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Innovative 'Don't Tax' Efforts To Build Support In Congress

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MADISON, Wis. (9/3/13)--
Click to view larger image Dannemora FCU, Plattsburgh, N.Y., put a face to some of the 96 million members who would be negatively impacted if Congress decides to take away credit unions' tax status.  The credit union's "I am 1 of 96 Million" Don't Tax My Credit Union Photo Campaign aims to capture some of the individual members, whose photos are posted on its Facebook page.  For the full effect, check out the Facebook page here.
(Photos provided by Dannemora FCU)
Credit unions were working hard in their districts to convince lawmakers to support the credit unions' tax status as part of the national "Don't Tax My Credit Union" campaign. Efforts were paying off, with more congressional delegates committing to preserving the corporate income tax-exempt status of credit unions.
 
Among the latest was U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who stated his support for credit unions' tax status in a reply letter to a constituent dated Wednesday.  He specifically highlighted the structure and benefits of credit unions in the First District, which he represents.
 
"The First Congressional District...is one of the most rural and poorest congressional districts in the nation," wrote Butterfield. "As your representative, I support credit unions receiving tax exempt status in order to continue the delivery of financial services to those you may find in the First District, and to people that large banking institutions may find financially undesirable." He added he "will do what I can to ensure credit unions continue to receive tax exempt status."
 
Click to view larger image U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) is flanked by credit union advocates from Spokane, Wash., who presented her with thick binders of information from voters who support credit unions. "We brought you a present today, from more than 13,000 of your constituents," said Tom Johnson, president/CEO of Spokane Teachers CU. The binders contained 762 letters and petitions signed by 13,575 Eastern Washington residents who want Congress to know that they love their tax-exempt status credit unions just the way they are, said the Northwest Credit Union Association  (Anthem Recap Aug. 30). (Photo provided by the Northwest Credit Union Association)
Some of the efforts used by credit unions to get their point across have been creative. Dannemora FCU, based in Plattsburgh, N.Y., posted photos of individuals posing by a sign that says "I am 1 of 96 Million" members. Each photo also includes the member's name, alongside a "Don't Tax My Credit Union" poster. The growing number of photos posted (57 as of Friday) presents a compelling visual of faces of people benefiting from credit unions' tax status.
 
Credit unions also are conducting in-district office meetings with lawmakers to push the need to preserve credit unions' tax status. In Pennsylvania, Danville-based M-C FCU CEO Jim Barbarich and Retail Operations and Member Business Director Brian Wiktor and Pennsylvania Credit Union Association Vice President of Governmental Affairs Christina Mihalik met with U.S. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) in his district office (Life is a Highway Aug. 28).

The meeting focused on the implications of credit union taxation and the obstacles credit unions face with the current regulatory environment. PCUA said Marino was sympathetic to the challenges small financial institutions like credit unions face through growing regulatory complexities and government overreach.
 
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U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), right, met with Williamsport, Pa.-based Horizon FCU CEO Traci Donahue and Board member Paul Nyman after a roundtable meeting of business members of the Clinton County Economic Partnership with Thompson and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) (Life is a Highway Aug. 28). Also attending: Lock Haven Branch Manager LeAnna Harter and Marketing/Communications Coordinator Judy Harris. Nyman took the liberty of "pinning" Thompson with a "Don't Tax My Credit Union" button. (Photo provided by Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
Others are taking to the media to get the "Don't Tax My Credit Union" point across.  In the Charlotte Business Journal (Aug. 28) John Radebaugh, president/CEO of the North Carolina Credit Union League, which will merge with the South Carolina Credit Union League on Jan. 1, used the interview about the merger to discuss the top policy issue for credit unions: tax reform.
 
"Credit unions are exempt from federal corporate income tax, and they pass those savings on," Radebaugh told the publication. "So we're being very proactive about educating our congressional legislators on the benefits of that exemption.  It's good policy to have a nonprofit financial system in the U.S. That's really our huge focus.
 
