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VendorTrack helps manage third-party relationships

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MADISON, Wis. (8/3/09)--In the few months since its launch, more than 640 credit unions and 13 credit union leagues have signed up for VendorTrack's secure, Web-based vendor management system to centralize their third-party relationships. VendorTrack also is used by 65 vendors to facilitate requests they receive from credit unions for due-diligence information and to respond to requests for proposal. In addition to the 23 CUNA Strategic Services (CSS) alliance providers, the more than 40 other vendors working with VendorTrack include PSCU Financial Services, Symitar, Fiserv and CO-OP Financial Services. Developed by CSS and TraceSecurity, a CSS alliance provider, VendorTrack helps credit unions ensure that their third-party vendors comply with regulatory responsibilities and best practices when dealing with sensitive information. It allows credit unions to centralize vendor data, manage relationships, assess vendor risk and ensure compliance with policies and controls. Credit unions can request their current vendors to sign up, and they can manage the information based on how critical the relationship is--one of the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) requirements for these relationships. They also can set notification alerts for contract expirations, requests for proposal and updated vendor information. Recent enhancements have been made to:
* Service Provider Monitoring and Reporting. The credit union can create a new report or spreadsheet to share with examiners. * My Document Tab. It will be easier to upload a revised document into the "My Documents" library. New documents can be related to specific document types such as contracts and financial statements. My Documents also can receive multiple e-mail notifications for each document. Credit unions can get a vendor's due diligence information quicker and vendors can facilitate any non-disclosure requirements within VendorTrack so the credit union can receive sensitive due-diligence information. * E-mail notifications. Receiving e-mail notifications is now a default feature for all new users. Vendors will receive e-notification advising that a custom questionnaire from the credit union is waiting for their response. The credit union also can receive an e-mail notification when the vendor has answered the questionnaire.
For more information, use the link.

fiVISION develops HSA module

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INDIANAPOLIS (8/3/09)--fiVISION has developed a Health Savings Account (HSA) opening module for credit unions. E FCU, Baton Rouge, La., launched the module--called autoENROLL--in June. With autoENROLL, applicants complete an application to open an account. Applications can be made in person, over the phone or online. Credit unions can choose to be integrated with their host processor on a real-time basis or use the features in a batch environment. With the application process, members and non-members can open an HSA in less than five minutes, fiVISION said. E FCU will use the module to market its HSA accounts to employers. Its initial rollout included moving all of its employees’ HSA accounts to the credit union from a local bank. “We would like to have five to 10 small employers signed up for our HSA product when open enrollment for most employers comes around later this year,” said Stephen Mathews, executive vice president of operations. “We currently have around 100 accounts but would like to increase this to several hundred by the end of the year. We also see HSA accounts as a tool that will assist us when we begin to offer member business services.” E FCU has $221.5 million in assets.

What to look for in online training

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MADISON, Wis. (8/3/09)--One of the things a good online training program should offer is 24/7 access for all credit union staff, managers and volunteers, according to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Many credit unions that offer online training are bombarded by training providers, and not all training is created equal, according to Marlo Foltz, CUNA director of blended learning. “Some online training has great content but is hard to use, others boast convenience but are plastered with the word ‘customer’ [instead of member] and others have great content and wonderful ease but cost more than a credit union can justify,” Foltz said. Because not all training is the same, credit unions should evaluate what is important to them, while making sure the training is deliverable, easy to administer, and provides informative content. A good online training program:
* Includes credit union terms and ideals; * Offers a combination of timeless and hot topics; * Incorporates interactive elements of audio, video, chat rooms and a knowledge check; * Has the ability to customize or create courses; * Ensures compliance training is up-to-date and compliant with the National Credit Union Administration’s regulations; * Has advanced tracking and reporting tools; * Makes recommendations for learning based on competencies; * Includes personal assistance for questions and concerns; * Supports the credit union movement; and * Offers national recognition for the training completed.
Online training is becoming more significant because traditional methods of training are not always ideal. For example, Credit Union 1, Anchorage, Alaska, uses CUNA’s CPDOnline for its more than 200 employees in 13 branches and 13 departments. More than 50 of its employees are located remotely, so phone training is not adequate, said Nina Gordon, Credit Union 1 staff development assistant. “The convenience of taking the courses online allows front-line staff to develop their skills without taking time away from our members,” added Paul Nunn, manager of training and development, Smart Financial CU, Houston. CUNA has reached 1,200 credit unions and more than 21,000 students through its CDPOnline training program. More than 300 courses are offered through the system.

IICU Day UpdatesI free newsletter available

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MADISON, Wis. (7/31/09)--To help credit unions prepare for International Credit Union (ICU) Day, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is starting to send out ICU Day Updates, a free e-newsletter. It will offer credit unions’ tools, tips and celebration ideas for ICU day, set for Oct. 15. To subscribe to the newsletter, respondents should send their name, credit union name and state to

ClairMails mobile banking transactions up 700

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NOVATO, Calif. (7/31/09)--ClairMail, a mobile banking and payments solutions provider, announced that The ClairMail Solution experienced a 700% year-over-year increase in monthly mobile banking transactions. ClairMail processes transactions for credit unions and other financial institutions. The increase is due to the accelerated mobile banking adoption by consumers, ClairMail said. “As our customers enhance their current mobile services and move to the latest version of ClairMail, we can expect an even bigger spike,” said Joe Salesky, ClairMail chairman and chief strategy officer. ClairMail also noted 2008 research from Javelin Strategy and Associates that indicates an opportunity still exists to drive mobile banking adoption with consumers who are not enrolled in online banking. Credit unions should rely on their Internet banking users to drive adoption, but also need to explore additional channels to grow their mobile efforts, the research said.

