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Medill.com item on fin-lit programs notes Wis. CUs

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CHICAGO and WASHINGTON (7/27/09)--A Medill.com article about the uphill climb that making personal financial education mandatory in all U.S. schools is facing points out Wisconsin Credit Union League's work with schools as an example of financial education offered to schools at low cost. The article appeared in Medill.com (July 21), the website of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. Financial education programs face an uphill battle due to a variety of reasons, the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy noted in the article. The recent change in presidential administration and the distractions of the global economic crisis problems have taken attention away from placing high school personal finance education on top of the national agenda, the coalition said. Efforts to find a national solution are thwarted by the fact that education legislation usually develops at the state or local level, said the article. Funding comes from private banks and corporations in the states. The article notes that "Wisconsin provides an example of financial education being offered to schools at low cost. Dawn Schueller, press secretary for Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), said some Wisconsin schools are partnered with the Wisconsin Credit Union League in order to receive low-cost financial education. However, the state does not yet require personal finance education in its schools."

10 is enough religious groups tell lenders

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DURHAM, N.C. (7/27/09)--Religious leaders and community organizers from throughout North Carolina demonstrated in Durham Wednesday as part of an international "10% is Enough" campaign, which seeks to cap interest rates charged by banks and credit card companies. Some credit unions agree with them. The activists had planned to march to five financial institutions, including three credit unions (The News & Observer July 23). However, two Durham-based credit unions saved them the trip. Self-Help Community CU CEO Martin Eakes and Latino Community CU CEO Luis Pastor attended the demonstration. Eakes, speaking to the crowd, said there is a reason every religion has had a prohibition against usury. "It's because the lending of money is unlike any other product. Lending money can get someone deeper into a hole just with the passage of time and no other action," he said, according to the newspaper. The activists delivered a paper developed by scholars from eight theological schools in the state to SunTrust, Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and Generations Community CU in downtown Durham. The paper provides a religious rationale for capping interest rates. The 10% cap relates to the biblical concept of tithing, or giving 10% of one's income back to the church. Interest rates for credit cards average between 12% and 14% in the past year, according to surveys. Some rates were much higher. Consumer Action's annual survey found rates as high as 22.75%. North Carolina law caps interest on some loans at 8% but a federal law passed in 1980 exempts federal banks and mortgage companies from state usary limits.

African-Americans are mobile Web pacesetters

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WASHINGTON (7/27/09)--Credit unions serving African-American members may be able to boost their online banking programs with the demographic group more than they think. New research indicates that mobile access to the Internet is growing and that African-Americans are now the most active users of mobile Internet. A new survey by Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project concluded that one-third of Americans now access the Internet from a mobile handset, such as a cell phone. More than half have connected using other wireless devices such as laptops, game consoles, and MP3 players. Forty-eight percent of African-Americans surveyed have used the Internet on a mobile device, and 29% say they go online with a handheld every day. "The notion of a digital divide for African Americans has some resonance when thinking about the wireline Internet," said John Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet Project and principal author of the report. "But when you introduce the mobile Internet, the picture changes, and African-Americans are pacesetters," he added (clickz.com July 22). The findings have implications for marketing programs. Credit unions using different marketing channels such as social networking sites may be able to attract the pacesetters. In the survey, 32% of U.S. adults said they used a cell or smart phone to browse the Web or use e-mail or instant messaging while on the move. That's an increase over the 24% who had done so in a similar survey in 2007. Nineteen percent of those surveyed said they accessed the Internet from a mobile device the day before this year's survey, compared with 11% in 2007. Pew Research Center attributed the growth to an increasing demand for access to information while away from home or work, and the ability to share content with others through services such as Twitter. More than 56% of respondents said they had accessed the Internet wirelessly in some shape or form. Laptop computers were the most popular methods. The survey of 2,253 people was conducted in April.

Uzbekistan CU assets up 37 members up 25

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TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (7/27/09)--Credit unions in Uzbekistan are continuing to experience growth in assets, credit portfolios and membership. The credit union system there served 125,000 members as of July 1--a 25% increase since the beginning of the year (BVV Business Report July 21). Aggregate assets of the nation’s credit unions for the first half 2009 increased by 37%. The main source for the formation of credit union resources still remains members’ deposits, the report said. Assistance for the development of credit unions is offered by the Financial Sector Development Agency under the Central Bank of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which runs a project on development of microfinancing with the Asian Development Bank. With six-year funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is working with credit unions in Uzbekistan to strengthen financial management and build a sustainable national association capable of providing a deposit insurance fund and other second-tier services for credit unions. The first credit union was licensed by the Central Bank of Uzbekistan in September 2002, WOCCU said.

