Credit Unions Need More Federal Reserve Representation
TAMPA, Fla. -- Progress may be a bit slow but credit unions need to push on to gain more influence in operations and policy of the Federal Reserve System, according to Wendell "Bucky" Sebastian, nearing his first year as a director at a regional Fed branch.
"Every Fed bank should have a credit union CEO on regional boards, particularly when you see that the only locally-owned financial institution in town is a credit union," declared Sebastian, president/CEO of the $2.1 billion GTE FCU of Tampa and a director of the Jacksonville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Sebastian numbers among a group of north Florida business and banking leaders on the seven-member Jacksonville branch board and his year-long experience on the Fed panel, he said, has taught him that CUs cannot be overlooked.
Responding to a query on the CU role, the new president of the Atlanta Fed, Dennis Lockhart, who took over in March and is a former international business professor at Georgetown University, said "interactions with the many credit unions to which we provide financial services has provided us insight into the issues of interest to credit unions and their customers."
During his tenure, Sebastian said he has found particularly useful the new contacts he has made with regional business leaders. These new ties among a host of CEOs in industries ranging from furniture manufacture to retail supermarkets "have been more than helpful in doing planning for my credit union."
For example, he learned about plans of a major supermarket chain to scale back its chain operations and that has been helpful economic data in charting GTE's own facility expansion.
House Decrees September Federal Credit Union Month
WASHINGTON -- As September was drawing to a close, the House declared it Federal Credit Union Month.
The House resolution (H.Res.658), by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.), recognizes that federal credit unions were founded on "the principle that persons of good character and all backgrounds, including those of modest means, joining together in cooperative spirit and action, can create thrift, create a source of credit for productive purposes and build a better standard of living for themselves." It further expresses the House of Representatives' recognition of federal credit unions' importance to the economy "and their critical mission in serving those of modest means."
During the Sept. 24 debate, members of the House, including CURIA sponsor Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and financial literacy advocate Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), lauded credit unions and their efforts nationwide for financial education and to provide financial services to the underserved.
Oct. 2 Marks NCUA's Final Outreach Meeting
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- NCUA Board Member Gigi Hyland said registration was filling fast for NCUA's last scheduled Outreach Task Force Town Hall meeting Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C.
"The participation during the previous meetings has been robust and will provide the Task Force with valuable information once we develop the report and recommend actions to go forward," Hyland, who chairs the task force comprised of NCUA staff, stated. "The Washington, DC Town Hall meeting will finalize what has been a productive, practical, and energetic discussion on these challenges and opportunities facing the credit union system."
Topics to be addressed include NCUA's programs and processes to encourage outreach; the value of low-income designation; and data collection on member income and executive compensation.
Continental Flies Debit Program to PSCU
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The $180 million Continental Federal Credit Union, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., has moved its 15,000-card debit portfolio to PSCU Financial Services, the CUSO has announced. PSCU Financial Services is the payment processing CUSO that serves over 500 credit unions who use the First Data Corp. card platform.
As part of the conversion, the credit union eliminated its ATM-only access card and consolidated all services onto one plastic. Members can now use the debit card to access all of the credit union's checking account products. In the few weeks since the conversion, the credit union has already seen increased usage of the new card.
"We have been extremely impressed with the project management and training from PSCU Financial Services that enabled such a smooth transition," said Tom Glatt, CEO of Continental. "At the same time, I would like to compliment our staff on their excellent teamwork in working with each other and with the cooperative's staff to
ensure that all the necessary tasks were handled promptly and efficiently."
PSCU Financial Services provides signature, PIN and ATM debit for more than 225 credit unions, representing 6.8 million accounts, the CUSO said.
First Data Has Closed its Sale to Private Firm
DENVER -- First Data Corp. has concluded its sale and gone private.
The company has announced that its purchase by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co has been completed. Under the terms of the merger agreement, the company's stockholders will receive $34 per share in cash. Shareholders approved the transaction at a special meeting on July 31, 2007.
