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CU Members Mortgage CMG MI offer mortgage loan training

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DALLAS (7/2/12)--CU Members Mortgage and CMG Mortgage Insurance have teamed up to provide a two-day mortgage lending training class July 18-19.

The class is designed to help attendees navigate the changing mortgage lending landscape, identify and qualify members for the most appropriate mortgage product, and learn how to sell mortgage insurance to help credit unions close more lending business, the companies said.

"We believe credit union attendees will walk away from this class with a better understanding on how to provide their members with smarter choices when it comes to appropriate mortgage lending products, while navigating the sometimes turbulent sea of regulations to remain compliant," said Linda Clampitt, CU Members Mortgage senior vice president.

The class agenda includes:

July 18:

  • Mortgage Lending Fundamentals--Blaine Rada, customer training manager, CMG MI; and
  • Creating a Competitive Advantage--Rada.

July 19:

  • Loan Originator Compensation, Proposed Changes--Wallace Jones, national training manager and vice president, CU Members Mortgage; and
  • Understanding the 1-2-3s of Mortgage Insurance--Chad Shipman, account executive, CMG MI.

Bluepoint paper focuses on reducing check losses

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HENDERSON, Nev. (7/2/12)--While check usage steadily decreased between 2009 and 2011, losses associated with check fraud remain a significant cost to financial institutions, individuals and businesses, according to a new white paper from Bluepoint Solutions, a provider of remote deposit capture, item processing and enterprise content-management solutions.

While new electronic payment methods come with built-in mechanisms such as user authentication to minimize fraud,  these types of controls are absent with paper checks, according to "Best Practices in Reducing Check Losses." This vulnerability attracts fraudsters who can exploit weaknesses, and consequently has made it the easiest way for fraudsters to target financial institutions.

With an estimated cost to financial institutions of $893 million in 2010 (a drop from $1.024 billion in 2008), checks now closely trail debit cards as the second-largest source of fraud loss to financial institutions.

The three most common types of check fraud are forgeries, counterfeits and return deposit items, each of which account for about 30% of all check fraud losses. The multiple presentment of a single item to multiple institutions for deposit represents an emerging threat to checks. Allowing consumers to retain the original check after depositing it remotely creates a new opportunity for defrauding multiple institutions simultaneously.

The single, most critical best practice in stopping check fraud and reducing losses is to push loss avoidance to the point of presentment. The earlier the potential fraud is identified, the sooner a financial institution can counteract it. This can include a combination of actions, such as notifying depositors at the teller line that they are depositing suspicious checks, applying extended holds or modifying check holds before they are paid or returned by the paying institution.

To download the white paper, use the link.

Council paper addresses re-launching credit card program

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MADISON, Wis. (6/29/12)--A white paper from the CUNA Lending Council, "Back in Business: The Pros and Cons of Re-Launching Credit Card Programs and Other Options to Boost Card Revenue," presents key questions credit unions should consider in deciding whether and how to offer credit cards. It offers several credit union examples.

During the past decade, many credit unions chose to sell their credit card portfolios, primarily to reduce credit and fraud risk, to boost revenue from a premium on the sale and to add liquidity, according to the white paper. But economic times have changed. On the recovery side of a major recession, with the current environment characterized by relatively low demand for loans and tight interest margins, credit unions are revisiting their role in offering credit cards to members, said the paper, written by freelance writer Karen Bankston.

As credit unions weigh their options to either maintain their relationships with other card providers or to launch their own products, they must consider their competitive position, operational and compliance challenges, the potential market among younger "net borrowers," and the costs and return on rewards programs. Careful and comprehensive business planning is a must, the paper advised.

Among the questions Tim Kolk, principal of TRK Advisors and one of the experts interviewed for the paper, advises credit unions to ask themselves is whether they can live with members' expectations. Big card issuers have a reputation for being inflexible in their underwriting and credit limit decisions, and for relying on automated contact centers rather than providing personal service and "hand-holding" for customers who need it. These perceptions, combined with compelling marketing opportunities, provide valid reasons to start issuing again.

On the other hand, credit unions may be labeled as "not quite state of the art" if they cannot offer fully functional remote service options, round-the-clock access to customer support staff, competitive reward programs, or the high-end products that consumers expect.

Harlands PhoenixEFE receives XCelent tech award

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LAKE MARY, Fla. (6/28/12)--Harland Financial Solutions' PhoenixEFE enterprise solution has received an XCelent Technology Award from Celent for its performance in the advanced technology category.

PhoenixEFE is used by hundreds of credit unions and banks worldwide, ranging from community to multi-billion dollar institutions.

The award was announced as part of a study of financial institutions with less than $1 billion in assets. It examined 13 providers in the financial services sector using the Celent ABCD Vendor View to show the relative position of vendors in the areas of advanced technology, breadth of functionality, customer base and depth of client services.

The report cites trends among financial institutions, including a drive to replace older legacy systems with more efficient and flexible hosted core banking systems, as firms look for a better return on investment through automation and flexibility. The report also stressed the need for multi-channel technologies that help attract members and maintain member loyalty, and the importance of increased integration that provides a single view of the member.

"Banks are, more than ever, looking for vendors with highly integrated core solutions that facilitate their forays into multiple channel technologies, such as ATM, Internet, interactive voice response and mobile," said Stephen Greer, analyst with Celent's Banking Group, and co-author of the report.

"Customer centricity is becoming increasingly important for financial institutions to compete, and banks desire solutions that facilitate product development and provide a wide array of customization capabilities," he said.

Mid-Atlantic Corporate ITSecurity Conference set

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MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (6/28/12)--Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU, Middletown, Pa., will hold its second annual Information Technology (IT) and Security Conference, Aug. 13-14.

"The agenda includes guest experts who will discuss new types identity theft and deception practices, vulnerability assessments, and how the expansion of cloud computing is changing the face of technology," said Richard Carberry, Mid-Atlantic Corporate FCU's security administrator.

