News & Highlights

We Found the CU*Answer to the Dwindling Number of Credit Unions

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Credit unions. Not for profit, financial cooperatives owned and operated by their members. The start up stories of this 107 year-old movement are heartwarming:

Credit Union ONE began in 1938 when 15 neighbors organized the Ferndale Co-Op Credit union in a local church basement, pooling $158 and their shared commitment to “people helping people.”

TAPCO Credit Union was founded in 1934 by nine employees of the City of Tacoma. Our first branch was located under the stairs of the Old City Hall in downtown Tacoma.

TOPCU was established by City Firefighters and Chief John “Slatz” Freeman in 1935. The original branch was Fire Station One, the hours were “Whenever there isn’t a fire.” It began with 19 members and $30.75 in assets.

The original model was quite simple. Built on trust, usually involving money in a shoe box or cigar box. Ledgers kept track of deposits and loans. Our first real regulation didn’t come down until 1968, The Truth in Lending Act. Credit unions were not allowed to offer share draft (checking accounts) until the late 70’s. And that’s when things started to get more complicated.

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Wells Fargo and a Culture Out of Control by NACUSO CEO Jack Antonini

When I first heard the news that Wells Fargo employees fraudulently opened two million unauthorized or fictitious customer accounts in an effort to meet sales goals, I could hardly believe that such a fraud could occur.  Then as I learned that this happened over a period of several years, dating back to at least 2011 and that Wells Fargo continued to pressure employees to “cross-sell” (i.e. open new accounts), even after they became aware of these egregious acts, I was outraged.

stumpfAt the Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Senators “accused [Wells Fargo CEO] John Stumpf of fostering a culture where low-paid branch employees were pressured to meet impossible sales quotas to keep their jobs, and so signed up customers for products without their knowledge. As the employees sold more products, Wells Fargo shares rose and bigger bonuses flowed in for the top executives.”

How could this happen?  In a well written article on “How Wells Fargo’s High Pressure Sales Culture Spiraled Out Of Control” the WSJ summarized it this way: “Hourly targets, fear of being fired and attractive bonuses kept employees ‘selling’ even when the bank began cracking down on abuses.”  The article went on to say: “For five years, Wells Fargo conducted investigations into improper practices, hired consultants and tinkered with sales and compensation incentives. Questionable sales tactics persisted, though, and were an open secret in Wells Fargo branches across the country … branch managers routinely monitored employees’ progress toward meeting sales goals, sometimes hourly, and sales numbers at the branch level were reported to higher-ranking managers as many as seven times a day. Tension about how to meet the sales targets was common. Former employees reported that managers asked employees who had fallen short of the targets if they could open accounts for their mother, siblings or friends.”

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The Essential Truths of Back Office Collaborations by Guy Messick

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I learned a few things along the way about credit union collaborations that jointly supply back-office operational services, e.g. IT support, lending, collections, compliance; etc.   Below are some common lessons learned.

  1. Scale alone is not enough. If two credit unions merge or two credit unions collaborate through a CUSO there will be an increased scale in the operation. But if there are no other changes and the credit unions continue to operate in the same manner with the same number of people, there are no savings other than perhaps through additional bargaining power with vendors.    If the processes and people issues are not addressed, a merger of credit unions or a CUSO collaboration can actually add costs.

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Innovation and Disruption at its Core

collaborating logo.001Today, let’s consider a new concept for disruption and collaboration. Let’s change the entire paradigm of the core system technology platform and build that model in collaborative CUSOs.

Core systems in credit unions have been a material advantage for credit unions over all size banks for decades. Our business developed as full service institutions at the same time significant new technologies came to the market – specifically mini computers and integrated data bases. We also had the added advantage of very centralized operations, which allowed us to have a consolidated technology platform. We entered the full service retail banking world at the same time that there were technology platforms geared toward our size institutions. Allowing us to connect all loan, savings and transactions accounts into one record and to provide online, real time operations. We leaped over banks in our use of technology and were leaders in on line ATMS, audio response systems and online banking platforms. We were the innovators and the disrupters. We had members using those services long before the average bank.

Our core vendors, companies like DNA (FiServ) and Symitar (Jack Henry) supported our tech leadership positions with integration into lending platforms, collection systems, card subsidiary systems, etc. They have been very good partners and we would not have grown to the extent we have today without them.

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Why Kind of Innovator Are You?

