News Now Archive

Filed on October 6, 2011, published the first business day after.

NEW: Cordray CFPB nomination approved by Senate Banking Committee

WASHINGTON (UPDATED: 10:40 a.m. ET, 10/6/11)--The Senate Banking Committee this morning approved the nomination of Richard Cordray to be Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director.

Cordray's nomination was approved by a 12-10 vote, and will now move on for a vote in the full Senate. Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan said Cordray's nomination "still faces several obstacles," adding that "over 40 senators have said they will not vote to confirm any CFPB nominee unless changes to the CFPB are enacted." Those changes include increasing CFPB leadership to a five-member commission and reforming some operational rules.

Speaking before the committee following the nomination hearing, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner encouraged members of the committee that did not support Cordray's nomination to meet with the CFPB nominee. Geithner said Cordray is "exceptionally qualified" for the job, and reminded the senators that a "vast array" of financial institutions will remain outside the scope of consumer protection regulations if the Senate fails to nominate a CFPB director.

CUNA has encouraged Cordray to "consider ways in which the bureau can help minimize regulatory requirements for credit unions and other financial institutions" and has also encouraged the CFPB to establish an Office of Regulatory Burden Monitoring to help the agency "track, consider, and help mitigate the cumulative regulatory burden under which credit unions and others must operate."

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Matz: NCUA will review TDR standards

WASHINGTON (10/7/11)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) strongly supports a plan announced by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to review its Troubled Debt Restructuring (TDR) policy, and has been raising TDR-related issues in meetings with agency staff, CUNA Deputy General Counsel Mary Dunn noted Thursday.

State leagues have also weighed with the agency on these issues.

Early Thursday, NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said the agency would review its TDR policy in the near future. A timeline for the board review has not been set, but the agency told News Now that NCUA staff members are reviewing the TDR policy to make recommendations for change.

TDR loans, which have very specific accounting and reporting requirements, occur when a credit union or other lender grants a concession to the borrower and modifies the terms of the loan based on the borrower's financial situation. The financial statement notes and call report data associated with TDRs are also unique.

Matz said the agency "supports credit union efforts to find creative solutions for members who need loan modifications to stay in their homes," and added that the NCUA "is seeking solutions that would better assist credit unions which are working diligently to provide members with alternatives to foreclosure."

However, CUNA and others have followed up on credit union complaints that NCUA examiners have sometimes discouraged TDRs. Credit unions are also burdened by regulatory requirements that force credit unions to segregate TDRs and report TDR payments as delinquent until the member has made timely and consecutive payments for six months after the modification. This generally requires credit unions to manually track such payments, Dunn said.

NCUA board member Gigi Hyland in July said an Interpretive Ruling and Policy Statement (IRPS) on TDRs, if released, would recommend that credit unions adopt charge-off, loan grading and modification frequency standards that are similar to those currently used by banks.

Credit unions would be advised to create and implement their own limits on the number and frequency of loan extensions, loan deferrals, loan renewals and loan rewrites, and would need to develop effective risk management, reporting and internal controls related to these types of loans, Hyland said.

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York to testify for CUNA on MBLs Oct. 12

WASHINGTON (10/7/11)--Jeff York, president/CEO of Coasthills FCU, Lompoc, Calif., will testify Oct. 12 on the benefits a higher cap on credit union member business lending (MBL) would have on the nation's economy and its small businesses. York, a Credit Union National Association (CUNA) board member, will testify on behalf of the CUNA.

National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Chairman Debbie Matz is also among the scheduled witnesses.

The hearing, announced last week by the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit, will study pending legislation that would increase the MBL cap to 27.5% of a credit union's assets, up from the current 12.25%.

Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 1418, the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act, earlier this year in the House. The bill has 80 co-signers. On the Senate side, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has introduced S. 509, the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act, which has 20 co-sponsors.

CUNA emphasizes that lifting the MBL cap would have a number of beneficial effects on the ailing economy, including infusing $13 billion in new credit for small businesses and adding 140,000 new jobs within the first year of enactment—all at no cost to the American taxpayer.

