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CUANY website adds live online chat support

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ALBANY, N.Y. (7/17/12)--The Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY) announced Monday it is now offering live, online chat support through its website.

Credit unions can click the Live Support graphic on the bottom or right of most association webpages on the site to chat instantly with a member of the association's member services team.

The option will be available during CUANY's regular business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Users also can submit a message during offline hours, which will be addressed the next business day, said the association.

"This new feature furthers our goal of providing member credit unions with comprehensive, convenient support, said CUANY President/CEO William J. Mellin. "Whether you prefer to send an e-mail, pick up the phone or chat instantly online, our team is here to offer expertise and assistance."

CU System briefs (07/16/2012)

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  • ST. LOUIS (7/17/12)--A Riverview, Mo., man has been arrested and charged with robbing a branch of St. Louis (Mo.) Community CU Friday. Quentin A. Quinn, 35, was arrested shortly after a man entered the credit union at about 2:15 p.m. and demanded money. No weapon was displayed. Quinn was charged Saturday with robbery in the first degree (Post-Dispatch July 14) …
  • ST. HELENS, Ore. (7/17/12)--Moviegoers Friday in St. Helens, Ore., will get a treat when St. Helens Community FCU takes over the opening night of the new Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises" at Columbia Theatre. The credit union will pay for the first 350 guests' movie tickets, plus drinks and popcorn. Guests also will enjoy games, a photo booth and giveaways. The event will provide the credit union an opportunity to showcase its Kasasa Cash and Kasasa Tunes free checking accounts. Kasasa accounts offer high interest or digital media downloads, and worldwide ATM fee refunds, said the $160 million asset credit union's press release …
  • PLEASANTON, Calif. (7/17/12)--Patelco CU has released a new mobile banking app feature, Anywhere Deposit, that will enable members to deposit checks into their accounts using their iPhone and Android phones. The new service will reduce the frequency of in-person branch visits and speed up the deposit process, said Ryan Misasi, interim chief operating officer at the Pleasanton, Calif.-based Patelco. "This technology is changing the way people bank, and we pride ourselves on our ability to innovate our online and mobile service offerings in response to our members' growing expectations and to reach a new generation of users," Misasi said. Anywhere Deposit will be ideal for members without flexibility to conveniently visit a branch--including those who travel frequently or who do not live or work near a branch. Patelco's online banking members can download the app to their phone, take a picture of the check with account numbers and deposit amounts visible, and send the image to Patelco. There is no fee for Anywhere Deposit; however, an individual's cellular plan may include message and data rates that would apply, said the credit union …

CUs down under exploring mobile payment platform

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CANBERRA, Australia (7/17/12)--A group of more than 20 Australian credit unions is meeting, along with mutual banks, to explore providing a mobile payment platform to its members.

Credit Union Services Corporation Australia Limited (CUSCAL), the group's collectively owned electronic banking transaction provider, is facilitating the meetings (The Australian July 17).

The meetings are in the early exploratory stage, a CUSCAL spokeswoman told the newspaper.

Credit unions are looking at the new payment platform to elevate mobile banking services and to prevent younger members from leaving for major commercial lenders, the paper said.

It is believed the group is assessing Google's Android-based mobile platform Google Wallet as one of the potential payment systems, the paper said.

In second vote Montana First members OK merger

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SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. and MISSOULA, Mont. (7/17/12)--In a second vote, members of Montana First CU in Missoula, Mont., elected to merge with $437 million asset Horizon CU in Spokane Valley, Wash., after first voting down the proposal in January.

The website of $64 million asset Montana First confirmed the approval, with an announcement saying, "You made it happen. Thanks for your YES vote." 

Balloting was conducted June 4 through June 18, after the merger was approved in May by the National Credit Union Administration.

Montana First CU members rejected the first merger proposal because members complained about a lack of information prior to the first vote, said Montana First CEO Chris Sisco (News Now June 12). Some also were concerned about moving control to an out-of-state entity.

