News Now Archive

Published on January 11, 2013.

NCUA hikes small CU asset threshold to $50M, consistent with CUNA recommendation

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (1/11/13)--The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Thursday increased the asset-level test that defines a small credit union. The threshold was raised to $50 million as

Click to view larger imageIn the NCUA boardroom Thursday, just moments after the regulators took action to increase the threshold that defines a "small" credit unions, NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz talks to Paul Gentile, CUNA's new EVP of strategic communications and engagement, about that and other credit union topics. (CUNA Photo)
recommended by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), up from $10 million.

CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said, "Raising the threshold for the definition of 'small entity' is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to monitoring the effectiveness of this approach for credit unions."

He added, "In our comments to the agency, we suggested a threshold of $50 million for agency assistance and access--and a higher level for purposes of regulatory relief. We commend the agency for taking the action today, which will benefit many more small credit unions. CUNA continually looks for ways to assist small credit unions and we anticipate working with NCUA as it implements this new threshold."

The NCUA's change will make assistance from the NCUA's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives (OSCUI) available to more than 4,600 credit unions--an increase of 2,270. The agency made it clear that the OSCUI will make changes to its procedures to handle the increased workload without adding additional staff.

Under the new rule, the NCUA will consider periodic changes to the asset-level test, initially every two years, and eventually every three years.

NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz said, "We will not be in a situation again where the definition lags reality."

Click to view larger imageCUNA EVP of Strategic Communications and Engagement Paul Gentile (right), who came on board with CUNA Jan. 2, attended his first NCUA meeting in his new capacity yesterday. Gentile is shown here with NCUA board member Michael Fryzel to his right and NAFCU Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Dan Berger to Fryzel's right. Just this week, Berger was named to succeed retiring Fred Becker as head of NAFCU. That change takes effect July 31. (CUNA Photo)
The regulatory changes will go into effect in 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, which generally occurs within a week or two of an agency's adoption of a new rule. Credit unions that meet the regulatory definition for "small" have some additional flexibility when it comes to NCUA rules. The current $10 million small credit union asset threshold was set by the agency in 2003.

In CUNA's comment letter, CUNA demonstrated that using the "complexity index" as a method for determining small entity thresholds can or will be used in a variety of ways that could, ultimately, lead to negative or unintended results for credit unions. "Those include reductions in credit union flexibility, increases in risk profiles and reductions in member service provision," the letter stated.

The agenda for today's NCUA open board meeting also included: 
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CFPB QM, ability-to-repay rules are out, CUNA provides summary

WASHINGTON (1/11/13)--It's official. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) standards to define a "qualified mortgage (QM)" under the agency's "ability to repay" rules are posted to the bureau's website and now may be considered "issued."

As indicated to Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Bill Cheney in a Wednesday phone call from CFPB Director Richard Cordray, the CFPB has taken steps to address various CUNA concerns, including legal protection from challenges for noncompliance with qualified mortgage standards.

"We support the agency's steps to minimize disruptions in the availability of mortgage credit for consumers," said CUNA's Cheney Thursday. "CUNA strongly supported a 'safe harbor' approach for QM loans that would provide the maximum legal protection to credit unions under the 'ability-to-repay' rule."

Cheney added that the approach taken by the bureau "should provide legal certainty to lenders such as credit unions."

CUNA has created a summary of the final rules with credit union perspective. (Use the resource link below.)

Congress directed that the ability-to-repay rules include provisions that would help shield lenders whose loans meet QM standards if challenged in court by a borrower alleging the loan is not in compliance. The new CFPB rules take a dual approach to higher-priced loans and lower-priced ones regarding legal protection.

For lower-priced loans, the CFPB rule creates a "safe harbor" status for lenders. These prime loans generally are made to consumers who are considered to be lower-risk borrowers.

It is anticipated that most credit union mortgage loans would qualify for the safe harbor status, an outcome that CUNA has aggressively pursued. Consumers may challenge their loan under the new rule if they feel the loan does not meet the definition of a QM, but the safe harbor is intended to provide lenders with legal protection that QM standards have been met.

For higher-priced loans, sometimes given to consumers with insufficient or weak credit histories, the CFPB rules would allow a "rebuttable presumption" in legal challenges. A borrower seeking to challenge such a loan will have to prove he or she did not have sufficient income to pay the mortgage and other living expenses.

Additionally, the CFPB also posted final rules to its website for Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) "high cost" mortgages and mortgage escrows, as mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. See today's News Now  for more information on these two rules.