Also scheduled to testify, according to a subcommittee announcement, are:

The hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET).

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Cordray CFPB nomination approved by Senate Banking Committee, future bumpy

WASHINGTON (10/7/11)--The nomination of Richard Cordray to be Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director will now move on to the full Senate after the nominee was approved by the Senate Banking Committee Thursday.

The committee by a Thursday voice vote also approved Alan Krueger to join the Council of Economic Advisers, David Montoya to serve as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General, Cyrus Amir-Mokri to serve as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and Patricia Loui and Larry Walther to join the Export-Import Bank Board of Directors.

Cordray's nomination was approved by a party-line 12-10 vote. Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) said the vote was "an important step forward for American consumers," and called on his Senate colleagues to confirm Cordray as soon as possible.

Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan said Cordray's nomination "still faces several obstacles," adding that "over 40 senators have said they will not vote to confirm any CFPB nominee unless changes to the CFPB are enacted." Those changes include increasing CFPB leadership to a five-member commission and reforming some operational rules.

Speaking before the committee following the nomination hearing, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner encouraged members of the committee that did not support Cordray's nomination to meet with the CFPB nominee. Geithner said Cordray is "exceptionally qualified" for the job, and reminded the senators that a "vast array" of financial institutions will remain outside the scope of consumer protection regulations if the Senate fails to nominate a CFPB director.

CUNA has encouraged Cordray to "consider ways in which the bureau can help minimize regulatory requirements for credit unions and other financial institutions" and has also encouraged the CFPB to establish an Office of Regulatory Burden Monitoring to help the agency "track, consider, and help mitigate the cumulative regulatory burden under which credit unions and others must operate."

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Compliance: Employee rights notice deadline is postponed

WASHINGTON (10/7/11)--Private-sector employers got a reprieve Thursday from an approaching regulatory deadline that would require them to publicly post notices of employee rights, as detailed under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), in their offices beginning on Nov. 14. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) pushed the implementation date for its rule back to Jan. 31, 2012.

The NLRB said it delayed the deadline following queries from businesses and trade organizations indicating uncertainty about what businesses fall under the board's jurisdiction. The board finalized the rule to a back drop of significant opposition from the business community, saying that "many employees protected by the NLRA are unaware of their rights under the statute" and adding that the rule "will increase knowledge of the NLRA among employees, in order to better enable the exercise of rights under the statute."

The new notice is similar to one required by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for federal contractors. The NLRA notice must be posted "in conspicuous places" where they are readily seen by employees, including all places where notices to employees concerning personnel rules or policies are customarily posted. A similar notice must be posted online if personnel rules and policies are customarily posted there. Translated versions of the poster are required in workplaces where 20% or more of employees speak a language other than English.

Credit Union National Association (CUNA) compliance staff noted that since credit unions that are not specifically excluded from the NLRA's definition of "employer," they will be subject to the rule.

CUNA has noted that credit unions that already comply with DOL posting requirements will be in compliance with the new NLRB rule. For more on the NLRB rule, use the resource link below to see recent postings on CUNA's CompBlog.

NLRB Release http://www.nlrb.gov/news/posting-employee-rights-notice-now-required-jan-31-board-postpones-deadline-allow-further-educa

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Geithner testifies on oversight committee issues

WASHINGTON (10/7/11)--U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appeared before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday to review recommendations that were included in the Financial Stability and Oversight Council's (FSOC's) first annual report, which was released in July.

The report included a comprehensive view of financial market developments and potential threats to the U.S. financial system and Geithner is the current chair of FSOC. The council is comprised of 10 voting members--nine federal financial regulators, including the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and one independent member--and five nonvoting members.

Geithner used the opportunity of the hearing to express his support for The American Jobs Act, stating that, "according to estimates by outside economists, [the act] would raise economic growth by one to two percentage points and help create one to two million new jobs." The Obama administration noted on its twitter feed, WHLIVE, Thursday that the U.S. Senate will begin consideration of the jobs bill Tuesday; it is expected that the early votes will be mainly on procedural matters.

