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Union CU fesses up to mystery billboards

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SPOKANE, Wash. (8/5/08)--Spokane city residents have been talking for weeks about mystery billboards with a cryptic message, "It just works for me." The billboards had no name, no logo, and gave no clue what "it" meant. The work was the product of Union CU (formerly Inland Empire Trades CU), an $8 million asset credit union formed by a few Spokane Bricklayers Local 3 members with less than $200 in 1968. Union CU created the campaign to honor unions and union workers, it said in a press release. "It just works for me" is much larger than the credit union itself, honoring all that unions do for their members and all that unionized employees do for employers. "It" is the justice behind union pride, the credit union said. The credit union is a unique financial institution in Washington state and one of a handful in the country that is run by an all-union staff and board. Even CEO Demaris Krummel is a union member. "Union members deserve better than high-priced banking, outrageous credit card rates and payday lenders," Krummel said. "Instead of giving dividends to shareholders, we give profits back to the members in the form of lower interest rates on home and car loans and microloans for workplace equipment such as laptops, stethoscopes and other tools."

Volunteers landscape wounded vets new Colorado home

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GOLDEN, Colo. (8/5/08)--More than 100 volunteers from credit unions and interns of the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) joined Homes for Our Troops and the National Journal Group in a “Volunteer Day” to landscape a home built for a wounded Iraq war veteran. The volunteers spent Saturday laying sod and landscaping the site around the nearly finished home for Staff Sergeant Travis Strong and his family. The home in Golden, Colo.--a joint project of Homes for Our Troops, the DNCC, America’s Credit Unions, and National Journal Group--will be presented to SSG Strong, his wife Misty, and their two children in a ceremony around this month’s Democratic National Convention. “It truly warms the heart to see so many volunteers spending their Saturday giving back to someone who has given so much to us,” said John Gonsalves, president and founder of Homes for Our Troops. Ground was broken on the home site in April. In June, more than 350 volunteers and skilled labor conducted a three-day “Build Brigade” to construct much of the home’s exterior. Since then, volunteers from the Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council have worked on the home’s interior. Saturday's effort focused on turning the construction site into a landscaped yard. Strong lost both legs above the knee as a result of injuries sustained in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in 2006 during his second tour of duty in Iraq for the U.S. Army. The specially adapted home is being built at no cost to his family. "We’re honored to help out in this good work to benefit the family of Staff Sergeant Strong, a true American hero who has served our country honorably at great personal sacrifice,” said Leah D. Daughtry, CEO of the DNCC. Credit unions played an integral part in the effort, through volunteer labor and fundraising to defray costs of both the house and a companion Minnesota project connected with the Republican National Convention. So far, credit unions nationally have raised over $225,000 for the two houses. "Credit unions operate every day with a ‘People Helping People’ philosophy," said Daniel A. Mica, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). "That’s why our credit unions and their members have jumped at the opportunity to assist this very deserving soldier and his family, either through fundraising efforts across the country or by volunteering their time in person today.” John Dill, president/CEO of the Credit Union Associations of Colorado and Wyoming, added, “Credit unions here in Colorado are proud to be a part of this project. From the hundreds of volunteers who showed up in June and again here today (Saturday) to the tens of thousands of dollars our credit unions have raised, we are honored to help make real the American dream of a home to call one’s own for Travis and his family.” The undertaking is part of a year-long series of service projects the DNCC has organized to give back to the community hosting the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Since last July, the organization has centered its monthly “DNCC Service Days” outings around three areas of importance to the Denver-area community: youth, environmental projects and the combined issues of homelessness and hunger. CUNA, the Minnesota Credit Union Network, and National Journal Group also are working with Homes for Our Troops and the Republican National Committee on a similar Volunteer Day for the companion veteran’s home being built in conjunction with the Republican National Convention. The Volunteer Day for that project, a home in Woodbury, Minn., is scheduled for Aug. 15th.