First Data stock ceased to trade on the New York Stock Exchange at market close on Sept. 24. Under private ownership, First Data's common stock will no longer be listed on the NYSE.
With the transaction completed, Michael D. Capellas becomes First Data's new chairman and CEO, replacing Ric Duques, the company announced. Duques has served as chairman and CEO since November 2005, and previously served as chairman from 1992 to 2003 and CEO from 1987 to 2003. Capellas was previously CEO of MCI, president of Hewlett-Packard Company and chairman and CEO of Compaq Computer Corporation.
"Today, First Data begins a new era as a private company," said Capellas. "The strength and experience of this new management team combined with our leading market position will serve as a critical foundation for what will be the next generation of First Data."
Hike the Hills Escalates As Congress Nears End
WASHINGTON -- After last month's Hike the Hills, the song should be renamed "When the States Come Marching In."
Last week, the Idaho, Oregon, Wisconsin, New York, Maryland, D.C., Illinois and Ohio credit union leagues all came into Washington, D.C. to spread the word of the credit union movement and support the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 1537). A similar count was in town the week before.
"We'll continue to obviously promote CURIA...We'll try again to show the uniqueness of credit unions and the way we're structured, as we always do," CUNA Senior Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose said. "We always are mindful that many of these folks have staff members who are rotating in and out so we always are trying to keep things fresh."
In yet another attempt to share the credit union message electronically, CUNA has begun running ads, in conjunction with the Hikes, with Google. Anyone nationwide who Googles keywords like "credit unions" or "CURIA" will see a link to CUNA's Web site explaining the fight. Gose said CUNA is vying for the No. 1 position as much as possible. Similarly, those with Washington-area IP addresses will see ads in Washington Post online, Real Clear Politics, and other electronic publications.
"We're experimenting with it," Gose said. "We're not sure how it will work for us in the future but we thought we'd give it a try because so many folks on the
Hill do searches and the Internet has become so important to people, whether they're writing a story for a trade publication or they're writing a memo for their boss up on the Hill."
Greylock FCU Executive Explains Importance of SBA Funding
WASHINGTON -- Greylock Federal Credit Union Senior Vice President of Business Banking Don Kuczarski testified on behalf of CUNA during last week's hearing on SBA funding, outlining the importance of SBA funding to Greylock and its business members.
"Your leadership and efforts to encourage credit unions to participate in SBA programs is greatly appreciated and we thank you for introducing the Credit Union Small Business Lending Act, which will do just that," he told House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Vel??zquez. "We truly value our partnership with the SBA. It has helped so many small businesses owners and contributed to an economic turnaround in Western Mass so we thank you for this opportunity to share with you our experience in 7(a) lending."
Kuczarski explained that when General Electric drastically downsized its plant in the 1990s, Berkshire County's economy suffered. "Slowly, the backbone of the Berkshire economy has moved from large manufacturers like GE to small businesses and family-owned enterprises...Greylock established a business banking
practice to help support that growth." He stressed
that Greylock focuses on business loans between $10,000 and $200,000.
"Many of these loans, due to their higher risk profile, would not have been made without the assistance of the SBA," he said. Kuczarski's credit union has been offering SBA 7(a) loans since 2001 and in 2006 was named to the Preferred Lender Program, which is a real time saver by skipping regional office submission.
"With the help of the SBA, Greylock has been able to extend that philosophy by injecting over $11 million into the local economy," he said. Greylock is the No. 1 SBA lender in the county.
Kuczarski noted that SBA-backing helps credit unions avoid the 12.25% of assets cap on business loans but some times that is not enough. He made a push for Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 1537), which would boost the cap to 20%.
He concluded that CUNA is hopeful that credit union participation in SBA's 7(a) program will continue to grow but the increased fees and inadequate funding of the programs is making participation less savory. "For example we recently provided financing to a payroll company for the acquisition of a competitor. Our member had to pay an $8,200 fee to the SBA for a $365,000 loan," Kuczarski pointed out.