Secretary Geithner summarized the recommendations of FSOC's report, which include:

The report emphasizes the importance of broader reforms to help return private capital to the housing market, strengthen mortgage underwriting, and reduce over time the role of the government in the housing markets.

While saying he was optimistic about the future, Geithner acknowledged that much work remains to sufficiently strengthen the financial system, stating that the U.S. must continue to implement financial reform and move forward with the other recommendations in the report.

"We will do this with a balanced approach, weighing the benefits of regulation against the costs of excessive restraint." This is an approach that the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) strongly supports, and one that CUNA urges the NCUA to follow to avoid unnecessary regulatory burdens for credit unions.

Geithner, in his prepared remarks to the committee, also said that in order to continue to repair our financial system, the country must have qualified people in place to run the financial agencies, which, he added, requires that Congress provide sufficient funding for enforcement agencies to do their jobs in a complicated and challenging financial environment.

Geithner testified later in the day before the House Financial Services Committee.

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30-, 15-year mortgages remain at record lows

WASHINGTON (10/7/11)--Average rates on 30- and 15-year fixed rate mortgages fell to all-time lows for the second straight week, totaling 3.94% and 3.26%, respectively, Freddie Mac reported.

Thirty-year mortgages averaged 4.01% last week and 4.27% this time last year. Fifteen-year mortgages averaged 3.28% last week and 3.72% this time last year.

Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said these record low mortgage rates are due to a "sharp drop in 10-year Treasuries early in the week as concerns over a global recession grew."

Five-year Treasury indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) also fell during the week, averaging 2.96%. Last week's total as 3.02%. However, one-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 2.95% this week, up from the 2.83% total reported last week.

Nothaft said the one-year ARM increase was tied to the Federal Reserve's move to replace $400 billion in short-term Treasury securities. These securities serve as benchmarks for many ARMs, Nothaft said.

For the full release, use the resource link.

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Inside Washington

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No News Now on Monday--federal holiday

WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (10/7/11)--Although Monday is a federal holiday, with many credit unions, leagues and government offices closed, the Credit Union National Association's Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis., offices will remain open for business.

News Now will not publish an issue Monday, but will resume its regular publication schedule on Tuesday.

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CUs reach out with no-debit-fee promos

MADISON, Wis. (10/7/11)--Banks' new debit card fees have become the last straw for many outraged consumers. Credit unions are jumping at the opportunity to let consumers know they can get a better deal at credit unions through a variety of no-fee promotions and anti-fee advertisements.

For example, Raleigh, N.C.-based Coastal FCU took advantage of "active social media monitoring, brilliant staff execution, $35, a bale of hay, and a healthy dose of public anger" to buy a public relations coup in the wake of the Bank of America's (BofA) announced debit fee increase last week, said the North Carolina Credit Union League (Weekly Update .

The $2 billion asset credit union decided in August to increase the dividend rate on its Go Green Checking Account to 2.51% for 30 monthly debit swipes, effective Oct. 1. It had announced the change to members and scheduled television ads to announce the change this month.

"Other than television ads, we hadn't thought about doing a media announcement on the rate change," Joe Mecca, Coastal's marketing/advertising manager, told the league. The thinking changed when BofA's $5 a month fee on debit transactions was announced Sept. 29.

That evening, Mecca and Lauren Stranch, Coastal's PR/networking specialist, monitored Twitter to gauge public reaction. "We noticed that people [on Twitter] were really angry about the bank fee, and our members were actually replying back to them to let them know about Coastal's account and including us in the tweet," Mecca said.

Sensing an opportunity, the credit union jumped. It sent local media a press release announcing the increased swipe dividend on debit purchases and scored several hits, including WRAL-TV and the Raleigh News & Observer.

It also brainstormed its new ad, "the last straw," and produced it the same day, Mecca said. Coastal Advertising Lead Paul Styron bought props for it: a bale of hay, some trash bags and a downloaded sound effects file. Total cost: $35 and staff time to edit the spot in-house.

