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School ECU votes to merge with Numerica CU

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RICHLAND, Wash. (5/18/10)--Members of School Employees FCU (SECU), based in Richland, Wash., approved a plan to merge with Spokane Valley, Wash.-based Numerica CU. Eighty-seven percent of members voting at a special meeting May 6 approved the the merger. SECU obtained regulatory approval in March for the merger from state regulators and the National Credit Union Administration. "We believe that service to the members is of utmost importance," said Eldon Ladd, CEO of SECU, expressing that the credit union was pleased the membership supported the proposal. Dennis Cutter, president/CEO of Numerica, noted the credit union aims to "provide the best financial products and services to our members, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to expand that to the SECU members." SECU, which was founded in 1960, has assets totaling $12 million and 3,000 members within the Tri-Cities area. Its members will benefit from the enhanced products, services and delivery channels offered by the $997 million asset Numerica, said SECU. Numerica was founded in 1937 and has 80,000 members in Central and Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. It became a part of the Tri-Cities community in 2004, when it opened a branch in Kennewick. It now has two branches in Kennewick and Pasco that SECU members can use. The merger will be effective May 31, at which time the credit unions will being the process of consolidating their data systems and other records. They expect the merger will be completed in August.

CU sues on trademark when bank acquires failed bank

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (5/18/10)--A credit union based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a bank with a similar name, less than two weeks after the bank acquired a failed bank that would put the bank and credit union in competition in the same market. Michigan First CU, a $550 million asset credit union based in Lathrup Village, Mich., filed the suit on May 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Ann Arbor seeking an injunction against First Michigan Bancorp Inc., which is based in Troy, Mich. According to the complaint filed, the credit union has adopted and used several service marks, all incorporating and prominently featuring the words "Michigan First." These include 'Michigan First Credit Union" for its credit union services, "Michigan First Credit Union Moneyworks,' for its internet banking services, "Michigan First Wealth Management Group" for its financial planning and estate planning services, and www.michiganfirst.com, the credit union's website. As a result of its "extensive use and promotion of the Michigan First marks, these marks have come to be associated in the public mind with credit union, banking and other financial services offered and sold by Michigan First," the credit union said in its complaint. The bank's use of the First Michigan Bank mark is "in conscious disregard of First Michigan's trademark rights," the credit union's complaint said, ands "creates a likelihood of public confusion, in that consumers seeking Michigan First's services will be diverted" to [the bank] defendant, and/or will erroneously believe that the services offered by [the bank] defendant are offered, sponsored, or endorsed by Michigan First, when in fact they are not." On April 30, state regulators closed Port Huron-based CF Bancorp, which operated 22 branches under the Citizens First name--19 of them in Michigan cities and many of them in the same market as the credit union. The regulators sold the bank's deposits and some of its assets to First Michigan Bank (Detroit Free Press via freepress.com May 1). First Michigan Bank is relatively new, having been formed in 2007. The suit seeks an injunction to prevent the bank from using the name.

Capital Educators FCU grants give back to community

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MERIDIAN, Idaho (5/18/10)--Capital Educators FCU, Meridian, Idaho, is offering a grant program that allows it to share its earnings and help benefit school-related activities in the community. The credit union introduced the program in 2008, and has awarded 37 CapEd grants for a total of $27,913, said Kathy Palumbo, vice president of marketing. The credit union picks three monthly winners from a pool of 30 to 40 grant applications each month based on need. The maximum grant amount is $750, and winners must account for how each dollar is spent, said the Idaho Business Review (May 7). Palumbo told the newspaper that the credit union aims to ensure the winners are “people who have no other source [of funding].” The grants can be used to pay for materials, projects and field trips. Some of the grants have funded:
* Sixty copies of a book called “End Game,” which was used to teach English lessons on theme, foreshadowing and irony; * A greenhouse project; * A device to monitor the growth and wellness of fish in an aquarium; * A wireless listening center, which helped a teacher instruct a “split class.” In such a class, two groups can learn different subjects without disturbing each other because the wireless capability eliminates the necessity of being confined to one space; * Art supplies, including paint, yarn and chalk; and * A mobile science lab.
The credit union has $292 million in assets.

