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Former NAFCU chairman Dave Miller dies

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (4/17/12)--Dave Miller, former CEO of Kalamazoo District Bell FCU, died April 11 in Kalamazoo at the age of 72. He was instrumental in forming the campaign that led to the Credit Union Membership Access Act.

Miller served as chairman of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions for 12 years and treasurer for three years, and was active in state level credit union organizations.

With the late Pete DiSylvester, former Credit Union National Association chairman, Miller was involved in forming the Credit Union Campaign for Consumer Choice,  an advocacy campaign that resulted in the passage of H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act.

The campaign was formed in response to banks winning a 1996 federal appeals court ruling that denied federal credit unions the ability to serve multiple employer groups.  The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the ruling and led to credit unions' advocacy for legislation to preserve multiple group fields of membership.

Among the provisions in the act was the authority for employment-based credit unions to serve more than one sponsor group.

Miller was CEO of the credit union for 43 years until his retirement in 2009.  He also represented the Credit Acceptance Corp. to the Federal Reserve Board.  He is survived by his wife, Nancy; three sons, two sisters and several nieces and nephews (Battle Creek Enquirer via Legacy.com April 13).

No CU damages reported from Midwest tornadoes

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MADISON, Wis. (4/17/12)--More than 120 tornadoes that hit Midwestern states this past weekend left credit unions unscathed.

The twisters hit Saturday and early Sunday in Kansas, northwest Oklahoma, Nebraska and Iowa, killing five people in Woodward, Okla., and injuring dozens (USA TODAY April 16).  Seventy-five percent of the town of Thurman, Iowa, was destroyed.  Neither town had credit unions.

"Over the weekend, the CUMIS Property & Casualty Claims area monitored the severe storms and tornadoes that passed through the nation's midsection," said Phil Tschudy, media relations manager at CUNA Mutual Group. On Monday, "we contacted leagues, CUNA Mutual Group field staff and credit unions in the impacted areas. So far, we have had no reported losses from credit unions, which is certainly good news," he told News Now.

On Saturday nearly 100 tornadoes touched down in Kansas, said the Kansas Credit Union Association. "The good news is, most were in rural areas, and people were made very aware of the severity of the storms and took the necessary precautions," said Susan Dyer, KCUA communications director. "There was damage in south Wichita, and crews are still assessing the situation."

Dyer told News Now, "We have reached out to our credit unions to see if or how they were affected."

It was too early to tell whether the homes of employees or members were among those damaged.

dont use this

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IForbesI CUs a lifeboat for students drowning in debt

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NEW YORK (4/17/12)--"For all those drowning in student debt, a credit union just might be a lifeboat," wrote personal finance writer Sheryl Nance-Nash in an article on Forbes' website (April 13).

Outstanding student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion, Nance-Nash said, adding that many people may not realize "credit unions are surely worth a look-see."

She interviewed Alice Stevens, chief operating officer of First Financial FCU, Toms Rivers, N.J., who is also chairman of cuStudentLoans, a network of more than 130 credit unions offering a student loan with common underwriting and pricing. Its custudents.org website is powered by Fynanz, a strategic alliance provider of CUNA Strategic Services.

The author pointed out that credit unions are not-for-profit, "so that alone probably means you're going to do better than traditional banks" at refinancing private student loans at lower rates. 

Stevens told Forbes that private student loans from traditional banks, especially between 2008 and 2012, left some borrowers holding interest rates of up to 14%, compared with cuStudentLoans' rates of 4.75% to 7.25%. One student with more than $100,000 in student debt at interest rates up to 14.13% refinanced and saved $8,400 a year in payments.

Nance-Nash cited another "big plus" from credit unions:  a co-signer on  a student loan can help get a lower rate for a student, but a credit union may allow the co-signer to leave the obligation once the student borrower has made payments for 12 consecutive months.

To view the article or to learn more about credit unions' private student loans program, use the links.

Leveraging social media in the MBL battles

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LANSING, Mich. (4/17/12)--The Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) has been working with credit unions to place stories about the member business lending (MBL) issue in media outlets to draw attention to an impending vote in the U.S. Senate to raise the credit union MBL cap. Social media need to be leveraged in the MBL battles, MCUL says.

Because of social media, readers have the ability to share and participate in the news, and the MBL coverage provides an opportunity to do that, said MCUL (Michigan Monitor April 16).