The ad hit the area's airwaves Tuesday and the credit union doubled up on its planned ad buy for the next two weeks. (To view it, click on the embedded video above.)

Although it's too early to demonstrate any movement by the general public toward Coastal's checking account, Mecca said the nimble response was warranted in the competitive checking arena. "Checking is a cornerstone product. We know that a good, solid checking relationship leads to a broader relationship."

Coastal's new Go Green product has been a major hit for Coastal. Members currently receive 1.01% annual percentage yield for a minimum of 12 debit transactions, and 2.51% for a minimum 30 transactions. The only qualifier: the rate is limited to the first $50,000 on deposit in the account.

Other efforts in the wake of the BofA fees:

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Tucker Carlson: ‘CUs do things the right way’

FREEPORT, Maine (10/7/11)--Political commentator Tucker Carlson had high praise for an audience of 120 credit union representatives at the Maine Credit Union League's Legislative Forum Tuesday.

Click to view larger image Keynote speaker and political commentator Tucker Carlson said "the future is bright for credit unions" at the Maine Credit Union League's Legislative Forum on Tuesday. From left, Jon Paradise, league governmental & public affairs manager; Carlson; John Murphy, league president/CEO; and Quincy Hentzel, league director of governmental affairs. (Photo provided by Maine Credit Union League)
"I hate dealing with banks and, the circumstances of the past three or four years have proven that credit unions do things the right away so I think the future is bright for credit unions," Carlson said.

Carlson was the keynote speaker at the forum. He spent the morning discussing the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, offering insight on the Republican field of candidates and President Barack Obama's re-election prospects.

"The power of an incumbent president is very difficult to beat," Carlson said. "Everywhere the president goes gets attention, as does everything a p resident says. That is quite an obstacle to overcome. That being said, President Obama is vulnerable; however, the candidate most capable of beating the president in a general election may not be the nominee."

When asked about the country's financial woes, Carlson said the nation's biggest problem is that neither party is honest about Medicare. "Everyone loves Medicare, myself included, but we simply cannot afford it in its present form," he said. That is a fact, and until we get to the heart of it, we will continue to struggle financially as a country."

In the afternoon, the forum featured two Maine political analysts, former state Sens. Ethan Strimling and Phil Harriman, who discussed the state legislature, Gov. Paul LePage, and the 2012 legislative elections.

Buddy Gill, senior strategic communications and external relations advisor to National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board Chairman Debbie Matz, concluded the program with a regulatory update. Gill encouraged Maine credit unions "to let your voices be heard on rules, regulations and the operating environment. NCUA really does want to hear from you."

League President John Murphy noted that the forum "reinforces the interest and involvement level that Maine's credit unions have in the political process."

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Consumer bankruptcies drop 10% in first nine months

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (10/7/11)--U.S. consumer bankruptcy filings fell 10% during the first nine months of the year, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), citing data from the National Bankruptcy Research Center. Credit unions saw fewer loan delinquencies and loan net chargeoffs through the first half of 2011, according to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

Consumer filings totaled 1,044,722 nationwide during the first nine months of 2011, from the 1,165,172 filings during the same period a year ago. September consumer bankruptcies declined 17% nationwide from September 2010. The overall consumer filings total for September reached 108,517, down from the 130,329 filings recorded in September 2010.

"The trend of declining filings has been consistent with consumers continuing to reign in their spending, household debt, and an overall pull back in consumer credit," said ABI Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano. "Total consumer filings for 2011 will be less than 2010."

The September filings also represented a 4% decrease from the August total of 113,432 bankruptcy filings, a slight change that could be the result of one less day in the month, ABI said.

The percentage of chapter 13 bankruptcy filings for September was 30%, a 1% increase from August.

Credit unions' consumer loan delinquencies inched down as of June to 1.09% of total loan outstanding from 1.15% in March, according to CUNA's U.S. Credit Union Profile.

Also, credit unions' consumer loan net chargeoffs decreased as of June to 1.25% of average loan dollars outstanding from 1.48% in March, CUNA said.