James Munton, an expert on deception and author of the book "The Con: How Scams Work, Why You're Vulnerable and How to Protect Yourself," will serve as the event's keynote speaker. Munton is an authority on identity theft and data breaches.

Scott Sutherland, a special agent with the FBI for more than 24 years, will serve as the conference's closing speaker. Sutherland will discuss various forms of technology and data risk for financial institutions and society. During his tenure with the FBI, Sutherland was assigned to Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, where his work included investigating white-collar crime, public corruption and computer intrusion. He currently serves in the Philadelphia Division Field Intelligence Group.

Other topics to be addressed at the conference include virtualization and virtual security, cloud computing, new types of criminal threats, incident response plans and guidance on the 2011 Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council Supplemental Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment.

Paper tells how to make mortgages a core offering

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (6/27/12)--Credit unions that seek to capture homebuyers' business as soon as consumers begin their home searches could increase their purchase mortgage business as much as 40%, according to a new white paper from CU Realty Services.

"Our most important discovery over the last decade has really been about perspective," said Mike Corn, CU Realty Services CEO. "When credit unions look at the home-buying decision cycle as a lead channel, and design a core program to capture homebuyers' business when they are ready to begin their search--instead of after--everything changes. The credit union is seen as a full-service institution by their members. More members turn to them for help. More members stay with them for their mortgage."

The white paper, "Making the Shift: Helping Credit Unions Establish Real Estate Services as a Core Product Offering," outlines the steps that credit unions can take in adopting real estate services and expanding their core real estate products beyond mortgage loans.

Credit unions currently own about 6% to 8% of the mortgage market--almost half of homebuyers and sellers also are credit union members, according to the white paper. But credit union market share is slowly increasing.

Traditionally, homebuyers and sellers connected with real estate agents first to find a home. Agents would then refer prospects toward preferred banks and mortgage companies, usually excluding any existing credit union relationships.

Today, however, homebuyers and sellers are going online as a first step to investigate the market and find a home instead of turning to an agent. This shift has presented an opportunity for credit unions to step in and capture their member's first point of contact by offering the same real estate-related resources from their websites. Members can now find a home, connect with an experienced agent, get the best mortgage rates and save thousands of dollars on their transaction with just a click, said the white paper.

CU Realty Services recommends that credit unions follow these best practices to increase their mortgage market share:

  • Develop executive buy-in to expand the mortgage program;
  • Commit the time and resources needed for marketing and promotion;
  • Make an emotional connection with members by helping them achieve the dream of home ownership, and becoming their trusted partner and a valuable resource during the entire home buying/selling process;
  • Strive to become members' first point of contact, capturing members' attention before they connect with an agent;
  • Create an all-inclusive website real estate center where members can self-serve information and connect with resources;
  • Establish and nurture relationships with local realtors; and
  • Build on members' existing trust of and satisfaction with credit unions.
The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based CU Realty Services provides real estate services to credit unions across the nation.

CU Solutions Group to market at gas pump

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LIVONIA, Mich. (6/27/12)--Through a partnership with Gas Station TV (GSTV), a video network for gas pumps, CU Solutions Group (CUSG) will market Invest in America (IIA), the CUSG membership enhancement program at the gas pump.

The partnership provides CUSG with a marketing tool to broaden its reach for the products, services and discounts offered through IIA, an affinity program through which credit unions can promote their own products and services with those offered by American-based companies such as General Motors, Sprint, Intuit's TurboTax and Dell.

"When looking for ways to extend the reach of Invest in America, we found GSTV was the perfect partner," said David Adams, CEO of CUSG. "The network's ability to effectively reach consumers both nationally and locally is unparalleled."

GSTV's Internet-based geo-targeting capabilities allows CUSG to customize its messaging to the individual station level in communities where its credit union clients conduct business. The deal means CUSG can drive consumers--by station location--to the credit union branch nearest them. This increases the efficiency of CUSG's IIA marketing efforts by hyper-local targeting its messaging in ways traditional media cannot.

CUSG will become an exclusive remarketer of GSTV's services--offering customized opportunities to more than 3,000 credit union clients nationwide. Credit unions can purchase airtime on GSTV to run customized campaigns that complement the national CUSG IIA program, plus promote their key community initiatives such as promoting auto and home loans where credit union members.

"A great percentage of our credit union clients are hyper-local, meaning that their core target lives three to five miles from the branch," Adams said. "GSTV's ability to target messages down to the individual station level gives us the ability to offer our clients the benefit and impact of broadcast marketing, while our clients are able to maintain the community connection upon which so many branches rely."

CUcorp buys Michigan Business Connection

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LIVONIA, Mich. (6/26/12)--Cucorp, a subsidiary of the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL), will purchase a 10% share Michigan Business Connection (MBC), a credit union service organization (CUSO) that provides business-lending support to state credit unions.

The companies also are developing a marketing agreement through which MBC will use CUcorp sales representatives to augment MBC sales and customer support functions (Michigan Monitor June 25).

The CUcorp board approved the action at its June board meeting.

No purchase price for the transaction was disclosed.

CUcorp sought the relationship with MBC to facilitate increased business-lending collaboration in the Michigan marketplace; increase the number of credit unions involved in business lending, and help MCUL to develop improved business-lending education and training.

MCUL will continue working with its other business-lending partners, said Dave Adams, league president/CEO.

"While we look forward to this new partnership, MCUL remains committed to ongoing dialogue and collaboration with other Michigan-based business-lending CUSOs, such as CenCorp and Commercial Alliance," he said.

Wescom Resources Group teams with Online Banking Solutions

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ATLANTA (6/26/12)--Wescom Resources Group (WRG), a credit union service organization (CUSO) that provides software and technology service solutions, has agreed to offer the Online Banking Solutions' (OBS) Messenger Financial Center to deliver business information and payment services online to its clients.

