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Shared branches serving members of Texas CUs

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MADISON, Wis. (9/16/08)--The shared branching system is working in Texas, with members of credit unions closed by Hurricane Ike getting services through several systems. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has identified 179 credit unions, with combined assets of $12.7 billion and serving 1.7 million members, that were affected by Ike. The hardest hit areas were:
* Galveston, which has five credit unions and 14,237 members; * Beaumont, which has 10 credit unions and 81,999 members; and * Bridge City, which has one credit union and 5,436 members. More than 90% of Bridge City was flooded.
More than 80 credit unions are located in Houston. Many are without power and have been damaged by wind, NCUA said. The NCUA is working with the Texas Credit Union League and the Texas Credit Union Department to help credit unions restore service to members, the agency said. Members have been able to access their accounts through CO-OP Shared Branching, said Craig Beach, senior vice president of marketing business development. “It’s been very successful,” he told News Now. “Members that have evacuated [Houston] have found other locations through the website and by calling us.” Credit unions also are using CURe, which is a disaster recovery solution that allows credit unions to access a second virtual private network connection in the event that their data processor has gone down. “CURe was birthed out of [Hurricanes] Katrina and Rita,” Beach said. Now that disaster recovery solutions such as CURe are in place, “things have gone so much more smoothly,” he said. “Credit unions and the Texas league have worked in concert to make [accessing funds after Ike] smooth for members.” Brian McCue, director of business development, Member Service Centers, said he was on the phone with and texting credit unions all day Monday. Shared Branching has been a “big piece of their disaster recovery plan,” he told News Now. Credit unions on Shared Branching are happy with how much it’s working so far, he added. He also noted the large role text messaging has played in communicating with credit unions. Two weeks ago, before Hurricane Gustav hit, he collected the cell phone numbers for many credit union CEOs and other management. “Text messages are the primary means of communication,” he said. Texas credit unions that have confirmed via website that they are open:
* Amplify FCU, Austin; * Brazos Valley Schools CU, Katy--all branches open except Katy, Kingsland and Rocky Creek and Missouri City; * Chocolate Bayou Community FCU, Alvin; * Cy-Fair FCU, Houston; * DuPont Goodrich FCU, Nederland--Lumberton, Jasper offices open, phone lines down; * First Community CU of Houston, all open except Sugar Land, Champions, Sam Houston, and Echo Lane; * Fivepoint CU, Nederland; * Gulf Coast Educators FCU, Pasadena, Pearland office closed; * Houston TX Fire Fighters FCU, main office drive-thru, north branch and south branch closed; * JSC FCU, Houston--Ellington, Friendswood, Park Place, Bay Colony-Dickenson, Pearland and Monument-13th Street open; * Members Choice CU, Houston--drive-thru open only; * Mobiloil FCU, Beaumont--Delaware and Jasper branches open; * Navy Army FCU, Corpus Christi; * PrimeWay FCU, Houston--Blackhawk, Greenspoint and Med Center branches closed until further notice; * Southwest Financial FCU, Dallas; * St. Luke’s Community FCU, Houston; * Star of Texas CU, Austin; * Texas Dow Employees CU, Lake Jackson--call center open; * Temple-Inland FCU, Temple--drive thru only; * Texasgulf FCU, Wharton; * Transtar FCU, Houston--290 and Williams Tower offices open; * Union Fidelity FCU, Houston--alternate location at Sheetmetal Workers Local 54; and * United SA FCU, San Antonio.
According to CUNA Mutual Group, credit union policyholders with damages can contact the CUNA Mutual Disaster phone number at 800-637-2676, which is answered 24/7.