Automated auto-loan participation product released

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DENVER (7/31/09)--Access Capital Investment Group (ACIG) has released AXS/RDS, an auto-loan participation product for credit unions. The system will allow credit unions of all asset sizes to access and manage loan participations offered by other institutions. ACIG created the product last year when it structured an $80 million loan-participation transaction between Security Service FCU (SSFCU), San Antonio, and three purchasing credit unions. Lewis Cohen, vice president of finance at American Airlines FCU in Dallas--one of the purchasing credit unions--said the transaction was simple and provided the credit union access to SSFCU’s portfolio. SSFCU is a premier auto-lending credit union, Cohen added. The Denver-based ACIG specializes in creating secondary-market opportunities for credit unions and other middle-market financial institutions.

Community CU Conference to stress youth underserved

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MADISON, Wis. (7/30/09)--Credit unions attending this year’s Community Credit Union Conference, sponsored by the Credit Union National Association, will learn how to reach out to youth, the low-wealth, and underserved members of their communities. The conference combines CUNA’s YES Summit and the Reach Out! Conference. The YES Summit focuses on youth. Reach Out! focuses on serving low-wealth members, immigrants and youth. The Community CU Conference is scheduled for Oct. 21-24 in Las Vegas at the Green Valley Ranch. This year’s theme is “Share the Vision. Shape the Future.” The conference includes two keynote sessions on leadership:
* “Positively Contagious” will be led by Kirk Weisler, chief morale officer at Team Dynamics. He plans to reveal the behaviors credit unions can adopt to inspire growth, engagement and ownership. * “Fearless Leadership,” with Steve Chandler, author of “Shift Your Mind,” will focus on how credit unions can create a culture of self-responsibility, ownership, innovation and creative response to change and opportunity while demonstrating how to grow an organization through personal example and inspired guidance.
Breakout sessions on Generation Y, mergers and growth opportunities, and a legislative and regulatory update in addition to a pre-conference workshop will be available. The workshop, “Building a Balanced Scorecard for Organizational Performance,” will be run by George Towle, partner at The Rochdale Group. Workshop attendees will discuss how to best evaluate the effectiveness of their board management, and review key strategies and tools on how to improve organizational performance. The 2009 Community Credit Union of the Year awards also will be announced during the conference. Credit unions can follow conference updates on Twitter. Lodging must be reserved by Sept. 25. For more information, use the links.

CUNA Mutual alliance to provide collateral protection

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MADISON, Wis. (7/30/09)--CUNA Mutual Group and State National Companies are partnering to provide tracked collateral protection insurance (CPI) to more than 700 credit unions. CPI is a commercial product that protects the collateral on credit unions’ loan portfolios against uninsured physical damage exposures. Tracked programs generate notices to members who aren’t in compliance with their loan agreement to maintain a minimum level of physical damage insurance. When proof of insurance is not provided, a policy is placed on the collateral to protect the credit union if the collateral becomes damaged and needs to be repossessed. State National is assuming the insurance tracking, underwriting, claims processing and customer service for CUNA Mutual’s tracked consumer CPI business. CUNA Mutual will continue to offer its other collateral protection products, including blanket, immediate issue, real estate, title tracking and several optional coverages. Policies will be underwritten by State National Insurance Co., rated “A” (Excellent) by A.M. Best. CUNA Mutual customers will maintain their CUNA Mutual sales executive as their primary point of contact, with specific tracked collateral protection product expertise and support from a State National expert. Representatives of both companies will deliver credit union staff training.

Paper discusses market spread relative value

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DALLAS (7/30/09)--Credit unions should proactively monitor their asset portfolio profiles including pricing, yields and durations, according to an advisory from Southwest Corporate Investment Services. Credit unions also need to balance the high cost of liquidity against lengthening duration in light of a potential rising-rate environment, the corporate said. The advisory, “How Market Spreads Impact Relative Value,” focuses on the factors that impact asset spreads and evaluates current levels for core and non-core assets. The paper noted that the shape of the Treasury curve has gone from flat to positively sloping and short-term rates have declined significantly more than longer-term rates. Treasury yields are benchmarks for loan and investment market rates. From June 2008 to June 2009, the three-month, two-year and 10-year treasuries decreased 155, 168 and 53 basis points, respectively, the paper said. For more information, use the link.

Contact center helps CU member in overseas emergency

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RICHMOND, Va. (7/29/09)--PSCU Financial Services’ contact center recently aided an Entrust FCU member who was overseas and needed emergency surgery for his child. The member was in Russia and had to pay for the $7,500 surgery in advance. After clarifying the member’s needs and relaying account information to an Entrust card service representative, a PSCU Contact Center member care representative extended the Entrust member’s daily limit so that his child could seek medical attention (Biotech Week July 22). PSCU Financial Services’ staff alleviated the member’s stress and saved his child’s life, according to Linda McAlister, Entrust vice president of information systems. Nearly half of Entrust’s members are overseas. Access to a call center at any time is key to providing members with good service, McAlister added. PSCU Financial Services offers credit union member support through four contact centers nationwide. The company is based in St. Petersburg, Fla. Entrust FCU, Richmond, Va., has $55 million in assets.