In turn, OBS will offer WRG's MemberEdge electronic banking suite for consumers to credit unions implementing the OBS Messenger Financial Center.

OBS Messenger Financial Center is a business e-banking platform supporting real-time account and transaction reporting, e-statement delivery, stop payments, positive pay, account transfers and payment initiation of automated clearinghouse transactions and wire transfers. The OBS Messenger Mobile Banking partner product delivers full-featured information and payment services through the mobile channel. As an application service provider that uses private cloud technologies, Messenger Financial Center is capable of supporting exponential growth, the companies said.

MemberEdge online and mobile banking features integrated bill pay, automated clearinghouse person-to-person payments, account opening, marketing campaigns and eAlerts in one multi-channel platform. Built on an open services-oriented architecture, MemberEdge also provides cross-vendor integration between complementary services.

WRG is a CUSO backed by Wescom CU, Pasadena, Calif., which has nearly $2.4 billion in assets and serves 225,000 members.

Online Banking Solutions provides e-banking products including multi-channeled reporting, transaction and file delivery services to credit unions, community banks and commercial banks.

CUAnswers partners with CU Mobile Apps

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (6/25/12)--CU*Answers, a credit union service organization, has partnered with Tennessee-based CU Mobile Apps.

CU*Answers will integrate CU Mobile Apps' smartphone mobile banking application with the It's Me 247 online and mobile banking suite.

CU Mobile Apps is the most recent product offered by Member Service Solutions, LLC, a provider of insurance and financial solutions for credit unions and financial institutions.

CU Apps' platform works with both iPhones and Android devices, including iPod Touch and iPad, Android Mobile, Android Tablet and Kindle Fire devices.  Its future-forward design allows it to accept and integrate newer technologies as they become available--restructuring/redesign delays--and without additional subscription charges.

Jack Henry offers mobile business bill pay solution

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MONETT, Mo. (6/22/12)--Jack Henry & Associates Inc., a provider of technology solutions and payment processing services, has introduced a business bill pay mobile solutions. 

iBizManager integrates the functionality of the NetTeller Cash Management and iPay Biz 2.0 business into an an iPad-based application. The application supports financial institutions' commercial members and customers with secure, anytime, anywhere access to their accounts, funds transfer and bill payment capabilities and alerts.

"The business of banking has evolved from brick and mortar, to the Internet, and now to smartphones and tablets," said Pete Hopkins, general manager of Internet Solutions for Jack Henry & Associates. "Today's consumers expect to conduct their banking business anytime and anywhere, so mobile banking is becoming a must-have financial service."

Mortgage Cadence acquires Prime Alliance

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DENVER (6/21/12)--Mortgage Cadence LLC, a provider of enterprise lending solutions, document services, compliance and default servicing technology, has acquired Prime Alliance Solutions Inc., a provider of mortgage technology.

Currently, Prime+, Prime Alliance's lending solution has been positioned within the credit union and regional lending space. With the acquisition, Mortgage Cadence will be able to leverage Prime+, while also offering Prime Alliance's customer base a migration pathway to Orchestrator's enterprise lending suite.

Eliminating disparate systems in favor of one solution is viewed as a way for Prime Alliance's clients to improve member service and drive down costs, while ensuring compliance, the company said. Prime Alliance will retain its focus and its leadership while building on, and integrating, the two organizations' technologies.

Start-up encourages impulse saving

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NEW YORK (6/21/12)--A start-up company hopes to turn consumers' impulse to buy into a savings opportunity.

ImpulseSave allows consumers to use a mobile application to deposit the money they would have used on impulse purchases into a savings account. 

Consumers who sign up for the service can also work toward savings goals.

Through its private beta offering launched earlier this year, ImpulseSave found that its average user is now saving as much as $316 per month through its combination of both automatic savings and in the moment "impulse saving" transactions where the user can save any amount toward a specific goal whenever they feel tempted, or whenever the impulse strikes them.

Overall, the average ImpulseSave user is on track to save more than $3,700 per year by securely transferring funds from their checking accounts directly into their ImpulseSave savings account.

ImpulseSave is partnered with Leader Bank, NA, a nationally chartered community bank.

The company plans to add new features to its service, including geographical, online and charitable features and the ability for users to share funds with friends and family.

Better Branches offers lobby wait times via mobile

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SAN FRANCISCO (6/20/12)--Software provider Better Branches Technology has updated its Better Lobby solution to include a module that allows credit union members to view lobby wait times on their mobile devices.

The module does not require an "app" to be downloaded. Members follow the link from the credit union's website page to a mobile-sized page that is suitable for their iPhone or similar mobile device. Members then see the current lobby wait times in any Better Lobby-equipped branch. The mobile page can easily be bookmarked to the users "home screen" to make subsequent visits possible with a single touch.

"This new feature is a win-win-- members will love the 'high tech, high touch' real-time access to their credit union's branch lobby status, while credit union staff stress will be lowered by not having to serve members who may have become irritated or even upset by long wait times to meet with a branch employee," said Rick Poulton, Better Branches president.

For those members who prefer to use a home or office personal computer, the Mobile and Web Wait Time feature can be readily accessed from the credit union's website with a couple of mouse clicks, and visitors can "bookmark" the web page for future reference.

"We designed this solution with busy members in mind, as well as credit union operations, marketing and IT departments," Poulton said. "Operations personnel will appreciate the ability to 'shift' traffic to non-peak times or to slower branches. Marketing teams will love that it enhances their image with technology savvy members. And IT departments will quickly recognize how simple it is to deploy and support, which is due in part to the fact that there are no client-side applications to install."

New England CUs join FSCC

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (6/19/12)--FSCC LLC, a part of CO-OP Shared Branching, and New England Credit Union Services LLC, are partnering on a marketing initiative in three New England states to expand credit union participation in shared branching. 