CUs across nation pledging support for Texas CUs

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DALLAS (9/16/08)--Early status reports from some credit unions in Texas were beginning to arrive Monday, said the Texas Credit Union League, and credit unions from across the nation already were rallying to offer support. "Assessment of the damage in the communities hit by Hurricane Ike is underway," said Linda Webb-Manon, director of communications at the league. "It was a pretty massive hurricane, and 200 or so credit unions are located in the affected area. However, we don't know the extent of the damage to all of these credit unions at this point." "Many have experienced flooding and most have experienced power outages," she said. "But, again, it's too early to tell about the extent of the damage." The league is posting credit unions' status on its website. Monday afternoon the league said that some credit unions have substantial damage while others are operating via their business continuity plans. "I think all of us were glued to our televisions over the weekend, hoping upon hope that Hurricane Ike would spare us the devastation we experienced with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Unfortunately, it's pretty apparent that that is not the case," said league President/CEO Dick Ensweiler. "Hurricane Ike has left a trail of destruction, and President Bush has declared 29 Texas counties major disaster areas. Our hearts go out to the millions of displaced families, scattered in shelters across the state, and uncertain of what they will return to. "As disaster recovery efforts get underway, the credit union community too is positioning itself to respond to the needs of our credit unions, and of course their employees, in the affected area," Ensweiler said. He noted that the Texas Credit Union Foundation has activated its Disaster Relief Fund, and has also been activated." The National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) announced Monday that credit unions were already pledging donations. "On the first business day after NCUF activated an appeal through CUAid, credit union organizations and individuals donated nearly $11,000," Steve Bosack, NCUF's deputy director, told News Now. "All donations through CUAid will be dedicated to Gulf Coast hurricane relief grants," he said. In addition to aid efforts by the Texas Credit Union Foundation and the National Credit Union Foundation, the league is matching credit unions with needs generated by the storm with credit unions in the state who are offering help. Credit unions affected by the hurricanes can list the items they need through filling out a form at on the league’s website. The items will appear on a chart at Credit unions offering resources can go to another page: on the league’s website and submit the items they’re offering.

Positive CU stories in ITheStreet.comI ILA TimesI

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MADISON, Wis. (9/16/08)--Two more and Los Angeles Times--have joined the ranks of those suggesting that consumers try a credit union. In Friday's, an article, "Credit Unions Take on Big Banks," notes that many banks are hiking fees to make up for billions of dollars in losses. "Credit unions, having escaped the financial crisis, are chipping away at their larger rivals' customer base," says the article. "They offer what most consumers need: good rates, low risks and personal service." The article provides a list to consider when switching to a credit union: membership criteria, not-for-profit status, interest rates, fewer options for services and competitive advantages. In Sunday's issue of the Los Angeles Times, Liz Pulliam Weston's "Money Talk" column addresses a question from a reader about paying off student loans with low-interest credit cards. "Is this a smart move for the private loans? If so, how would I find such an offer? (Perhaps through a credit union?)," asks the reader. Pulliam's discussion about card rates includes: "Check your local credit union, because credit unions often offer good rates."

Others cut and run we stayed

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LAKE JACKSON, Texas (9/16/08)--One credit union is serving all of the credit union members and consumers of financial institutions of Brazoria County, Texas--Texas Dow Employees CU (TDECU), according to a video the credit union created and uploaded to YouTube, after Hurricane Ike hit the area this past weekend. The video shows credit union employees working in a TDECU call center in Hallettsville Saturday to serve members affected by Hurricane Ike. No credit union member at TDECU is going without service, said TDECU CEO Ed Speed. “When others cut and run, we stayed,” Speed added. Among the credit union employees working in Hallettsville are staff from Brazoria County, he added.