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Speaker: Risk inherent to all CUs--big and small

MADISON, Wis. (10/6/11)--The future sustainability of small credit unions in today's challenging economic environment will require improved decision-making strategies, proficient and proactive risk assessment, and more efficient operational execution, a CUNA Mutual Group risk manager told Online Discovery Conference attendees Tuesday.

Online Discovery is CUNA Mutual Group's free Web-based conference. The one-day event attracted a national and international audience of more than 1,800 credit union and league staff.

Risk can be managed effectively in all credit unions, and smaller ones are not necessarily at a disadvantage, said Joette Colletts, regional manager of credit union protection risk management.

"In fact, smaller credit unions have several advantages in managing risk," Colletts said. "With fewer employees and close relationships, their culture readily promotes open communication and a willingness to share suggestions. This agile atmosphere lends itself well to reviewing, re-evaluating and upgrading planning to promote a healthy risk culture."

Credit unions must assume some risk to innovate and grow. That means having a culture that aligns risk with goals and properly managing the process to optimize return, she said.

"Too little risk taking hinders innovation, which can threaten a credit union's survival, while too much risk taking can be just as crippling by uncontrollably expending resources, leading to losses," she added.

Colletts focused on two challenges facing credit unions: employee dishonesty and vendor fraud.

"The common denominator in my 27 years as a risk manager has been that the credit union either lacked the controls to help prevent the fraud from occurring in the first place, or became more relaxed about its controls over time," Colletts said. "If you think you don't need to implement controls or tighten existing controls, please think again. I assure you, you're providing the ideal environment for a dishonest employee."

Among the best practices for thwarting employee fraud:

Third-party vendors play an increasingly important role in helping credit unions compete and expand member services. While outsourcing generally creates member value and improves the bottom line, it can create significant risk if due diligence is improperly performed when selecting and managing vendor relationships, Colletts noted.

Understand a third-party's organization, business model, financial health and program risks, she added. "Remember due diligence never stops. It's an ongoing process," she said.

Colletts recommended implementing an enterprise risk management (ERM) program to improve strategic decision making and risk communication. "ERM integrates risk management with strategic planning and is a systematic approach to managing all your credit union's key risks," she said.

ERM can be implemented in any size credit union and can be scaled down if needed and implemented in incremental steps.

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Enhance CUs’ investment portfolio--Online Discovery

MADISON, Wis. (10/7/11)--Credit unions should set aside personal investment biases and change their investment style to use all investment tools allowed by their charters and investment policies to build a solid investment portfolio, credit union leaders at CUNA Mutual Group's second annual, daylong Online Discovery Conference were told.

Click to view larger image MEMBERS Capital Advisors' Jeremy Whitish, left, senior analyst-investment risk, and Ed Meier, director and senior fixed-income portfolio manager, spoke at CUNA Mutual Group's Online Discovery Conference Tuesday. (Photo provided by CUNA Mutual Group)
Online Discovery is CUNA Mutual Group's Web-based equivalent of a face-to-face conference. The free event attracted an international audience of more than 1,800 credit union and league staff.

Ed Meier, director and senior fixed-income portfolio manager, and Jeremy Whitish, senior analyst-investment risk, both with MEMBERS Capital Advisors, gave attendees a history lesson to understand the change in investment strategy over the years.

"Many of us have personal investment biases that need to be justified in today's economic environment," Meier said. "For example, in the early 1990s many investors swore off investing in CMOs (collateralized mortgage obligations). While that may have made sense at the time, it doesn't today. CMOs are typically underutilized," Meier added.

Today, investors must consider all of their options and quantify their risks. "You have to ask yourself the question: ‘How does this optimize my credit union's portfolio?' If it doesn't, then move on," Meier said.

This can be a challenge, especially for investors with a conservative investment style, but the gain to the credit union's bottom-line can be substantial. Meier and Whitish urged credit union leaders to consider their credit union's funding needs, asset liability management (ALM) model output and economic outlook before ruling out a particular type of investment.