A total of 10 credit unions in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have signed letters of intent to join the CO-OP Shared Branching network since the initiative kicked-off in early April. The 10 credit unions will bring 36 new branches into the network, which includes more than 4,600 branches plus 2,200 Vcom kiosks at 7-Eleven stores nationwide.

The marketing initiative includes a package of relationship pricing opportunities that also features CO-OP Network, the 30,000-ATM network operated by CO-OP Financial Services. Credit unions in the three states have until July 31 to take advantage of the package offer.

The organizations are not identifying the credit unions that have signed letters of intent because contracts are pending and are not expected to go into effect until next year. However, FSCC LLC, and NECUS LLC, are planning to announce specific signings on International Credit Union Day, Oct. 18, in a New England-based event involving the media, credit unions and their members.

CUNA Mutuals Discovery Conference is Oct. 9

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MADISON, Wis. (6/19/12)--CUNA Mutual Group's third annual, day-long Online Discovery Conference, offering credit union-focused sessions from the convenience of a computer--for free--is scheduled for Oct. 9.

The Online Discovery Conference is the Web-based equivalent of a face-to-face conference without the associated expenses, or time away from the office. "The beauty of Online Discovery is the convenience," said Jim Buchheim, CUNA Mutual Group, vice president, corporate communications. "We've evolved the online learning experience of the conference to create an even better fit for our credit unions--all the while, keeping it free for everyone."

CUNA Mutual will make an announcement this summer with the full lineup of sessions and speakers. Also included in the conference are networking opportunities, live chat rooms, message boards, social media connections, prizes and a full interactive exhibit hall.

This year CUNA Mutual is adding full video and audio experiences for every session of the online conference. "We discovered that people prefer watching presentations rather than just listening," said Buchheim. "Therefore, videos of every session and the keynote speaker's presentation will be on your computer screen for you to see and hear."

Registration to the Online Discovery Conference guarantees full access to the conference and all materials even after the event is over. Those who register for the conference can watch and listen to all session recordings and download event materials for nine months after the event.

CU Strategic Planning led increase in CFDI grants

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TACOMA, Wash. (6/18/12)--With the announcement that community development financial institutions (CDFI)  funding to credit unions increased 100% last year, one company is claiming credit for a sizeable portion of the boost, saying it is good underwriting for grants that made the difference.

Tacoma, Wash.-based CU Strategic Planning said that higher quality applications--regardless of institution type--succeed in the scoring established by the CDFI fund.

"We expect to see this approval rate continue to grow," said Chuck Cockburn, CU Strategic Planning president/CEO, a former turn-around credit union CEO and a former director of statistics with the National Credit Union Administration. "We wrote even more awards in 2012 than we did in 2011, and our process improvement continued even after our team established the record for the most grants ever won by a single credit union grant-writing team."

So, what's different about the company that helps it succeed in grant writing? The company claims it is not the least expensive and it spends about three times as much time on applications than other grant writers. The previous business model in CDFI grant writing established and promoted by the credit union industry guided credit unions to use templates, and lower cost grant writers without an investment in individualized community research.

"Chuck makes every CU Strategic Planning grant writer pass a grueling writing sample examination," said CU Strategic Planning founder Jamie Chase. "Credit union clients must pass a credit union financial assessment to work with us."

In 2011, the firm wrote 17 applications, compared with five in 2010, and achieved success in obtaining grants for 76% of its credit union clients, compared with a 30% success rate elsewhere.

CU Strategy Planning will share its best practices with credit unions at a Making History: Credit Union CDFI Conference Sept. 19-20. At the conference, the company will review failed credit union CDFI applications and make recommendations on how to improve them and resubmit them.

Also, Mike Beall, CEO of the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA), and Chase will share information about MCUA's first statewide CDFI project Thursday during the Credit Union Development Educator workshop in San Diego, and again at Southwestern Management School on July 11.

See related story, "Strong CU support will continue, CDFI says" in News Now's Washington section.

CUSO tracks data for marketing decisions

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LENEXA, Kan. (6/18/12)--Beyond Marketing LLC, a marketing credit union service organization (CUSO), now provides its clients with tracking strategies that allow credit unions and CUSOs to capture prospect data when target audiences respond to their marketing communications.  

Tracking helps gauge the effectiveness of marketing initiatives, allowing credit unions and CUSOs to make faster and smarter decisions.

"Once clients are introduced to the idea and experience how simple and cost-effective it is to gather usable marketing data, they can't imagine not having it," said Kat Vorkink, Beyond Marketing account supervisor. "Historically, many marketing and media decisions were being made by clients based on gut feelings. It was apparent we needed to be able to show how many prospects were responding to specific ads, through a specific medium."

Vorkink cites the example of a credit union marketer who believes that most new member prospects call for promotional details. But tracking data show that 75% of respondents went online for more information. 

"This indicates that future efforts need to be highly interactive," Vorkink said. "The overall goal is to quickly eliminate what is not working, and shift marketing dollars to what is working." 

The three major tracking components are unique URLs, landing pages and dedicated phone lines.  By "tagging" marketing materials with unique URLs and dedicated phone numbers per media vehicle, prospects are directed to website landing pages or to phone lines that capture caller information.  The data from respondents is tracked and reported, which takes the guesswork out of the effectiveness of the communications efforts, making the most of the marketing budget.  Credit unions can then are aware of the best placement and advertising medium, such as billboards, radio, print or online banner.

Tracking also makes testing campaigns and promotions easier by varying the message, design, and placement, then "tagging" them. The marketer can receive data showing how audience segments prefer to receive information and to respond to the marketing message. Testing different promotional pieces with the same audience can quantify which designs and messages evoke the highest response, providing information that saves time and expense when producing the next promotion's materials.