Before reapproving a new plan this spring, the Montana First CU board hosted five public meetings to share information and answer questions.

The credit union also had launched a marketing campaign that included TV, billboard and newspaper messages urging members to approve the merger.

Better Choice presented at Ford Foundation convene

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (7/17/12)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) presented its payday lending alternative program, Better Choice, last week at the Ford Foundation's Payday Loan Reform and Consumer Credit Innovation Convene at the Federal Reserve of Chicago.

Mike Wishnow, senior vice president, communications and marketing at the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association  (PCUA) presents PCUA's Better Choice payday lending alternative to an invitation-only innovation convene at the Ford Foundation's Payday Loan Reform and Consumer Credit Innovation Convene in Chicago. (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
Mike Wishnow, PCUA senior vice president, communications and marketing, discussed the program at the invitation-only convene (Life is a Highway July 16).  

About 50 academicians, philanthropists and financial services providers attended the event, which was hosted by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, the Center for Responsible Lending, the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions and Woodstock Institute.

"Pennsylvania's Better Choice program was very well-received," Wishnow said. "Members of the audience took note that it is possible to do small-dollar loans at a fair price while at the same

time [helping] consumers enter the mainstream through their financial institutions."

Since it launched in 2006, the program has issued 53,714 loans totaling nearly $26 million for members' short-term cash needs. PCUA said 79 credit unions across the commonwealth participate. When compared with traditional payday lending products, the program has saved borrowers more than $18 million, said PCUA.

Walesa highlights World CU Conference opening

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GDANSK, Poland (7/17/12)--Lech Walesa, former head of Poland's Solidarity party and the Nobel Peace Prize winner who led his country to freedom from communist suppression, called on the global credit union movement to start its own revolution, working at the local level on behalf of its members, during the opening ceremonies Sunday at the World Credit Union Conference in Gdańsk, Poland.

Walesa said he hopes to be the "last of the big revolutionaries" to carry the world into the 21st century. The conference is presented by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).

Lech Walesa, former president of Poland, closed the World Credit Union Conference opening ceremonies Sunday in Gdańsk, Poland.
Poland was one of 50 countries represented at the International Parade of Flags, which opened the World Credit Union Conference.
World Council of Credit Unions Chair Manuel Rabines emphasized credit unions' reason for being during his opening address to the World Credit Union Conference.
World Council of Credit Unions First Vice Chair Grzegorz Bierecki, Poland's credit union trade group president/CEO and former member of the Solidarity Party, thanked participants in the World Credit Union Conference for the help they have given Polish credit unions, which have become some of the most successful in the world.  (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
"In order to lead the world into the 21st century, we need to reach for values," Walesa told a capacity crowd at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Hall. "There is great service that you can provide in helping us achieve this revolution, and you have already started it by joining us this year in Gdańsk."

Walesa was one of three dignitaries to welcome conference participants, a crowd of nearly 1,400 attendees from 50 countries. The capacity crowd caused registration to close a week before the conference began Sunday.

Welcoming comments were given by WOCCU Chair Manuel Rabines, general manager of Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito del Perú (FENACREP), the trade association serving Peru's credit unions. A credit union revolution begins and ends in its ability to serve members, he said.

"We hope each of you will make a difference in the lives of your members by offering quality services," Rabines said. "We hope that you never forget that this is your reason for being."

The conference is co-hosted by the National Association of Co-operative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU), Poland's credit union trade group. WOCCU First Vice Chair Grzegorz Bierecki, NACSCU president/CEO, offered participants a lesson in Polish credit union history, in which the global credit union movement played an integral part.

"Twenty years ago, six young men dedicated themselves to reviving the Polish credit union movement from nothing," Bierecki said. "This year's conference gives us the opportunity to thank so many of you for the help you have given to our credit unions. It is proof that solidarity will prevail."