"Regulatory burden continues to take its toll--complying with a never-ending stream of regulation. We're making sure we have regulations that make sense. But our main focus has been the tax exemption," he added.
 
Click to view larger image Even when the topic of tax reform isn't on the agenda, credit unions take advantage of meetings with congressional delegates during the recess. For example, Credit Union Association of the Dakotas Vice President of Advocacy Jeff Olson was invited to participate in an invitation-only roundtable with U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), shown speaking, Aug. 21 (CUAD Memo Aug. 22). The Dakotafest centered on the Farm Bill and crop insurance, but Olson said he got the opportunity to visit briefly with the congresswoman about tax reform and the House Ways and Means Committee's work on tax reform. (Photo provided by the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas)
Meanwhile, key legislators overseeing Congress' tax code reform legislation will stop in Memphis, Tenn., Sept. 9, as part of their national tax reform tour. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) will conduct a kitchen table conversation at the Sullivan Family Farm, where they will hear about the family's experiences navigating the tax code and managing the farm's finances.

Then they will tour the FedEx Express World Hub and hold a roundtable discussion with the company and customers from the small-business community, discussing how the tax code affects the way businesses operate and how tax reform could help businesses grow, create jobs and increase wages.
 
For more on the Credit Union National Association's and state leagues' campaign, go to www.donttaxmycu or use the links.

CU System Briefs(2)

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  • BIRMINGHAM, Ala., and TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (9/3/13)--LEVERAGE, a subsidiary of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, announced the hiring of Jay Brady as its new vice president of transactional services and Jordan Sullivan as a business analyst. Sullivan most recently was CEO of Secure First CU in Birmingham, Ala. He previously served as vice president of operations for Alabama Central CU, also in Birmingham, and as program development manager for Integrated QSG. Brady most recently served as executive consultant with FIS in St. Petersburg, Fla. He assisted financial institutions with their card portfolios from evaluation and assessment to growth objectives and plan implementation ...
  • FLORENCE, Ala. (9/3/13)--A federal judge Thursday sentenced a former employee of Valley CU to two years of probation for her role in the theft of more than $61,000. Stacey Marie Mathes of Muscle Shoals, Ala., allegedly conspired with two other individuals to change the credit union's records (TimesDaily.com Aug. 29). Mathes, Beth Ann Ledbetter and Tonya M. Payne were indicted April 1. Ledbetter and Mathes are sisters. Mathes faced a possible sentence of six to 12 months in federal prison and a possible fine, according to her attorney. Mathes and Payne pleaded guilty to bank larceny in May. Ledbetter pleaded guilty to the same charge in June. Senior U.S. District Judge of the Northern District of Alabama Inge Johnson did not require Mathes to pay a fine because she had made full restitution in the case. Mathes will be required to serve six months of home detention but will not have to wear an ankle monitor ...

Filene: Big.bright.minds 2013 To Be Crashed

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MADISON, Wis. (9/3/13)--Filene Research Institute is gathering the biggest and brightest minds from the credit union system Oct. 1 in Princeton, N.J., for big.bright.minds2013. The event is invitation-only and usually exclusive to the Filene board, research council, fellows, current i3 members and benefactors. But this year, big.bright.minds is getting Crashed.  
 
"With support from Filene, we're offering our Crashers the chance to be on the inside at this event," said James Marshall, leader at The Cooperative Trust. "For four days, our members will rub shoulders with some of the most illustrious people in our industry. Along with them, we'll also attend a master class on behavioral economics with ideas42 and a workshop on optimizing channels for member experience with Harvard Business School's Dennis Campbell."
 
The Cooperative Trust stems from more than 10 years of Filene research examining the young-adult issues that credit unions and cooperatives face. In 2010, Filene organized a group of 25 young credit union professionals called The Crash Network to crash the Credit Union National  Association's Governmental Affairs Conference. With a three-year funding commitment from CUNA Mutual Group, The Crash Network became The Cooperative Trust in 2012.  
 