"Naturally, the better you understand your audience's preferences, the more effective and cost-effective your marketing efforts can become," Vorkink said. "Testing and tracking results will help a credit union create strategies that increase conversion rates, improve return on investment, and/or boost member satisfaction. The benefits of data-driven decisions and budget savings far outweigh the old method of gut feelings."

VINtek working with Fla. Ala. CUs on ELT

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PHILADELPHIA (6/18/12)--VINtek, a provider of automotive collateral management, electronic lien and title (ELT) services and direct finance processing, is working with auto lenders in Florida and Georgia to prepare for the implementation of expanded ELT programs in both states.

The legislative expansion of an ELT program reduces the cost and exposure to fraud associated with paper vehicle titles with liens for automotive financiers, consumers, automotive dealers and the state motor vehicle department. Florida HB 1223 requires nearly all lien holders to participate in the ELT program by Jan. 1.

Georgia HB 865 authorizes the Georgia Department of Revenue to phase in a mandatory ELT program and the final rules outlining participation in that program will be published before Jan. 1.

ELT replaces paper titles with an electronic exchange of data between the states' Department of Motor Vehicles and VINtek, acting as an intermediary on behalf of a lien holder.

Between the two states, more than 800 lienholders have implemented ELT programs. The program reduces costs with the elimination of paper and automation of a manual process. It also eliminates exposure to fraud that involves falsified lien-release letters. Perpetrators can create fictitious lien release documents and receive clear titles from the DMV. In an ELT program, only the lienholder of record can electronically release its lien.

"Georgia and Florida have joined a growing list of states that recognize the benefits of ELT to government budgets and automotive financiers," said Larry Highbloom, president of VINtek. "By legislating an expanded population of paperless titles, both of these states have ushered in a more cost-effective, efficient and secure era in auto financing. ELT serves as the foundation for future vehicle title-automation opportunities such as eliminating the paper title completely as has been done with stock certificates."

CU Realty Services celebrates 10-year milestone

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (6/15/12)--CU Realty Services LLC, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based credit union service organization specializing in real estate services, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The firm has worked with more than 100 credit unions in 19 states and 49 metro areas, recruited and trained more than 400 real estate agents, and has generated more than $10 million in total cost savings to credit union members.

Launched in 2001, CU Realty Services was one of the first in the U.S. to offer Internet home searches, representing a major shift in how buyers and sellers connect. Today, almost half of all searches begin online, according to the 2011 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. 

In the past year, CU Realty helped credit union members who bought or sold their homes through its agent network save a collective $1.8 million--equal to about 20% of real estate commissions. At the same time, the CUSO's credit union partners have increased their purchase-mortgage business, some by as much as 40%.

CSS and CU Solutions Group form marketing pact

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MADISON, Wis. (6/15/12)--CUNA Strategic Services Inc. (CSS) has formed a marketing agreement with CU Solutions Group (CUSG) to offer credit union members products, services and discounts from General Motors, Sprint wireless, CUNA Mutual Group auto and home insurance and Intuit TurboTax.

"CU Solutions Group has products that provide value to members for their everyday needs such as cars, auto insurance and mobile services," said Wes Millar, CSS senior vice president. "We believe the CUSG offerings increase the credit unions' value and deepen members' relationships with their credit unions."

CUSG, a credit union service organization owned by more than 100 credit unions and related organizations, has earned Diamond Awards from the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council; Pro and Blockbuster Awards from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA); and the Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Program.

"As credit unions look for new ways to grow, CUSG's Invest in America partnerships with GM, Sprint, CUNA Mutual and Intuit are great ways to drive auto loans, member loyalty and non-interest income," said Dave Adams, CUSG CEO. "Our partnership with CSS will help bring even greater awareness of these offerings among credit unions and help more members take advantage of the discounts provided."

Since the inception of the CUSG partnerships, more than 1.3 million members have taken advantage of discounts from Sprint and nearly 400,000 from General Motors and members have saved more than $500 million purchasing these products through Invest in America.

CEFCU is winner of CUNA FUSE contest

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MADISON, Wis. (6/14/12)--Citizens Equity First Credit Union (CEFCU) is the the winner of the CUNA FUSE--Branch Operations & Business Development School contest, the Credit Union National Association announced Wednesday. 

CEFCU won two registrations to the school, which will be held July 30-Aug. 2 in Las Vegas. 

Contestants were asked to provide an example of how their branch operations and business development departments had fused together or how they envisioned working together.

CEFCU's winning entry, judged on creativity and originality, was a national effort to develop the credit union's memberships by building the collaboration between member center managers and the business development department.

Integration of branch operations and business development is the primary focus of CUNA FUSE--Branch Operations & Business Development School. The event is designed to help participant's grow their credit unions' membership, develop staff leadership skills and discover new ways to take credit union operations to the next level.

MemberClose Simplifile team up on e-Recording

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MARLBORO, Mass. (6/14/12)--MemberClose, a provider of bundled mortgage settlement solutions to credit unions, has partnered with Simplifile to develop an electronic recording service for all real estate loans.

Through Simplifile, MemberClose can now offer the e-recording service in more than 725 counties nationwide. Through e-recording with Simplifile, credit unions can process and record documents through the Internet that would otherwise be sent in for paper processing.

E-Recording with Simplifile provides both hard and soft dollar savings. E-Recording eliminates mailing costs and check writing expenses. Documents are recorded in minutes, decreasing the gap between loans closing with the recording of the proper documents.

MemberClose will host two free webinars on e-Recording on June 22. Sessions will begin at 10 a.m. ET and 2 p.m.

WRG celebrates 10 years of CU technology

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PASADENA, Calif. (6/13/12)--Wescom Resources Group (WRG), a provider of software and technology service solutions for credit unions, is celebrating its 10th anniversary, expanding its client base to 230, growing at a year-over-year annual rate of 25%, and nearly doubling its staff from 50 to 95 in the past five years.