Membership Growth Series UVA Community CU

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (8/5/08)--Last month, UVA Community CU, Charlottesville, Va., reported the lowest member turnover rate in the last six years. This could be because UVA Community, which reported a 3% increase in membership from 2006 to 2007, takes a proactive approach in growing its membership--and learning why some members leave. This is the sixth installment of News Now's Membership Growth series of interviews with fast credit union membership growers. The series is as part of an initiative of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Membership Growth Task Force. It focuses on fast "organic" membership growth, not growth by merger or indirect loans. The task force, chaired by Dick Ensweiler, president of the Texas Credit Union League, was convened at the request of CUNA's Immediate Past Board Chair Allan Kemp McMorris. Its purpose is to investigate, report on, and encourage credit unions to embrace opportunities, techniques and processes that will increase credit unions' membership retention and growth. The $373 million-asset UVA Community CU performed an analysis of accounts closed by members to find out what traits members who left the credit union shared. There was some concern that the number of closed accounts was increasing because members were dissatisfied with the credit union’s services, Peter Holman, UVA Community CU senior financial analyst, told News Now. However, the account analysis showed that wasn’t the case. About 85% of members who closed accounts did so because of factors beyond the credit union’s control--such as relocation. The account analysis looked at members’ traits and account transaction activity. It reviewed the services they used, the balances they kept, and the branches they visited. With this data, the credit union identified several key traits of members at risk for leaving. These members:
* Had used two or fewer services with the credit union; * Experienced steadily decreasing balances; and * Held no loans with the credit union.
Products and services that correlated with members having “sticky” accounts, or close relationships with the credit union, included debit cards, credit cards and money market accounts. “Credit cards are very good retention products for us,” Holman said. UVA Community CU also surveys members who close their accounts at the credit union to see if the closed accounts are avoidable. The response rate on the surveys is strong, making the data reliable, Holman said. The closed account survey was recently revamped from a fill-in-the-blank format to multiple choice and other formats. In the old fill-in-the-blank survey, there’s little incentive for the member to fill out the survey, Holman said. “We made the survey simpler,” Holman said. “There’s more info [for us] and much less effort on the member’s part.” Even though UVA Community CU’s name implies the University of Virginia, the credit union doesn’t target students as members. “We’re not close enough to serve them,” Janine Williams, vice president of marketing, told News Now. “We have a branch near the university and an ATM, but we’re not their [primary] banking institution.” UVA Community CU was founded in 1954 by a group of UVA hospital administrators. The credit union merged with other hospital and local government credit unions, and received a community charter in 1997 and changed its name to UVA Community CU. It currently serves seven counties. UVA’s growth strategy involves building locations in the seven counties to accommodate members. Its marketing strategy is to attract members to the branches, Williams said. The credit union opened a new branch in the first quarter of this year, and relocated two others. Holman and Williams commented that almost all of the credit union’s service goals were met because of the new facilities. To promote the branch opening and incentives, the credit union sent letters to members who lived within five miles of the new branch. Grand opening ads were published in local newspapers, and oversized four-color postcards were mailed to every resident within five miles of the new branch. UVA Community also ran a student photo contest in local high schools. The winning art was professionally framed and placed in the new branches. “The unveiling of the winners was the focal point around the grand openings and ribbon cutting ceremony. We actually had many parents stay after the event to open accounts,” Williams added. The credit union is working to secure land for a branch in another county, and a student-run branch will open this fall at a local high school. “They approached us,” Williams said of the school. “It’s great.” UVA Community CU has decreased its use of media advertising, and has earmarked that money into incentives for members to open accounts--such as $50 for a checking account. “The incentives drive those numbers,” she said. In March, the credit union opened a business lending program to include deposits. Though it has engaged in business lending since 2005, the credit union now offers businesses three types of checking accounts. “Every business is different,” Holman said. “So we have three accounts for different levels of activity with benefits in all three,” he said. The economy is an uphill battle for the credit union in terms of growth, but the challenge is making sure the word is out that the credit union is there. “We can’t just build and [assume] they will come,” Williams said. Several community banks operate in the area. When banks merge into larger ones, the credit union often sees a spike in membership. UVA Community CU doesn’t have formal initiatives to target youth, but is cognizant of the fact that young people will be the key to membership growth. The credit union keeps its technology services up-to-date, knowing that online technology attracts youth. “We’ve enhanced our bill payment and e-statements,” Williams said. “We are on the cutting edge of technology.” Service is one thing that sets credit unions apart from any other institution, she said. “Generally, services are going to keep us in the game,” she said. Anyone who wants to contact the CUNA Membership Growth Task Force can e-mail the account established for this purpose at