As Crash the GAC, the trust's flagship event, enters its fifth year, Crashers attend conferences and meet-ups all over the credit union and cooperative systems. It networks young people working in credit unions and cooperatives with on-going support from CUNA's Center for Professional Development and PSCU Financial Services. The trust provides hundreds of young adults with opportunities to attend events, for mentorship and to network with like-minded individuals nationwide. 
 
This year's big.bright.minds Crashers include:
  • Amanda McMeans, vice president of client management, MarketMatch, Columbus, Ohio;
  • Blake Woods, public relations and new media manager, Lake Trust CU, Lansing, Mich.;
  • Danielle Frawley, vice president of marketing and communications, Fort Community CU, Fort Atkinson, Wis.;
  • Francesca McFadden, marketing specialist, Gates Chili FCU, Rochester, N.Y.;
  • Heather Ristow, operations director, Heritage CU, Madison, Wis.;
  • Ken Gardner, marketing and human resources intern, Greater Texas FCU, Austin, Texas;
  • Maia Graham-Derham, manager, Financial Access Program, Assiniboine CU, Winnipeg, Canada;
  • Michael Molaka, vice president of operations, BrightStar CU, Sunrise, Fla.;
  • Nilsa Gebert, branch manager, Focus CU, Wauwatosa, Wis.; and
  • Stephanie Sievers, CEO, Aneca FCU, Shreveport, La.
To learn more about the Crashers, use the link.

Plenty Of CU Stories Ignite Unite For Good Campaign

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MADISON, Wis. (9/3/13)--The credit union world is full of stories, human ones, where credit unions have made life better by sharing their people helping people tradition and making a difference. But many people still aren't aware of the things credit unions that are so different.
 
Click to view larger image Credit Union National Association Vice President of Marketing and Communications Amy Nigrelli gave a tour of the revamped CUNA.org, which launched in March, during new league staff orientation last week in Madison, Wis. The site offers improved navigation and search functionality and allows CUNA to better highlight major events and campaigns, such as the Unite For Good and the Don't Tax My Credit Union campaigns. The Unite for Good site is collecting stories about the good credit unions do.
The Credit Union National Association and the state leagues created the Unite for Good campaign so that credit unions share their stories and show they bring value not only to their members, but to the community at large. The campaign rallies around three prongs--building awareness, fostering service excellence and removing barriers--to help credit unions move to the shared vision of Americans choosing credit unions as their best financial partner.
 
Unite for Good was one of the programs discussed last week in a league staff orientation and training session conducted on the credit union campus in Madison, Wis.  Staff from CUNA and other organizations discussed the various programs, including Unite for Good and the efforts to preserve credit unions' tax status. CUNA's Madison campus staff also attended, receiving one of their many regular updates on credit union issues and programs.
 
Click to view larger image Jeff Carpenter, Credit Union National Association vice president of membership development, highlighted CUNA's Unite For Good campaign, which works toward the shared vision in which Americans choose credit unions as their best financial partner, during league staff orientation at CUNA's Madison, Wis., location last week. (Photos provided by CUNA)
CUNA's Unite for Good website, www.uniteforgood.org, is collecting examples of what social good credit unions are doing. Other sites such as the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas cusocialgood site also are inviting credit unions to share their work, and several leagues are collecting examples and helping promote credit unions' good work in their state.
 
In a nutshell, here are four examples of the most recent ventures credit unions have undertaken to help others. Note that in each instance, the members take away information or skills they can use for the future, and in some cases the credit union works along with the members it is helping.
 
In Indianapolis, FORUM CU launched Bright Start, a youth entrepreneur program that promotes early entrepreneurial skills for kids and teens. The credit union said it believes an entrepreneurial spirit can positively impact a child's life by teaching responsibility, promoting financial independence, improving communication skills and inspiring self esteem. It also provides detailed steps--such as conceptualizing an idea, marketing and running the business--youth can take to create and run their own business.  FORUM's program also sponsored a contest for kids with their own business. Youth ages 8-19 could submit a two-minute video explaining their business and what they've learned from it. Forum awarded $100 to each of three winners.
 
