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Ga. CU loans save members 70 million

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ATLANTA (9/14/09)--Loans issued by Georgia credit unions saved their members roughly $70 million during the first half of this year compared to banks, according to Georgia Credit Union Affiliates’ (GCUA) Georgia Credit Union Benefits Index. The report serves as a barometer to help Georgia consumers make informed personal financial decisions, GCUA said. “The index shows credit unions saved Georgians more than $138 million on an annual basis from lower interest rates, higher rates on savings and lower fees,” said Michael Mercer, GCUA president/CEO. The loans issued by Georgia credit unions were for consumer purchases, including new and used vehicles, mortgages, home equity lines of credit and credit cards. Other statistics from the report:
* Loans totaled more than $2.1 billion in the first half of 2009; * Average loan amounts were $12,416 compared with $11,557 in 2008; * Higher rates on savings products yielded $32 million in savings for members compared with banks; * Auto loan rates for new cars were 5.54% for 60 months, compared with 7.14% at banks; * Auto loan rates for used cars were 5.71%, compared with 7.74% at banks; and * Average rates for credit cards were 11.7% for credit unions, compared with 12% at banks.
For more information, use the link below to access the GCUA site.

CU System briefs (09/11/2009)

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* TREVOSE, Pa. (9/14/09)--TruMark Financial CU, Trevose, Pa., was recently named as one of the best places to work in Pennsylvania for the large company category. The award recognizes employers that benefit the state’s economy, workforce and business. The awards program is sponsored by the Team Pennsylvania Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and the Central Penn Business Journal. Workplaces are picked as "best places to work" based on policies, practices, philosophies, systems, demographics and an employee evaluation. TruMark has more than $1.2 billion in assets ... * JANESVILLE, Wis. (9/14/09)--The Delavan branch of Blackhawk Community CU sponsored a school supply drive for the Delavan-Darien school district of Wisconsin for the third consecutive year. The theme this year was “Cram the Van.” The credit union garnered enough school supply donations--2,353 items--to fill two vans. Kunes Country Chevrolet/Ford furnished two vans at the credit union to fill with supplies. Two Blackhawk staff members, JoAnne Wilson and branch manager Kelly Herwald, divided the supplies and delivered them to schools. Blackhawk Community CU, Janesville, Wis. has more than $320 million in assets ... * ALBERTA, Canada (9/14/09)--Servus CU of Alberta, Canada, is opening a new branch Sept. 28 and plans to partner with Strathcona County Library (Sherwood Park News Sept. 9). Each time a member under age 18 opens an account at the branch, they can choose a book that the credit union will donate to the library in the member’s name. The partnership is a great lesson for youth to learn about savings, the value of a dollar and how it’s tied to literacy, said Muriel Abdurahman, Strathcona County Library chair. Servus CU also plans to provide a yet-to-be-determined corporate donation to the library. The money will help the library pay for its new location, updating computers and equipment, and programming ...

CU wheelchair robber with hoax bomb to serve 3 years in prison

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MELBOURNE, Fla. (9/14/09)--A paraplegic who attempted to rob Merritt Island Space Coast CU was sentenced to 34.5 months in prison after pleading guilty to robbery charges. The man, Christopher Reed, also was charged with possession of a hoax bomb. Reed entered Space Coast CU Nov. 14 and demanded money after telling employees he had an explosive. Police found him 10 minutes after he left the credit union. Reed told police he had given the cash to two unknown individuals who had threatened him with a gun and told him to rob the credit union (Florida Today Sept. 9). Police found a bottle of vodka in Reed’s wheelchair and money inside his prosthetic leg. Reed had his leg amputated about six weeks before the incident and was taking prescription drugs, the newspaper said. Robbery and possession of an explosive are second-degree felonies and punishable by up to 15 years in prison for each offense. Reed’s plea agreement allowed him to limit his prison term to no more than six years.

Officers shoot and kill CU robber

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SHORELINE, Wash. (9/14/09)--One man was arrested and another shot and killed in the aftermath of a credit union robbery Thursday near Seattle. James Bartlow, 47, was arrested in connection with the robbery of an Alaska USA CU branch in Shoreline, Wash., according to FBI agent Mary Prewett. The dead man was not immediately identified (Associated Press Sept. 11). The FBI believes that Bartlow and the second man committed four bank robberies and one attempted robbery that the bureau attributed to a robber dubbed the “Fashion Faux Pas Bandit.” After the robbery, witness followed the two men to a parking lot about 10 blocks from the credit union and called in the location to police, the FBI said. When King County sheriff’s officers arrived, they confronted a man with a gun, and three officers fired at him. The man died on the way to a local hospital, the FBI said. A stun gun was deployed to take the second man into custody. All three officers were placed on administrative leave, a sheriff’s spokesman said. Alaska USA FCU, based in Anchorage, Alaska, has $3.984 billion is assets.