Let’s face it – credit unions are generally not known as innovators. At our best we are fast followers. Except when it comes to CUSOs. The CUSO model is brilliant in that it lets credit unions that have expertise in an area provide quality services to other credit unions. In other words, when one credit union “figures it out” they can share the love by bringing in other credit unions either as investors, customers or both.

I read a Forbes article written by Larry Myler recently that talks about the 4 levels of innovation and it got me to thinking about the different CUSO models and how they fit his categorization.

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Spotlight on New NACUSO Member HealthPlan Services

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Jay having a “ball” on his birthday!

Each month we are highlighting at least one NACUSO member by interviewing one of their executives. The format is meant to be fun and informative. This month we are excited to share the story of our new NACUSO member HealthPlan Services, by asking Jay Mclauchlin a few questions about himself, how he came to work with credit unions and how HealthPlan Services can benefit our members.

What’s your current position and can you give me a brief overview of what it is you do in your work?

As the Senior Vice President of Consumer Sales for HealthPlan Services, I oversee the management of our multi-threaded distribution strategy that includes sales through insurance agents and brokers as well as direct to consumers via our private exchange platform.

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?

I love working in a team environment and solving a problem.  More importantly, I like an environment where the group trying to solve a problem has fun doing it. It’s not just about delivering the finished product or solution—it’s the excitement and joy of the journey that motivates me.

I want to hear the story of how you came to work with credit unions. What attracted you to work for HealthPlan Services?

HealthPlan Services developed its private exchange platform with the advent of the Affordable Care Act. We felt that by providing a robust shop/compare and enrollment tool for medical insurance, we could attract and add value to organizations that already had a strong affinity with their membership base. Providing a private exchange platform solution to members of a credit union made perfect sense.

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New CUSO Makes History: Spotlight on Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center

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This month we are doing something a big different for our Spotlight series. NACUSO welcomed Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center, LLC (FFOC) to the family. This is a unique CUSO model, one we’ve never seen before so I know you’ll enjoy reading about Chuck Adcock and how he came to help build FFOC.

What’s your current position and can you give me a brief overview of what it is you do in your work?

I am the EVP of FSU Credit Union along with the COO of our CUSOs iDriveLending, LLC and Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center, LLC.  In my role for the credit union I oversee all areas of the credit union reporting to the CEO.  For both of our CUSOs, I function as the Executive reporting to the CUSO Boards.

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?

The opportunity to serve people is what really motivates me.  Through my work at the credit union along with our CUSOs, I have the opportunity to serve a broad range of members along with other credit unions.  I began my career as a teller more than 20 years ago and have members that still call on me today for all their financial needs.  I spend an amazing amount of time teaching financial literacy at Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College, and most of the local high schools.  I love helping people gain success in their financial well-being.

I want to hear the story of how you came to work with credit unions. What attracted you to work for FSU Credit Union and Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center?

I went to work for FSU Credit Union my freshman year of college.  As a kid, my father was a banker, so I literally grew up playing in a bank vault (you can’t do that nowadays.)  So, going to work for a financial institution was easy.  When the credit union offered to pay for the rest of my college through its education reimbursement program, I really began to love and appreciate the opportunities that the industry has to offer.  As someone, who loves to learn and to teach, a university credit union has been the perfect fit.  I was particularly interested in the chance to develop the Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center because of the educational impact we are making on an underbanked group.

Now if we can go even further back, where did you grow up and what was it like living there? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in Eustis, Florida.  As a kid, the town was small enough that I once was pulled over for speeding to high school baseball practice and before I could get to the field my mother was waiting on me there because the police officer called my grandfather who incidentally was a retired deputy to let him know what happened.  I attended the same schools that my parents did even being taught by some of the same teachers.  Then, it was a very small town.

Who were your mentors along the way? People who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life? Tell me about them.

My grandfather was a very well respected law enforcement officer.  He was retired by the time I was old enough to fully appreciate his influence in the community.  He taught me a considerable amount about serving even those who don’t make the right choices with dignity and love.

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Chuck Adcock with wife Kimberly and sons Collis and Eli

Finally can you share something interesting about you that would surprise our readers? It can be anything, a hobby, an adventure, sports, the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you,

I am rather outdoorsy, active individual.  I spend a good deal of time on my boat with my wife and kids fishing the Gulf waters of North Florida.  When the weather gets too cold to fish, my boys and I spend many weekends in North Georgia hunting.  And, when I can squeeze in the time, I love riding my Harley through the canopy roads of Tallahassee.