WRG is backed by $2.5 billion asset Wescom CU, Pasadena, Calif.

Among the products and services WRG offers are online banking, automated clearinghouse transfer, automated lending and bill pay and mobile banking.

WRG's differentiator has always been its close relationship with Wescom CU, according to Tim Dolan, WRG president.  The credit union service organization (CUSO) works with the credit union to develop, test and launch technology products. That bond with Wescom CU still remains in place today, but the CUSO has expanded its product-development relationships with other credit unions for a more robust feedback channel.

WRG also employs a Mobile Advisory Group of credit unions that provide feedback on mobile banking products.

"Our benefit over the years can be seen in the way we as a CUSO have helped redefine the vendor/client relationship to a form that is more befitting of true 'partnerships,' providing better value to the client," Dolan added. "WRG is part of the force that has tilted the playing field much more toward the clients.  This helps level that field for everybody and puts credit unions in a position of being able to innovate, which bodes well for the industry as a whole."

eDOC teams with Cache Financial on mobile deposit

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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (6/12/12)--eDOC Innovations and Cache Financial have partnered to create CheckLogic Mobile, which combines eDOC's CheckLogic check-processing platform with Cache's Select Mobile remote deposit solution.

The collaboration means credit union members can make remote deposits via mobile devices such as an iPhone or Android smartphone.

"Giving members the ability to deposit from their mobile smartphone will open up new opportunities for credit unions to engage a younger audience that, typically, yearns for advanced banking technology, said Joseph Lao, eDOC Innovations manager of market development.

Through CheckLogic Mobile members can take a photo of a check with their smartphone camera and upload the image through a mobile app downloaded from their carrier's application store. Items submitted for deposit will aggregate into the credit union's existing forward collection and settlement channel.

TMG issues paper on credit card programs

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DES MOINES, Iowa (6/12/12)--Credit unions that want to maximize the potential of the credit card portfolios must be able to access comprehensive data and know how to analyze that information, according to a new white paper from The Members Group.

Optimal program management is not possible without access to data and to efficient analysis of that data, according to credit card expert Brian Scott, who authored the white paper, "Credit Card Portfolio Best Practices for the Modern Payments World."

"Understand, benchmarking against industry best practices cannot be achieved without access to complete and easy-to-decipher analytics," Scott wrote. "Comprehensive data, available at cardholder-level detail, will be your best ally."

Scott, TMG vice president of sales, offered four areas that credit unions must focus on in their portfolios. They are:

  • Risk tolerance;
  • Card activation and usage strategies,
  • Inactive accounts management; and
  • Promotional programs.
In the risk tolerance portion of the paper, Scott discussed possible changes to the credit card application process, adjustments to average credit lines and aligning a financial institution's total loan picture with strategic growth goals.

Capabilities such as instant issuance and plastic customization are explored in the card activation and use strategies section. Financial institutions that provide plastic to approved applicants before they leave the branch see a nearly 50% increase in transactions during the first 45 days of the account, Scott said.

Scott recommended that credit unions review their portfolios for inactive accounts every six months. Data analytics can help identify cards that have experienced sudden drops in use, according to Smith.  If a cardholder has been using a card between eight and 10 times a month and suddenly drops to two transactions in one month, immediate action is essential. The user may have found an alternate source of credit. If the credit union can transfer the card to a rewards program or a customizable card, it can capture previous levels of use.

Best practices for credit card promotions, including balance transfer programs, are addressed in the fourth section of the white paper. "Many tried-and-true methods for attracting new cardholders, upping transaction activity or increasing interchange income appear to be successful on the surface while actually creating larger problems down the road," Scott said.

To access the white paper, use the link.

Fin lit webinar aims to help CUs educate young adults

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DALLAS (6/11/12)--Kathy Griffin founder and creator of MoneyU and its online financial game will present a live financial literacy webinar at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

"Financial Literacy for Gen Y: How to Reach, Teach and Motivate the Next Generation" is designed to help credit union executives effectively reach Gen Ys and Millennials.

The webinar is hosted by On Your Way, a reward-based, Web program used by credit unions to attract and educate Generation Y. The webinar is free for On Your Way clients.

MoneyU teaches essential financial skills through a self-paced, digital course covering topics such as understanding a cardholder agreement, comparing car loans and creating a budget.

On Your Own's Web portal solution--a daily source of financial information-- is now used by about 65 U.S. and Canadian credit unions to engage young adults.

RateGenius Syphr partner on auto finance leads

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (6/8/12)--Through a new partnership, RateGenius, a Web-based loan broker, and digital advertiser Syphr have collaborated to leverage the network of advertisers.

RateGenius teams with credit unions to help consumers refinance auto loans. By hosting its virtual marketplace through Syphr's digital advertising platform for direct lenders, RateGenius brings together qualified borrowers and credit unions to create more refinancing opportunities.

Syphr partners with digital publishers and financial destination sites that  can deliver leads to its advertisers. Syphr provides publishers with the data, tools and support they need to make the most of their site traffic and facilitate conversions to advertisers.

RateMatch, Syphr's patent-pending method of filtering consumer credit trade-line data and matching it to advertiser or lender attributes, drives higher loan volumes, said the companies.

CUNA announces Young Adult Boot Camp

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MADISON, Wis. (6/7/12)--Participants at the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) Young Adult Boot Camp, Sept. 12-13 in Charlotte, N.C., will develop action plans for reaching their Gen Y membership base.

Brent Dixon, Filene Research Institute's young adult adviser, will describe the needs and concerns of today's adult consumer and detail the products, services and recruiting strategies credit unions can use to attract young potential members. Dixon also will include Filene research that participants can integrate into their action plans.