Credit unions can leverage the current MBL coverage online to reinforce the issue and expand the circle of influence, Jonathan Fuhrman, marketing consultant for CU Solutions Group, who specializes in social media, told MCUL.

"Credit unions can search for the topic on Twitter, and then engage directly with anyone who is talking about it," Fuhrman said. "This can include more mainstream media sources (local news and radio), along with bloggers, or anyone else with a strong influence online.  Perhaps there are local businesses with a strong social media following who could greatly benefit from MBL. You can engage those businesses directly on the issue, then get them to talk to their followers about it," he said.

Credit unions can use the hashtag #raiseMBLcap in all MBL-related Tweets to make it easier for others to search for the topic and share information. Fuhrman added that credit unions can set up Google Alerts for keywords related to the topic, which will alert them each time a new article appears online. Also, consistently post in the story's comment section, which ensures that accurate information and positive comments remain near the top of the comments.

Also, the California Department of Financial Institutions discussed what goals and objectives management should consider in developing a social media plan (Monthly Bulletin March).

Financial institution managers should ensure they cover all applicable social media activities when establishing policies and procedures.

Key elements to address are:

  • Description of the approved social media activities (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, etc.);
  • Establishment of responsibility for the social media program oversight;
  • Creation of the appropriate reporting authority;
  • Designation of staff members authorized to manage and respond to social media inquiries and postings;
  • Specification of type of use for social media (business use only);
  • Guidelines for personal use, if allowed;
  • Definition of permitted content (such as communications, product promotions or advertisement, customer education);
  • Inclusion of applicable consumer protection laws and regulations requirements such as deposit insurance and, Truth in Lending, if advertising products and services;
  • Employee training program;
  • Procedures to detail how social media activities are performed;
  • Description of reporting metrics to monitor the social media program's goals and objectives; and
  • Regular review and updates for the policy and procedures.

NCUF opens 2013 Wegner Award nominations

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MADISON, Wis. (4/17/12)--Credit union supporters can nominate individuals and organizations for the 25th Annual Herb Wegner Memorial Awards to be presented by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). The deadline for nominations is June 29.

Winners will be honored at NCUF's awards dinner Feb. 25, in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

"NCUF's Wegner Awards turn 25 next year and the caliber of recipients over the years has been truly remarkable," said Josie Collins, NCUF director of donor relations and resource development. The awards are widely considered the highest national honors in the credit union movement, she said.

Nominations can be made for these awards:

  • The Individual Achievement Award, which honors an unsung hero for innovative concepts and/or 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, such as financial literacy, service to the underserved, alternatives to predatory lending, and/or new products.
  • The Outstanding Organization/Program Award, which honors an organization or program for innovative concepts and/or products/services that have made a substantial impact with measured results on the national and/or international credit union movements.
  • The Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors an individual who has dedicated his/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.
Nominations can come from individuals and/or organizations.  To make a nomination:

  1. Complete the Wegner Awards nomination form on the NCUF website. Use the link.
  1. Gather at least five letters of recommendation citing examples of the nominee's achievements relevant to the award criteria.
  1. Send the nomination form and recommendation letters electronically to NCUF by June 29.
Questions about the Wegner Awards can be directed to Josie Collins at jcollins@ncuf.coop or 800-356-9655, ext. 4374.

Leadership network builds on African womens leadership

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GABORONE, Botswana (4/17/12)--Monique Dunbar, training and development manager for $35 million asset Communicating Arts CU in Detroit, traveled to Botswana last month to participate in the Africa Women's Forum, a Global Women's Leadership Network event jointly hosted by the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings & Credit Associations (ACCOSCA) and the Canadian Co-operative Association.

In Botswana last month to participate in the Africa Women's Forum Monique Dunbar of Communicating Arts CU, Detroit, met Ma Hooud (left), a village elder.
Dunbar went to lead sessions on human resource and training initiatives, but left as a student of leadership, said the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). She brought lessons in staff development and retention to Botswana, but she learned as much as she taught. The transference from teacher to student is something not unusual for forum participants, according to Brian Branch, World Council president/CEO.

"The purpose of the Global Women's Leadership Network is to provide women with an international network that engages them in professional and personal development," Branch said. "We are grateful to Canadian Cooperative Association and to Monique for their work to provide this professional development across borders for African credit union women."

