

AVCU testifies on mortgages in secondary market

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (4/13/11)--Association of Vermont Credit Unions President Joe Bergeron testified last week before the state House Commerce Committee in support of a measure that would solidify Vermont lenders' ability to sell a mortgages involving private road properties on the secondary market. The bill, H. 272, was introduced by Reps. Bill Botzow (D-1) and Michael Marcotte (R/D-2), chair and ranking member of the committee. It is being advanced by the Vermont Mortgage Bankers Association (VMBA), which is headed by Jason Pidgeon, a loan officer at New England FCU, Williston. Pidgeon also testified in support of the bill (Newslines Express April 8). At issue is Fannie Mae's requirement for a documented maintenance agreement between property owners on private roads. Without an agreement, Fannie's guidelines look to a default agreement in state law. However such a law does not exist in Vermont, said AVCU. H.272 creates default agreement statutory language that goes into effect only when no other document exists. Bergeron presented results of a survey of the state's credit unions indicating that a lack of documentation is fairly common, causing potential underwriting issues for the lender with loans to sell on the secondary market. In aggregate, mortgage lending credit unions reported from 5% to 10% of their mortgage business involved private roads due to the rural nature of the state. Similar legislation passed the House last year but was not voted out of the Senate, said AVCU.

Pa. treasurer touts CUs payday loan alternative

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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (4/13/11)--Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rob McChord visited Cross Valley FCU, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Tuesday to tout the "Credit Union Better Choice" program, a money-saving alternative to predatory payday loans that helps improve consumers' finances in the long run. The program has already saved state consumers $15 million in exorbitant fees and interest when compared with traditional payday loan products. Credit Union Better Choice is a partnership between Treasury and the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association. McChord visited the credit union to hear firsthand how the program helped three local women meet unexpected expenses and start on the path to financial security. He encouraged consumers during National Financial Literacy Month to take control of their financial future by developing a monthly budget and building personal savings. "This program--with its financial counseling services and savings component--can help to get you started," he said. A $500 Better Choice loan costs consumers $42.50 for 90 days, compared with payday lenders' charges of $15 per $100 borrowed for two weeks, or about $450 over 90 days. Participating credit unions have made 43,000 Better Choice loans totaling $20.5 million since 2006, when the program was established. Cross Valley FCU has issued 280 Better Choice loans to 101 members since 2007. The loans are available at 79 credit unions with 222 locations in the state. According to PCUA President/CEO Jim McCormack, the partnership "allows borrowers access to low-cost loans for short-term borrowing needs through credit unions. Every day, credit unions work to better the lives of their members and this is just one way in which credit unions can help." Edward Kaushas, president/CEO of Cross Valley FCU, noted that the decision to offer the program "was an easy one. This program best illustrates the fundamental mission of credit unions, which is that of 'People Helping People.'"

Tuma Merket nominated for Texas CU Commission

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (4/13/11)--Texas Gov. Rick Perry has nominated two new appointees and re-nominated two others to the Texas Credit Union Commission. The new nominees include Gary Tuma, president/CEO of Smart Financial CU, Houston, and Sherri Kay Brannon Merket, a Midland resident, said the Texas Credit Union League (LoneStar Leaguer April 12). Tuma is nominated for an industry seat formerly held by Barbara Sheffield, former president/CEO of Members Choice CU, Houston. Merket has been nominated for a public member seat. Current public members Rob Kyker and Manny Cavazos were re-nominated. Current public member Pete Snow has rotated off the commission as a public member. The terms of Tuma, Merket and Cavazos would expire Feb. 15, 2017. Kyker's term would expire Feb. 15, 2015. The commission oversees the activities of the Texas Credit Union Department and serves as a primary point of accountability for ensuring that state credit unions function as a system.