Use the resource link to read the CUNA summary of the rule.

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CUNA will monitor 'troubled condition' change

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (1/11/13)--The National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) Thursday amended its definition of "troubled condition" and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is concerned that the change could have an adverse impact on the dual charter system.

"The dual chartering is significant and worthy of being preserved because it facilitates credit union growth and member service by allowing a credit union to determine which regulators, state or federal, facilitate its operations better," said CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney Thursday.

"With this new NCUA rule, the federal agency could overrule a state regulator regarding a fundamental authority, the power to determine a credit union's CAMEL safety and soundness rating, even though limited to CAMEL 4 or 5 ratings," Cheney said.

The final rule amends the definition to allow either the NCUA or state regulators to declare a federally insured state-chartered credit union (FISCU) with a CAMEL 4 or 5 rating to be  in "troubled condition."

Under the previous definition, only a state supervisory authority could make that determination for a FISCU.

At the Thursday open meeting, the NCUA said it will not make a "troubled condition" declaration without first making an on-site visit to the credit union in question. Agency staff noted that the amended rule expands the NCUA's ability to act preemptively to ensure that the officials who take control of a FISCU in "troubled condition" are qualified to address its troubles, thus providing the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund a further measure of protection against the risk of loss.

All 48 of the comment letters NCUA received on the proposed rule, including CUNA's, were opposed to it. Many said the rule represented "excessive federalism" and destabilized the dual charter system.

NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz countered that burdening the dual charter system is not the NCUA's intent. "The dual charter system works well, has worked well, and will continue to do so into the future," she said.

The rule goes into effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

For more on the NCUA meeting, use the resource link.

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HOEPA, escrow rule changes issued by CFPB

WASHINGTON (1/11/13)--The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Thursday unveiled final rules addressing high-cost mortgages and escrow accounts.

The high-cost mortgage rule expands the universe of loans potentially covered by the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act, or HOWEPA, to include most types of mortgage loans secured by the borrower's principal dwelling. The list of covered loans now includes first-lien home purchase mortgage loans, subordinate-lien loans including closed-end home equity loans, and home equity lines of credit. 

The regulations will require lenders offering mortgage loans that exceed certain annual percentage rate and fee thresholds to disclose the terms, costs, and fees associated with a high-cost loan early in the homebuying process. Lenders also will need to certify that these borrowers have received homeowner counseling regarding the high-cost loan.

The CFPB in a release said the high-cost mortgage regulations will also:

The protections will not apply to reverse mortgage loans, certain government-sponsored loans, and construction loans that are taken out for the initial construction of a new home.

The escrow account changes will, in general, extend the required duration of a mortgage loan escrow account to five years. The current minimum duration is one year. Lenders that work in rural or underserved areas will be exempt from the escrow changes, provided they meet certain other criteria, the CFPB said.

Both of the final rules are mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The high-cost mortgage rules are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 10, 2014. The escrow account rules are scheduled to go into effect on June 1, 2013.

The Credit Union National Association has created an outline of key points of the rules. (Use the resource link below.)

Also, see the resource links to read CUNA's comment letters on the HOEPA changes when they were proposed.
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SECU's Staatz to CFPB: Contain CU reg burden

BALTIMORE, Md. (1/11/13)--SECU of Maryland President/CEO Rod Staatz noted Credit Union National Association (CUNA) concerns regarding regulatory burden in a Thursday Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) mortgage policy field hearing.

"Credit unions remain very concerned that they will be subject to a barrage of requirements even though they did not cause the financial crisis," Staatz told the gathering.

Click to view larger imageCredit Union National Association Senior Assistant General Counsel Jared Ihrig, left, and SECU of Maryland President/CEO Rod Staatz, right, pose with CFPB Director Richard Cordray at the agency's mortgage policy field hearing. The CFPB released regulations addressing qualified mortgage definitions, escrow accounts and high-cost mortgages on Thursday. (CUNA Photo) 
The field hearing was held just before the CFPB released a slate of new mortgage regulations later in the day. One of those regulations addressed the standards to define a "qualified mortgage (QM)" under the agency's "ability to repay" rules.

Staatz said at the hearing that the CFPB's safe harbor approach in the QM standards should be workable for consumers and lenders. (See related story: CFPB QM, ability-to-repay rules are out; CUNA provides summary.) Staatz thanked the CFPB for reaching out to credit unions as it developed the QM definition.

Credit unions also appreciate that the CFPB has expanded its coverage for "rural" and "underserved" areas, which will be beneficial to more consumers across the nation, he added.