S.W. CUNA Management School graduates 35

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FORT WORTH, Texas (7/27/09)--Thirty-five credit union professionals graduated Wednesday from Southwest CUNA Management School (SCMS) in Fort Worth, Texas. SCMS is a three-year course of study recognized in the credit union movement. The courses are designed to challenge and broaden financial industry knowledge and sharpen management skills for credit union professionals. This year’s graduates are from five states--Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma. SCMS took place at Texas Christian University. Graduating with honors were:
* Tamara Chambers, Complex Community FCU, Odessa, Texas, honors; * Joe Mannion, Union Square FCU, Wichita Falls, Texas, Award of Exellence; * Stephen Perry, CUNA Mutual Group, honors; and * Shawn Temple, Bossier FCU, Bossier City, La., Award of Excellence.
Other CUNA Management Schools include Madison CUNA Management School, Madison, Wis.; Southeast CUNA Management School, Athens, Ga.; and Western CUNA Management School, Claremont, Calif. To see a list of graduates, use the link.

Ohio CUs fin-lit efforts in IColumbus C.E.O.I

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (7/27/09)--Ohio credit unions and the Ohio Credit Union League are helping to improve financial literacy by working with educators and students in the classroom, according to Columbus C.E.O. magazine. The magazine noted the Ohio league’s declaration of this summer as the “Summer of Money,” where parents and youth can use the economic recession as a teachable moment about finances (Columbus C.E.O. August 2009). It also discussed the results of a statewide study the league conducted to assess Ohio’s financial literacy problems. The study found that only 10% of adults were aware of places that offer financial education. Nearly 61% of respondents said financial education was very important, but only 23% recognized efforts to encourage financial literacy in their families. About 5% said they learned about money when they were young. Parents thought schools were teaching money concepts, while schools thought parents were teaching them, according to Patrick Harris, Ohio league media relations director. “Students just aren’t getting the information,” he told the magazine. To bridge the financial literacy gap, the league developed a free financial education Website, www.moneyandstuff.info, as a resource for parents and teachers. The article noted that several Ohio credit unions, including BMI FCU, CME FCU, Members First CU and Franklin County School Employees FCU, used MoneyandStuff to teach youth financial literacy concepts. To see the full article, use the link.

CU makes 120 innovations to improve efficiency service

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BRILLION, Wis. (7/27/09)--When Best Advantage CU in Brillion, Wis., needed to relocate to a new building, it also wanted to completely change its operations. “We said, ‘How do we want our members to feel?’” Renee Maeder, Best Advantage CU business development leader, told News Now. “They need to feel great when they are here.” Best Advantage was recently mentioned in an article by the Appleton Post-Crescent about local businesses prompted to improve their efficiencies due to the economic recession. Best Advantage has increased its efficiency and provided its members with improved service as the result of 120 innovations that changed its overall operation. Best Advantage began the innovations process by partnering with Miron Construction for the construction of its new building. It then re-evaluated all of its process to look for improvements. One of the innovations involved changing staff titles. For instance, Best Advantage doesn’t have loan officers--it has financial architects, who meet with members in living rooms instead of offices. The architects have workspaces, but meet with members in much cozier, relaxing environments, Maeder said. Best Advantage also changed its traditional teller line to a “pod” environment, where members meet member specialists without the traditional teller barrier. “We’re building relationships,” Maeder said. “We really want our members to understand the difference between a credit union and a bank.” Best Advantage has realized cost savings through its innovations, such as eliminating envelopes. Instead, members donate $1 to buy reusable money holders. The money is used to plant trees. The change saves Best Advantage from buying 25,000 envelopes a year. The envelopes had an estimated life span of about three seconds before being thrown away, Maeder said. Best Advantage’s first phase of innovations took just over a year to complete. Last spring, the credit union began brainstorming about ways to improve its efficiency. The new building made the changes easier, Maeder said. The credit union is in the second phase of its innovation plan, and is now looking to change the lending department. Instead of giving each member the usual “cookie cutter” loan options, the credit union is looking to tailor options for each member. “We’re asking them, ‘What can you work into your budget?’” Maeder said. “We are not putting everyone in the same mold.” Credit unions looking to innovate should not be afraid to take chances. They also need to be aware that the planning process takes a “ton of time,” so they need to be really committed and get behind the changes, Maeder said. The changes also must involve the entire staff. Every employee was involved with Best Advantage’s changes. In one example, the member specialists created the pod environment. They took pictures of the workspace they had, and then listed what they liked, what they didn’t, and some of the things they needed. Best Advantage’s architect drew up the pods, and the credit union tried them out using model pods. With the models, the credit union was able to refine the pods and make changes. That way, when the pods were finally built, they were exactly what the staff wanted. “Had we not [used] models, it would have been a mistake,” Maeder said. The credit union also brought in Jill Greve as a team leader to help Best Advantage with its innovations process. Greve had worked at Schneider National, a shipping and trucking firm, for nine years. Best Advantage wanted Greve as a pair of fresh eyes because she hadn’t worked in the financial industry and could provide an unbiased perspective. Overall, credit unions and the financial industry in general need to change with the times and embrace technology, while still providing fantastic service to members. Some of the innovations Best Advantage completed could have been perceived as risky--but “we knew they would be a risk worth taking,” Maeder said. She also noted the importance of youth. Best Advantage receives input from its youth advisory board--which helped with the reusable money holders, for instance. “They say, ‘Look to the future--we are your future,’” Maeder said. Best Advantage has $54 million in assets.