CUNA Mutual CUs system need changes

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (5/18/10)--The economic downturn has created opportunities and challenges for the credit union system, but credit unions--and the system--may need to change if they want to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities, say CUNA Mutual Group. John Lass, senior vice president of strategy at CUNA Mutual, delivered that message to members of the Wisconsin Credit Union League at the league’s annual convention. Lass provided an overview of the economic crisis and the financial health of the credit union system to make his case. “We have come through a truly historic period of economic crisis,” Lass said. “As we now move into a recovery period, the question is how the credit union system can grow as a result of the upsurge in member trust that credit unions are experiencing and the decline in confidence in the large national banks.” His discussion explored practical ways “to take advantage of this unique opportunity.” Lass illustrated the need for a strong and competitive credit union system:
* Credit unions have a local presence and are funded locally, making them not as dependent on the capital markets as banks and finance companies. As a lending institution, credit unions use local underwriting and decision-making. In many cases, the credit union staff know the borrower on a first-name basis, which is typically not true of national bank lenders. * The cooperative ownership structure makes it difficult for any group of outside individuals to exert undue influence on credit unions’ strategic decisions. By comparison, many bank holding companies have institutional ownership. * Credit unions offer the affordably priced products and services that consumers require now more than ever. Credit unions provide an average benefit of $198 per member household, or $104 per member, according to the Credit Union National Association’s Benefits of Membership Report of December 2008. * The credit union system is not nearly as concentrated as the banking industry. Today the five largest bank holding companies control nearly 40% of total bank deposits in the U.S. The credit union system, by comparison, has less concentration. * The credit union system entered the economic crisis with strong capital. Despite combined impacts of assessments and loan losses, the average capital ratio on Sept. 9, was 300 basis points above the National Credit Union Administration’s (NCUA) “well-capitalized” benchmark. * The cooperative structure does not reward excessive risk-taking, resulting in lower delinquencies than banks. Banks reported a 4.94% delinquency ratio, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Quarterly Banking Profile from third quarter 2009. During the same reporting period, according to NCUA’s 5300 data, credit unions reported a 1.69% delinquency ratio. * Credit unions can successfully pursue a customer-intimate strategy in a way that’s more difficult for a bank to achieve. Customer intimacy is considered the most powerful value proposition an organization can build. It not only commands the deepest and longest lasting customer loyalty, but enables the organization to better anticipate the needs of its customers. * Credit unions consistently achieve high consumer trust ratings in independent surveys, including the Financial Trust Index of Jan. 27, in which credit unions earned a trust rating of 58%, compared with local banks at 53%, national banks at 31% and banks in which government has a stake at 21%. The trust factor ranked credit unions seventh among top-ranked companies in Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Index. * Credit unions did not cause the current economic crisis. Recent credit union losses are more a result of being caught in the backwash of the broader financial and real estate markets. As a result, credit unions--for the most part--avoided the subprime and related lending practices that led to the current financial crisis. * Ironically, credit unions were formed in response to a similar environment of economic crisis, leading to federal legislation to establish credit unions in 1934. Times like this are why credit unions were formed.

Yokum Watkins honored by Virginia CUs

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (5/18/10)--The Virginia Credit Union League honored two individuals for their commitment to the credit union movement and to their communities during the league’s annual meeting in Reston May 7.
Click to view larger image Jane Watkins, (left) president/CEO of Virginia CU, received the Virginia Credit Union League’s Eugene H. Farley Jr. Award for Excellence from retired league president Gene Farley.
Jane Watkins, president/CEO of Virginia CU, Richmond, was presented the Eugene H. Farley Jr. Award of Excellence for her service to state and national credit union communities. The award is named after former league president Eugene Farley. Watkins joined Virginia CU in 1982 as an accounting manager and was named president in 2000. Under her leadership, the credit union grew to $1.9 billion assets from $629 million in 2000. Virginia CU also was among the first in the U.S. to hire a full-time educator to teach financial literacy in schools. “I’m proud of the way our credit union has grown, certainly, but the greatest satisfaction comes when I hear success stories directly from our members,” Watkins said. “I love to hear from members who have discovered the value of saving, rebuilt their credit, or bought their first car with the credit union’s help. These stories demonstrate the positive difference we have made for our members.”
Click to view larger image Jean Yokum, (left), president/CEO of Langley FCU, received the James P. Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award from the Virginia Credit Union League. She is pictured with league President Rick Pillow. (Photos provided by the Virginia Credit Union League)
Jean Yokum, president/CEO of Langley (Va.) FCU, was honored with the James P. Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to leaders in Virginia’s credit union movement for their service to the credit union and community. Yokum joined Langley FCU in 1953 as a teller. She became president/CEO in 1979. Under her leadership, the credit union began offering the Langley Saves Share Account, which gives younger or low-income members an opportunity to build savings in high-yield accounts; the QuickCash loan; CreditBuilder; and the Financial Learning in Progress program, which teaches young people money management basics. “We’ve always had a simple philosophy when it comes to leadership: lead by example, be strong, be true, be someone that others can believe in,” she said. “I hope that others see the loyalty and passion that I have for our members, for this credit union and for our employees.”