Overall, CUNA and credit unions commend the CFPB's efforts and the agency's general appreciation of the work of credit unions, Staatz said, but drove home the CUNA warning about regulatory burden. "Credit unions provide affordable loans and competitive savings rates, and, as the only member-owned financial cooperatives in this country, want to ensure their members have access to reasonable information about their accounts." Regulatory burden impedes their ability to serve members, he noted.

The SECU president also said that his credit union's use of traditional member relationship lending practices has helped both members and SECU.

"It is critical that we maintain an excellent reputation in the community for serving members and that our lending practices are considered sound. If our members have marginal ability to repay, we work with them to help them improve their financial standing, not try and sell them a loan they can't afford," he said.

A second CFPB field hearing on mortgage policy is scheduled for Jan. 17 in Atlanta.
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2013 plan is one of many issues in busy NCUA meeting

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (1/11/13)--In addition to Thursday's small credit union and troubled condition definition actions, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) released its 2013 performance plan and addressed three other items.

The performance plan identified two new agency priority goals for 2013:

The agency also maintained the same four strategic goals it set in 2012: ensuring a safe, sound and healthy credit union system; promoting credit union access to all eligible persons; developing further a regulatory environment that is transparent and effective, with clearly articulated and easily understood regulations; and cultivating an environment that fosters a diverse, well-trained and motivated staff.

Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Deputy General Counsel Mary Dunn said CUNA will continue to press the NCUA on these goals, "particularly compliance with the goal of a transparent and effective regulatory environment."

Other items approved by the NCUA on Thursday include: The LICU deadline extension will give credit unions more time to respond to NCUA LICU eligibility notifications. The agency in August informed 1,003 federal credit unions of their LICU designation eligibility. NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz noted that more than 800 credit unions have accepted the designation. However, she said some asked for more time to "evaluate the benefits of having the designation, determine if the designation would be consistent with their strategic plans, and obtain approval from their boards."

The technical amendments will increase the standard maximum share insurance amount for various kinds of Treasury accounts to $250,000. The previous insurance cap was $100,000. The increase is mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.

NCUA staff also briefed Matz and board member Michael Fryzel on the status of an interagency final rule that will amend Regulation Z to require appraisals for "higher-priced" mortgage loans. The final rule is expected to be released by Jan. 21, 2013, and NCUA staff said the effective date would likely be one year after the rule is issued.
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Inside Washington

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CSS provider study: Reg environment dents CEOs' optimism

AUSTIN, Texas (1/11/13)--Credit union CEOs are more pessimistic about 2013 than they were about 2012, largely due to an increasingly difficult and unpredictable regulatory environment, according to a survey from Abound Resources, an alliance provider of CUNA Strategic Services (CSS).
Other major issues included a weak economy and loan demand. Both of these factors were mentioned by more than 60% of credit union CEOs surveyed as major concerns for 2013.
"This year credit union CEOs are decidedly more pessimistic than they have been since we launched our annual survey four years ago," said Brad Smith, president/CEO of Abound Resources, a credit union consulting firm.
Roughly 25% of respondents reported they were either very or somewhat pessimistic about their credit union's outlook  for 2013. That compares with 16% in 2012 who were pessimistic and none who were very pessimistic. About 37% in 2013 said they were optimistic or very optimistic, compared with 43% in 2012. The other 38% indicated they expect another year like 2012.
Other key findings:

Expect 2013 to be the year of credit union workflow improvements, with 50% citing this as a priority, said Abound Resources. 
"There is a built-up demand for improving credit union workflow since so few credit unions made workflow improvements last year," said Smith. "Workflow improvement projects are tricky as middle management is often resistant to changing how they work, or they don't know how to make changes beyond a few tweaks."

For a complimentary copy of the survey and Abound's top five recommended strategies, use the link.
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CUNA: Youth Week is 'golden moment'

MADISON, Wis. (1/11/13)--Credit unions can build the strength of their overall portfolios by attracting young members, according to Joanne Sepich, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) youth week coordinator.
National Credit Union Youth Week, April 21-27, is another opportunity to build that strength.
National Credit Union Youth Week was created by CUNA as an opportunity for credit unions nationwide to focus on the financial needs of young people and provide financial literacy education. The event focuses on teaching the benefits of saving and goal setting, and invites youth to open savings accounts at their credit union and make deposits throughout the year.
This year's theme, "Savings Sleuth: Solve the Mystery," will draw in youth (and adults) with the fun of mystery and mustaches. There's a "Collect the Clues" kit of clue posters and activity sheets credit unions can pair up with prizes.