CUNA Mutual offers wealth protector product

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MADISON, Wis. (7/29/09)--CUNA Mutual Group is adding a new whole life product to its life insurance product suite--MEMBERS Wealth Protector. Wealth Protector is a single premium whole life policy that provides an increase to the policy owner’s legacy with a death benefit guaranteed by CUNA Mutual Insurance Society. It also provides a guaranteed amount of cash value for policy loans. CUNA Mutual said the policy is ideal for:
* Transferring assets from one generation to the next; * Leaving more to children, grandchildren and charities; * Reducing taxes for policy owners and their beneficiaries; and * Providing funds to cover funeral and related expenses.
“We’re excited about offering this product, because it’s an easy and secure way for people to transfer assets to the next generation,” said Greg Bailey, director, CUNA Mutual individual life insurance. “It also simplifies inheritances for beneficiaries as they receive the tax-free death benefit with the ability to bypass probate.” The cash value in the policy is exempt from required minimum distributions, which begin at age 70.5 for individual retirement accounts and other qualified plans. Policy owners can access their policy’s cash value through loans at any time. Part of the death benefit may be paid to the policy owner before death in qualifying situations, such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness or being confined to a nursing care facility.

Contactless conversion drives transactions

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EAST HANOVER, N.J. (7/28/09)--Novartis FCU, East Hanover, N.J., has experienced an increase in transaction volume of 9.4% after converting all of its debit accounts to contactless debit cards last May. Transactions per active account also are up by 19%, the credit union said. Norvartis has a monthly volume of more than 32,000 transactions, with an average of 19.6 transactions per active account--an increase in sales of 8.6% before the conversion. Members like the speed and convenience the cards offer, and have found widespread availability of contactless terminals in the Metro New York City area, the credit union said. “We conducted several seasonal promotions, including several Wii giveaways, that helped build awareness and boost transaction volumes,” said Ann South, Novartis CEO. The credit union has more than 1,600 active debit accounts. Novartis converted its debit accounts to contactless cards through PSCU Financial Services, a credit union service organization based in St. Petersburg, Fla. With contactless cards, data is stored on a microchip and transmitted using radio frequency identification. The transaction takes 15 seconds, compared with 25 for a traditional magnetic stripe card. Contactless cards are processed as signature transactions.

CU24 expanding despite tough economy

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (7/28/09)--Credit Union 24, a credit union-owned ATM and point-of-sale (POS) network, announced that 24 credit unions have joined the network and 36 credit unions have renewed long-term contracts. The network is expanding, despite a tough economy, for several reasons. Credit unions have cited an increase in interchange income and access to surcharge-free ATMs for members as two reasons for joining or renewing their contracts with the network. Fee-free financial access is particularly important as credit union branches close and consumers reduce their use of credit, Credit Union 24 said. The network also has grown because of its relationship management team, which provides credit unions with qualitative information to help them understand the electronic funds transfer (EFT) environment. The data helps credit unions evaluate the most profitable short-term and long-term EFT opportunities, Credit Union 24 said. Credit Union 24 anticipates that it will continue to grow this year. Though the company has added new relationships in Michigan and has expanded in Wisconsin, Virginia and the Pacific Northwest, it is not specifically targeting any geographic area. The two credit unions to mostly recently sign onto the network are Front Royal (Va.) CU and PEF FCU in Highland Heights, Ohio. Front Royal has more than $45 million in assets, and PEF FCU has more than $20 million in assets. Credit Union 24 is headquartered in Tallahassee, Fla.

Cypress introduces lending compliance software

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NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas (7/27/09)--Cypress Software Systems introduced the Red Flag/PATRIOT Act/Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Compliance Module for its Mark IV consumer lending software. Mark IV is a Cypress loan software platform that automates the consumer loan application and decision process. The Red Flag module it would give financial institutions necessary checks and balances during the loan underwriting process to prevent and report fraud. During the loan application process, the Red Flag module checks each piece of information to provide homeland security requirements. It also:
* Verifies the identity of each applicant; * Checks applicants’ names against the latest OFAC lists; and * Combats identity theft by complying with the Red Flag Rules outlined in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.
Cypress provides financial institutions, including credit unions, with loan application decision and tracking tools.

Diebold announces self-service vault solutions

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NORTH CANTON, Ohio (7/24/09)--ATM manufacturer Diebold Inc. announced it has introduced the Electronic Vault Attendant (EVA) Elite, which offers a dual-controlled vault and safe deposit box access for financial institutions. EVA Elite eliminates the necessity of a vault attendant. EVA’s dual controls include physical access control to grant entry to the vault’s daygate, and the use of an electronic and physical key to enable safe deposit box owners to access only their assigned boxes, Diebold said. EVA can be customized, depending on the level of security desired by financial institutions. Reader devices, including fingerprinting, hand geometry, card swiping and signature capture can be combined with the daygate. Randolph Brooks FCU has deployed the solution at its Bulverde, Texas, branch and plans to implement the system at its 31 other branches. “The solution has greatly freed up employee time,” said Pat Tolle, Randolph Brooks vice president of technical services. Diebold is a CUNA Strategic Service provider based in North Canton, Ohio.

Federation promotes CURE for CDCUs

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NEW YORK (7/24/09)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions is promoting Credit Union Retired Executives (CURE)--a virtual network of retired credit union executives who volunteer their time and expertise to provide free, confidential advice to credit union professionals--to community development credit unions (CDCUs).
Holly Herman, (left) executive director at Credit Union Info Inc., and Pablo de Filippi, National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions’ director of membership services, are shown at the Credit Union Retired Executives booth at the 2009 Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo provided by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions)
“CDCU managers can benefit from specialized advice, which has typically been available at a cost that puts that knowledge out of reach for most CDCUs,” said Pablo DeFilippi, federation director of membership services. “All credit union professionals will benefit from the collective knowledge and expertise of CURE’s network, and we are pleased to encourage our member credit unions to take advantage of this service.” CURE is more important than ever as a resource to CDCUs, according to federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. “This showcases the fundamental principles of cooperation inherent in our credit union system, and we are confident that this initiative will make the expertise and sophistication of ‘mainstream’ credit unions much more accessible to CDCUs,” Rosenthal added. CURE is a resource offered by Credit Union Info Inc., which was founded to share the experience of retired credit union executives with credit union professionals. For more information, use the link.