In Wichita, Kan., a team of Meritrust CU employees, including President/CEO James Nastars and two leadership teams headed by Byron Stout, vice president of human resources, and Jamie Taulbee, vice president of marketing, spent Saturday, Aug. 26, priming and painting the finishing touches for one of the new Habitat for Humanity homes being built in the Cottonwood Corner community in north Wichita. The homes are for well-deserving families who themselves have put in sweat equity toward building the homes.
 
A part of a Habitat for Humanity Community Challenge, Meritrust partnered with several businesses to build the home.  Helping our neighbors is a priority for Meritrust," said Nastars.  "These folks have worked hard to fulfill their dream of home ownership, and we're honored to be a part of helping them reach their goal."
 
While youth often receive financial education, one credit union, FivePoint FCU in Nederland, Texas, partnered with five nonprofit organizations in Jefferson, Hardin and Orange counties to teach and provide financial education to adults. The credit union reached 266 adults in 18 financial education sessions and 20 financial counseling sessions, both in person and through webinars. FivePoint FCU was awarded a first-place state level Desjardins Adult Financial Education Award by the Cornerstone Credit Union League for its program (Leaguer Aug. 27).
 
At Northwest FCU in Herndon, Va., 85 children and one oversized dog--Westie, the credit union's Youth Savings Club mascot--enjoyed a day of storytelling at each of its six branches. The summer reading program was a "thank you" to its youngest members for saving their money in the club.
 
Members of the Yorkshire Volunteer Fire Department joined in at Northwest's Manassas branch. Firefighters read stories and shared safety tips and stickers with the children, who had a chance to climb aboard and explore a fire engine. Northwest staff and firefighters also visited the nearby Children of America Education Childcare and Academy to read and discuss safety.
 
At the Leesburg branch, Northwest's youngest business account holder, 14-year-old Grayson Albers, CEO of GG's Frozen Treats, provided refreshments. Children received goodies and a copy of Westie's Triple Decker Decision, a book written by Joelle Hahn, senior marketing specialist.  "It's a tale of mascot Westie's special 'Allowance Friday' and teaches the importance of balancing how you save, spend and share your money," Hahn said. The book also teaches sign language for the key words "save," "spend" and "share."
 
Northwest President/CEO Chris McDonald said it is important that parents help shape their children's attitudes and understanding of money early on. "These lessons learned in childhood go a long way in creating a next generation of financially responsible adults."
 
Credit unions with programs that demonstrate their difference can share their stories at www.uniteforgood.org.

CUNA Monthly Estimates Show July Loan Growth, Savings Decline

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MADISON, Wis. (9/3/13)--Credit union loans outstanding grew in July and credit  union savings balances declined, according to the Credit Union National Association's monthly  sample of credit unions.
 
Loans grew 1% to $634 billion in July, compared with a 0.5% increase during the same period last year. Unsecured personal loans rose 2.1%, followed by new-auto loans (1.8%), used-auto loans (1.6%), fixed-rate mortgages (1.3%), credit card loans (1.2%), and adjustable-rate mortgages (0.9%). Other mortgages and home-equity loans declined 1.1% and 0.1%, respectively.
 
Savings balances dropped 0.6% in July to $925.1 billion, compared with a 0.8% decline in July 2012. Money-market accounts and one-year certificates grew 0.6% and 0.1%, respectively. Share drafts (3%), regular shares (0.9%) and individual retirement accounts (0.9%) all decreased in July.
 
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Regarding asset quality, credit unions' 60-plus-day delinquency rate remained at 1% during the past six months.
 