Savings Sleuth: Solve the Mystery materials include financial education content, fun items to reward young members and bright, neon-colored apparel to dress the part in April. Several items from last year's campaign were successful enough to have been carried over to the 2013 line-up, including the magic color-changing mood cup and the Quarter Saver Folder, which holds $5 in quarters and boasts a positive message on saving.
Gaining young members and keeping them through the lifetime product cycle is a worthy goal for the future, but it's parents and grandparents who deliver children to branch locations, Sepich wrote in a column on CUInsight (Jan. 10).
"This is a golden moment," Sepich said. "If the child has a nice experience in the branch and walks out with prize, a treat, and a savings account, you've scored two huge wins. That child has started the path of lifelong membership, and that grown-up's loyalty to your credit union has just soared."
April is Financial Literacy Month, Sepich noted. She recommended credit unions work this to their advantage by rewarding each adult who brings in a child to make a deposit. Rewards could range from budget-  or college-savings planning tools to a discount on loan fees.
Because National Credit Union Youth Week occurs during Financial Literacy Month, credit unions can extend their youth activities throughout April. CUNA conducts the National Youth Saving Challenge the entire month of April. The challenge rewards 10 savers with $100 cash prizes. Last April, 241 credit unions joined the Saving Challenge and engaged 125,867 youth, who deposited a collective $21.3 million in their credit union savings accounts, including 7,300 new member accounts.
In 2000, The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy began promoting April as Financial Literacy for Youth Month. In 2003, the U.S. Senate designated April as Financial Literacy for Youth Month.

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Three more CUs announce loyalty rewards, rebates

MADISON, Wis. (1/11/13)--Call it patronage dividends, loyalty rewards, or cashback rebates--either way, members win.  Three more credit unions have announced they're paying members back for their business.
"We believe that when the credit union is successful, it's not only a sound business practice to reward the owners of the credit union and share our surplus, but that this practice clearly demonstrates the credit union difference," said David Ackerman, president/CEO of U$X FCU, $204 million asset credit union in Cranberry Township, Pa.
 U$X FCU's 2012 Member Loyalty Reward payout totaled $420,000. The interest rebate goes to members of good standing with deposit or loan accounts,  except for certain mortgages (Life is a Highway Jan. 8). 
"Unlike many financial institutions, when U$X FCU has a successful year, we distribute part of the earnings to the people whose loyal support helped us be successful," Ackerman said.
The credit union has more than 20,075 members. Its rebate equaled six cents per dollar of dividends earned and/or loan interest paid during 2012. It has paid more than $6.6 million during the past 11 years.
In Schaumburg, Ill., Motorola Employees CU (MECU), with $889 million assets and 39,180 members, paid a special patronage dividend totaling $750,000 on Dec. 31--the third consecutive year MECU has returned profits to members.  The latest dividend is in addition to regular dividends it pays into members' savings accounts.
All active members in good standing received at least $5 in their MECU savings accounts. The dividend averaged about $19 each, with members who made the greatest use of the credit union's services receiving an average $86.
OMNI Community CU, Battle Creek, Mich., announced its fifth annual Cashback Rebate will be deposited today in members' regular savings accounts (Michigan Monitor Jan. 2). Since the $290 million asset credit union started its rebate program in 2008, it has returned $4 million to members.
"Without their faith that we're always looking out for their best interests, we wouldn't be the institution we are today," said OMNI CEO Ted Parsons.  "That's a responsibility that everyone at OMNI takes very seriously. Our membership is the best out there, and every time we help someone, we're trying to show them why they made the right decision coming to us."

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CU supporter to chair Ohio Senate Finance Committee

COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/11/13)--Ohio State Sen. Scott Oelslager (R-Canton), a friend of credit unions, has been named chairman of that chamber's Finance Committee, according to the Ohio Credit Union League.
The Finance Committee leads the Senate's role in the state's biennial budget process.
Oelslager was a joint sponsor of past legislation to grant credit unions access to public funds, said the league (eLumination Newsletter Jan. 9).
Sens. Jim Hughes (R-Columbus) and Kevin Bacon (R-Columbus) will lead the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee, which will preside over most legislation relating to financial services, including banking and credit union issues.
Hughes and Bacon have good relationships with credit unions and have always been willing to meet and discuss issues, the league said.
State Sens. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) and Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) will preside over the state's Ways and Means Committee, which the league expects will review the state's sales and use tax exceptions.  Schaffer and Peterson also have been willing to meet with credit union leaders. They have worked on issues of interest to credit unions, but neither have taken a position on major issues specifically affecting credit unions, said the league.