Carolinas foundation donates 60000 to Victory Junction

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (8/5/08)--The Carolinas Credit Union Foundation (CCUF) recently donated $60,000 to the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C., a camp for children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. Rising fuel prices have made it more difficult for families traveling long distances to drop their children off at the camp. During a recent field trip to the camp, State Credit Union Foundation Network leaders suggested that the CCUF donate gas cards or contribute to help campers’ families pay for the trip. The foundation provided $50 gas cards to all 1,200 campers’ families attending camp this summer. CCUF also provided an additional $1,500 to help with group travel to and from airports and drop off locations. “[CCUF Executive Director] John Slack and his team at the CCUF continue to be proactive in their support of Victory Junction,” said camp president Dean Kessel. “Their gracious donation of over $60,000 in purchase cards will provide much needed assistance with the increased transportation costs facing families of our campers this summer.” The foundation has partnered with the camp since 2002. Victory Junction was created by NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and his wife Pattie in memory of their son Adam, who also was a NASCAR driver. Adam was killed in an accident in 2000.

British reform would ease rules for CUs

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MANCHESTER, Eng. (8/5/08)--The Association of British Credit Unions Ltd. (ABCUL) says that government proposals to loosen rules and allow credit unions and other not-for-profit organizations to compete more evenly with private sector firms could lead to significant credit union growth. ABCUL CEO Mark Lyonette told Crains Manchester Business (Aug. 4) that he was delighted with the news that credit union rules would be modified, especially with a relaxation of the common bond. His comments were in response to consultation documents issued by HM Treasury on plans for a legislative reform order to amend the rules of credit unions and industrial and provident societies. It would replace "common bond" with a less restrict "field of membership" test; would open the door to lend money to businesses, partnerships and voluntary organizations; and scrap a 20,000-pound current lending and savings cap. Credit unions and others had expressed concern that the rules were out of date and restrictive on their development and competitiveness, the newspaper said. In the United Kingdom, just over 1% of the population has a credit union account. That compares with 40% in the U.S. and Canada and 25% in Australia. The consultation document notes that credit unions are perceived as a "poor persons bank" and suggests credit unions need to target more affluent members to remain viable. One credit union, Oldham CU, said the reform would be the first step toward greater cooperation between credit unions, especially on back office systems.

National expert touts benefits of Maine CUs

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WESTBROOK, Maine (8/5/08)--A financial expert who contributes his expertise to CNN, Bloomberg and other media outlets across the country touted Maine credit unions as a "great choice for consumers to receive the best value for savings, loans and other financial transactions" during a recent television program. During an interview with Portland-based WGME News 13, Gerard Cassidy of RBC Capital Markets, one of the world's largest investment banks, was asked about the state of the nation's financial institutions, said the Maine Credit Union League. The Portland-based expert responded enthusiastically, said the league, about "credit unions for better rates and lower fees." Cassidy compared credit unions and other financial institutions, and praised Maine's credit unions for "being focused on the consumer and the local community. People should consider credit unions as better, safer alternatives to all of the uncertainty going on in the financial services market." League President John Murphy said he appreciated Cassidy's praise of credit unions and the benefits that using a credit union provides to Maine's consumers. "Credit unions are not only safe and secure but the best value in financial services," Murphy said. "It is wonderful to have the positive advantages that credit unions offer to consumers recognized by a leading and well-respected financial expert not only in Maine but throughout the country."

