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Excellence in Lending Award nominations due Aug. 8

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MADISON, Wis. (8/1/08)--The deadline for Excellence in Lending Award nominations is Aug. 8. The ninth annual awards, which recognize outstanding lending results and practices by credit unions, will be presented Nov. 3 at the CUNA Lending Council Annual Conference. The Excellence in Lending Award identifies and shares examples of lending excellence within the credit union movement by recognizing individual credit unions for their ability to serve members while sustaining sound financial performance. Credit unions demonstrating an ability to meet their members’ needs through innovation are excellent award candidates, say the sponsors, CUNA Mutual Group and the CUNA Lending Council. The two groups established the Excellence in Lending Awards in 2000. Nominations can be made for the 2008 award in these categories:
* Consumer Lending Excellence Award--assets under $250 million and assets greater than $250 million; * Mortgage Lending Excellence Award--assets under $250 million and assets greater than $250 million; * Low/Modest Means Excellence Award--any asset level; and * Business Lending Excellence Award--any asset level.
The CUNA Lending Council annual conference is Nov. 2-5 in Orlando, Fla. Airfare, hotel and conference registration for one representative of each winning credit union is included with the award. For more information on the awards or applying for an award, use the resource link.

Judge Maine lawyers to lead Hannaford breach lawsuit

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PORTLAND, Maine (8/1/08)--A U.S. District Court judge has appointed two Maine lawyers to lead the class-action lawsuit against Maine-based grocery chain owner Hannaford Bros. in one of the largest data-breach cases in U.S. history. The data breach exposed more than four million credit and debit card numbers from customers of nearly 300 grocery outlets in New England, New York, and Florida. Hundreds experienced fraudulent transactions on their accounts. The breach caused many credit unions to reissue cards to members whose information was compromised (News Now March 24). Judge D. Brock Hornby said Peter Murray of the Portland law firm Murray, Plumb & Murray, and Lewis Saul, with offices in Portland and New York City, would lead the case, at least for the early stages of what could be a long legal process (Kennebec Journal Morning Sentinel July 31). In his order, Hornby said that involving fewer firms and having centralization in Maine "should not only be sufficient, but should help avoid unnecessary legal fees and administration." He acknowledged that a different or larger leadership structure in the case may be appropriate later "if and when a class is certified and full discovery on the merits ensues." It would be premature to make that decision now, he said. Two groups of lawyers were competing to become lead lawyers in the case. The other group includes class-action lawyers from Boston, Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia. Roughly 24 lawsuits were filed against Hannaford and its parent company, Delhaize America Inc., before the cases were ordered consolidated. Murray and Lewis will consolidate the cases into one central complaint, which must be filed by Sept. 12, said the Morning Sentinel. Hornby has not yet certified the case as a class action. If he does so, he will then decide whether Murray and Saul will continue as lead counsel or whether other lawyers will take up that role. The data breach occurred between early December 2007 and the end of February 2008 as shoppers swiped their cards for authorization of the funds. The data breach is different than others because Hannaford says it had industry standards to prevent data breaches were in place.