Topics will include:

  • Social media and online search advertising;
  • Young-adult transaction accounts;
  • Young-adult lending;
  • Advisory directors and volunteers;
  • Young-adult branches and e-delivery; and
  • Young-adult financial behavior and decision making.
"On the whole, the youth market is a low-risk, highly profitable market," said Meghann Dawson, CUNA manager of instructional design. "Reaching out to this group effectively is not only sound marketing practice but an essential strategy in ensuring the credit union stays profitable in the coming years."

Corporate Central Farin team up on IRR compliance

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MUSKEGO, Wis. (6/7/12)--Corporate Central CU in Muskegon, Wis. has expanded its partnership with Farin & Associates Inc. to offer interest-rate-risk compliance services.  

Corporate Central CU, which has an existing five-year partnership with Farin, expanded its relationship to ensure that the corporate credit union's member credit unions have resources available to implement the National Credit Union Administration's impending requirement that all federally insured credit unions develop and adopt a written policy on interest-rate-risk management as part of their asset liability management (ALM) programs.

Farin will offer a free webinar for Corporate Central members on Monday at 2 p.m. CT to explore the changes in policy, approach and assumptions that credit unions must undertake to meet the new NCUA requirements, which go into effect Sept. 30.

Corporate Central members will have access these services offered through Farin:

  • In-house ALM models and outsourced ALM model options;
  • Non-maturity core deposit analysis;
  • Loan/relationship profitability models (LoanEDGE);
  • Loan and deposit pricing services;
  • Educational webinars and seminars; and
  • Consulting services.

Autoland sales up 16

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CHATSWORTH, Calif. (6/6/12)--Autoland Inc. posted positive first quarter earnings with a 16% sales increase over first quarter 2011, said the auto buying credit union service organization. Autoland's lead volume rose 27%, which means it is on track to exceed its second-quarter sales forecast.

Autoland attributed the increase to car buying demand. It also added new credit union partners and expanded service presence to more key locations in California and Oregon, said Jeffry Martin, Autoland Inc. president.  The increases help better position Autoland for taking advantage of a projected 13% increase in car sales this year, Martin said.

The company has added 11 new credit union partners during the past seven months and serves more than 200 credit unions nationwide.

"The good news is that credit union membership continues to rise--667,000 for the first three months of 2012-- and with it, more opportunities to finance member automobile purchases," said Martin. "The demand is there on both sides, and we're servicing that demand by getting the vehicles members want while retaining the financing for our credit union partners at a rate of 82%."

Martin noted its partners have seen their loan dollars through Autoland increase this year by an average of 40%.

Student lender Fynanz breaks 200 CU milestone

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NEW YORK (6/6/12)--Private student loan provider Fynanz Inc. announced Tuesday it had hit the 200 milestone in number of total client credit unions that leverage its private student lending technology.

Fynanz, a strategic alliance provider of CUNA Strategic Services, powers the website.

New additions to the provider include Sunmark FCU, Latham, N.Y.; Los Angeles FCU (LAFCU); Travis CU, Vacaville, Calif.;  and CommonWealth One FCU, Alexandria,Va.

CommonWealth One and Sunmark built customized private student lending programs using the Fynanz platform, which tailors the product and credit requirements for each individual credit union and its members.

LAFCU and Travis CU joined the cuStudentLoans program. LAFCU joined the program as a full lending and participation partner. Travis joined the member referral program, which allows credit unions to refer members to the credit union service organization-managed network, giving members access to a no-fee and low-interest-rate private student loan. The program has grown to 145 credit union referral partners. It employs common underwriting and pricing, and includes loan participation to mitigate risks.

"Fynanz continues to rapidly grow and attract new lending partners to its platform, which now serves the student lending needs of credit unions totaling over $40 billion in assets," said Jim Merrill, senior vice president of sales at Fynanz.

Entry period opens for 10000 COOP Think 13 prize

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (6/5/12)--Entries are now being accepted for CO-OP THINK Prize 13, a competition to inspire solutions to issues confronting the credit union industry.

Entrants have until Sept. 28 to complete their Round One applications and become eligible for the MasterCard-sponsored $10,000 grand prize, said CO-OP Financial Services.

The solutions put forward in the competition can take any form. Examples include an innovative application of technology, a new process for back office efficiency or a fresh approach to industry advertising and marketing.

Judging is based on four standards: impact, creativity, the application of the idea across the industry and ease of implementation.

Key CO-OP THINK Prize 13 dates include:

  • Sept. 28--Deadline to complete an on-line entry application;
  • Oct. 30--Semi-finalists will be notified, and invited to produce a detailed business plan;
  • Dec. 19--Semi-finalist business plans are due;
  • Jan. 31, 2013--A total of three finalists will be notified on or about this date;
  • March 25-April 19, 2013--On-line voting takes place; and
  • May 1, 2013--Announcement of winner at the THINK 13 Conference in Chicago.
This is the third year for the CO-OP THINK Prize competition. The prize money goes to the individual entrant, who may use it toward executing the idea, though not obligated to do so.

The 25 semi-finalists and the three finalists are selected by judges from CO-OP Financial Services and an industry panel.

Grass is greener paper touts TMG card processing

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DES MOINES, Iowa (6/5/12)--Financial institutions undergoing a card-processing contract renewal must determine whether their processor relationship is a true partnership or simply a vendor-client arrangement. To help make that assessment, The Members Group (TMG) has issued a white paper with questions card managers can ask of their teams.

Authored by Lesley Hastings, TMG director of new client partnerships, "When the Grass Really is Greener: Evaluating Your Processing Partner at Renewal Time" underscores several qualities TMG deems important to the financial institution-processor partnership.

"What motivates a financial institution's curiosity about alternative providers often isn't some catastrophic experience with their current partner," writes Hastings. "Rather, it's a nagging sense that something about the partnership just isn't right."