Council conference to explore lending in stressed economy

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MADISON, Wis. (7/27/09)--Lending practices and strategies to deal with the challenges created by the current economic crisis will be addressed at the 15th Annual CUNA Lending Council Conference, Nov. 1-4 in San Diego. Participants can lean how to turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s successes during “Earning Your Way Out,” a breakout session that will indicate the strategic and financial opportunities available to credit unions--especially in mortgage lending and housing finance. The “Lending to the Newly Credit Impaired” panel will explore the challenges and opportunities to this growing category of Americans. The panel will offer best practices for combining evaluation of members’ character and historical experience with their current credit situation. The session also will address needed risk-assessment measures for lending to borrowers, and reveal some of the most current tools for assessing credit history and credit trends. “The roller coaster ride of the past year has been enough to turn anyone’s stomach, so we’re focusing this conference on smart lending practices to help credit union professionals turn the corner and stress less,” said Bill Vogeny, co-chair of the council’s conference committee and senior vice president and chief financial officer for Ent FCU in Colorado Springs, Colo. Other conference sessions will discuss issues to help lending professionals succeed in current market conditions. They include:
* Importance of loan review; * Loan fraud in the new economy; * Regulatory compliance for 2010; * Effective consumer loan portfolio management; * Loan growth best-practices panel; * State of the auto-lending industry; and * Finance 101 for lenders.
For more information, use the link.

CU System brief (07/24/2009)

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* HIGHTSTOWN, N.J. (7/27/09)--Marianne Nancy DiNofrio, co-founder of Linwood (N.J.) Community FCU (now Jersey Shore FCU), died at home in Linwood July 21 at the age of 75, the New Jersey Credit Union League has learned. DiNofrio, who worked at Seaview Elementary School for 35 years, and her husband John established the credit union in 1979. Today Jersey Shore FCU has more than $82 million in assets. John DiNofrio is chairman of the credit union, was a longtime New Jersey Credit Union League Board member, and twice served as league chairman and as the chairman of the New Jersey Credit Union Foundation, said the league (The Weekly Exchange July 20) …

Repos fewer car loans sign of the times

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TUMWATER, Wash. (7/27/09)--Credit unions in Washington experiencing a decline in auto loans and an uptick in repossessed vehicles are attributing the trend to the recession and the slow economy. In addition to increasing bad car loans, total credit union car loans are down statewide, David Bennett, director of public relations for the Washington Credit Union League, told local newspapers (The Olympian via The News Tribune.com July 24). Washington credit unions' car loans peaked at more than $7 billion in 2007, but they dropped to $6.8 billion in 2008. They were at $6.7 billion through early March, the league said. Two Washington credit unions described their experiences. At $124 million asset O Bee CU, President/CEO Bruce Cramer noted some borrowers are voluntarily returning their cars to the Tumwater-based credit union because they can't make the payments. In a stronger economy, O Bee CU typically repossessed eight to 12 cars a year. Year to date, repossessions total 37, a small percentage of the 2,600 car loans the credit union makes each year. Of the 37 repossessions, 12 were voluntarily returned. O'Bee CU said that when a vehicle is returned, it first tries to sell the car, hoping to recover 60% to 80% of the loan. If it doesn't sell or get at least three bids, the credit union sends the vehicle to an auction company. Before selling a car, though, O Bee CU makes every effort to assist the borrower in restructuring the loan or the payment, Dave Echtle, vice president of lending, told the newspaper. To deal with 16 repossessed vehicles, Washington State Employees CU, a $1.4 billion asset credit union in Olympia, has scheduled a sale for car dealers in August. Year to date, Washington State Employees CU has repossessed 526 vehicles, compared with 700 in 2008. Of the 526 vehicles, 97 were returned voluntarily. That compares with 182 voluntary repossessions for the entire year in 2008, Ann Flannigan, spokeswoman, told the newspaper. She noted that voluntary returns are down this year so far because the credit union is working more closely with borrowers to help them keep their car.

CU raises 1.7M for slain officers families

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PITTSBURGH (7/27/09)--The Greater Pittsburgh Police FCU delivered more than $1.7 million in donations from across the nation to a trust fund set up for the families of three Pittsburgh police officers killed in an April 4 ambush while responding to domestic dispute. All the funds will go to the families of Officers Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II. Kelly and Mayhle were members of the $45 million asset credit union (Life is a Highway July 22). Nearly $10,000 of the funds came from credit unions in the Pittsburgh area. Sandy Lazzara, CEO, told the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association the credit union will continue collecting funds at several charitable events that haven't been held yet. The credit union's efforts made news when mail carriers kept delivering brick-sized packages of letters with statements of support and contributions (News Now April 8 and April 14). S C M H Employees FCU helped the Greater Pittsburgh Police FCU post millions of checks, and riverset CU provided an online T-shirt fund for the efforts. All three credit unions are based in Pittsburgh.