Arizona CU execs offer lending lessons in Antigua

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ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (8/1/08)--Four Arizona credit union executives were in Antigua last week to share their lending knowledge and other industry information with the Caribbean island's financial cooperative community.
Robin Romano, right, CEO of Marisol FCU, Phoenix, leads a training session on loan underwriting for lending staff of Community First Cooperative CU, Antigua. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The visit was part of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships program. The Antigua & Barbuda Cooperative Credit Union League and the Arizona Credit Union System (ACUS) signed a partnership agreement in March under the WOCCU program. The relationship is one of 28 international partnerships operating as part of the program. Melanie Smith, assistant vice president of branch support for Arizona State CU, Phoenix, and Lisa Krogstad, learning development specialist for First CU, Chandler, offered member service training to the staff of all five credit unions in St. John's, Antigua's capital. Robin Romano, CEO of Marisol FCU, Phoenix, and an ACUS board member, provided training in loan underwriting to help credit union staff and credit committee volunteers better understand how to calculate debt ratio, use gross income standards and implement standardized loan policies. “Debt ratio management and assessing risk were two of the most important aspects of loan underwriting we covered during our training,“ Romano said. “The credit unions' loan portfolios would become more efficient if they were to implement a debt ratio and check the member's credit history by calling and verifying it with other financial institutions. "Currently, most credit unions in Antigua require the member to have 25% of the loan amount saved before granting the loan, ultimately limiting their loans. Using good underwriting skills allows them to be less afraid to make more loans," Romano said. During the visit, Mary Lee Blommel, ACUS member service consultant, and Josh Fetting, WOCCU's International Partnerships program specialist, facilitated the Antigua & Barbuda League's strategic planning session. League and credit union board members and credit union managers developed goals that would allow Antigua's credit union movement to grow through league involvement. By the end of the planning session, participants had crafted new mission and vision statements for the Antigua & Barbuda League, identified key areas of assistance and recognized possible league projects to provide assistance to its member credit unions. "I am optimistic about the future of the league after having completed our strategic planning sessions with the presence and input of the ACUS and WOCCU," said Ellis Southwell, president of the Antigua & Barbuda League. “We now have clear goals to take the Antigua & Barbuda Cooperative Credit Union League forward."

Missouri CUs offer incentives for staff to go green

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JEFFERSON CITY and ST. LOUIS, Mo. (8/1/08)--Some Missouri credit unions are offering incentives for employees to make more eco-friendly decisions, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association. Staff at Conservation Employees CU, Jefferson City, have accepted a challenge to conserve and “gain some green.” The $57 million asset
Bernetta Smith, a marketing specialist at Vantage CU, St. Louis, uses a gas card given to her by the credit union to fill up her car. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association)
credit union offers employees incentives for walking or riding a bike to work, car pooling, and not driving to lunch each day. Employees can earn $25 or $50 incentives for making these conservation efforts at least 15 days a month (Courier Net July 30). The challenge began July 1, and it is estimated that about 80% of the staff will qualify for the full incentive, said Louie Delk, Conservation president. “Employees are saving money at the pump, spending less eating out and earning an incentive,” Delk said. “In these challenging economic times, it is hard to beat that combination.” Vantage CU, St. Louis, a $99 million asset credit union, also is helping employees cope with high gas prices. Through a summer incentive program, all full-time and part-time employees received a Quik Trip gas card in June and July, and can expect one in August. “We’re seeing employees change their behavior in response to the rising gas prices, said Hubert Hoosman, Vantage CEO. “We hope the gas cards will help ease some of the burden they are facing at the pump.”

Montanas first shared branch announced by CO-OP

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GREAT FALLS, Mont. (8/1/08)--1st Liberty CU, Great Falls, Mont., is the first credit union in the state to join CO-OP Shared Branching. “With members in all 50 states, we need to have extensive reach,” said Steve Grooms, 1st Liberty president/CEO. “We want to give members as many ways to reach us as possible.” 1st Liberty will open two of its branches to guest members of more than 1,500 participating credit unions while expanding access for its members who work, live or travel outside of the credit union’s proprietary branch network. The $119 million-asset credit union has 10 branches--eight in Montana and two in North Dakota. Two are on Air Force bases. 1st Liberty also uses the CO-OP Network, which offers its members access to more than 25,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide.

Magazine in Ohio profiles Shared Branching

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (8/1/08)--The August issue of Columbus CEO magazine profiled Shared Branching, noting its modest start-up costs, cooperative spirit and status as the third largest branch network in the nation, according to the Ohio Credit Union League. The three-page feature profiled Shared Branching’s conveniences for members, including access to more than 200 locations in Ohio and 3,000 nationally. The article also noted that Shared Branching can help members who are relocating or going away to college (eLumination Newsletter July 30). The article also featured Ohio credit union leaders from:
* BMI FCU, Dublin; * CME FCU, Columbus; * Credit Union of Ohio, Hilliard; * Members First CU, Columbus; * MidState Educators CU, Columbus; and * Western CU, Columbus.