Jack Henry adds 33 CUs in past year

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MONETT, Mo. (7/22/09)--Jack Henry and Associates announced that its Symitar division has added 33 new credit unions during the past year. Jack Henry is a provider of integrated technology solutions and data processing services for financial institutions. Symitar provides integrated computer systems for credit unions. The 33 credit unions will implement Symitar’s Episys or Cruise platform. The systems support diverse processing requirements and operating environments, Jack Henry said. Fifteen credit unions will install the systems in-house, while 18 credit unions will outsource their transaction and information processing. The newest credit unions include:
* Olean (N.Y.) FCU, $165 million in assets; * Brookland FCU, West Columbia, S.C., $3.6 million in assets; and * Meridian Trust FCU, Cheyenne, Wyo., $200 million in assets.

CO-OP Network wins 55 new contracts

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (7/22/09)--CO-OP Financial Services announced that it has won 55 new contracts for the CO-OP Network for surcharge-free ATMs. The agreements push CO-OP’s total number of contracts for the year to more than 100. CO-OP also has recorded new contracts for ATM processing, card services, shared branching, fraud protection/risk management and check imaging. “Nearly half of all our new contracts are for products other than the CO-OP Network, representing quite a change from where we were five years ago,” said Stan Hollen, CO-OP president/CEO. About 3,000 credit unions participate in the CO-OP Network, which offers access at 28,000 ATMs nationwide. The ATMs are located at credit unions and retail outlets such as 7-Eleven, Costco, Publix and Walgreens. CO-OP Financial Services is a credit union service organization based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

New purchasing process saves up to 32

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (7/21/09)--Ventelligence, an automated tool to help credit unions streamline the buying process, recently facilitated several online auctions that saved credit unions 9% to 32% on products and services. Ventelligence staff gathered specifications and initial bids from credit unions. Vendors were then solicited to participate in a bidding process. The online auction provided an immediate 5% savings to the credit unions’ existing paper bid from their preferred vendor. Credit unions saved money on ATMs, computer equipment, cash recyclers and computer software licenses, said the Florida Credit Union League (FCUL) Service Group. Community First CU of Florida in Jacksonville saved 15% off its initial paper bid for computer equipment in the online auction, said President John Hirabayashi. Ventelligence is an FCUL Service Group partner. The FCUL Service Group is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Florida Credit Union League.

FSCC launches CU Service Centers locator

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (7/20/09)--Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) has launched an improved CUSWIRL.com with advanced features including e-mail alerts and GPS downloads. The site offers members information about the nearest CU Service Centers, including 7-Eleven Shared Branching locations. Credit unions can integrate the CUSWIRL.com service center locator with their ATM locator using FSCC’s CIMple Locator, the company said. Members also can follow CU Service Centers updates on Twitter. According to FSCC, the upgraded site is the only site where members can search more than 6,000 Shared Branching access points worldwide. Any credit union offering members access to the CU Service Centers network can link to CUSWIRL.com. FSCC is a credit union Shared Branching Network that provides ATM deposit-taking locations in the U.S. and overseas.

Tough times mean personal finance opportunity for CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (7/20/09)--The Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Center for Personal Finance has added a new “survival guide” so credit unions can assist members through tough economic times. The Fundamentals of Personal Finance booklet--Your Survival Guide for Tough Times can help members weather the tough economy, according to CUNA. “The 32-page survival guide helps members take control of their finances, cut costs, protect their homes from scammers, and work toward securing their financial futures,” said Susan Tiffany, director of personal finance information for adults in the Center for Personal Finance. Like other books in the series, this book includes multiple resource boxes and sidebars. For more information, use the links.

Council paper addresses preparing on-the-job trainers

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MADISON, Wis. (7/17/09)--A new white paper from the CUNA HR/TD Council explains how credit unions can prepare trainers to assume a high level of responsibility and communicate basics effectively to new hires. “Meeting the Challenge of Preparing On-the-Job Trainers” details important qualities for successful trainers to have and considerations for selecting a trainer. The paper offers guidance on issues and challenges impacting on-the-job trainers and their trainees, including:
* Reducing risk of errors by new hires during member transactions; * Training new hires at a comprehensible rate that also meets managerial expectations; * Preparing trainers to effectively communicate concepts to both individuals and small groups; * Meeting system wide challenges in a short period of time, such as core conversion; * Encouraging a broad-seeking spirit in new trainees to engage in informal learning as a supplement to formal training; and * Training multiple generations within the same workplace.
For more information, use the link.

Tout consumer-friendly card pricing says white paper

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MADISON, Wis. (7/17/09)--As many banks are forced to retool their business models because of recently passed legislation that limits certain predatory lending practices, credit unions should tout their continued use of consumer-friendly credit card pricing, says a new CUNA Lending Council white paper. “Credit Cards: Strategies for Managing Your Program Actively and Structuring it for Success” examines various ways that credit unions can structure and manage a credit card program for success. The paper discusses active management and proper program structure, card program enhancements, marketing, fraud prevention, cost containment and industry trends. It also includes a review of new credit card laws and regulations and four credit union case studies of successful credit card programs. “Credit union management must make their card programs core products if they are to succeed,” said Lloyd Gill, lending council chair and executive vice president of City County CU in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “By structuring their credit card programs correctly, credit unions can add features and benefits that enable them to compete effectively in the market.” In the paper, Bob Hackney, president of Card Services for Credit Unions in Clearwater, Fla., said: “Most credit unions are concerned with minimizing expenses and losses right now, but it’s still important to focus on driving revenue. Focus on doing portfolio reviews, revalidating credit limits, and setting appropriate rates based on a risk-based lending model, rather than on doing new solicitations.” For more information, use the link.