PART TWO: The CUSO Business Story

Tell me the story of how your CUSO was created – the early days. Tell me about some of the memorable characters in the history, some that brought your story color, drama, comedy, conflict?

Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center was originally the idea of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. R.B. Holmes.  Rev. Holmes hoped to create a credit union in an underbanked area of Tallahassee known as Frenchtown.  Frenchtown had once been a vibrant center for African American commerce and everyday life.  After desegregation, much of the affluence of the area moved to the suburbs leaving the residents and businesses of Frenchtown to support themselves.  Over time pay day lenders and pawn stores became the prevalent banking means of the Frenchtown residents.

Rev. Holmes and the church decided to apply for a credit union charter after many years of unsuccessfully seeking a bank to provide financial services to the area.  During the application process, the church suspended its efforts as the economy began to suffer from the mortgage crisis.  Continuing to desire to bring mainstream financial services and financial literacy to the area, a principal in the initiative, Keith Bowers, approached me about the credit union moving into a church owned facility that was already constructed to be a financial institution.  Initially, we were reluctant because of the proximity of one of our existing branches.  However, after more fully investigating the negative impact of payday lending and check cashing services in the area, we knew we had to do something.  We decided that we could make the initiative work with a partner.  We looked to our long-time collaborator and CUSO partner Envision Credit Union.  ECU saw the same value that we did in changing the way an entire community banks.  After a year of planning, which required teaching branch staff the products, services, and systems of both credit unions, we opened Frenchtown Financial Opportunity Center on June 10th, 2016.

Ribbon cutting ceremony

Ribbon cutting ceremony

The Center is a CUSO run by the staff of FSUCU focused on establishing new members for both credit unions and educating these members to break the cycle of payday lending.  Many members of the church and surrounding churches are supporting the measure by moving their memberships to our credit unions.  The Center is located in Frenchtown and serves as the first financial institution to ever have a presence in that community.  Residents and businesses of Frenchtown have a sense of ownership and pride surrounding the initiative.  Additionally, both the city and county fully support the measure as it furthers their efforts to revitalize the area.

What were the key relationships that mattered most? What were the key sources of support or resistance you encountered?

Partnering with the church was a critical step in making this initiative successful.  Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and other surrounding churches in the area promote the services of the CUSO as an extension of their ministry leveraging the CUSO’s expertise in financial literacy training.  Additionally, having progressive Board members that strive to embody the philosophy of the industry has been paramount to this initiative.  Also, gaining support from local officials has helped drive business to the CUSO.  We provide not only the products and services to improve a member’s financial well-being, but we also provide the education on how to maximize the impact of our products and services.

What have been the greatest successes in your opinion?

frenchtown doorThe CUSO is relatively new but already has seen more than 50 new memberships between the two credit union owners in just the first 60 days of existence.  We have helped more than 20 members break the cycle of payday lending by qualifying them for a loan to pay off the payday lender.  The large majority of the members already qualified for a conventional loan, but simply either did not know that they would or had been conditioned to think that payday lending was their only option.  Likewise, we have refinanced several automobiles from title lenders cutting the interest expense to these members astronomically.  Because of the close knit nature of the community, we already have people walking in saying “You helped my friend…can you help me?”

PART THREE: Reflections and Lessons

If you could start your CUSO all over again, would you do anything differently? Why and what would you do?

So far, our only regret is that we did not recognize this opportunity sooner.  Our credit unions have had great success in helping our members as well as our community in general, but had never really looked closely at this model and the potential impact it might have on a specific community that so desperately needs an alternative.

Finally, when you think of the future, what gives you hope and what makes you concerned?

We hope that this concept will serve as a model for credit unions all over the country to collaborate and share the risk of really reaching into and serving impoverished areas.  We believe that this model could considerably reshape communities while more firmly securing credit unions as the consumer choice for banking.

Advocacy Updates

NCUA Meeting Provides CUSO Guidance 6/16/16

NACUSO Visits NCUA to Discuss the CUSO Registry and CUSO Reviews

On June 14, Jack Antonini, NACUSO President and Guy Messick, NACUSO General Counsel met with NCUA Staff on the results of the CUSO Registry and the thinking on how CUSO Reviews will be handled.