Illinois REAL Solutions partners explore growth

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NAPERVILLE, Ill. (9/16/08)--Illinois’ REAL Solutions partner credit unions participated in three information-gathering sessions this summer featuring payday lending alternatives, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and asset-building savings accounts, and student outreach. REAL Solutions, a signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation, expanded to Illinois during 2008. “REAL” stands for “Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing” Solutions. The program is designed to help credit unions offer services that succeed in serving people of modest means, working families, and "low-wealth" households. The meetings were hosted by the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL). During the session on payday lending alternatives, the partners gained insight into the world of payday lending and payday loan borrowers. For example, 68% of the borrowers are under age 45, 4% are over age 65, 82% have a high school diploma or better, 52% have some college or a degree, 42% own their own homes; 100% have steady income and an active checking account, 96% are aware of the finance charge, and 92% believe that payday advance is a useful service. The partners heard presentations during the session on the VITA program from the Internal Revenue Service, who sponsors the program; the Center for Economic Progress, a non-profit agency that helps coordinate VITA sites throughout the state; North Side Community FCU in Chicago, which participates in the program; and Joni Senkpeil, ICUL’s director of Small CU Development and a VITA volunteer. Asset building savings accounts was another topic addressed. “Asset building is an anti-poverty strategy that helps low-income people move toward self-sufficiency, a tool to build wealth through appreciating assets such as higher education, vocational training, small business, and home ownership, and a catalyst that creates economic momentum that can help individuals to escape the cycle of poverty permanently,” explained Megan O'Neil, independent asset building consultant. Asset building is typically accomplished through individual development accounts (IDAs). IDAs are special savings accounts for qualified low-income individuals, which offer matching government or foundation funds that help the total grow quickly. To participate, a person must be EITC eligible or have an annual household income less than twice the poverty level (about $40,000 for a family of four), and a net worth of less than $20,000 excluding the value of a residence and one motor vehicle per household. Three credit unions discussed their experiences with operating student-run branches in local high schools at the student outreach meeting. At South Division CU’s high school branch at Brother Rice in Evergreen Park, the credit union has worked since 2002 to create a “center of influence” for students and their finances. It has counseled students about working with money, and establishing and using credit wisely. Credit cards are offered to students based on their grades. Students are treated as adults in the handling of their finances. The student outreach meeting was rounded out by RIA FCU, Rock Island, Ill., which discussed its Kids Are Rewarded for Saving program. The initiative teaches kids up to age 12 the value of saving, and provides rewards and activities to help them reach their goals. RIA also plans to bring “CU4 Reality” to local schools. The event, held as a financial reality fair, puts students through an exercise where they learn about all of the various expenses they could incur in the real world.

Kansas CUs grew in second quarter

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WICHITA, Kan. (9/16/08)--Kansas credit unions added members and grew in asset size in the second quarter, according to a report by the Kansas Department of Credit Unions. Credit union assets rose nearly 12%, while the number of credit union members increased more than 2%, the report said (The Wichita Eagle Sept. 13). Also, credit union loans rose 7%, and shares increased 11%, the report said. However, delinquencies climbed almost 12% during the quarter. The state’s credit unions are well-capitalized and have been able to handle national and global financial services issues, Marla Marsh, CEO of the Kansas Credit Union Association, told the paper.

Louisiana CUs seem to have weathered Ike OK

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HARAHAN, La. (9/16/08)--Despite widespread flooding, Louisiana credit unions seem to have weathered Hurricane Ike fairly well, based on limited preliminary assessments, according to the Louisiana Credit Union League. “I’ve talked to a couple of credit unions in Lake Charles, and it seems like the situation is OK,” Connie Major, league executive vice president, told News Now Monday afternoon. “Electricity is coming back on and ATMs are working. It appears that Ike did more water damage than wind damage here. We have a field person making calls now to credit unions. “It seems like Louisiana weathered the hurricane pretty well and did not sustain as much damage as Houston or Galveston, Texas. The area where the hurricane hit in Louisiana is not highly populated and there are not a lot of credit unions there,” she added. Hurricane Ike flooded more than 200 miles of road and 13,000 buildings in the southern part of Terrebonne Parish, impacting about one fifth of the area residents, according to officials there. Also parts of Cameron, Lafourche and Vermillion counties were heavily flooded when levees were topped or breached (USA Today Sept. 15). On Saturday, the Bush administration declared 14 Louisiana parishes to be major disasters, allowing aid from federal funds and resources, according to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The parishes are: Acadia, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Lafourche, Plaquemines, Sabine, St. Mary, Terrebonne, Vermilion and Vernon. NCUA’s Region IV Texas and Louisiana staff are accounted for and safe, although some are without power and others cannot return to their homes, NCUA said in a press release.