Minnesotans have higher opinion of CUs than of banks

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (5/18/10)--In Minnesota, credit unions have been insulated from the negative public opinion against financial institutions stemming from recent financial industry distress. The results of a new Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) survey indicate that 20% of bank customers in Minnesota think credit unions are more attractive than other financial institutions. The survey found that 40% of the state’s consumers trust banks less than they did before troubles occurred in the financial industry. The survey explored Minnesotans’ current attitudes toward credit unions and banks, reasons for choosing a primary financial institution, and general knowledge of and preferences toward the services credit unions and banks provide, MnCUN said. Other findings include:
* Roughly 30% of Minnesotans find credit unions more appealing, considering recent financial industry problems; * About 82% of Minnesotans trust credit unions about the same as in previous surveys and 13% trust them more in light of the financial industry’s problems. Comparatively, 43% trust banks less and 56% trust them about the same because of issues in the industry; and * Credit union members are twice as likely to recommend their credit unions to others as bank customers are to recommend their banks.
“With this study, we wanted to obtain an objective view of how Minnesotans currently view primary financial institutions--regardless of whether those views are positive or negative--so that our member credit unions have clearer insight into how they can better address the needs of their current members and potentially attract new ones,” said Mark D. Cummins, MnCUN president/CEO. “These findings tell us that the value credit unions bring to consumers really resonates with Minnesotans.” About 400 Minnesotans were randomly selected and interviewed via telephone for the survey between Feb. 25 and March 17. Padilla Speer Beardsley, an independent research and communications consulting firm, conducted the study and analyzed the results on behalf of MnCUN, while Information Specialists Group, a polling group, conducted the phone interviews.

Bankrate study Free checking alive and well at CUs

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NEW YORK (5/18/10)--While analysts are speculating that free checking accounts may disappear altogether from many national banks, a study by Bankrate Inc., indicates that free checking is alive and well--at many of the nation's credit unions. Bankrate's first annual 2010 Credit Union Study also looked at fees, account balance minimums and the cost of using an ATM at the 50 largest credit unions in the nation (PRNewswire May 17). Among the findings:
* Of the 50 largest credit unions in the U.S., 39 offered free checking accounts; * Forty-one credit unions studied have no balance requirement or monthly fee on their checking accounts; * Among the nine credit unions that charge a monthly service fee, the highest fee was $10 and the lowest was $1; * Nearly all (47) of the credit unions allow unlimited monthly transactions; * More than half --27--do not require a minimum opening balance on their free checking accounts; * Of those requiring a minimum balance for free checking, the average minimum opening balance required for a non-interest account is $16; and * Nineteen of the credit unions surveyed have interest-bearing checking accounts.
"With free checking accounts becoming less prevalent in national banks, credit unions can be an invaluable resource for the average consumer," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. "Credit unions offer many of the same services as most large banks. They just happen to be not-for-profit organizations that are owned by and in operation for the benefit of their members," he said. The results of the study can be found at the resource link.

Virginia league board election results announced

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (5/18/10)--The Virginia Credit Union League announced individuals who have been elected/re-elected to its board of directors. They are:
* Robert “Bob” Petty, Bronco FCU, Franklin--at-large director; * Paul Phillips, Freedom First FCU, Roanoke--at-large director; * Karen Orie, Hampton (Va.) Roads Educators’ CU--representing credit unions in the Hampton Roads and Tidewater chapters with less than $50 million in assets; * Stan Leicester, BayPort CU, Newport News--representing credit unions in the Hampton Roads and Tidewater chapters with $50 million or more in assets; * Iris Ellis, Assurance FCU, Richmond--representing credit unions in the Richmond and Southside chapters with less than $50 million in assets, and * Cliff DeMars, Roanoke (Va.) Postal Employees FCU--representing credit unions with $50 million or more in assets in the Lynchburg, Piedmont, Roanoke Valley, and Southwestern Virginia chapters.
Orie was elected to a two-year term, serving the remainder of Michael Guida’s term. Guida recently retired from membersTrust CU, Virginia Beach. All others were re-elected to three-year terms. Results were announced at the league’s May 8 annual meeting.
The league board also held a reorganization meeting and elected executive committee members. They are:
* Chairman, Petty; * Vice chairman, Suzanne Hughes, University of Virginia Community CU, Charlottesville; * Treasurer, Phillips; and * Secretary, Cheryl Dickerson, Fairfax City (Va.) FCU.
Leicester remains on the executive committee as immediate past chairman. The board also elected the executive committee for the league’s wholly owned subsidiary, Virginia Credit Union Services Inc. Members are:
* Chairman, Bill Cook, Northwest FCU, Herndon; * Vice chairman, Audrey Bollinger, Peoples Advantage FCU, Petersburg; * Treasurer, Phillips; and * Secretary, Barbara Lockard, Partners Financial FCU, Glen Allen.