SECU rolls out friendly reverse mortgage

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RALEIGH, N.C. (8/5/08)--State Employees’ CU (SECU), Raleigh, N.C., announced a consumer-friendly reverse mortgage designed to help senior members make use of the wealth in their homes. The loan offers a fixed rate of interest and an origination fee of 1%. There are no mortgage insurance or monthly service fees, SECU said. Borrowers must be 62, use the home as their primary residence and receive consumer education on the product from a North Carolina-certified reverse mortgage counselor. “SECU investigated the reverse mortgage marketplace and we saw numerous opportunities to provide this important product to our members, reducing the typical costs being assessed,” said Phil Greer, SECU senior vice president of loan administration. “Through reduced fees, a fixed rate of interest and a simple interest accrual method, we will provide the member with an enhanced use of their equity,” he added. A reverse mortgage is a loan against a residence to provide cash to assist with living expenses, typically in the form of a lump sum or fixed monthly disbursement to the borrower. SECU used assistance from senior-affiliated organizations to design a reverse mortgage product. It also published a booklet for members to learn about the product. “A reverse mortgage can be a useful financial option for older homeowners who need to supplement their retirement income to help pay for essential needs,” said Mary Reca Todd, manager of supportive housing for the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. Seniors in the market for reverse mortgages can be vulnerable, according to Ed Regan, executive director of the North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association. Like Todd, he encouraged financial institutions to provide consumer education to seniors. “Consumer education is crucial in making sure the older population does not fall victim to what could be the next frontier for mortgage scams,” he said. SECU has $15 billion in assets.

Washington Supreme Court justices tour CUs league

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FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (8/5/08)--Two justices of the Washington Supreme Court have visited a number of credit unions and the Washington Credit Union League during recent weeks leading up to the state's primary election on Aug. 19.
Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson, left, of the Washington State Supreme Court visits with Washington Credit Union League President/CEO John Annaloro during a tour of the league and several credit unions. (Photo provided by the Washington Credit Union League)
Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson visited Prevail CU, Seattle; Woodstone CU, Federal Way; TAPCO CU, Tacoma; TwinStar CU, Olympia; and Our Community, Shelton; and Columbia CU, Vancouver. He is running for a six-year term against two opponents. Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst visited Prevail CU, Woodstone CU, Columbia CU, Watermark CU, Seattle; Numerica CU, Spokane; Yakima Valley CU, Yakima; Spokane FCU; and Spokane Teachers CU. She is running against one opponent for a six-year term. The league worked with the justices in coordinating the visits to credit unions.
Numerica CU President/CEO Dennis Cutter shows Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst around the credit union during the justice's tour of Numerica and other credit unions in the state. (Photo provided by Numerica CU)
"The Washington Credit Union League has a long history of working with elected leaders in a non-partisan manner," said League President John Annaloro. "Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson's and Justice Mary Fairhurst's proven commitment to the rule of law and to our state's constitution has earned them the league's support and our assistance in reaching out to our member credit unions," he added. Justice Fairhurst stopped at Numerica's headquarters to talk to employees about the judicial system and her role as a Supreme Court justice, said the credit union. "It was refreshing to have a candidate show interest in your industry, the issues that affect us and our communities," said Numerica President/CEO Dennis Cutter.

Iowa league op-ed CUs were prepared for rainy day

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DES MOINES, Iowa (8/5/08)--Credit unions will emerge from the economic downturn in “great shape” because they are prepared for a rainy day, Patrick S. Jury, president/CEO of the Iowa Credit Union League, wrote in an op-ed piece for Saturday’s issue of the Des Moines Register. Credit unions have steered away from lending practices that contributed to the mortgage crisis but aren’t immune from economic conditions, he said. “Our members may have problems making payments on credit union loans because of subprime loans they’ve received elsewhere or because of lost jobs or income due to flooding. Building our capital through the years helps ensure that we remain strong institutions into the future,” Jury added. Jury also encouraged readers to save a portion of their money each week. “It will add up over time. Limit your credit and do your best to live within your means,” he said. He also noted that many credit unions offer confidential financial counseling. “Now more than ever, you need to be a financial advocate for yourself to ensure a stable and healthy future, and Iowa credit unions can help,” he said. To read the full article, use the link.

