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Texas league to send staff to disaster area soon

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/18/08)--Several members of the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) team will begin visiting the areas affected by Hurricane Ike soon, said the league. "In the next day or so, we will build a plan on how to support our members and their membership and when we would begin venturing into the area without getting in the way," said Rick Grady, league vice president--marketing, public relations, and communications. Some league staff already live in the hurricane disaster area. League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler sent a message again to Texas credit unions Wednesday asking them to "open their heart" to help their colleagues (Use the link). As of Wednesday morning, more than 1.8 million customers were still without power while 825,000 customers have been restored to power, reported the three power utilities servicing the affected areas. The league also asked credit unions in the area to update their condition status. It uses the information to populate public sites and assist credit unions' members in gaining accurate information on credit union operations and the needs at specific locations. Use the resource links for more information.

CUs generators in disaster area depend on fuel

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FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (9/18/08)--Many credit unions' disaster recovery and business continuity plans involve relying on generators as an alternative power source. Generators run on fuel. And fuel doesn't get pumped without electricity. What happens if, like in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Ike, a huge power grid is down? "Without power other portions of the energy infrastructure are shut down, including reliable phone service and data lines, and Internet routers and hubs, and important services like gas stations, grocery stores, refineries, and all the other things we may take for granted," said Rick Grady, Texas Credit Union League, vice president of marketing, public relations and communications. "Thus, even though our members can operate their credit unions on generators, the generators need diesel fuel to operate," Grady said in an update on the status of credit unions Wednesday. "That fuel comes from jobbers who stop by the facility to fill the tank, or by individuals going to a gas station and filling a tank. Many of those jobbers and stations cannot pump fuel because their pumps operate on electricity," he said. "The same is true for running water, transportation systems, and elevators in high-rise buildings. So, we have a ways to go before the infrastructure stabilizes," Grady said. Near the Texas/Louisiana border, Hurricane Ike knocked down more than 100 transmission towers, damaged 272 substations and flooded the Sabine Power Station in Bridge City, driving snakes and animals into the plant, officials at Entergy Texas said (The New York Times Sept. 17). Around Houston, most high-voltage lines were intact. The main damage was to distribution lines in neighborhoods, said CenterPoint, another power company. On Tuesday, about 24 high voltage transmission lines --five of them running into Galveston, were still out of service. Caite Blount, vice president of student lending for Texas Dow Employees CU (TDECU) based in Lake Jackson, told News Now Wednesday afternoon that many credit unions and their branches are open but operating without air conditioning. "They're running generators," she said. "Gas is starting to come back into some parts of the area," she said. "We're starting to see more food and gas."

CU recoveryrepairreplace loans to help Ike victims

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LAKE JACKSON, Texas (9/18/08)--As the damage left behind by Hurricane Ike is felt more with each passing day, credit unions are putting into action services to help their members recover, repair and replace aspects of their lives. Texas Dow Employees CU (TDECU), based in Lake Jackson, Texas, has offered several innovative services to help members who suffered losses and whose budgets were turned upside down by the hurricane. They include:
* A universal Skip-A-Pay program, allowing members to skip a month or two on all loan payments to TDECU. Within the first day of the Skip-A-Pay program being announced on the TDECU website, more than 2,000 members took up the offer to defer their loans--mortgage, car or unsecured. * A special "Recover, Repair, Replace and then Relax Loan" to cover the costs of evacuation, displacement, or recovery for the repair, replacement and rebuilding of their homes and lives. Under its terms, members will not have payments for the first 90 days. Afterwards, repayment terms will be extended for up to 36 months. Members can apply for this loan, which will be offered for a limited time, by visiting their branch or calling TDECU.
“After Hurricane Carla in 1961, TDECU helped families get back on their feet. Losses were huge, but we all got through it together and we’re going to get you through this one, too,” Edward C. Speed, president/CEO of TDECU, told members. “We want our members to feel like they have a trusted partner in the community to count on during this tough time. We were the last banking institution to close and the first one to reopen in Southern Brazoria County and in some of our other markets,” he said. Quickly following the storm’s aftermath, TDECU reopened all its public access branches throughout Southeast Texas. All are operating under normal business hours. The openings were made possible through the dedication of TDECU employees to serving their members, said the credit union. No matter where TDECU members evacuated to, they still have had access to 24-hour phone banking services and their funds via the TDECU website at or by calling its Emergency Hurricane Number at 800- 839-1154. TDECU’s commitment to serving its members has also extended to keeping them informed via a blog on its website that continuously provides updates not only on its own operations but also that of surrounding schools and businesses. The blog found at has become a community lifeline with its posting of school and road closures, member stories, photos and videos. Given the strong positive response by the community to the blog, TDECU has committed to keeping it updated throughout the recovery process. TDECU is also posting videos on YouTube to keep the community and members further informed as part of this public information service.

