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LENEXA, Kan. – When U.S. Central Director of Communications Roger Dick started planning U.S. Central’s 2003 Annual Report he knew it wouldn’t be the typical year-end wrap up – it was more like a wrap-up of the last 30 years. On March 25, 2004 U.S. Central marked its 30th anniversary, and looking at the history of the corporates’ corporate is in many ways like looking at the evolution of the corporate network as a whole. U.S. Central released its 2003 annual report right around the time of its 30th and it wanted it to reflect the importance of the milestone. “Basically we had two objectives. We wanted to first of all paint a picture of what U.S. Central is, and pay a real nice tribute to our members and employees. We’re not much without either group. Then we wanted to for the first time since U.S. Central has been in existence, put in a single document a good history of what has occurred over the last 30 years,” said Dick. This year Dick relied a lot more on in-house staff. The total cost for the annual report was approximately $68,000, down about $25,000 over last year. Dick said having the design done in-house by staff graphic designer Shannon Eastburn and having the report printed locally were tremendous cost savers. “The only part we outsourced was all the history writing done by Margaret Blankers. Everything else was done in-house,” said Dick, who did the bulk of the writing for the report. Dick credited Eastburn, Marketing Manager Michelle Young and Public Relations Manager Lisa Mallow (see picture of the team) for turning the 2003 report into what he described as “something for the portfolio” – not that he’s going anywhere. Planning for the report started back in September. “We started getting real busy with photo work around November and early December. We had most of our shots done by the holidays,” said Dick. The shots he refers to are pictures of key personnel from eight corporates and staffers from U.S. Central. In a unique move, the annual report basically highlights eight corporates that have been successful with particular U.S. Central products. A picture of that corporate’s team in that area is then positioned near a shot of U.S. Central staffers who are responsible for that product. For example Mid-Atlantic Corporate leaders are depicted on a facing page of U.S. Central’s International Services team because of Mid-Atlantic’s success with international payments. FirstCorp leaders are positioned near the U.S. Central APEX (Automated Payment Exchange) team for First Corp’s success with Web-enabled ACH origination and receipt In fact at first glance in the early pages of the report, one might mistake it for one of the eight corporates featured, but that’s typical of U.S. Central said Dick. “U.S. Central as you know has always been a real behind the scenes player. It really was intended to be a tribute to our members, but show how we’ve been supportive of the corporate network over the years,” he said. Of course the communication staff can’t just take off on an idea without management’s approval. Dick said the team presented the direction it wanted to go in, and earned conceptual approval by management. Dick, who only joined U.S. Central a few years ago (and with no corporate credit union experience), said putting together the annual report was the best education he could get on corporates. “It’s almost like a graduate-level credit union university. It’s a great way to learn the business,” he said. 30 Years in the Making The annual report dedicates 20 pages to the history of U.S. Central. It was written by former U.S. Central communications executive Margaret Blankers, who now serves as a public relations consultant for some corporates. Blankers said there were some surprises for her along the way. “I’ve been working with corporate credit unions since 1982 so I know a lot about the corporate network but I learned a lot. Like there were six pieces of legislation over a 40-year period they were never were able to get through Congress. I learned for three years in a row (congressman) Wright-Patman submitted the same bill to Congress for a National Credit Union Bank. I learned that General Nickerson, head of NCUA at the time, really helped champion for U.S. Central,” she said. The timeline starts with the difficulty Blankers describes. Centrals (which back then served natural person credit unions and corporates) formed a “Congress of Central Credit Unions” in 1967 to discuss issues important to them. One such issue was a central to serve the centrals. The Congress applied for such a charter with the Bureau of Federal Credit Unions in 1968, but was denied. It took six more years to finally get the U.S. Central charter approved. According to the U.S. Central annual report, it was Jim Jukes, then managing director for the Kansas CU League, who had the idea to get U.S. Central a Kansas state charter. This idea was met with some resistance until once again in 1973 a bill to allow a federally charteed central was shot down. U.S. Central has a Kansas charter to this day. U.S. Central was first headquartered in CUNA offices in Madison, Wisconsin and received management expertise from a CUNA subsidiary, ICU Services Corporation. Wylie Dougherty, who was in charge of ICU Services, was U.S. Central’s first president with Dick Ayres, president of Central Credit Union Fund (today’s CenCorp based in Michigan) hired as the first general manager. In the mid-70′s U.S. Central was already in the settlement game, settling about $4 million in share drafts a day. It was encouraging for the young organization, but compared to the $3.5 billion it settles today, it was just scratching the surface. One key milestone came in 1980 with the passage of the Monetary Control Act, which gave corporates and U.S. Central bankers’ bank status. This allowed credit unions’ deposits in their corporates to be used for the Federal Reserve’s Reg D reserves requirement. This encouraged CUs to keep more money at their corporates as they were satisfying Reg D and earning interest on their money. This of course helped U.S. Central. It was in the `80s where U.S. Central really started to modernize its correspondent services, payment services and securities programs. It moved from just being a place to keep cash for corporates, to a place for corporates to invest, especially in 1982 when it started issuing commercial paper after some favorable ratings from major ratings organizations. One other significant event in the `80s was the creation of broker/dealer Corporate Network Brokerage Services. It was formed by U.S. Central, CUNA and CUNA Mutual to give credit unions an industry-owned broker/dealer option. Ownership eventually changed to corporates and CNBS. U.S. Central and CNBS had a 10-year non-compete agreement in place that didn’t allow U.S. Central to provide investment services to natural person CUs (via corporates) and CNBS to provide investment services to corporates. That non-compete eventually ended early and today you have U.S. Central providing corporates with a broker/dealer service (ISI) they can offer their member CUs, and CNBS is now owned by corporates and natural person CUs and serves CUs, corporates and even banks with investment products and services. The `90s are where U.S. Central had to face some challenges and make sweeping changes. For example it finally became federally insured in 1991 through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund after a General Accounting Office study raised some concerns about U.S. Central’s state charter. Then in 1995 the politics of U.S. Central changed dramatically. NCUA issued a rule that prevented U.S. Central and all corporates from having management interlocks with trade associations. State leagues were tied very closely to corporates as was CUNA to U.S. Central. The U.S. Central board, for the first time, was made up of a majority of corporate representatives. (The U.S. Central board restructured even further this year to give corporates and even bigger say). Also in ’95 was the conservatorship of CapCorp which ultimately forced a stricter corporate reg. CapCorp attracted lots of negative publicity, but also showed, in the end, the strength of the network. There are many more highlights over the past three decades, but one that kind of caps things off for what today’s U.S. Central looks like is the launch of two key subsidiaries, Charlie Mac, LLC and Corporate Network eCom. Charlie Mac is proving itself as a viable secondary market option for credit unions to sell off loans. It’s particularly key today with rising rates and credit unions’ expanded mortgage lending. Corporate Network eCom is essentially the Internet services arm of U.S. Central that has had its ups and downs, but is seeing success of late with a suite of tech products for larger credit unions. These two subsidiaries are examples of how U.S. Central has branched off into other areas to assist corporates in meeting members’ changing needs. That’s just a glimpse of U.S. Central’s storied history-and the story isn’t done yet. [email protected]

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