HRN acquires Goodwin and Assoc. compensationconsulting service

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SALT LAKE CITY (7/16/09)--HRN Management Group will acquire Koker Goodwin & Associates, HRN announced last week. Both companies have served the credit union industry for a combined 37 years, providing solutions to 1,500 credit unions nationwide. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. This is the second acquisition for HRN in the past year. In July 2008, HRN merged with HRValue Group. Koker Goodwin provides performance-based employee compensation software and consulting services. It offers Compease compensation administration software and iPerformease online performance planning and coaching. HRN is 12-year Compease sales, implementation and training partner. HRN Management Group, based in Salt Lake City, provides human resources staff management products. HRN Management Group is a CUNA Strategic Service provider.

Corporate debuts national image deposit return service

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DALLAS (7/16/09)--Southwest Corporate is rolling out its Image Deposit Return service to credit unions nationwide after launching the service last month to credit unions in the Federal Reserve’s 11th district. “We have completed testing with pilot credit unions,” said Brad Ganey, Southwest Corporate senior vice president of payment services. “Now the service is available to credit unions across the country--regardless of the Federal Reserve district.” Ten credit unions signed up for the service already, Southwest Corporate said. Image Deposit Return automates the process of handling returned items from member deposits and eliminates paper check delivery to the credit union. Returns are sent to Southwest Corporate from its direct-exchange banks, image exchange networks and the Federal Reserve. Deposits are routed electronically to Southwest Corporate, rather than delivered by a courier to a credit union’s central office. Southwest Corporate can automate the re-deposit of insufficient funds, report additional maker or payee information and provide deposit detail reports. Also, Rosetta Technologies, a provider of check printing software solutions, announced that Southwest Corporate will offer Rosetta’s IRD Express Pack to credit unions using Image Deposit Return. The Express Pack offers a magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) and an image replacement document (IRD) printer, software and consumables, Rosetta said Wednesday. Image Deposit Return resulted from the Federal Reserve Board’s announcement that it intended to collapse all paper check processing into the Cleveland office by the fourth quarter. Southwest Corporate FCU is a $10-billion-asset institution based in Plano, Texas.

UW CU pilots Filenes Debt in Focus education tool

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MADISON, Wis. (7/15/09)--UW CU in Madison, Wis., announced the addition of a new tool called “Debt in Focus” to its website, uwcu.org. Debt in Focus is a free, anonymous Web-based debt education tool to help consumers with budgeting and personal finances. It was created by the Filene Research Institute to help people better understand their financial situations. UW CU is among the first group of institutions to pilot Debt in Focus, which will eventually be made available to credit unions nationwide, said the credit union. UW CU members and any interested consumers can use Debt in Focus and provide feedback regarding its usability and effectiveness. “Now more than ever, people are taking a critical look at their finances and spending habits,” said Mike Long, chief credit officer at UW CU. “We are offering this tool free so people can take the first steps toward understanding their own financial situation and the impact debt has on their financial health.” Users initially input information regarding their income and current debt. They receive a summary of their debt total, ratios and an estimated budget. They also are given a series of steps specific to their situation that they can take to reduce their debt or get to a better financial position, Long said. UW CU has more than $1 billion in assets.

Motivation repossessions topics of audio conferences

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MADISON, Wis. (7/15/09)--Motivating employees in the current economy and understanding the legalities of repossessions are the topics of two upcoming audio conferences in August from the Credit Union National Association. “How to Motivate and Lead Your Staff in This Economy” will teach new motivation techniques to motivate employees that go beyond the ordinary. The Aug. 5 offering identifies what employees really want from their jobs and what makes them productive and loyal. The session will reveal the five cravings that employees need satisfied to be happy. Also, credit union lending and collection staff can gain a better understanding of the legal processes involved in repossessions during another Aug. 5 audio conference, “Repossession and Surrender of Collateral.” The offering will discuss who should be on the loss-prevention team, common factors that trigger repossession of collateral, what to do with that collateral, legal issues that impact the sale of repossessions and surrendered collateral, automatic stays and collateralized loans. The tuition for a live audio conference is $89 and includes access to the archived version of the event for six months. For more information, use the links:

White paper offer tips for green branding

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MADISON, Wis. (7/14/09)--Credit unions can learn to incorporate green initiatives into their brand and image with a new white paper from the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. “Going Green--A Marketing Perspective” outlines the underlying requirements for incorporating green into a credit union’s branding efforts. The paper discusses the process of building a demonstrated foundation of commitment to environmental stewardship to avoid potential backlash from environmental groups. The groups watch for unsubstantiated or inflated promotion of green efforts--also known as “greenwashing.” “To avoid the quicksand of greenwashing, credit unions should develop a big picture mentality about environmental stewardship that incorporates what they have done, what they are doing, and what they could do in the future before launching a green marketing campaign,” explains the paper. “People who are interested in the environment and sustainability can smell trickery a mile away,” said Kim Deppe, vice president of marketing for Community First CU, Jacksonville, Fla. “There’s a lot of suspicion particularly among young people about slapping something up against the wall and calling yourself green. Be sure that you’re being genuine about it and truly representing yourself accurately because the downside risk about trying to be something you’re not is that you lose credibility with some very important audience segments,” Deppe said. “Being eco-friendly is more than a passing trend; it is an important part of a credit union's business model,” said Ann Legg, council chair and vice president of marketing for Cabrillo CU, San Diego. “Being green is integral to sustainability, viability, and relevancy.” Also, the challenges and rewards of running a single-person information technology (IT) department are featured in “Drinking from a Firehose: Running a Successful One-Person IT Department.” The CUNA Technology Council white paper looks at how to leverage time and talents to create effective credit union operations by examining key factors such as: time management, project planning, prioritizing tasks and outsourcing. The paper also offers ideas for getting in front of the CEO and top management and expanding IT’s role in budgeting and planning. Rudy Pereira, council chair and senior vice president of operations and technology at Alliant CU, Chicago, acknowledges that running a one-person IT shop is a major challenge. “These practitioners are usually on call 24/7 and are under pressure constantly to keep the credit union functioning with software that nobody ever sees and hardware that nobody understands,” he said. “They are charged with protecting the integrity of the credit union's data, serving the entire staff, training the users and updating the equipment. Vacations are often ruined when the BlackBerry rings. My hat is off to these professionals.”

