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GCUA study Georgia consumers reluctant to spend

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ATLANTA (5/25/11)--Georgia consumers remain reluctant to spend money on big ticket items, opting instead to squirrel away as much of their income as possible, according to new data and poll results from the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA). Coinciding with their desire to spend less, the balances of credit union members' savings accounts grew more than 4.6% during the first three months of 2011 while credit card debt decreased 4.2%, according to Georgia Credit Unions' "Paying Attention." The quarterly report compiles recent poll responses from more than 4,000 credit union members and aggregated data from credit unions statewide. "It's no surprise that Georgia consumers are still reluctant to get out there and spend given the continued economic uncertainty," said Mike Mercer, GCUA president/CEO. "Consumers are still working to save as much money as they realistically can and they're making progress at reducing their debt load." For example, 77.1% of people polled reported they are keeping their vehicles longer to avoid the cost of a new or used automobile. Of the 13.2% who said they plan to purchase a vehicle in 2011, only 16.4% indicated they were considering a new vehicle. Travel plans showed similar results. Only 20.9% of respondents plan to spend more on travel in 2011 than in 2010, while 37.8% plan to spend less, according to the GCUA poll. Also, 50.8% put off travel and/or vacation plans in 2010, while 51.5% said they spent less on travel in 2010 than they did a year earlier. In conjunction with the consumer poll, GCUA compiled savings and lending data from 39 credit unions that represent 91% of credit union assets and 84% of members in Georgia. The results reflect a continuing trend toward savings, while figures for lending varied, said GCUA. Findings include:
* Total savings deposits rose at a rate of 4.6% during the first quarter and 8.3% over the past 12 months; * Money market accounts grew 4.34% for the quarter and 15.47% over the past 12 months; * New-vehicle loans grew 0.52% during the quarter, but decreased 4.08% over the past year; * First mortgage balances increased 0.99% for the quarter and 9.04% during the past year; * The number of bankruptcy filings among members decreased 3.18% during March 2011 compared with March 2010; * Credit card balances decreased 4.22% during the first three months of the year, but have still increased 3.53% from a year ago; and * Balances for other forms of unsecured loans dropped 4.49% during the first quarter.

CU System briefs (05/24/2011)

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* FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (5/25/11)--Counterfeit checks are circulating under the name of Austin (Texas) Telco FCU, according to the Texas Credit Union League (LoneStar Leaguer May 25). Three checks were reported to have been deposited or cashed in the northeastern part of the country, Karen Robinson, senior vice president of human resources and branch operations at the $1 billion asset credit union, told the league. No losses have been reported. The bogus checks have a routing number that doesn't belong to the credit union, said the article …

Sunmark creates Duck Pirates video game

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LATHAM, N.Y. (5/25/11)--Move over, Angry Birds, and make room for the Duck Pirates, a video game created by Latham, N.C.-based Sunmark FCU to help build the credit union's profile among Generation Y while raising funds for a local food bank. Duck Pirates was created in-house at the credit union by Ryan Hickman, whose day job at Sunmark is spent working on its website and mobile banking platforms. It took him two weeks to build Duck Pirates, which is patterned after the Angry Birds video game (timesunion.com May 21). The game pits a Sunmark duck against pirate monkeys. The player gets points by hurling a duck at the monkeys and knocking them from their perches. The credit union created the game to reach an audience that pays less attention to traditional media and to benefit the Regional Food Bank of Northeaster New York. At the beginning of the game, players receive an option to donate $5 to the food bank. Sunmark did not publicize or promote the game but relied on word-of-mouth. By Friday, the game had been downloaded 8,500 times. The credit union launched a broader promotional campaign on Monday. The credit union said it plans to team up with the Tri-City ValleyCats and radio station WGNA on spin-offs of the game, which would also benefit the food bank. The game, which is on Sunmark's Facebook page, is free to download and is available at Apple and Droid application stores. Use the link to learn more.