The Global Women's Leadership Network, is an initiative co-founded by WOCCU and the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA) to bring together women credit union leaders from around the world. Dunbar had never been to Africa before traveling to Botswana.  Nor had she ever met anyone like Ma Hooud, a Morwa village elder and treasurer for the Morwa Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO or credit union).

Monique Dunbar of Communicating Arts CU, Detroit, brought lessons in staff development and retention to Botswana, but said she learned as much as she taught. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions.)
"She commands great respect in her village," said Dunbar. "The women I met in Africa are so strong, so proud and so resolute that I came away from the experience inspired to succeed."

Dunbar also worked on building rapport with members and boards of directors and striving to reach consensus to pursue credit union goals and objectives. Communication is key, she explained, stressing the need for listening actively in any discussion or negotiations.

"My primary message to the group was to stay positive," Dunbar said. "It's too easy to see so many conflicting demands as a way to keep you from achieving your goals, but you should never stop trying."

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, the forum was attended by women from nine African nations: Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda. Dunbar's teachers were many, she said, and their lessons valuable, including an eye-opening view of the mobile banking transaction technology used by SACCO members in Kenya, a program supported by WOCCU.

"Cellphone banking in Kenya is advanced beyond anything we're doing," Dunbar said. "If I could put that work with our members in Detroit, it would be awesome."

Reaching out in ways members need and want to deliver services is critical to success for any credit union or SACCO, Dunbar counseled the women at the forum. Educating staff and members about ways to take advantage of those changes is an important part of training for leadership.

"You don't see a lot of African-American women who are credit union CEOs, but that's not going to stop me from pursuing that goal," Dunbar said. "It's extremely important to me that future generations of staff exceed what I have done and that they, in turn extend their hand to the next in line. I feel that the women I met in Botswana have given me some wonderful examples to take home."

Michigan Texas CUs argue MBL case in media

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MADISON, Wis. (4/17/12)--Credit unions in Michigan and Texas are making a case in the media for increased member business lending (MBL).

The Texas Credit Union League told the story of the Frescas family who sought to open a daycare center and was turned down by 15 banks in El Paso, Texas. Also, when looking to open a bagel shop, Suzanne and John Hermann were turned down by six banks in San Antonio. And Mike McLean, who was a commercial customer at a bank for 15 years, was denied a loan when he looked to expand his successful business, the league said (PR Newswire April 13).

However, because all three entrepreneurs belonged to credit unions, they obtained MBLs for their projects. These small business owners are joining other small business owners in asking U.S senators to vote on raising the MBL cap for credit unions, the league said.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions are urging Congress to increase credit unions' MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. Doing so would open up more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $13 billion in loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers, CUNA said.

The U.S. Senate is expected to consider the matter soon.

Credit unions in Houston say raising the MBL cap would equate to $152.6 million in new loans in the first year (Houston Business Journal April 13).

In Michigan, bankers have shown during the most recent economic recession that they have not been able to come through for consumers when times became tough, Dave Adams, president/CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League, told The Flint Journal (via mlive.com April 15).

Therefore, "it makes no sense" for lawmakers to restrict credit unions that are willing and able to provide small businesses with much-needed capital, he added.

Michigan credit unions saw a 14% rise in MBL last year, compared with 5% growth nationwide, the Journal said.

To read the article, use the link.

CU Centers re-elects four directors

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INDIANAPOLIS (4/17/12)--Shared-branching vendor Credit Union Centers' (CUC) members recently elected four directors to represent the credit union service organization (CUSO).

Each director will serve a three-year term.

CUC directors represent credit unions based in each of the CUSO's six regions throughout Illinois and Indiana.

The directors, elected at the CUSO's annual meeting, include:

  • Karol Griffin, Teachers CU, South Bend, Ind.;
  • Kristi Lowell, FORUM CU, Fishers, Ind.;
  • Dave Abernathy, Via CU, Marion, Ind.; and
  • Frances Tooley, Finance Center FCU, Indianapolis.
Other CUC directors who continue to serve are:

  • Jill Banning, Regional FCU, Hammond, Ind.;
  • Dallas Bergl, INOVA FCU, Elkhart, Ind.;
  • Chuck Donovan, Members Source CU, Merrillville, Ind.;
  • Doug Harris, Centra CU, Columbus, Ind.;
  • Sue Hejnosz, Credit Union 1, Rantoul, Ill.;
  • Mike Hussey, Tech CU, Crown Point, Ind.;
  • Connie Perry, Eli Lilly FCU, Indianapolis; and
  • Lisa Williams, Pinnacle CU, Fort Wayne, Ind.
CUC comprises 78 credit unions from Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee. The CUSO offers shared-branching services at more than 300 locations in Illinois and Indiana. Through its affiliation with CO-OP Shared Branching, CUC provides member credit unions access to 4,500 locations in 50 states.