Georgia CUs donate 34000 to Iowa flood relief

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DES MOINES, Iowa (9/16/08)--Georgia’s credit unions have raised $34,300 for disaster grants for Iowa credit union members impacted by this spring’s floods and tornadoes. After the Georgia Credit Union Foundation issued an appeal, 38 credit unions from across the state made contributions. All funds donated go directly to Iowa credit union members who were displaced from their home for a significant period of time and be disbursed through the Iowa Credit Union Foundation’s Disaster Relief grant program. The foundation has received more than $550,000 for disaster relief, to date. It has issued more than 1,100 grants to Iowa credit union members. Each grant is $500 to help members with short-term cash needs. “These have been trying times for Iowans and it is our hope these funds will provide the needed assistance being offered by Iowa’s credit union community,” said Dan Denning, foundation executive director. “We extend our sincere thoughts and prayers for a speedy rebuilding and recovery process.” “The outpouring of support from credit unions in Georgia and across the country has been overwhelming,” said Marybeth Foster, executive director of the Iowa Foundation. “We could not help as many Iowa credit union members without the financial support we’ve received from the credit union community,” she added.

CUNA Report CU training budgets on the rise

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MADISON, Wis. (9/16/08)--More credit unions have a training budget and the amount of that budget has increased significantly, according to the results of a recently released Credit Union National Association (CUNA) survey.
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According to the 2008-2009 Staffing and Space Survey, published by CUNA’s center for research and advice, more than 70% of credit unions with $10 million or more in assets have a 2008 training budget, up from 64% in 1999. Among these credit unions, the average 2008 training budget was $46,561--a substantial increase over the average $26,348 budget reported in the 1999 study. “With the prevalence of talent shortages, a credit union’s success could likely depend on how well employees are groomed for management and key positions, making training more important than ever,” said Beth Soltis, senior research analyst for CUNA. "However, some organizations overlook non-management or lower-level positions, and doing so could undermine retention and recruitment efforts," she added. "Credit unions should remember to ensure that training and development opportunities are available to all employees to not only improve efficiency and sharpen skills, but also to uncover leadership traits and discover hidden potential." Many credit unions are ahead of the curve when it comes to staff education, the survey indicated. Training dollars were distributed evenly in 2008, with 35% allocated to management and 36% to non-management employees. The remaining 29% went to train volunteers, the survey said. The Staffing and Space Survey examines key staffing levels for business lending, consumer lending, collections, tellers and service areas. It also analyzes office space issues; training, recruiting, and human resources expenses; telecommuting; and outsourcing. Data was broken down by asset size, region, number of members, number of branch offices, number of full-time equivalents, number of full-time employees, number of part-time employees, and number of services offered. For more information, use the links.