Governor declares today as Louisiana CU Day

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BATON ROUGE, La. (5/18/10)--Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared today as “Louisiana Credit Union Day.” Today also marks the opening session of the Louisiana Credit Union League’s Governmental Affairs Conference in Baton Rouge, the league said (eNews May 12). The highlight of the conference will be afternoon visits with state legislators at the Capitol. Later this evening, the league will host a reception to celebrate Louisiana Credit Union Day. The league is seeking stories and pictures from credit unions about how they celebrated the day. Information can be sent to Lacey Hyer, public relations specialist, at lhyer@lcul.com.

CUNA CFO Council hits 1000 membership mark

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MADISON, Wis. (5/18/10)--Membership in the CUNA CFO Council has exceeded 1,000 members, an all-time high. Pam Finch, chair of the council and chief financial officer (CFO) at Mid Minnesota FCU, Baxter, Minn., announced the number at the council's annual conference May 16-19 in New Orleans. Founded in 1994 with more than 100 members, the council has grown every year except 2001. The record "is a testament to the value of the CUNA CFO Council as a resource," said Finch. "These may be the toughest times we've ever seen and CFOs face more challenges than ever." The council's growth "speaks volumes about how CFOs regard it as a critical resource for credit union financial professionals," she added. To celebrate the milestone, the CUNA CFO Council is asking members to submit a success story of how the council helped them. The contest will run until June 18, and the randomly chosen winner will receive an Apple iPad. For more information and an entry form, use the resource link and click to "Tell Us Your Story." To be eligible to choice CUNA CFO Council, individuals must be paid staff with finance responsibilities from credit unions affiliated with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

Calif.Nevada leagues train the trainers in fin lit

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ONTARIO, Calif. (5/18/10)--More than 50 teachers, financial planners, and credit union professionals from throughout California attended a free workshop May 12 on offering financial literacy education in classrooms.
Click to view larger image Teachers, financial planners and credit union professions from throughout California attended a free workshop on offering financial literacy education in classrooms. The event was sponsored by the California and Nevada Youth Involvement Network ahd held at the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues' headquarters. (Photo provided by the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues)
The seminar was sponsored by the California and Nevada Youth Involvement Network (CNYIN), and held at the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues' headquarters in Ontario, Calif. Participants included teachers from San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Credit union professionals from as far away as San Jose and San Diego attended. The “Train-the-Trainer” Roundtable was open to teachers who currently use or would like to use the National Endowment for Financial Education’s (NEFE) High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP), as well as CNYIN members and certified public accountants. “This was a great opportunity for those interested in learning how to include financial literacy education into their curriculum, or wish to improve on what they’re already offering,” said Catherine Arra, league liaison to the CNYIN. “There is a great need for practical application,” said Karen Allen, a skills for living and computer applications teacher at Bellflower, Calif.-based Somerset High School. “The average student is so under-informed on this subject.” In the session, Mike Jones of Educational Employees CU, Fresno; Michelle Lawrence of American First CU, La Habra; and Connie Costello of UC Riverside Extension presented the seven-unit HSFPP curriculum and offered teaching techniques to keep young adults engaged and motivated. Dhara Sanchez from Inland Empire CU, Pomona, assisted with a panel discussion on getting financial literacy education into schools. Attendees learned about goal setting, budgeting, understanding credit, protection from fraud, dealing with insurance, choosing a financial institution, investing, and preparing for a career. Attendees also teamed up to teach the sections themselves as if they were presenting to a classroom. Each attendee received a NEFE HSFPP instructor’s manual, student manual, and introductory program package. The CNYIN works to increase the financial literacy of youth in California and Nevada through classroom presentations and other means. For more information, contact Cathy Arra at 800-472-1702, ext. 6025, or at catherinea@ccul.org.