NCUA assists Missouri CUs in tornados wake

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WASHINGTON and ST. LOUIS (5/25/11)--Four credit unions damaged in the massive tornado Sunday in Joplin, Mo., are operating, with one relocating its Joplin operations to another branch until further notice. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board reminded that its disaster relief policy will assist credit unions and their members in dealing with local recovery efforts. Missouri credit unions are open, but some Joplin branches are closed as they work to fix storm damage, repair telephone lines and restore electricity, said NCUA. The Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) provided an update Tuesday afternoon on the four Joplin credit union branches that reported varying degrees of damages. All of them are distributing forms for CUAid.coop, said Amy M. Bucaida, vice president, marketing and communications at MCUA. CUAid.coop is the online disaster relief system activated by the National Credit Union Foundation to raise funds for credit union people affected by the Missouri twister. To make contributions to the fund, use the link. Here's the status of the credit unions:
* District 7 Highway CU, which had minimal damage and was without power or a telephone on Monday, reported Tuesday that its offices are open and business is being conducted as usual. Its operations were not terribly affected by the storm, said Bucaida. * Postal Federal Community CU's Joplin branch opened at 10 a.m. Tuesday, ready to do business, said MCUA. Its branch, a CO-OP Network shared branch, was severely damaged with windows blown out and was closed on Monday (News Now May 24). * Great Plains FCU has moved its Joplin operations to its Carthage branch. "We have not received any information as to when they believe the Joplin branch will be up and running," said MCUA. On Monday, Great Plains' President Ken Martin had said the branch had damages and advised employees to stay home while the Missouri National Guard continued to search for more victims. MCUA noted that the credit union's staff "are very happy to have CUAid and have commented they are really appreciative of the help they've received." * Joplin Metro CU, which sustained minor damage at several branches, reported Tuesday to the association that its branches are up and running and that it "would get CUAid forms today."
NCUA said that under its disaster assistance policy, it will, where necessary:
* Encourage credit unions to make loans with special terms and reduced documentation to affected members; * Reschedule routine examinations of affected credit unions, if necessary; * Guarantee lines of credit for credit unions through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund; and * Make loans to meet the liquidity needs of member credit unions through the Central Liquidity Facility.
The agency will work with Missouri state league organizations and state regulators to ensure all federally insured credit unions know about NCUA's available assistance. Agency examiners will remain in close contact with the affected credit unions to offer advice and assistance. During disaster conditions, NCUA personnel operate under three priorities:
* Ensure the safety of credit union staff; * Keep facilities and operations available to members; and * Provide material and technical assistance, as needed, to affected credit unions.
Federal credit unions may also provide assistance to other credit unions and non-members in the affected areas under certain conditions:
* A federal credit union may provide services to persons who are members of another credit union under their correspondent services authority. * Emergency financial services for non-members, including check cashing, access to ATM networks, or other services to meet short-term emergency needs of individuals in the areas affected by the storms, can be provided under the authority to engage in charitable activities. * Federal credit unions providing services on a charitable basis may not impose charges for services that exceed their direct costs.
NCUA's Region IV office in Austin can be contacted at 512-342-5600 during normal business hours to assist credit unions and members needing help in Joplin. Previous presidential disaster declarations already cover Joplin, which means NCUA's services were in effect at the time the tornado hit. While tornados are in the news, CUNA Strategic Services provider Agility Recovery noted that it is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Agility is hosting a webinar today on preparing for the hurricane season. Use the link for more information.

SECU eliminates wage garnishment option

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RALEIGH, N.C. (5/25/11)--State Employees’ CU (SECU), Raleigh, N.C., will no longer use wage garnishment as a collection tool for its members. Although the state of North Carolina protects employees’ wages against garnishment, SECU has members in all 50 states, and wage garnishment is legally available in the bordering states of Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee. The ban on wage garnishment as a collection practice is effective June 1, said SECU. “In this economic environment, with the increased financial stress on members from layoffs, furloughs, and cutbacks, wage garnishment can further heighten the family crises that are now occurring to many fine, dependable SECU members,” said Phil Greer, senior vice president of loan administration at SECU. “Wage garnishment is also highly disruptive to the employer/employee relationship for members who are continuing to work, creating additional stress in the work environment,” Greer added. “These are exceptionally severe economic times and require exceptional care in helping members work through this crisis.” Greer noted that SECU supports the use of wage garnishment in helping resolve social obligations such as taxes, child support, alimony and fraud. “Working directly with the member on personal debts is the better, fairer choice in this economic climate,” he said. “Helping our good members regain their financial footing quickly is the best way to assure that existing obligations will be honored.”

