<p>CHICAGO – Overseas members of United Airlines Employees' Credit Union have one of their own to thank for making it easier for them to move funds into their U.S.-based UAECU accounts. United Airlines Employees' CU is the first credit union to offer the En'point international funds transfer service from electronic payments company Payment PartnersT, Irvine, Calif. to its overseas members as a safe, easy and cost-efficient way for them to move funds into their accounts at the credit union in the U.S. UAECU, the fifth largest credit union in the U.S. with $3.5 billion in assets and more than 161,000 members, estimates over 10,000 of its member households are located overseas. The service became available to them April 30. UAECU's familiarity with En'point came about quite by accident. Credit union e-commerce Manager Ken Pederson said, "UAECU wasn't aware there was a service of this kind out there. It really sort of fell out of the sky. It was a good fit for us." Actually what happened was one of UAECU's Germany-based members, Jeannette Weichhardt, learned about En'point through the Internet and signed up for the service. Since Payment Partners is an ACH member, Weichhardt was able to perform the overseas funds transaction to her account at UAECU in the U.S. Payment Partners subsequently notified UAECU of the service and discussed the possibility that other UAECU overseas members might also be interested in En'point. The rest is history. "The fact that our member who first used En'point had such a positive impression of the service meant a lot to us," said Pederson. According to Pederson, UAECU has averaged about 192 overseas transactions a year. Before it decided to use En'point, he said the credit union actually discouraged its overseas members from sending foreign currency to UAECU's U.S. headquarters because the process was too complicated – it took up to three weeks for the currency to be converted and eventually deposited in the member's account. It was also costly – overseas members were charged $20 for the funds conversion and transaction. That was no surprise to Payment Partners. Founded in July 1999 by a group of former Visa senior executives, the company focuses on funds transfer. "Typically for overseas funds transfers below several millions of dollars, the kind you see from companies that have overseas franchises, the process is very cumbersome," said Gregory Bjorndahl, CEO of Payment Partners. He said the company looked at the funds transfer market and the number of transactions that are made – about 90% of overseas transactions are for less than $100,000; the remaining 10% are corporate payments from banks and large businesses, and these represent 95% of the money that is sent. "We asked ourselves if there wasn't an alternative mechanism to wire transfers that would allow funds to be sent electronically between the U.S. and specifically small businesses more easily," Bjorndahl said. While the commercial side of the international funds transfer business is dominated by foreign drafts and checks, the consumer side is characterized mostly by international wire transfers, drafts and checks. Even when a foreign check is overnighted, the receiving financial then has to submit it to the foreign bank for collection. It can be two or three weeks before the funds are deposited in the sender's U.S. account. The process is made worse by the fact that the receiver of the funds has no idea at what stage the sent funds are in the process. Because the U.S. uses a `pull transaction' system – a consumer authorizes someone to pull money out of their account at one financial and send it somewhere else – rather than a `push system' like other countries, Bjorndahl said Payment Partners decided to focus on the inbound side of the business because it is the most expensive and cumbersome side of the business. According to Bjorndahl, about $700 billion in payments come into the U.S. annually. "There is a huge need for an easy and cost-effective way to do this," he said. "Wire transfers haven't changed that much in the passage of time." Payment Partners currently does business with financials in 19 countries in Western Europe, the United Kingdom, and major parts of Asia, as well as the U.S. Events of September 11 heightened the importance of security in international money transactions, and Bjorndahl said even prior to the events of 9-11, Payment Partners had implemented security through the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) database. He said the company is now supplementing that with the USA PATRIOT Act compliance requirement. As an added security measure, Payment Partners doesn't perform any overseas transaction if the sender and receiver are both unvalidated. . In addition, said Pederson, "we know the funds are going to be right there in the member's account almost immediately, so there is no risk to the member." Bjorndahl said En'point can handle any size transaction – there is no minimum or maximum. The sending party is charged $5, and there is no receiver charge. Not only is the service easy for a member sending money to use, it's just as easy for a credit union interested in enrolling in the service – the enrollment process takes about three minutes. There is a one-time validation process to make sure the sender is who they say they are, and Bjorndahl said that process is transparent to the user. The agreement between Payment Partners and UAECU involves a co-marketing agreement. The credit union will promote and provide the En'point service to its internationally-based members. In return, Payment Partners will provide marketing support for the credit union in the form of statement stuffers, direct mailings and email messages to UAECU's overseas members about the new service. Meanwhile, Bjorndahl said Payment Partners is talking about En'point with other credit unions that also have a subset of their members residing outside the U.S. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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