Staff on the job despite devastation at home

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HOUSTON, Texas (9/18/08)--The dedication of credit union employees to their mission of service to members is no more apparent than in Texas during the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. "Their homes have been wiped out, material possessions lost, futures uncertain, and yet they still muster the strength and courage to report to work every day," said Texas Credit Union League President/CEO Dick Ensweiler, in an appeal to credit unions to assist their colleagues (see resource link). The home of Scarlett Garsea of Neches FCU, Port Neches, was spared. She was lucky, she told the league. A loss of power is nothing compared with the hardships several of her frontline staff are experiencing, she said. Three Neches FCU employees live in Bridge City, which was hit hard by Ike. One is a newlywed starting to build a new life. She and her husband lost everything. At Beaumont-based Mobiloil FCU, several employees are in the same predicament, said Ensweiler. CEO Kim Heinze is living in an apartment with no power because her home was flooded by five feet of water. However, Heinze is more concerned about her employees. A number live in Bridge City and their homes are uninhabitable. They've been allowed to enter Bridge City to assess property damages but aren't allowed to stay. Instead, they have taken refuge with family and friends. Of the 100 or so people Mobiloil FCU employes, about one-third of the staff have reported back to work. "If that doesn't illustrate the character of folks we have serving in our movement, I don't know what does," Ensweiler said. Quickly following the storm’s aftermath, Texas Dow Employees CU (TDECU) based in Lake Jackson, reopened all its public access branches throughout Southeast Texas. At TDECU's Angleton branch, three employees located in the Angleton High School branch arrived early after the storm's passage. They cleaned the building and put it into order, then returned home to change clothes. Then they returned to open the branch and welcome members who needed assistance. "This was one of many stories of employees going to extraordinary lengths to get back to their branches to serve members," according to the credit union in a press release. Caite Blount, vice president of student lending with TDECU, is coordinating external communications for the credit union in the aftermath of the storm. Many employees are assessing damages to their own homes. "They range from minor problems, roof repairs, to trees falling on their houses. A couple employees have widespread damage to their homes," Blount told News Now. "Most have no electricity, and yet they arrive here, ready to work. They're just fantastic." There wasn't much chance to settle in. "The moment the credit union opened, the members were there."

Need disaster info Check out these links

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MADISON, Wis. (9/18/08)--To help readers access information relating to disaster recovery with Hurricane Ike, News Now has compiled a list of links for credit unions. For disaster preparedness:
* Disaster Preparedness. Includes pandemic information and a link to the National Credit Union Foundation Disaster Relief Fund. * Texas Credit Union League Disaster Preparation. The Texas Credit Union League is providing its credit unions with information regarding the hurricane. * CU Locate. Credit union members can use this link to find their credit union.
For CUNA Strategic Service providers:
* Strohl Systems/CUNA Strategic Service. Strohl provides credit unions with software tools to assist with disaster preparedness and recovery. * VoiceGard/CUNA Strategic Service. VoiceGard provides telephone continuity and recovery solutions and emergency response service. * Agility Recovery Solutons/CUNA Strategic Service. Agility provides business recovery and continuity solutions for credit unions.
Credit unions looking for assistance:
* CUAid. Individuals can make donations through this website to benefit credit union employees and members affected by the hurricanes. CUAid is a program with the National Credit Union Foundation. One hundred percent of the donations go to help credit union members and employees in need. * CUAid Texas. The Texas Credit Union Foundation set up a separate website for Texas credit unions to donate to CUAid. * CUAid Louisiana. The Louisiana Credit Union League set up a separate website for Louisiana credit unions to donate to CUAid. * National Credit Union Foundation. * Texas Credit Union Foundation. * Louisiana Credit Union Foundation. * Texas Credit Union League list of needed and available resources for credit unions.
* National Credit Union Administration. * Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance. Provides information on how to go about applying for a disaster loan, available disaster assistance programs, and disaster recovery plans. * RESCU--Relief Effort and Support for Credit Unions. The credit union movement's effort to prepare for and respond to large-scale natural and man-made emergencies and business interruptions. * Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions. * Texas Credit Union Department.
Other links include:
* Texas Credit Union League Credit Union Conditions. The league is regularly updating its website with the operational conditions of credit unions in hurricane-affected areas. Also includes alternate locations where some credit unions may be operating. * CUNA Mutual Group. * Texas Credit Union League. * Louisiana Credit Union League.