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Ohio CUs' 3Q financials post record loans

COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/11/13)--Ohio credit unions posted record results in loan originations in the first three quarters of 2012, according to the most recent Ohio Credit Union Quarterly Performance Summary published by the Ohio Credit Union League.
The credit unions also increased their core deposit balances and saw robust membership growth (eLumination Newsletter Jan. 9).
"The Ohio membership growth experience is something we're seeing at the national level as well--consumers (both borrowers and savers) are moving to credit unions--voting with their feet and discovering that credit unions are the best choice for their financial services," Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and statistics at the Credit Union National Association, told News Now
"In the year ending September 2012, credit union memberships grew by 2.5 million--a 2.7% rate of growth," he added. "The percentage increase compares to a U.S. population growth rate of a bit less than 1% over the same period. Credit union membership growth--both in absolute and percentage terms--is the fastest we've seen in roughly 15 years."
Ohio credit unions' financial performance was in line with, or better than, many national trends, the league said. They originated more than $1.6 billion in first mortgages, a 68.8% increase over mortgages in the first nine months of 2011, helping drive total loan originations up 33.5%.
Core deposits drove shares' increase at a faster rate than the national average, with a 9.6% annual increase in regular savings accounts, the league added.
Ohio membership continued to increase, with the addition of more than 39,000 members in 12 months.

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N.Y. foundation awards nearly $46K in 2012 grants

ALBANY, N.Y. (1/11/13)--The New York Credit Union Foundation awarded $45,953 in grants to New York credit unions and credit union supporters during 2012.
The grants were awarded in three categories: Smart Money, Financial Fitness and Professional Development.
Smart Money grants help credit unions provide financial education to their members and/or consumers. A total of $3,750 was awarded to three credit unions:

Nine credit unions received a total of $12,111 in Financial Fitness grants to enhance operations and improve service to their members. They are:
The foundation awarded 57 Professional Development Grants, totaling $30,092, to representatives of 30 credit unions to help fund their participation in industry training sessions and education events.
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CU System briefs

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Market News

MADISON, Wis. (1/11/13)

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News of the Competition

MADISON, Wis. (1/11/13)

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H&FF Radio reviews estate planning, loans to adult children

WASHINGTON (1/14/13)--Sunday's H&FF Radio suggested a fresh start for the new year, and reviewed asset protection management and whether you should lend money to your kids.
The show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, featured Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:

Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide.
Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network.
CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites.

For related information, read "Four Key Steps to 'No Regrets' Retirement" and "Credit Counselors Say Resolutions Not Right for Everyone" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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Better than a resolution: Set financial goals

NEW YORK (1/8/13)--Do you want to whip your finances into shape in 2013? Skip the vague, overwhelming New Year's resolution and set realistic short-term goals instead.
The top seven financial resolutions include starting an emergency fund, ditching expensive bank fees, saving for retirement, paying off debt, developing a budget, fixing credit, and talking with family about money ( Jan. 1). However, University of Scranton research suggests that only 8% of consumers actually achieve their New Year's resolutions (Forbes Jan. 1). 
Resolutions are easily abandoned--one misstep and your resolve is shot. But setting simple, specific annual goals, and keeping them front and center throughout the year, may be the ticket to success.
These actions can help you stay on track:

Bottom line: Don't attempt an extreme makeover in a short time. Set small, attainable goals throughout the year. Come December, instead of failed resolutions you'll see tangible results.
For more information, read "Credit counselors say resolutions not right for everyone" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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CU*Answers challenges CUs to post biz plans

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (1/11/13)--CU*Answers is challenging credit unions to post their business plans online as a way to stress the value of cooperative financial institutions to members and consumers.
CU*Answers, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based credit union service organization, released a video in cooperation with Fulvew Productions to promote a "Take Your Business Plan Viral" campaign. The video stresses the value proposition credit unions offer consumers, but explains how that value is often overlooked.
"It's not easy to translate all of the core philosophies and ethics of our industry into the way consumers think today, especially when it is just second nature to all of us," said Randy Karnes, CU*Answers CEO. "To the marketplace, when we say 'member' or 'belong' or even 'people helping people,' they're just words. But as cooperatives, we are relevant, we are timely, we are timeless."
To view the video, use the link.

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