Two CUs sweep CUNA Tech Council awards

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MADISON, Wis. (8/5/08)--Technology CU and Purdue Employees FCU were honored as winners of the 2008 CUNA Technology Council Best Practices Awards at the council’s 13th annual summit, which took place Wednesday through Saturday in Williamsburg, Va. The awards recognize outstanding approaches to technology challenges with potential for universal application across the credit union movement. The winning credit unions presented the details of their success stories to conference attendees in the following categories:
* Technology Infrastructure--Technology CU, San Jose, Calif., for its job-applicant tracking system for all internal and external applications, advanced reporting features, and more. A new job-listing site provides a user-friendly interface for applicants, and allows human resources to quickly and efficiently track applications without using paper. The credit union received more than 12,000 applications and resumes and posted and filled 170 job openings. The new system was such a success that credit union plans to extend a 100% paperless system to the entire recruiting process; * Sales Management--Purdue Employees FCU, Lafayette, Ind., for creating a new sales reporting model with a member service measuring tool to help the credit union meet its goal as members’ financial partner for life. The sales staff now can follow up more quickly with members who express interest in specific products. Attempted cross sales are up nearly 300% from 2007. The new reports also help analyze productivity, contributions to specific corporate measures, monthly trend data, and branch production; and * Miscellaneous--Technology CU, for its online banking feature enhancement and new splash page to promote eStatement and electronic disclosures. The new business strategy included splash pages, with a disclosure agreement that requires members to opt out from all paper statements, electronic privacy notices, and any future notices electronically as they become available. One month after the launch, the number of eStatement enrollments realized a 63% increase. The program will have a big impact on cost savings over paper statements and will help the credit union “eSave the planet,” Technology CU said.

CU System briefs (08/04/2008)

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* BOULDER, Colo. (8/5/08)--Gerry Agnes has been named president/CEO at Boulder-based Elevations CU. According to the $850 million asset credit union's board, Agnes was selected from more than 200 candidates. Agnes has 22 years experience in the financial services industry, most recently with the $936 million asset Altura CU, Riverside, Calif. There he served in a series of positions, including president/chief operating officer, president of Altura's subsidiary holding company that managed insurance, mortgage, escrow and auto broker companies, and chief financial officer. Prior to joining Altura, Agnes was president/CEO of The Community Foundation serving Riverside and San Bernardino counties in California … * RIVERDALE, Ill. (8/5/08)--Asia Hill, formerly of Gary, Ind., was convicted Friday of aggravated bank robbery charges stemming from a 'Bonnie and Clyde' style robbery of Acme Continental CU in Riverdale on Jan. 19, 2006. Her then boyfriend, Charles Anderson, pleaded guilty earlier and testified against Hill during the two-week trial. The couple, armed with a sawed-off shotgun took over the credit union and escaped with more than $250,000. An informant's tip led to their arrest. Hill faces more than 12 years in prison. She will be sentenced in the fall (Chicago Tribune Aug. 1) … * LOMBARD, Ill. (8/5/08)--Gary Raddon, founder of Raddon Financial Group (RFG), a strategic business unit of Open Solutions Inc., died July 29 at the age of 72, according to a press release (Business Wire Aug. 1). Raddon formed RFG, a strategic research and consulting firm, in 1982. He became a well-known industry expert and speaker and served on the faculties of several state banking schools. He was author of a book, "Developing New Financial Products." Open Solutions acquired RFG in 2006 …
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