Survey What consumers want from their FI

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BELLEVUE, Wash. (9/18/08)--More than two in five credit union members and bank customers say they would prefer a change in the environment at their financial institution, according to a survey conducted by Coinstar Inc. in partnership with Kelton Research. Of the survey respondents, 43% said they prefer financial institutions to model their environment after retailers such as high-end coffee shops, and apparel stores known for their top-notch service and personal shoppers (Business Wire Sept. 16). While 33% of the survey respondents don’t want their credit union or bank to know them by name, 67% still prefer that personal touch. Also, 66% of respondents said they would prefer to stand in line for a financial institution teller than for an ATM machine. Other survey results include:
* Nearly half (49%) of account holders say they have at some point dreaded visiting their financial institution; * 72% of financial institution customers would rather make a visit to their branch than the post office; * 76% of financial institution account holders accumulate loose change at home; and * Nearly three-quarters (74%) of financial institution account holders would be likely to use a self-service coin-counting machine at their branch if offered.
Coinstar’s solutions include self-service coin-counting machines.

CU launches e-banking kiosk in Harlem

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NEW YORK (9/18/08)--Lower East Side People’s FCU, New York City, launched a new e-Banking kiosk in the Central Harlem branch. With the kiosk, the credit union will offer ATM, bill pay, check-cashing, phone and gift card services. “The launch of the e-Banking kiosk will support the Harlem community in providing additional access to affordable financial services and financial education,” said Linda Levy, Lower East Side People’s FCU CEO. “[The credit union] is proud to contribute to the economic expansion of Central Harlem and looks forward to serving this community.” Members of Lower East Side and Harlem communities have no credit or poor credit, the credit union said. The credit union serves the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The e-Banking kiosk was provided by Tellagent LLC, PSI Corp.’s exclusive distributor to the credit union industry.

Poland CUs company goes public to fund services

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SOPOT, Poland (9/18/08)--Poland’s credit union trade association has taken an unconventional step to finance ATMs and credit card development programs for its members.
Click to view larger image Grzegorz Bierecki, National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU) president and World Council of Credit Unions board treasurer, explains NACSCU's publicly traded credit union entity, TF SKOK, to a WOCCU delegation visiting Poland. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU) in Poland created the Credit Union Financial Society (TF SKOK), and took the fledgling company public in June. TF SKOK's initial public offering, trading under the ticker symbol SKOK, listed five million shares on the Warsaw Stock Exchange at about 42 cents per share. The first offering sold out quickly, raising US$2.1 million for the NACSCU initiative. Despite being available to the general public, all of the initial shares were purchased by credit union members, according to Grzegorz Bierecki, president of NACSCU and treasurer of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) board of directors. “We wanted to open up another method to raise capital to support Poland's credit unions,” Bierecki told a WOCCU delegation of U.S. credit union and league executives visiting Poland this week as part of an education and advocacy engagement program. “The shares were very easy to sell.” Funds raised will help support NACSCU's ATM program, which already has 200 units in place serving credit unions across the Baltic country. The monies also will be used to strengthen the country's fledgling transaction card program, a key step in moving Poland from its current status as a cash-based society and opening avenues for other savings and credit products. The Warsaw Stock Exchange follows the same rigor as the New York Stock Exchange, Bierecki said, requiring stringent accounting transparency and accountability of its listed companies. Polish credit unions, as member-owned financial cooperatives, already operate in a transparent fashion, he said, adding despite additional effort and compliance cost of 5% of the funds raised (about $42,000), going public with TF SKOK wasn't a difficult or expensive proposition. “Through the reports we publish on the stock exchange, it’s easy to communicate what credit unions are about to potential investors and members,” Bierecki said. “And we've opened the door to a new type of unrestricted capital that we can use to help underwrite Poland's credit union movement.” NACSCU considered a second offering of five million additional shares this fall, but decided against it due to economic uncertainties around the world, Bierecki said. U.S. league executives participating in the delegation will travel to Warsaw today to advocate against harmful banker-proposed amendments to Poland's credit union law. They admired the steps taken but were skeptical about the success of similar applications in the U.S. “The move took me by surprise, and I'm not sure what to make of it,” said Joe Bergeron, president of the Association of Vermont Credit Unions. “It’s definitely a non-credit union approach, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad. It's certainly an innovative approach.” Bill Cheney, president/CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, agreed: “You have to admire their creativity; however, the pressures in the U.S. of being a publicly held company are tremendous, and I'm not sure the tradeoff would be worth the effort or expense. “However some would say that applying market disciplines to the credit union movement would do it a lot of good,” Cheney added. Joining Bergeron and Cheney on the Poland engagement program led by WOCCU Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Branch, are: Barry Jolette, CEO, San Mateo CU, Redwood City, Calif., and WOCCU first vice chairman; Jim McCormack, president of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association; Mike Mercer, president of Georgia Credit Union Affiliates; Mike Schenk, vice president of economic and statistics for the Credit Union National Association; and WOCCU staff.