CUER to provide HR outsourcing services

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (7/13/09)--Credit Union Employment Resources (CUER) is providing human resources (HR) outsourcing services to help credit unions save money, improve efficiency and enhance services. Susan Looney, CUER vice president, said many companies have found that outsourcing essential HR functions not only reduces costs, but also cuts down on the time required to perform the duties and responsibilities in-house (LoneStar Leaguer July 8). About 53% of all companies outsource some portion of their HR tasks, according to a Culpepper Compensation and Benefits Survey. “It’s not an all or nothing proposition,” Looney said. “While some companies outsource their entire HR department, others outsource only one or more major HR functions. It’s about what makes the most sense for your organization.” Deciding whether or not to outsource, and what functions to outsource, is just the beginning. The next step is selecting the right outsourcing partner, said CUER. CUER’s process begins with an initial assessment of current HR programs, policies and procedures. The assessment helps identify areas of concern or where change may be needed. Then, CUER designs the programs and assists in their implementation. CUER offers assistance with:
* Management coaching, consulting and training; * Employee relations; * HR compliance; * Discipline and terminations; and * Benefits.
Also, CUER offers the development of and updates for:
* Policies and employee handbooks; * Job descriptions; * Procedures; * Compensation and incentive systems; and * Performance management systems.

DigitalMailer and Callahans offer crisis planning

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WASHINGTON and HERNDON, Va. (7/13/09)--Callahan Credit Union Financial Services Limited Partnership (CUFSLP), through its alliance with DigitalMailer, now offers credit unions the Crisis Management Notification System (CMNS). Designed by DigitalMailer to automatically deliver messages to whatever communication devices people have at hand, CMNS relays messages to groups in minutes; offers multiple e-mail, text message and outbound calling capabilities; and includes delivery tracking and confirmation. The announcement follows a recent National Credit Union Administration Letter to Credit Unions 09-CU-13, which discusses the need to review and update credit union business-continuity and disaster recovery plans. NCUA said this is particularly important in the wake of 2009 predictions from the National Hurricane Center and pandemic events related to swine flu. “Communication in business-continuity planning is critical--and traditional models like phone trees are not always the quickest way to contact your employees or members,” said Jon Jeffreys, vice president at Callahan Financial Services, general partner of CUFSLP. “E-mail and texting unquestionably enhance the effectiveness of communication.” DigitalMailer’s President/CEO Ron Daly agreed. “We know an important component of any crisis plan is communication,” Daly said. “But in emergencies, conventional communication methods may not be accessible or reliable. Credit unions need a way for fast, accurate information exchange with members and staff, and we help to ensure that they can communicate during crises.” CUFSLP comprises 40 credit unions. It provides innovation, collaboration and thought leadership to the credit union industry nationwide. DigitalMailer, the digital communications and online marketing firm, works with credit unions to improve communication strategies within business-contingency plans. Many clients are located in hurricane-prone areas--and several implemented DigitalMailer’s CMNS during last year’s storm warnings and evacuations.

Minnesota Shared Branching grows despite recession

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/13/09)--Minnesota has expanded the number of credit union service centers on its Shared Branching network to 29 by adding Wakota FCU, St. Paul, and four branches of Members Cooperative CU, Cloquet. Minnesota’s Shared Branching network currently services members of participating credit unions at locations in the Twin Cities, Duluth and greater Minnesota. This year CO-OP Shared Branching has added 264 new locations nationwide to its network of more than 3,730 shared branches. Through Shared Branching credit unions across the country share facilities, providing members thousands of locations to perform basic financial transactions. This cooperative network lets members visit other credit unions and perform transactions similar to those that they conduct at their home credit union. “The Shared Branching network allows credit unions to offer members convenience without incurring the expense of building and staffing additional branches,” said Peter Skaalen, executive vice president of the Minnesota Credit Union Network.

Southwest Corporate debuts image-enabled ATM service

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PLANO, Texas (7/10/09)--Southwest Corporate FCU is introducing ATM Capture, an image-enabled ATM software solution designed specifically for the credit union industry. Mazuma CU, a $396 million asset, Kansas City-based credit union, which beta tested ATM Capture, launched its first image-enabled ATM in May. Mazuma will first roll out the service with its nine image-enabled ATMs and replace its 11 older technology ATMs over time (LoneStar Leaguer July 9). Ginny Leritz, Mazuma’s director of member service support, said, “When the product is fully implemented, we expect to save $7,000 per year in ATM courier fees.” With ATM Capture, images of deposited checks are captured at the ATM, verified and transmitted in real-time directly to Southwest Corporate for processing. Decreased processing time frames enable credit unions to increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs and expedite funds availability, which reduces a credit union’s risk of loss from non-sufficient funds or fraud. “ATMs offer tremendous convenience for members, but they’re costly and take a lot of time to service from the credit union perspective,” said Brad Ganey, Southwest Corporate’s senior vice president of payment services. “With a traditional ATM, credit unions have to retrieve the deposit envelopes daily, and manually open and verify every transaction. “There are no envelopes with image-enabled ATMs,” he added. “Checks and currency are scanned as they are deposited. Credit unions can retrieve checks once a week or whenever they replenish the ATM with cash. Daily courier trips to the ATM, which represent a significant expense to credit unions, are no longer necessary.”