CUs Project Flipside draws Generation Y

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BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (9/14/09)--Bucks First FCU has launched “Project Flipside” to attract members of Generation Y to the credit union. Since June 1, Bucks County, Pa.-based Bucks First has opened about 50 new Flipside accounts.
Click to view larger imageBucks First CU launched “Project Flipside” to attract members of Generation Y to the credit union. From left are the Flipside crew members: Alex, Zach and Antonio. (Photo provided by Bucks First CU)
The accounts are available for youth between the ages of 16 and 25, said Hilary Reed, Bucks First vice president of marketing. The account offers a free Visa check card with rewards, no maintenance fees, free checks, online bill pay, online banking, text banking, access to more than 30,000 free ATMs, and refunded non-sufficient funds fees provided the accountholders take a financial class at the credit union. “We deem this project one of the most successful programs we've ever created,” Reed told News Now. “We've been able to reach hundreds of youth as well as parents, from community events to high school classes and college orientations. “You know it's successful when a kid tells their friends about it,” she added. “For us, harnessing the power of word of mouth was a big goal and we feel we've definitely achieved it, and this is only the beginning.” The difference between the project and other programs is that everything ties back to education. For instance, the program offers youth the ability to “flip their fees” by attending a personal financial literacy class to lift their non-sufficient funds fees. During the last class, a credit union representative asked the students how they accumulated their fees, and then talked with them to try and figure out how to save and budget, Reed said. The project also employs the Flipside Crew, which consists of three young individuals who promote the program. The crew has posted more than 80 blogs and made more than 270 Facebook friends. They regularly post videos, including a recent rap video (use the link), that offer educational components. They’ve also attended more than 30 community events to promote the project. Crew members have no hourly requirements, but spend about 15-20 hours per week blogging and attending events. This summer, Bucks First sponsored a concert series at a local mall where crew members regularly appeared. Crew members receive a digital camera, a car to use, and a monthly stipend. To become a crew member, individuals submit a video. They are chosen for their communication skills, video editing skills and personality. The crew works for Bucks First for about one year, and then a new group is chosen. Bucks First researched the project for about one year before launch and executed it with three marketing staff members in-house. It spent very little on advertising. “You don’t need an agency to do this,” Reed said. The project is especially good for small credit unions that can’t afford to hire an advertising agency. Bucks First relied mainly on word-of-mouth advertising and its strong relationships with local schools, including high schools and colleges, she said. The biggest challenge credit unions could face when undertaking a project like Flipside is board approval. “It’s tough to show the return on investment,” Reed said. “But the key is to convince boards that the results show for themselves.” She advised credit unions to be involved with the community, and spread the word by mouth. Even if it takes awhile, the project will come to fruition, she said.

Savings push leads to CUs reviving Christmas clubs

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MADISON, Wis. (9/14/09)--With more Americans increasing their personal savings in a troubled economy, credit unions and banks are helping to revive a concept that was thought to be defunct--the Christmas club account. Holiday savings clubs--along with layaway plans, which also are making a comeback--have once again become desirable to consumers coping with rising unemployment and uncertainty regarding the economy, Steve Rick, senior economist for the Credit Union National Association, told the Associated Press Thursday. “It’s a throwback to a bygone era,” Rick told the news service. “Instead of a general savings account, it’s a way to focus the mind on what you really want to do, just like a college account,” Rick added. Roughly 78% of member credit unions run holiday savings clubs, and interest has spiked this year, Rick told the news service. The clubs most often are offered by credit unions, and small and mid-sized banks, the Associated Press said. For the complete story, use the link.

