Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leagues, CUNA reassure members their money is safe

MADISON, Wis. (7/17/08)--Credit union leagues nationwide are reassuring members their money is safe after media reports regarding the IndyMac bank failure triggered concerns among consumers about the security of their deposits.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) also distributed a list of talking points for leagues to share with local media about the safety and soundness of credit unions. That factsheet is prominently posted on and the consumer website,

Several leagues, including the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA), have been contacted by credit unions receiving calls from worried members. MCUA also corrected erroneous information about credit union deposits that aired on a local radio station, said Peggy Nalls, senior vice president of public and legislative affairs.

"A radio station in St. Louis ran an interview Wednesday morning with a book author who said he didn't know if credit union accounts are insured," Nalls told News Now. "Amy McLard [vice president of public/legislative affairs] contacted the station and followed up with an e-mail to set them straight."

The Louisiana Credit Union League hosted a seminar July 10 in Baton Rouge led by National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Insurance Analyst Deborah Spearing, according to Lacey Hyer, league public relations specialist.

"Not one penny of insured savings has ever been lost by a member of a federally insured credit union," Spearing told attendees. "In these uncertain economic times, credit union members are looking for a safe, sound place to invest their hard-earned money. And the credit union is just that place."

Leagues also are putting together materials to distribute to credit unions and members and publishing stories in their newsletters to get the word out.

The Maine Credit Union League created an insert and news article for credit unions to distribute to members called "Is My Money Safe--For Credit Union Members, the Answer is Yes!"

The Credit Union Association of Colorado and Wyoming put together a mini-communications kit for credit unions including talking points for staff, sample letters for members to be posted on websites, sample newsletter articles, how to link to the National Credit Union Administration Share Insurance estimator and background information for press releases.

The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association published an article in Life is a Highway Wednesday and sent a release noting credit union savings rates. "In 2008, savings in credit unions have grown nearly 7%. Research estimates that Pennsylvania credit unions provided $387 million in direct financial benefits to the state's 3,388,545 members during the 12 months ending December 2007," the league said. "These benefits are equivalent to $114 per member or $217 per member household."

The Delaware Credit Union League plans to conduct "a survey to see how many credit unions received comments or questions from their members on this matter," Alice Smith, league communications and governmental affairs director, told News Now.

The California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues are encouraging credit unions to post messages on their websites and in newsletters. The leagues also encouraged credit unions to hold meetings with staff to make sure they are fully advised about safety and soundness issues, said Henry Kertman, league vice president of public affairs.

The Credit Union Association of New York also sent information to its credit unions. "Credit unions always have and will continue to lend responsibly, which is why they have been able to steer clear of the subprime crisis that is negatively impacting other financial institutions," said William J.Mellin, president/CEO of the Association. "It's also why New York's credit unions, which count over 4.2 million members and have more than $40 billion in assets, have gone virtually unmentioned in the adverse financial headlines that have proliferated the news."

Georgia Credit Union Affiliates released information about how state credit unions are helping those in times of crisis. In response to the recent IndyMac collapse, CSRA FCU, Augusta, is helping its members by allowing them to restructure their accounts with balances over $100,000, free of any early withdrawal fees, according to the league.

CSRA CEO Charm McCall said the offer demonstrates to members that the credit union wants to ease any concerns members might have about their money.

"Our members know that their deposits are insured up to $100,000 by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). We want to reassure our members that their money is safe at CSRA," McCall said. "If a member is more comfortable to restructure their certificates and shares with us, we can walk them through the process."

The Credit Union Association of Oregon also sent a release to credit unions. "Oregon credit unions, which count over 1.4 million members and hold nearly 27% of our state's financial market share, are going largely unmentioned in the adverse financial headlines," the association said. One hundred percent of Oregon credit unions are insured under NCUSIF, it added.

The North Carolina Credit Union League noted the issue in Weekly Update, and provided some resources for credit unions. "The bottom line," said John Radebaugh, league president, "is that credit unions are strong and well-positioned to serve their 3 million members in NC. They entered into this economic situation with strong balance sheets, and they will still be in very strong shape when things improve."

Wisconsin credit unions remain largely unaffected by the nation's mortgage crisis and economic downturn, the Wisconsin Credit Union League said in a press release Tuesday. Credit unions have remained strong because their community-based member-ownership puts members' interests first, according to Brett Thompson, Wisconsin league president/CEO.

At the end of first-quarter 2008, Wisconsin credit unions' delinquencies remained at 1.20%, a decrease from the year-end 2007 rate of 1.29%. Net charge offs, or loans that are unrecoverable, are at .33%.

"These figures show that credit unions have been making loans in their members' best interest," Thompson said. "Credit unions understand that members' ability to repay loans in a timely manner affects the stability of the cooperative, and as we've seen, our state's financial co-ops remain strong."

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