CU Student Choice Overture in marketing alliance

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BETHESDA, Md., and WASHINGTON (7/10/09)--Credit Union Student Choice, a credit union service organization that provides private student lending services to credit unions, and Overture Technologies have signed a marketing alliance to connect students with loan products from credit unions through Overture’s Student Loan Marketplace. Overture provides solutions to help students and their families save money by making better financial decisions. “Credit unions have historically been an untapped resource in the student lending field, and given the contraction in this space, have a tremendous opportunity to bridge the gap,” said Jon Jeffreys, Student Choice president. Overture’s Student Loan Marketplace allows students to sort and compare private student loans with detailed rates and terms, based on their credit information. Currently, Star One CU, Sunnyvale, Calif.; Addison Avenue FCU, Palo Alto, Calif.; NASA FCU, Bowie, Md.; and Mid-Atlantic FCU, Middletown, Pa., employ Student Loan Marketplace. Credit unions see private student lending as a way to reach out to local college students, the companies said in a release.

Business benefits of telecommuting addressed in paper

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MADISON, Wis. (7/9/09)--Credit unions can learn how to use telecommuting to expand business; extend customer service hours; save on building and operations costs; and improve employee recruitment, engagement and retention in a new white paper from the CUNA Technology Council. “Telecommuting in Today’s Environment” takes a look at the benefits and challenges of telecommuting and its function within a credit union. It also offers ideas and case studies to help credit unions with the top three challenges of telecommuting: creating a seamless connection that mirrors what members experiencing in contacting a branch or call center, protecting sensitive member data, and making remote employees feel a part of the credit union’s culture. The paper includes several case studies describing how credit unions used telecommuting to continue business operations during natural disasters such as fires, ice storms, and hurricanes, and how telecommuting could prove similarly effective in the case of a pandemic. “With the specter of a swine flu pandemic on the horizon, telecommuting can be the solution to continued credit union operations when staff members are stricken,” said Rudy Pereira, council chair and senior vice president of operations and technology at Alliant CU, Chicago. “It also reduces occupancy costs and can extend customer service hours in addition to improving employee recruitment and retention.” Also, “Organic Member Growth,” or growth other than that derived by mergers, is the focus of a new CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council white paper. The paper details growth strategies and tactics from successful credit unions, and it explains why so many credit unions are failing to grow. The paper addresses financial needs of various demographic groups and corresponding opportunities to reach these markets. The paper also explores the objections--or indifference--the American consumer has to credit union membership and ideas for overcoming them. For more information, use the links.

Mortgagebot Harland Financial Solutions alliance expanded

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MEQUON, Wis. (7/9/09)--Mortgagebot and Harland Financial Solutions have extended their alliance to offer the Mortgagebot PowerSite point-of-sale platform to Harland clients. PowerSite handles the mortgage application, pricing and approval process for more than 900 lenders nationwide. It integrates a lender’s consumer-direct mortgage website with every other mortgage point of sale: the branch, call center and loan officers. PowerSite users will continue to have the option to implement automated integration software. This enables the application data collected by PowerSite to be transferred to Harland Financial Solutions’ mortgage automation and loan documentation products--including Interlinq E3 and LaserPro Residential Real Estate Mortgage. The expanded agreement comes as demand increases for mortgage loans. “Historically low rates, combined with a rise in housing affordability due to falling real estate prices yielded a big boost in mortgage activity in first quarter 2009 compared to fourth quarter 2008--a 73% jump,” the companies said in a release. Harland supplies software and services to financial institutions and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Harland Clarke Holdings Corp. Mortgagebot LLC provides integrated port-of-sale solutions for mortgage applications.

CO-OP helps CU launch low-income program

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (7/9/09)--Express CU, Seattle, has launched a program to reach low- and moderate-income individuals. It also has partnered with CO-OP Financial Services to provide ATM access and shared branching for cash transactions. Express CU has deployed four community member service representatives to 16 Seattle non-profit organizations to help the underserved access financial services. Visitors to the non-profits can open accounts, deposit checks, apply for loans and receive financial help. The representatives also will provide basic financial education and referrals to formal programs offered through their non-profit partners. Cash transactions are not supported at the non-profit locations, so CO-OP will offer ATM access and shared branching. CO-OP has a network of 28,000 ATMs nationwide--with 1,000 ATMs in Washington. CO-OP’s partnership with Express CU also expands the number of branches that members can use--to 18 locations in Seattle and 155 in Washington. CO-OP Financial Services is a credit union service organization based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Express CU has $8 million in assets.

Hone management skills with July audio conferences

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MADISON, Wis. (7/8/09)--Credit union management staff can hone their leadership and communication skills with two upcoming audio conferences from the Credit Union National Association this month. On Tuesday, “Managing Inside the Organization” will reveal key management mistakes and help attendees increase their credibility with their employees. Both the traits and common misconceptions of a good manager will be examined. Attendees will also learn tips for controlling employees’ perceptions about management and techniques for creating a positive, high-performance work environment. In the second audio conference, managers can discover communication techniques that will help them get the most from their employees during “Effective Communication for Managers.” It will air July 29 and examine the connection between feedback and productivity, and how to harness positive conflict. The tuition price for a live audio conference is $89 and includes access to its archived version of the event for six months. For more information, use the links.