Heins wins Wegner Award for Lifetime Achievement

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MADISON, Wis. (9/14/09)--Retired CUNA Mutual Group President/CEO Dick Heins will be the 22nd Wegner Award honoree for Lifetime Achievement, bestowed by the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF). The lasting impressions of Heins are those of being an innovative thinker, independent leader, tenacious motivator, life-long learner and model credit union movement executive, NCUF said. Heins’ award will be one of four awards presented at the 22nd Annual Wegner Awards Dinner hosted by the NCUF on Feb. 22. The dinner will take place on the Monday night of the Credit Union National Association’s 2010 Governmental Affairs Conference. Online registration will be available later this year on NCUF’s website. “Throughout his life, when teaching his students and challenging the credit union community, Dick Heins has pushed us all to see beyond what is there and explore new possibilities,” said NCUF Awards and Recognition Committee Chairman Bob Schumacher. “Dick is one of those unassuming gentleman who believes in ideas, then pushes himself and those around him to make the world a better place.” Among Heins’ achievements at CUNA Mutual:
* Conceived and developed a program so credit unions could write loans for families paying as little as 5% down. Heins’ risk management tool guaranteed lenders the other 15% in case of default. Today, Heins’ invention is known as Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI. * Led the development of a brokerage of insurance products for CUNA Mutual and CUNA Mutual Insurance Society (CUMIS) that broadened the offerings of CUNA Mutual Group and increased collateral protections for credit unions and their members. * Participated in the design and implementation of the original CUMIS Bond to replace the bond program of Employers Mutual. The CUMIS Bond became the fidelity bond coverage for nearly 100% of U.S. credit unions. * Led the development of CUNA Mutual Group’s expansion in delivery of direct response marketed products to credit union members. These products include life insurance, property and casualty insurance, and investment opportunities through joint ventures with large national providers including Capital Holding Group, Colonial Penn, and T. Rowe Price. * Initiated a marketplace internship program to give CUNA Mutual management employees experience working at credit unions.
Heins recognized that as a cooperative insurance provider for credit unions and their members, CUNA Mutual must be actively involved in dealing with challenges and opportunities facing the credit union movement. Practicing cooperative principles including concern for community and member education, Heins helped change credit union history, NCUF said. Some examples include:
* Preserving the independent regulator--When legislative proposals threatened credit unions’ independent regulator, Heins provided financial support that made possible the Operation Grassroots Campaign. Organized by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and 50 state credit union leagues, the year-long campaign culminated in more than 15,000 credit union supporters rallying in front of the U.S. Capitol to support preservation of an independent National Credit Union Administration. Had Operation Grassroots not succeeded, losing the independent regulator would likely have led to a merger of the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund into the now-defunct Savings Association Insurance Fund. * Advancing philanthropy--Heins recognized the need for the U.S. credit union movement to benefit from a philanthropic entity. He was instrumental in creating the National Credit Union Foundation. * Promoting education--Heins also recognized the importance of two educational initiatives that still exist today. He was a strong supporter of NCUF’s Credit Union Development Education program as well as the National Youth Involvement Board. He promoted these two programs because he believed in educating future leaders on credit union philosophy and pooling credit unions’ resources to improve financial literacy of our nation’s youth. * Providing thought leadership--Filene Research Institute’s i3 Group was inspired by a casual comment Heins made, according to Filene Executive Director Mark Meyer. Heins continues to serve on Filene’s Administrative Board as director emeritus. * Strengthening unity--Under Heins’ leadership, CUNA Mutual Group “forged a lasting partnership with the state credit union leagues around the country that continues to reap benefits for credit unions and their members today,” said Susan Newton, executive director of the American Association of Credit Union Leagues. Heins was first to appoint a league research and advisory committee to build and maintain relationships between CUNA Mutual and the leagues. Twice a year, the committee held strategic discussions on credit union issues, which Heins used as a sounding board for new ideas and initiatives. * Rebuilding credit unions--After decades of Communist suppression of the credit union movement in Poland, Heins was involved in supporting the redevelopment of Polish credit unions. He personally donated $40,000 to the Polish credit union community, and worked directly with President Lech Walesa and the new Solidarity-led coalition government to establish a sound framework for Polish credit unions to thrive again.
Heins personally endowed the University of Wisconsin’s Richard Heins Chair of Risk Management and the Eugene Farley League Leadership Award, which is presented annually during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference. This year, Heins contributed another $50,000 to keep the Farley Awards program alive for another 20 years, NCUF said.

US FCU exec flies for veterans

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BURNSVILLE, Minn. (9/14/09)--Bob Stowell, US FCU senior vice president
Click to view larger imageBob Stowell, US FCU senior vice president and chief operations officer, flew his plane with Liz Strohfus, 89, a women’s air service pilot in World War II. (Photo provided by US FCU)
and chief operations officer, piloted his plane over the 2009 Harley’s Heroes ride in Faribault, Minn., this summer. Stowell, a Vietnam veteran and law enforcement official, announced the start of the 75-mile ride from the air. He piloted his plane with Liz Strohfus, 89, a women’s air service pilot in World War II. “I rarely miss a chance to support our men and women in uniform,” Stowell said. “It’s the least I can do for those who have given us so much.” Harley’s Heroes is a national effort, coordinating rides nationwide at more than 175 Harley-Davidson dealerships. The events pay tribute to veterans and those currently serving in the military, police, firefighters or other public servants. US FCU has $802 million in assets.