Harbor CU closes Algoma branch

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (5/25/11)--Harbor CU has closed its Algoma, Wis. branch. A rise in loan delinquencies related to the current economic climate was the reason behind the closing, Michael DeGrand, president/CEO of the $105 million-asset Green Bay, Wis.-based credit union told the Door County Advocate May 23). After a management review, the credit union’s only options for cutting expenses were staff layoffs or branch consolidation, De Grand said. Harbor CU remains well capitalized, he added. The credit union’s presence in Algoma dates back to 1986 after a merger with Kewaunee County Community CU. Harbor has branches in five Wisconsin cities.

Indiana league Businesses need access to credit

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INDIANAPOLIS (5/25/11)--U.S. businesses need more access to credit, and credit unions are poised to help them out, the Indiana Credit Union League told IBJNEWS Sunday. Not only do businesses need more credit, they also need more options to find the best rates possible, John McKenzie, president of the league, told the publication. Credit unions are ready and able to provide more member business lending (MBL) that businesses are asking for, McKenzie added. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions are trying to get 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 has said. About 10 Indiana credit unions do roughly half the state’s credit union lending, and most of those credit unions are approaching the cap, McKenzie told IBJNEWS. The article also mentioned Forum CU, Indianapolis, and how it almost bumped the MBL cap two years ago. To read the article, use the link.

State official to N.Y. CDFIs Input on councils needed

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NEW YORK (5/25/11)--New York Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy said it is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s intention to include state community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in the regional economic development process “because nobody has a better sense of what is happening on the street than CDFIs.”
New York Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, speaking at the 2011 New York Coalition of CDFIs Statewide Conference, May 16-17 in Albany, N.Y., said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration seeks the input of community development financial institutions in the regional economic development process. (Photo provided by National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions)
Duffy delivered the keynote address at the 2011 New York Coalition of CDFIs Statewide Conference, May 16-17 in Albany, N.Y. The conference was organized by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, the sponsor and founder of the coalition. In January, Cuomo announced a series of regional economic councils that will work with state agencies to help allocate economic development resources where they are most needed. Duffy--who will lead the councils--reiterated the administration’s commitment to ensuring those most affected by the poor economy are reached. He said CDFIs should “tell us what we should be doing [to support their efforts].” Also, at the conference, Clifford Rosenthal, federation president/CEO and board member of the national CDFI Coalition, discussed threats to the U.S. Department of Treasury CDFI Fund, which has provided more than $117 million to New York CDFIs since its inception. The fund has $227 million funded for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. It was was spared major cuts in the recent budget battle, with a $20 million reduction from fiscal year 2010, and a $23 million reduction compared from what was requested for fiscal year 2011, according to the federation. However, the program could face significant reductions next year. “CDFIs received unprecedented levels of funding and support in 2010 for asset building, savings, entrepreneurship and microenterprise programs, but most importantly recognition that CDFIs are an integral part of the solution to the country’s economic woes and the critical role they play in stimulating the nation’s economic growth,” Rosenthal said. “Now that funding is being threatened.” New York state has the largest concentration of CDFIs in the U.S., with more than 110 community development credit unions, loan funds, community development banks, and affordable housing agencies ranging from multi-million dollar financial intermediaries to small microenterprise loans funds.