Polish CU System thrives WOCCU told

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SOPOT, Poland (9/16/08)--Credit unions in Poland evolved like financial cooperatives elsewhere in the world, serving members of the country's maritime, mining and other major industries. As those industries changed, the Polish movement broadened its focus and now enjoys even more success.
NACSCU President Grzegorz Bierecki provides an overview of the Polish credit union system to a delegation from the World Council of Credit Unions. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
"Our market has changed as the big dinosaurs of Soviet industry have been downsized," Grzegorz Bierecki, president of the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU), told members of a World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) engagement program They are visiting the country this week to advocate on the credit unions' behalf before Polish Parliament. Credit unions are now pursuing a wider common bond, which is driving rapid growth. The growth outlined by Bierecki, who is WOCCU's board treasurer, helped the Polish credit union system, called SKOK, grow faster and provide more services than any other movement in recent history. Currently, NACSCU has 62 affiliated credit unions serving 1.8 million members through 1,708 points of service. Consolidated assets in the NACSCU system total US$4.1 billion and continue to grow. Bierecki introduced himself to credit unions in the wake of the Solidarity movement, which helped liberate Poland from the Soviet Union's rule. In helping research financial systems for the newly democratic country, Bierecki found a perfect match in credit unions' one-member, one-vote ideal. In the early 1990s, he visited the U.S. and participated in Capitol Hill visits with members of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA), the league that eventually partnered with NACSCU through WOCCU's International Partnerships program. "They were real students of democracy, and we were intrigued with their interest," said Mike Mercer, GCUA president and a participant in this week's advocacy efforts. The Georgia delegation took Bierecki to visit Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Rep. Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.) during CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference. The lawmakers were impressed with Bierecki's dedication and encouraged Poland's credit union growth, which to-date has been impressive, Mercer said.
Georgia Credit Union Affiliates President Mike Mercer takes notes during a presentation by NACSCU President Grzegorz Bierecki. GCUA is a partner of the Polish credit union system through the World Council of Credit Unions' International Partnerships program.
"Polish credit union growth rates have been spectacular, so much so that they have been able to assist credit union movements in other countries to the east," Mercer explained. "Polish credit unions are at the front of the cooperative financial movement today. They did it through dedication, conviction and exceptional leadership, because at the time they didn't have much else." The WOCCU delegation will accompany Polish credit unions leaders to Warsaw on Thursday to advocate against amendments to Polish credit union law recently introduced by the banking industry. If enacted, the amendments could severely curtail credit unions' service to members. "I don't think there is much chance that harmful legislation will pass because the Polish credit union movement is too well-connected to the government and the hearts of the Polish people," Mercer said. "However, if the new law does succeed, it would seriously throttle credit unions' abilities to serve the Polish people. It's a serious threat, and one that crops up whenever credit unions succeed." Joining Mercer in advocacy efforts are Joe Bergeron, president of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions; Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the California & Nevada Credit Union Leagues; Barry Jolette, CEO of San Mateo CU, Redwood City, Calif., and WOCCU first vice chairman; Jim McCormack, president of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association; Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and statistics for the Credit Union National Association; and WOCCU staff.

Minnesota network extension receive national award

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (9/16/08)--The Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) and the University of Minnesota Extension (UME) received the Community Partnership Award from the National Education Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) for their collaboration on financial education training for teachers and credit union representatives. The award recognizes NEAFCS members for efforts in building community partnerships to meet the educational needs and concerns of families. Award recipients receive national recognition and monetary compensation to develop additional educational programs to enhance the partnership. “Our partnership is a terrific example of the success that is possible when organizations collaborate on a local level,” said Kristina Wright, MnCUN vice president-communications. “Credit unions are community-oriented financial institutions, and teaching financial education and financial literacy helps to strengthen countless communities across the state of Minnesota.” MnCUN and UME joined forces in 2004 to coordinate financial education “train the trainer” workshops for teachers and credit union professionals. They conducted training in 2004, 2005 and 2007, and are planning 2009 training. Past workshops centered on the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) High School Financial Planning Program and topics such as credit, debt and bankruptcy. The workshops also provide networking opportunities and encourage collaboration. “The networking component is a unique side benefit to our workshops and is not common in other states,” Wright said. “Our ultimate goal is to increase young people’s level of financial education,” said Becky Hagen Jokela, UME Extension educator, family resource management. The partnership can "communicate the importance of financial literacy, and teachers have the option to use others’ knowledge and experiences to make financial topics--which are sometimes obscure, complicated, or seemingly irrelevant to youth--actually interesting and applicable to students,” she said. Hagen Jokela and other UME representatives will attend the NEAFCS Annual Conference in Indianapolis this week and accept the award on behalf of the team.