"Just because an executive investment manager doesn't like a particular investment doesn't mean it isn't a good investment for the credit union," Whitish said.

Credit union leaders need to think about their investment strategy differently today than they did 20 years ago. Most portfolios are excessively short in duration, Meier said. Credit unions must build in cornerstone securities, which have a potential for a higher yield and longer duration but maintain top-tier quality.

"It's critical for investors to understand their credit union's ALM model because if you don't have loans on your books, then you must have investments that match or reach longer term than your liability stream," Meier said. "We propose having a core group of cornerstone investments in your portfolio--no matter if it's good times or bad times, rising rates or lower rates--because it acts as a hedge that you can rely on despite the times or rates," Meier added.

To achieve a balanced approach to investing, credit union leaders should reduce their liquidity and invest in slightly longer-term securities to protect against economic uncertainties and adopt a flexible investment style that limits personal investment biases, said Meier and Whitish.

"The best way to build a strong investment portfolio is to use all of the investment tools your credit union's charter and investment policy allow," Whitish said. "If you don't, you will continue to struggle to build a solid investment portfolio for your credit union."

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Mad City Money teaches real world to Calif. students

ONTARIO, Calif. (10/7/11)--Twenty-eight students from a Santa Ana, Calif., high school received a taste of the financial realities of paying mortgages, buying cars and paying for groceries during a "Mad City Money" financial simulation event Sept. 24.

Click to view larger imageRepresentatives of Orange County, Calif., credit unions served as "merchants" during the Orange County Chapter-sponsored Mad City Money financial simulation event in Santa Ana, Calif., where students from Century High School got a lesson in the basics of finances.
Century High School student Neleyda Sanchez speaks with Leticia Mata, assistant vice present of community education at Orange County's CU, Santa Ana, Calif., during a Mad City Money financial reality simulation game sponsored by credit unions. Mata acted as a grocery store merchant during the event. (Photos provided by the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues)

Mad City Money is the Credit Union National Association's simulation game where students are "transported" into a future and must manage all the financial responsibilities. The event, which took place at Century High School's Business Academy in Santa Ana, was sponsored by credit unions in the Orange County Chapter of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues.

For Sandra Alvarez, who plans to be a Google executive, the two-hour game was eye-opening, especially upon learning the consequences of credit card debt. "The biggest thing I learned today is that I need to go to college, and look for a job to support myself and my family," she said.

Another student, William Sanchez, also was taken aback by the amount of debt one can accumulate so quickly. "(I learned) to keep better track of the money I spend and keep better track of my debt," he said. "It was a really good thing to go through all of this."

Seventeen volunteers from four credit unions acted as merchants and business people--including the staff of a credit union.

"Not only did we as 'merchants' get to see the students in action as they considered their options, but we had a chance to learn their perspective on how they view the world and the many challenges they face," said Marina Miller, Orange County Chapter president and SchoolsFirst FCU internal service center manager. "It was very rewarding and encouraging to see that we have a great group of upcoming leaders."

The chapter helps facilitate the league's goals of providing education, advocacy and information.

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CU System briefs

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Market News

MADISON, Wis. (10/7/11)

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News of the Competition

MADISON, Wis. (10/7/11)

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Akcelerant, SWBC enhance loan origination platform

MALVERN, Pa. (10/7/11)--Akcelerant, a provider of software applications for the financial services industry, has integrated its SOLUTION.LENDING loan origination software with SWBC's Unity cross-selling application.

The new "connector" allows Akcelerant customers to support cross-sell opportunities during the loan generation process for guaranteed-asset protection, extended warranties, credit insurance and debt cancellation.

The Unity application is integrated to SOLUTION.LENDING through the addition of a new workflow step that allows loan protection products to be presented and sold to each new loan applicant. This eliminates the need for multiple software programs and decreases the risk of human error associated with double data entry, said Akcelerant.

SWBC, headquartered in San Antonio, provides insurance mortgage, and investment services to financial institutions, businesses and individuals. Akcelerant is based in Malvern, Pa., and Vancouver, B.C.

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