CU System briefs (09/17/2008)

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* MANCHESTER, N.H. (9/18/08)--The New Hampshire Credit Union League hosted its inaugural New Hampshire Credit Union/Make-A-Wish Night at
Click to view larger image Click for larger view
the New Hampshire Fisher Cats vs. Connecticut Defenders baseball game recently. More than 4,500 spectators, including 400 credit union employees, friends and families attended. The event raised more than $1,600 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire. The league's 2009 fundraising goal is $150,000. It has raised more than $1 million for Make-A-Wish in the past 10 years. Pictured are from left: Front row, Wish Children Gabe and Sam. Back row: League Chairman John R. Young; Wish Children Corey and Stephanie; Jason Tremblay, Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire; and Peter Kavalauskas, president/CEO of Northeast CU and director with the foundation and league. (Photo provided by the New Hampshire Credit Union League) … * URBANA, Ohio (9/18/08)--Grimes CU and Wright-Patt CU have announced they will merge, effective Nov. 1, to better serve current Grimes CU members and the residents of Urbana, Ohio, and Champaign County. Grimes CU's board had approved the proposal and members voted in favor of the merger earlier this month. Grimes' board said the credit union needed to expand its services and product offerings to meet members' growing needs such as expanded hours and additional ATMs. "Wright-Patt also understands that homeownership is one of the primary ways our members can create long-term wealth, and this merger gives us the ability to offer members home loans such as mortgages and home equity loans," said Grimes board President Mary Kay Snyder. Wright-Patt will maintain an office in Urbana, initially at Grimes' current location, but plans to move to a more convenient, member-focused location with an ATM in front of Wal-Mart … * APPLETON, Wis. (9/18/08)--Community First CU based in Appleton has acquired Appleton-based Miller Electric CU (The Post-Crescent Sept. 17). Community First has more than $1 billion in assets. Miller Electric was $22.4 million in assets with 2,954 members, half of whom were employees of Miller Electric Mfg. and their families. The merger will provide access to more services and locations for Miller's members. All 11 of Miller Electric CU's employees were retained, and its single branch is now a Community First location … * PARCHMENT, Mich. (9/18/08)--First Community FCU, based in Parchment, Mich., was a winner of the 2008 American Graphic Design Award for its design announcing the "Tree House Club"--one of three new youth club accounts introducing members 12 and under to the value of saving money and learning responsible money management--and a new mascot, "CASH" the squirrel. First Community graphic designer Cindy Goodison was responsible for the creative direction of the project. The illustration of the mascot "CASH" was outsourced to Ken Davis, a local designer and illustrator. Of the 10,000 entries received, 15% were selected as award recipients … * VALLEY, Ala. (9/18/08)--Counterfeit checks from the Chattahoochee FCU, based in Valley, Ala., have been distributed by United Parcel ServiceS to North Carolina and California. There may more distributed in other areas, according to the Alabama Credit Union League. The checks do not have watermarks. So far, all have written for $3,800 with a check date of Sept. 10. They start with a 774506 check number. The name signed is RE Yarbrough. The account they are written on is closed. The league asked anyone receiving such checks to contact the credit union …