N.Y. Pa. CUs meet on interchange with lawmakers

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ALBANY, N.Y., and HARRISBURG, Pa. (5/25/11)--Debit interchange fees was the topic addressed at meetings that New York and Pennsylvania credit unions recently held with their respective members of Congress.
Talking about interchange last week at the office of U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) were, from left: Michael Lanotte, John Stevenson, Michael Vadala, John Wakefield, Vicky O'Neill, William J. Mellin, Pamela Heald, Jack Houseknecht, Marilyn Marra-Crolick, Christine Peters, Buerkle, Mark Pfisterer, Luis Marina, Mike Giles and Ann Tyler. (Photo provided by the Credit Union Association of New York)
Fifteen leaders from nine New York credit unions and the Credit Union Association of New York met Friday with freshman U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) at her Syracuse office. The only item on their agenda was interchange. Buerkle listened as the group explained the ins and outs of the Dodd-Frank Act and how--in its current state--it would be detrimental not only to members but to all consumers nationwide, said the association. They shared letters from their members asking support for H.R. 1081, legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and seeking a delay of the implementation of the Federal Reserve's debit interchange rule until a more comprehensive study of its implications can be completed. Five congressional representatives from the state are co-sponsors of the bill. Association President/CEO William J. Mellin and Senior Vice President/General Counsel Michael Lanotte were joined by leaders from AmeriCU CU; ACMG FCU; CORE FCU; Empower FCU; Family First of NY FCU, Focal Point FCU, Reliant Community FCU, The Summit FCU, and Visions FCU.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), center, met with Erie, Pa., credit union representatives, from left: Erie FCU's Tracey Cettin, director of human resources; Brian Waugaman, chief operating officer, and Mary Beth Wilcher, CEO; and Erie General Electric FCU's Gail Cook, CEO; and Trent Mason, chief managing officer; and Sandi Carangi, vice president of business services, Erie FCU. (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
In Pennsylvania, credit union officials met with U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) at Erie (Pa.) FCU's corporate office to thank him for supporting the interchange delay legislation. The group emphasized that the Fed's proposal would hurt the ability of smaller financial institutions to serve members and operate. The Pennsylvania group also discussed raising the member business lending cap as well as the state and federal budgets and reliance of domestic energy. The Credit Union National Association supports both the legislation to delay implementation of the interchange rule until a study can be completed on the effects of the rule, and a measure that would raise credit unions' member business lending cap to 27.5% from 12.25%.

CU of So. Calif. Inland Empire CU plan merger

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WHITTIER and POMONA, Calif. (5/25/11)--Credit Union of Southern Calif. (CU SoCal), Whittier, Calif., and Inland Empire CU (IECU), Pomona, Calif., Monday announced plans to merge after the boards of both credit unions filed for regulatory approval to do so. The merger would create a combined organization--retaining the CU SoCal name--with $642 million in assets, eight branches and 19 proprietary ATMs, which would serve 50,000 members, said a press release. Dave Gunderson, CU SoCal president/CEO, would become president/CEO of the combined credit union. Rick Hoffman, IECU president/CEO, would assume the role of vice president of legislative affairs and business development with the new organization. All branches of both credit unions would stay open, and all employees of CU SoCal and IECU would remain employed after completion of the merger. Although both credit unions are financially strong and performing well, a combined organization will engender a stronger commitment to the area community and provide additional opportunities for employees, Gunderson said.

Michigan CU regulator appointed to NASCUS board

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ARLINGTON, Va. (5/25/11)--Tom Candon, Vermont credit union regulator and chairman of the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors (NASCUS), has appointed John J. Kolhoff of Michigan to the NASCUS Board of Directors. Kolhoff, deputy commissioner of credit unions for the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation, has held several positions with the Michigan agency since 1994. In his current role, he is responsible for safety and soundness supervision of 199 state-chartered credit unions and information technology examinations for all state-chartered credit unions and banks in the state. Kolhoff also has served on numerous NASCUS committees and task forces and is currently chairman of the organization’s National Institute for State Credit Union Examination (NISCUE). Kolhoff will fill an unexpired term ending in September. “John is a respected, long-time member of NASCUS and the state credit union regulatory community,” said NASCUS President/CEO Mary Martha Fortney, in welcoming Kolhoff to the board.