CU connects Biz Kid fudgemaker with Texas chef

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SAN ANTONIO (8/1/08)--Security Service FCU arranged for aspiring chef Eddie Lopez, 12, to meet chef Jason Dady, owner of new San Antonio restaurant Tre Trattoria, after Lopez won the Biz Kid$ Search, a contest sponsored by the credit union and Texas public television station KLRN.
Aspiring chef and winner of Biz Kid$ Search Eddie Lopez, left, learns how to make pasta from San Antonio chef and restaurant owner Jason Dady at Dady’s new restaurant, Tre Trattoria. (Photo provided by Security Service FCU)
Lopez is a Del Rio, Texas, seventh-grader who makes and sells fudge and other chocolate confections in his business--Eddie’s OH’ Fudge. Lopez’s goal is to become a chef and open his own restaurant. Lopez uses his aunt’s family recipe to create Eddie’s OH’ Fudge, which he sells in Del Rio, according to the KLRN website. He found that reading recipes, learning measurements and managing money has helped him with his schoolwork and in trying to overcome his dyslexia. The money he earns goes into a fund for culinary arts school. He also won $100 from the Biz Kid$ Search. Lopez was one of five finalists in the contest. In addition to Tre Trattoria, Dady is chef and owner of two other San Antonio restaurants--The Lodge at Castle Hills and Bin 555. Select Service FCU is an $4.376 billion asset, San Antonio-based credit union. Biz Kid$ is a TV series exclusively underwritten by America's Credit Unions to teach kids about money, with support from the National Credit Union Foundation.

CU System briefs (07/31/2008)

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* DUBLIN, Ohio (8/1/08)--The Ohio Credit Union League announced that its first outreach survey was distributed this week via e-mail to all Ohio credit union CEOs. The data gathered will exhibit the positive outreach work underway by Ohio’s credit unions to help their members and communities, the league said (eLumination Newsletter July 30). The results will provide the league with a comprehensive look at community outreach initiatives, and will be used to strengthen the league’s current and future legislative, media, and regulatory initiatives. All league members will receive a copy of the report … * DUBLIN, Ohio (8/1/08)--Ohio State Rep. Dan Stewart, far right, visited Western CU in Columbus July 24 to discuss community issues with the $57 million asset credit union's staff. A member of the House Financial Institutions Committee and long-time friend of credit unions, Stewart learned about services the credit union provides and was particularly interested in its outreach efforts to and programs for local Latino and Somali communities. The visit is the first of a series of efforts to identify avenues for collaboration between the credit union and both local and state officials. (Photo provided by the Ohio Credit Union League) … * SHREVEPORT, La. (8/1/08)--Elaine Harris Carr, 42, has been charged with stealing $211,000 by opening three unauthorized credit card accounts in her and her husband's names while working at WESLA CU, based in Shreveport. She is accused of manipulating inactive card accounts of members to pay her credit card bills. Authorities said they believe the manipulation of accounts began seven years ago (Shreveport Times July 31) … * ST. LOUIS (8/1/08)--Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA) and Heartland Business Services have hired three new employees to serve Missouri's credit unions (CourierNet July 30). Andrea Janek joined MCUA's education and training department as a training specialist, effective July 16. Halley Hayden is director of communications for MCUA public/legislative affairs department, effective July 21. Heartland Business Services welcomed Susan Weinstein as credit analyst on July 23. All three are based in St. Louis, said MCUA …
* MADISON, Wis. (8/1/08)--CUNA Mutual Group had added Matthew Hargrove and Shad McKnight to positions on its consumer products team. Hargrove, hired as vice president of individual life and health product management, was previously with Boston Scientific, where he was responsible for neurovascular product sales in New England. Hargrove will manage profit and loss of the portfolio of life insurance and health-related products, and drive product group-level strategy and execution. McKnight is the new vice president of individual property and casualty, responsible for overall business strategy, product management, execution and financial results for his area. He also manages a relationship with Liberty Mutual Group for auto and home products to credit union members. He formerly was an executive with Nationwide Insurance's personal and commercial product lines in the company's South Central region. Hargrove and McKnight will report to Andy Napoli, senior vice president of the consumer products group …