Among the 11 questions Hastings recommends card teams discuss at least one year before renewing a processor contract are:

  • Are unique cardholders being taken into consideration or does the processor apply a one-size-fits-all philosophy to our business?
  • How much control of card programs does the credit union desire, and can the processor meet those specific requirements?
  • Does the credit union have the expertise to manage regulatory changes, and if not, can it rely on the processor for assistance?
Payments have the potential to be a true differentiator for credit unions, Hasting concludes. Yet that potential can easily become bottlenecked by the wrong processing partnership. The questions the white paper provides are designed to clarify expectations and set a course for the future, said TMG.

Covera unveils new website logo

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ALBANY, N.Y. (6/5/12)--Covera, a payments solutions provider, has unveiled a new logo, tagline and a redesigned website.

"Since our doors first opened in 1986, Covera has been constantly evolving," said Kimberly McCumber-Ploof, Covera chief operating officer. She said the updates reflect Covera's growth in size and geographical reach. Together, these changes represent who we are and where we're going."

Covera has shortened its company name and created a new tagline, "Proven," which is reflected in its new logo. While keeping its trademark blue color, Covera's logo has been updated to reflect the organization's fresh, modern approach to payment solutions, the company said.

The new website includes more bold colors and graphics, a new "Events" calendar, and an "In the News column." The site's pages are designed to work more intuitively, McCumber-Ploof said.

Covera delivers debit, credit and ATM solutions to credit unions.

CO-OP Fin Services offers key THINK 12 takeaways

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (6/4/12)--"THINK Again: Key Takeaways from THINK 12," a free white paper detailing the key points made by speakers at the THINK 12 conference, is now available for downloading from CO-OP-Financial Services.

"We recognize the challenge of taking the big ideas attendees hear at THINK and finding ways to implementing them back home at their credit unions," said Stan Hollen, president/CEO of CO-OP Financial Services. The paper reports the highlights of each featured presentation "and provides some direction on how our industry can apply those lessons," he added.

The conference was held April 29-May 2 in Boca Raton, Fla. Among the speakers were Billy Beane of the Oakland A's, Chris Berman of ESPN and guitarist-turned-defense-expert Jeff Baxter.  The conference showcases business thought leaders from diverse industries to provide a fresh perspective to credit union leaders on issues facing the movement. This year's themes included credit-union-as-cult-brand, creativity and reinvention.

Next year's conference will be April 29-May 2 in Chicago.

To download the paper, use the link below, click on "Downloads" and then click "THINK Again" at the top of the left column.

Velocity acquires Sheshunoff Consulting software

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WILMINGTON, N.C., and AUSTIN, Texas (6/4/12)--Velocity Solutions, based in Wilmington, N.C., has acquired banking software from Austin, Texas-based Sheshunoff Consulting + Solutions.

The deal is expected to provide Velocity with additional staff from Sheshunoff Consulting and an installed base of clients who use Sheshunoff's Deposit Score, Platinum Overdraft and Pricing Partner.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Velocity provides transaction account strategies, fee income enhancement, overdraft management tools, retail-account product design and account acquisition programs.

Sheshunoff Consulting + Solutions offers financial institutions risk management, executive development programs and investment banking services.

Superior Choice adds e-mail newsletter to marketing

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SUPERIOR, Wis. (6/4/12)--Superior Choice CU, Superior, Wis., has added branded e-mail newsletters to its mix of marketing communication as a means of expanding its digital presence with technologically savvy members.

The credit union still sends out its quarterly newsletter through the U.S. Postal Service, but an electronic newsletter platform from the digital marketing company IMN, Waltham, Mass., allows Superior to communicate monthly and more cost effectively while providing more timely information on products and services such as auto loans and mortgage rates, Lepper said.

In providing information in a format that members engage with every day, Superior Choice CU appears to have captured members' attention. For example, when the credit union held its annual director's election earlier in February the newsletter included a link to the online ballot. Within 45 minutes of the newsletter release, nearly 100 votes were cast online.

"We've never seen that kind of response in such a short time frame," Lepper said. "It was eye opening."

The newsletters also can include a link to social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. While Superior Choice has a Facebook page, Lepper said the credit union still has room to grow with social media, and the newsletter will likely provide a portal for that growth.

"It's not uncommon for people--not just young people but people of any age--to communicate with brands through social media," Lepper said. "Now I feel like we're poised to grow in that direction."

IMN delivers branded newsletters that help companies engage with their members, prospects and customers to drive business results via email, mobile and social platforms. IMN clients can also benefit from analytics-based intelligence that provides insight into buying behavior and purchase preferences to encourage brand loyalty and generate leads.

CUNA announces topics for BSA conference in December

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MADISON, Wis. (6/4/12)--The CUNA Bank Secrecy Act Conference, Dec. 2-5 in Dallas, will include sessions on real-world compliance applications, according to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

In partnership with the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors, the annual CUNA Bank Secrecy Act Conference brings together Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) compliance officers, state and federal examiners, industry experts and regulators for discussion, networking and education on BSA compliance issues. The annual conference covers BSA statutory and regulatory training requirements that compliance professionals must comprehend to help their credit unions meet the requirements of the complex federal BSA law.

Issues to be addressed at this year's conference include:

  • Skip tracing;
  • BSA implications of emerging payment systems;
  • Selecting anti-money laundering automation tools; and
  • BSA and business accounts.
Representatives from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the National Credit Union Administration and the Office of Foreign Assets Control will provide regulatory updates.

The BSA was enacted in 1970 to help in the investigation of money laundering, tax evasion and other criminal activity. Today, compliance with the BSA helps defend against terrorism. However, new technology brings increased risk and complexity to BSA compliance, said CUNA.

Credit union professionals can earn their CUNA Bank Secrecy Act Compliance Specialist (BSACS) designation by enrolling in BSA 101 and successfully completing the proctored exams. BSACS recertification is also available.

Also, CUNA Bank Secrecy Act eSchool will be held Aug. 23-Oct. 24. For more information, use the link.