Prior to Sunday's opening, the conference hosted several other events, including the fourth annual forum sponsored by the Global Women's Leadership Network on Sunday. Seventy women credit union leaders worldwide gathered to network and hear from various speakers, including branding expert Jiao Zhang, partner with the U.S. firm Attune, and international development professional Gabriela Zapata, consultant with the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor.

The Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions' Golf Outing on Saturday raised nearly $100,000 to support the network and WOCCU programs that benefit women and their families in emerging countries.

Participants in WOCCU's Young Credit Union People (WYCUP) program also held its networking and educational session Sunday afternoon, the first of several sessions devoted to meeting the needs of credit union professionals and volunteers age 35 years and under. The 37 participants heard from WYCUP alumnus Grzegorz Buczkowski, now president of the Co-operative Savings and Credit Union Mutual Insurance Society in Poland, on leadership challenges and lessons learned with the credit union movement.

The World Credit Union Conference concludes Wednesday with a closing reception at the historic Gdańsk shipyards, where the Solidarity movement won Poland's freedom from communism in 1990.

CUs Dare to be different says Harvard professor

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GDAŃSK, Poland (7/17/12)--Creating something different is often more important than creating something better, marketing expert Youngme Moon told a general session audience Monday at World Council of Credit Unions'  (WOCCU) World Credit Union Conference in Gdańsk, Poland.

When it comes to capturing market share, credit unions must differentiate themselves, marketing expert Youngme Moon told a general session audience at World Council of Credit Unions'  World Credit Union Conference in Gdańsk, Poland.
Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration and chair of the Harvard University MBA program, shared her differentiation message with attendees at the conference, currently under way in Gdańsk.

Moon pointed her message directly at the global credit union movement, stressing the need--as well as the opportunity--for financial cooperatives to stand apart from the crowd.

"Right now there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to grow your membership," Moon said in her keynote presentation. "There is disarray in the financial services industry, dissatisfaction among consumers, and the biggest financial institutions generate the most distrust. But are you different from your competitors in a way that's easily understood by consumers?"

Businesses have a tendency to make changes in lockstep with their competitors, Moon said, which makes them no more than another provider in an already crowded field. Companies able to capitalize on their differences--even to the point of emphasizing their perceived negatives in their product or service portfolio--stand a better chance of creating a persona unlike that of competitors and setting themselves apart. Add to that a commitment to members, and credit unions stand a better chance to differentiate their enterprises in distinctive and successful ways.

"You can't build a brand that's different without passion," Moon said. "For credit unions, differentiation comes from a sense of irreplaceability, and that will create a strong sense of loyalty."

Credit unions thrive when they consider what is best for the member, World Council of Credit Unions President/CEO Brian Branch told a general session audience at the World Credit Union Conference.
Loyalty to credit unions from members, as well as from credit unions to their members, has been an essential part of the global credit union movement's success, according to Monday opening speaker Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. Branch shared credit union stories from Colombia and Mexico to Sri Lanka and Kenya, stressing the commonalities in member needs from country to country and culture to culture and how credit unions strive to meet them.

"It is all about what is best for the member," Branch told the general session audience. "As credit unions, we have a set of values that champion the common person and emphasize the financial empowerment of those members."

In recent years, two themes have emerged as critical to the future of credit union success, Branch said. The first is messaging and the growing need to articulate the credit union advantage in ways that are compelling and attractive to consumers. The second is increased accessibility, defined as delivering credit union services remotely and generally through handheld electronic devices to members whenever and wherever they need them. These and other key attributes will help define the credit union difference, he said.

Between educational sessions at the World Credit Union Conference, participants networked with their peers. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
"We operate locally and cooperate globally," Branch added. "This is how we will build a credit union community."

Monday finished with breakout sessions that followed learning tracks on leadership and strategy, technology and innovation, compliance and regulation and international credit union movement trends. Specific sessions focused on redefining board member roles; meeting new compliance standards, including Basel III guidelines; and creating a "mobile wallet" to help introduce financial services to the rural poor.