Iowa league CEO Tax status is due to ownership structure

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DES MOINES, Iowa (4/17/12)--Credit unions are exempt from federal income tax because of their not-for-profit, cooperative ownership structure and volunteer, elected boards, said Patrick Jury, president of the Iowa Credit Union League, in a recent letter to the editor published in the Des Moines Register.

"Our not-for-profit structure is part of the reason credit unions provide better rates on loans, pay higher rates on savings and charge lower fees to our members," Jury wrote. "In 2011, we saved Iowans more than $68 million through better rates and lower fees."

Jury was writing in response to letters written by John Sorensen, president, Iowa Bankers Association, in the Register and The Gazette criticizing credit union tax status.

"Banker criticism of the credit union tax exemption is highly hypocritical in light of the substantial tax reductions they receive as a result of Subchapter S status," Jury wrote. "Sub S status creates a significant tax break for a corporation that elects it."

Jury cited Credit Union National Association (CUNA) estimates that the 2,311 banks that chose Subchapter S status cost the U.S. Treasury about $700 million. At the end of 2011, there were 203 Subchapter S banks in Iowa and CUNA estimates that foregone federal tax revenue arising from Iowa bank Subchapter S election was $41.9 million in 2011.

"If credit unions were taxed like banks, it would alter our not-for-profit business model," Jury wrote. "Priorities would change, in that the shareholder would end up being more important than the customer."

To read Jury's letter, use the link.

N.Y. CUs league run full-page MBL ad in IN.Y. TimesI

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NEW YORK (4/17/12)--
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A full-page ad touting raising credit unions' member business lending (MBL) cap was placed in the national edition of The New York Times Sunday by New York credit unions and the Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY). The ad appears in the front section of Sunday's newspaper.

The message of the ad was two-fold, said the association:

First, it was to have New York credit unions and their 4.6 million members commend and thank Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) for their leadership in support of S. 2231, the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Bill.

Second, the ad urges the U.S. Senate to pass the bill, which would raise credit unions' MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%. The bill, said CUANY, will support small businesses, create jobs for more Americans and build a stronger economy in New York State and nationwide.

"Right now, it is imperative that our senators know we appreciate their continued support and leadership on this legislation," said William J. Mellin, CUANY president/CEO.

"This advertorial will accomplish that goal in a powerful, highly visible way--and it will better position both senators to advocate on our behalf and use their considerable influence with their peers, which could prove absolutely critical once the Senate votes on the bill," Mellin added.

The advertorial was funded by New York credit union contributions to a general MBL advocacy fund, said CUANY.

The national edition of The New York Times has a circulation of 1.25 million and is one of the most highly read newspapers in the nation.

The Credit Union National Association estimates that passing the bill would help inject $13 billion into the economy for small businesses and thus generate 140,000 jobs the first year, all at no cost to the taxpayer.  Congress is expected to vote on the bill soon.

WECU staffer wife killed in marina fire

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BELLINGHAM, Wash. (4/17/12)--A business loan officer at Bellingham, Wash.-based Whatcom Educational CU (WECU)  and his wife were killed when a fire swept through a Bellingham marina on March 30.

The deaths of WECU Business Loan Officer Jim Langei, 43, and Sterling Taylor, 33, were confirmed April 5 by authorities, said the Northwest Credit Union Association (Anthem April 12).

Police had said they received a 911 call indicating the couple was trapped. Langei and Taylor lived aboard their 42-foot boat. The early morning fire destroyed about 10 boats and a boat house at Squalicum Harbor (The Bellingham Herald April 6).

Langei joined the credit union staff in 2003 as a loan officer.  Taylor was also a former WECU employee.

Langei is survived by his parents, Wayne and Kathy Langei, brothers Robert and Tom Langei, and sons Spencer and Ian Langei, all of Bellingham. A joint celebration of life was held Saturday for the couple.