The CUSO Registry sign-up period and the follow-up by NCUA found there were approximately 900 CUSOs.   NCUA believes that there are more CUSOs that have not reported.  Under the NCUA Regulations (Part 712.1(d)), “A CUSO also includes an entity in which a CUSO has an ownership interest of any amount, if that entity is engaged primarily in providing products or services to credit unions or credit union members.”   So these subsidiary CUSOs are considered CUSOs and required to make annual reports to NCUA.   The NCUA staff believes that many CUSOs were not fully aware of this requirement and there are a number of subsidiary CUSOs that have not reported.   NCUA will be following up with CUSOs to obtain these filings.   NCUA is also scrubbing the data and asking for clarification if the data is indicating that there may have been a reporting error. (more…)

Report on Advocacy Fund spending…NACUSO Working for you

Through the support of our partners, NACUSO raised approximately $63,000 in contributions toward its Legal and Litigation Fund in 2014 with a primary purpose to develop strategies for the most effective way to seek the repeal and/or mitigation of the impact of the CUSO Rule that NCUA had adopted in November 2013.  Subsequently, NACUSO established an Advocacy Fund to supplement the Legal and Litigation Fund.  The goal of the two funds together were to enable NACUSO to coordinate legal decision making, with a crucial advocacy component that will have more impact than the always risky option of legal action.  In total, $190,600 was contributed to the NACUSO Advocacy Fund.  Combined these two related initiatives received total contributions from NACUSO partners of approximately $253,600 in 2014 and 2015.

In keeping with our commitment to be fully transparent and to regularly communicate our usage of these dollars, we would like to provide you with the following information.  NACUSO spent the following amounts from the two funds during 2014 and 2015:

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CUSO Registry Clean Up Period 4/22/16

As most of you know, all CUSOs are obligated under the NCUA Regulations to register certain information directly with NCUA on an annual basis.   Over 800 CUSOs did so in February and March.   NCUA is now in the process of making sure all CUSOs have registered.   Their new deadline is April 30.  They are taking CUSO information from the credit union 5300 call reports and sending out letters reminding “CUSOs” that they have to register.   Some credit unions may have incorrectly listed a company as a CUSO.  Other credit unions list their CUSO but use an acronym for the CUSO instead of the CUSO’s full name.   NCUA, not knowing better is sending letters to any and all companies listed on the call reports. (more…)

Regulatory Update 3/15/16

Letter to NCUA regarding CUSO Registry Acknowledgement: Yesterday, NACUSO informed you of a change we negotiated with our General Counsel (Messick & Lauer) with the NCUA regarding the CUSO Registry Acknowledgment each CUSO is required to agree to when submitting their CUSO registration in the NCUA’s CUSO Registry system.  As we pointed out in our Regulatory Alert yesterday, the acknowledgment required CUSOs to agree to be bound by statutes that only apply to credit unions and which imposed penalties that are not applicable to CUSOs.

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Change to the CUSO Registry Acknowledgement 3/14/16

During the process of assisting with CUSO Registry questions, it came to our attention that in order to complete the CUSO Registry, CUSOs were required to agree to be bound by statutes that apply to credit unions and which imposed penalties that are not applicable to a CUSO.  On behalf of NACUSO and the many CUSOs in this industry, Messick & Lauer (NACUSO’s General Counsel) have advocated and negotiated to revise this acknowledgement to more accurately describe the duty of CUSOs to respond to the CUSO Registry.  It is a contractual duty with the credit union and not a direct regulatory obligation to NCUA.   As NCUA continues to pay more attention to CUSOs, NACUSO will continue to take action to be the voice of CUSOs and to resist any attempts at regulatory overreach.  The NCUA has changed the acknowledgement text.  For your reference, the text of the previous and current CUSO Registry acknowledgments are below. (more…)

Regulatory Update 2/26/16

NCUA’s CUSO Registry Training & Demonstration webinar held on February 11 is now available to be viewed.  If you missed the webinar, or want to view it again, to help you in completing the CUSO Registry, you can watch it by clicking on the following link:  View 2/11/16 Webinar. You have until March 31, 2016 to complete your initial registration of all CUSOs.

Regulatory Update 2/1/16: NCUA’s CUSO Registry Opens Today

Credit unions and credit union service organizations can now get additional guidance on NCUA’s CUSO Registry from a new agency website page. Registration for the CUSO Registry opens today and continues through March 31. The new website page explains the agency’s requirement that CUSOs report information directly to the agency if they wish to work with credit unions and provides links to related resources available to help those completing the registry. You can link directly to the CUSO Registry from the resources page.

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