The 2012 World Credit Union Conference runs through Wednesday. It will include a panel discussion featuring credit union leaders and regulators from three countries striving to seek common solutions, a closing general session presentation by Bank 2.0 author Brett King, World Council's annual awards ceremony and a closing night reception at the historic Gdańsk shipyard, the birthplace of Poland's Solidarity movement.

St. Helens hires new CEO terminates merger plan

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ST. HELENS, Ore. (7/1712)--With the hiring of a new CEO, St. Helens (Ore.) Community CU has called off plans to merge with Wauna FCU.

St. Helens Community CU, with $166 million assets, Friday announced the hiring of Brooke Van Vleet, a 20-year veteran of the credit union movement. Van Vleet most recently served as chief administrative officer at First Tech FCU, Palo Alto, Calif.

In her first official action, Van Vleet recommended, and the St. Helen's board agreed, that the credit union terminate plans to explore a merger with $143 million Wauna FCU, Clatskanie, Ore.  

The two credit unions signed a nonbinding letter of intent "to explore the benefits associated with merging," according to a statement released July 9 by the credit unions (News Now July 10).

"My focus needs to be on the day-to-day operations and getting up to speed quickly on current initiatives," said Van Vleet.  

"While the board still believes we should always explore strategic options that may benefit our members, we concur with Van Vleet's assessment that the credit union's energy currently needs to be focused on maximizing value to the membership through our current initiatives," said Lea Chitwood, chairman of the St. Helen's CU board.

CUNA announces ICU Day materials

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MADISON, Wis. (7/17/12)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has released marketing materials for International Credit Union (ICU) Day 2012--with the theme "Members Matter Most," selected by the World Council of Credit Unions.

ICU Day will take place on Oct.18.

Materials available include:

  • Posters;
  • T-shirts;
  • Balloons;
  • Piggy banks;
  • Bottle openers;
  • Cork coasters;
  • Credit card protectors;
  • Halloween bags; and
  • Branded bags of Skittles.

Credit unions have celebrated ICU Day on the third Thursday of October since 1948. The day reflects upon the credit union movement's history and promotes its achievements. It is a day to recognize the dedication of those working in the credit union industry, appreciate current members and invite eligible consumers to join credit unions.

Credit unions and associations worldwide traditionally celebrate ICU Day with open houses, contests and picnics, fairs and festivals. Some hold competitions and essay or art contests for young members.

"Members are the focal point this year, just as they are every single day in credit unions," said Joanne Sepich, CUNA's ICU Day coordinator. "While credit union staff always put members first, this is an opportunity to remind members that credit unions are different by design--members are what make credit unions unique and set them apart as for-people, not-for-profit, cooperatively owned financial institutions."

Cheney attends unveiling of statues in Poland

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GDANSK, Poland (7/17/12)--Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney
Click to view larger image Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney, right, attends the unveiling of bronze statues honoring President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II for their work to end communism in Poland.  The event was held Saturday in Gdansk, Poland, where the World Council of Credit Unions' World Credit Union Conference is meeting this week. At center is Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz. (Photo provided by CUNA)
attended the unveiling of a pair of bronze statues honoring President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II on Saturday in Gdansk, Poland, for their work to end communism in that country.

Cheney was there to attend the World Credit Union Conference, which began Sunday in Gdansk. The conference, presented by the World Council of Credit Unions, ends Wednesday.

The U.S. president and Catholic leader have been widely credited in Poland with helping to topple communism there 23 years ago. Gdansk is the birthplace of Lech Walesa's Solidarity movement.

Also attending the event were about 120 former Solidarity activists, many of whom were imprisoned in the 1980s for their roles in organizing or taking part in strikes against the communist regime.

The bronze statue was erected in the lush seaside President Ronald Reagan Park in Gdansk.

Walesa was the conference's opening day speaker. (See related story: Walesa highlights World CU Conference).