With loan growth outpacing savings growth in July, the loan-to-savings ratio increased one percentage point--to 68.5% from 67.5% in June. The liquidity ratio--the ratio of surplus funds maturing in less than one year to borrowings plus other liabilities--was 18% in July.
 
Total credit union membership grew 0.4% during July to 98 million.
 
The movement's overall capital-to-asset ratios remained at 10%. The total dollar amount of capital is $111 billion.
 
News Now will include CUNA's economists' analysis of its monthly sample of credit unions later this week. 
 

McCormack To Receive Wegner Lifetime Achievement Award

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MADISON, Wis. (9/3/13)--The National Credit Union Foundation has named Jim McCormack, president/CEO of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association, as one of three winners of the 2014 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.
 
This is the first time in NCUF's history that three awards for Lifetime Achievement will be given. McCormack's award will be one of four total Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special dinner hosted by NCUF at the Grand Hyatt Washington on Feb. 24 during the Credit Union National Association's 2014 Governmental Affairs Conference.
 
"Jim has done outstanding work at PCUA throughout his career," said John Gregoire, chair of NCUF Wegner Awards Selection Committee and president of The ProCon Group in Madison, Wis. "Countless credit union members have been positively affected by his work, which is evidenced by the passion and commitment of his numerous supporters."
 
NCUF last week named Tim Haegelin, retired president/CEO of Generations FCU in San Antonio, Texas, as the first recipient of the 2014 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement.
 
McCormack began his credit union career in 1971. Before joining PCUA in 1981, he held positions with CUNA Mutual Group both in Pittsburgh and at its corporate headquarters in Madison, Wis.
 
McCormack is also CEO of Pacul Services Inc., PCUA's service corporation, and CEO of Pennsylvania Credit Union Service Centers Inc., which administers the credit union shared branching network in Pennsylvania.
 
Under McCormack's leadership, PCUA created the Pennsylvania Credit Union Better Choice Program. The program is a public/private partnership between the state treasurer's office, state credit union regulator and 72 Pennsylvania credit unions with 215 branches statewide. It offers an alternative to payday lending, with the goal of helping consumers transition from a predatory lending environment to a wealth-building environment through credit union membership. Since inception, credit unions have made 65,000 Better Choice loans valued at $32 million, saving consumers $23 million over traditional payday lenders.
 
McCormack orchestrated a joint exercise between the PCUA Board and a steering committee of credit union professionals to develop the only mandatory statewide public awareness/advocacy initiative in the country, the iBelong campaign. The campaign promotes Pennsylvania credit unions in media such as TV, cable, radio, newspaper and magazines. Four other states have adopted iBelong over the past five years, with several others considering it as well.
 
More than twenty-five years ago, McCormack founded state credit card processing, which now serves more than 200 credit unions. PCUA administers one of the largest correspondent card programs in the country and offers debit and other payment products and services.
 
Since the 1980s, McCormack has launched many ATM initiatives for credit unions, including the creation of CU$, a selective surcharging compact among Pennsylvania credit unions, that provides consumers enjoy surcharge-free access to credit union ATMs throughout Pennsylvania.
 
McCormack has also demonstrated leadership in credit union advocacy. He cultivated a strong relationship with U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, former senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and the main driver of H.R. 1151, the National Credit Union Membership Access Act. McCormack also led lobbying efforts to modernize the Pennsylvania State Credit Union Code, maintaining equal powers between state and federally-chartered credit unions, and overcame significant banker opposition.
 
He spearheaded the relationship with the Credit Union National Association and attorneys in litigation at both the federal and state levels defending the substantive and procedural rights of credit unions regarding community chartering. He organized the successful strategy for defense of credit union tax status in Pennsylvania court system.
 
McCormack has served for many years on national boards and committees, including CUNA, CUNA, CUNA Service Group/CUNA Strategic Services, NCUF and the Credit Union Service Centers. He was a charter member and table officer of the Credit Union House Board. McCormack currently serves on the CUSC Board, League Info Sight Board, and is a Credit Union Business Services Trustee.