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DULUTH, Ga. – CUSOs offering item processing services are still a rarity in the industry, but Cooperative Services Inc. can count itself among the rare few. Formed in 1988 by six of Georgia’s largest credit unions – Delta Employees CU, Atlanta Postal CU, Georgia Telco CU, Associated & Federal Employees CU, Robins FCU, Lockheed Georgia Employees FCU – and Georgia Central Credit Union, which together at the time accounted for about 45% of the share draft accounts among credit unions in the state, CSI in 1989 opened up stock ownership. It’s now owned by 60 credit unions in Georgia, as well as Georgia Central, and it’s managed by Georgia Credit Union Affiliates. CSI currently processes share drafts for 122 of the 124 credit unions in Georgia – the other two CUs use Fiserv or the Fed – and typically handles about eight to nine million items a month. As of Dec. 31, 2002, it processed a total of 624,000 shared draft accounts. Ralph Jones, executive vice president for Georgia Credit Union Affiliates and CSI, explained that the impetus behind forming CSI back in the late 1980s was very simple. First, he said, it was simply cost prohibitive back then for CUs to process items themselves. In addition, Georgia Central at the time didn’t have sufficient capital to do item processing. And although the Federal Reserve had an item processing program, Jones said, “Dealing with the Fed was a nightmare, and their prices were too high.” Jones said for the first time, in 2002, item processing volume was lower than the previous year – down 2%- for the CUSO. Earlier year-to-year comparisons have been mostly flat. He attributes that to members’ increased use of debit and ATM cards, and he’s not surprised at the numbers. CSI also offers debit and ATM card services through EDS, and Jones said the CUSO is looking to offer more electronic payment programs in the future. [email protected]

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