Online banking white papers start with stickiness

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (7/8/09)--Online banking is the “honey” of the financial services industry because it is one of the “stickiest” financial services available, according to PSCU Financial Services. PSCU Financial Services has launched a series of white papers explaining how credit unions can take advantage of online banking’s “stickiness.” The papers describe the elements of a successful online banking platform; its portability to online, voice, mobile and other channels; successful marketing tactics for targeted members; and how to use online banking to cross-sell other services. The first paper, “Banking on the Power of the Web,” is available on PSCU Financial Services’ website. The second white paper will discuss user profiles for e-banking customers and the importance of the mobile market. “Electronic banking should occupy a major role in every credit union’s business strategy,” said David J. Serlo, PSCU Financial Services president/CEO. “It delivers a compelling opportunity to grow membership and build loyalty while simultaneously controlling costs and expanding revenues.”

Auto Financial Group teams with CU Lending Systems

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HOUSTON (7/7/09)--Auto Financial Group (AFG), a Houston-based online provider of residual-based financing products for credit unions, announced Friday that it signed an agreement with Credit Union Lending Systems (CULS). Under the agreement, CULS credit unions will offer AFG’s DrivingSense to their members. DrivingSense is an auto financing product that offers the lease-like benefits of a balloon loan to credit unions and their members. It allows credit unions to “build” a vehicle for their members; compare payment terms with conventional loans; and offer their members lower payments--often as much as 40% lower, as well as flexible two- to six-year terms, actual ownership of the vehicle and several end-of-term options (Business Wire July 3). DrivingSense removes the financial risk to the credit union by guaranteeing the predetermined residual value of the vehicle through third-party insurance, and handling the vehicle’s disposition at the end of the term, said the companies. AFG is paid one administration fee for each DrivingSense loan, while the credit union earns all the interest. Credit unions are protected while building a relationship with their member, they said. CULS, based in St. Louis, is a service offered exclusively to credit union members. CULS and credit unions have teamed up with hundreds of auto, boat, motorcycle and recreational-vehicle dealers to provide credit union financing at the dealership.

FSCC opens two overseas military branches

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (7/7/09)--Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) is opening two new Shared Branching locations operated by Service CU to serve military personnel and their families in Germany. The branches are located in Lundstahl and Ramstein-Miesenbach. FSCC provides Shared Branching to nearly 20 military base branches of Service CU in Germany. Service CU is based in Portsmouth, N.H. Providing access points for military members is cost-effective and convenient for credit unions because they do not have to build branches on every military base where their members are deployed, according to FSCC President/CEO Sarah Canepa Bang. “Through these Shared Branching locations, credit unions like Service CU are able to provide services to not only their own members, but also members of other military credit unions,” she said. “Shared Branching is vital to our troops, especially in today’s environment, as it provides them with the flexibility to conduct business from various military installations worldwide,” added Arty Arteaga, president/CEO of the Defense Credit Union Council. FSCC offers a credit union Shared Branching Network with roughly 5,800 full-service deposit-taking locations nationwide and abroad.

FSCC convention highlights shared branching

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SAN DIMAS, Calif. (7/6/09)--Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) highlighted shared branching during its Credit Union Retail Delivery Convention last month in Las Vegas. FSCC President/CEO Sarah Canepa Bang noted Credit Union National Association (CUNA) surveys indicating that more than 60% of credit union members would use a shared branching location if it were available. About 98% of Generation Y and Generation X age groups said they would use shared branching. She also noted that 61% of consumers say they frequently use online bill pay, and 59% use online banking. “We can expect growth in online banking, Internet bill payment, and debit card transactions to continue to be strong and only moderate growth in ATM and audio response,” Bang said. FSCC’s 7-Eleven Vcom units have experienced transaction increases as credit unions direct their members to the access points. The average deposit is $600, and the average withdrawal is $126. The average transfer is $318, and the average payment is $461, FSCC said. “Since January, there has been a 13% growth in transactions week over week at the 7-Eleven locations,” Bang said.

CUNA Mutual sells IRA Services division to Ascensus

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MADISON, Wis. (7/2/09)--CUNA Mutual Group Wednesday signed a letter of intent to sell its IRA Services division to Ascensus, a retirement services firm based in Dresher, Pa. The sale, expected to close July 31, is part of CUNA Mutual’s overall corporate strategy to simplify its business and focus on its core insurance business and products, the company said in a release. The 47 employees of the IRA Services division will become Ascensus associates when the sale closes. They will continue to work from the same location in Middleton, Wis. CUNA Mutual acquired the IRA Services business from CUNA & Affiliates in 1999. CUNA Mutual Group provides financial services to credit unions and their members nationwide. Ascensus provides solutions for the retirement marketplace and is a division of Crump Group, Inc., a U.S. wholesale insurance distributor.

TransUnion announces new auto financing solutions

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CHICAGO (7/2/09)--TransUnion has announced the availability of Auto Summary and APR Estimator, which aim to help finance managers, captive lenders and credit union managers streamline the auto financing process. The solutions serve as add-ons to online credit reports, according to TransUnion. They can provide information on recent auto trades; summarize auto payment data, delinquencies and balances; and estimate the consumers’ annual percentage rate on existing auto loans through an online credit report. The information can then help identify the type of vehicle and finance options that fit the consumers’ capacity to pay. The tools also aim to help lenders improve underwriting, enhance portfolio reviews and analyze lost sales to refine future program offers and pricing. TransUnion is a credit and information management solutions provider based in Fullerton, Calif.