|Keeping the Foot on the Gas
On October 2nd credit unions joined together at a national virtual rally held in Washington, D.C., to draw attention of lawmakers, and urge them to preserve the credit union tax exemption in their tax reform plans. Here in Georgia the message continues from credit union supporters - credit unions are worth protecting! As of the end of September, more than 87,600 messages have been sent to Congress from Georgia advocates (please click here for breakdown), and this does not include all the social media messages from the October 2nd rally! Credit unions in this state continue to get engaged through chapter meetings (see related article below), Twitter, Facebook, the call to action system, sending articles in newsletters, t-shirts, buttons, postcards (and more). But how does one keep the foot on the gas pedal and generate sustained response from membership? Below is one credit union seeing week over week activity, and how it is able to engage its membership.
Robins Federal Credit Union
How did you make this work? What steps did you take to educate your team? Côté shared her team’s simple approach: “We gathered the information and presented it to our staff via email.” But while simple, this approach was part of a larger strategy, as managers were provided the information ahead of time so they could be familiar and answer any questions from staff.
How did you educate your members? Keeping it simple, but also keeping in line with the strategy is the key to the internal process. Côté explained that Robins FCU educated its members in multiple ways: “We reached out to them via email, our monthly e-newsletter, on social media and on the homepage of our website.” And these steps were for more than just educating members; the credit union also utilized its social media platforms to “reach out to our own legislators as part of the Don’t Tax Tuesday efforts.”
How is your credit union able to generate strong contacts week after week? Anyone engaging in such a long, sustained campaign is bound to see fatigue and a drop in response. However, Côté shares a secret to member response: “I think the most important thing with providing any kind of information is consistency. Our initial messaging was distributed in July and is still up. Members may not act the first time they see it, but after return visits to our website they might be intrigued and click on the information.”
Did you experience any negativity or push-back from staff or members? Côté provides a resounding “no” to this question, stating, “Our members are always happy to receive information from us that is keeping them informed.” This consistent strategy of sharing the Don’t Tax My CU message with members has proved successful, and Côté shares it has been positive. “All of the feedback we’ve received has been gratitude for passing along the information and providing the tools for them to contact their legislators.” Great job!
|Digging Deeper into the CU Tax Discussion with Congress
On September 23rd, Bloomberg Government discussed the credit union income tax exemption battle in Congress, stating that credit unions and banks are pushing lawmakers in opposite directions. However, the article reported, many members of Congress are members of credit unions, and credit unions may find a sympathetic audience among lawmakers on the congressional tax-writing committees. Thirty-three of the 60 members of the House Ways and Means and Finance committees that have at least $1,000 in a credit union, several with mortgages through credit unions or accounts for their dependent children.
|Campus Banking Under Scrutiny
Seven Democratic senators and representatives wrote to the CEOs of nine banks on September 26th requesting information about on-campus banking services for college students. The members of Congress expressed concern over some financial institutions offering incentives to colleges to gain access to potential customers. “These lucrative deals are great for banks and great for colleges, but students can get hurt when they are steered into financial products that carry high fees,” they wrote.
|Let Them Eat Cake!
With a message good enough to eat (literally!), the Middle Georgia Chapter met on September 19th to draw attention and focus to the Don’t Tax My CU campaign. This meeting was held to educate credit union advocates on the reasons for engaging in the campaign, the methods and the status of the tax reform discussions in Washington, D.C. Joining credit union management, board and staff was Donovan Head, field representative for U.S. Congressman Austin Scott (R-8), who was present to learn more about this all-important call to action for credit unions. Our thanks to the Middle Georgia Chapter donning their inner Marie Antoinette with the cake, and for creating this event to generate volume on the Don’t Tax My CU message!
|Georgia Weighs State Tax Reform
On September 20th a Georgia State Senate Study Committee held its second hearing on the possibility of shifting the state income tax to a fair tax hybrid, looking at various options to increase the taxes consumers pay on goods and services, and decrease or possibly eliminate the state income tax. Readers of Creating Influence will recall these meetings are monitored on behalf of credit unions, and any proposal will be closely scrutinized - especially one that may broaden the tax on services to include financial transactions. While no formal proposals have been shared yet in the hearings, there have been several references to a state fair tax bill in South Carolina, with the possibility of modeling one in Georgia after it. The South Carolina bill has a WIDE definition of taxable services, and contains an entire section of the taxation of financial services both tangible and intangible. While the road to any state tax reform it is uncertain, this is an issue that we will continue to monitor closely as the Committee drafts options. Stay tuned!
|Time to Celebrate:
International Credit Day!
Have you made your plans for International Credit Union Day yet? On October 17th credit unions all across the world will put their personal touch on this day, which has been celebrated since 1948. Here in Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal has already kicked off the celebration with a proclamation honoring the credit unions in this state and nationwide. This purpose of the day is to raise awareness about the positive impact credit unions have around locally and around the globe. Materials, celebration ideas, and various tools to help your credit union engage can be found here.
|October Is Switch to Save Month in Georgia
Tied to ICU Day in October is the statewide Switch to Save campaign. The stories have already started coming in from the tracking forms, and Georgia credit unions are saving money for members who bring in their loan statements for review to determine if switching those loans to their credit union will save them money. It’s not too late to get on board. Help elevate the profile of credit unions in Georgia while saving your members money and adding to the rich story of how credit unions help people afford life. Check out the promotional toolkit for Switch to Save.
|'Near-Real-Time' Push in Payments
The payments system should move in the direction of "near-real-time" processing, outgoing Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Sandra Pianalto said during her presentation during a Payments Symposium at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on September 24th. "The United States lacks a universal, near-real-time retail payments option for consumers and businesses," she said. "Cash and debit cards are the closest thing to it, but both fall short of fully satisfying business and consumer needs. We have heard from payments stakeholders that there is demand for a better system."
Among the challenges to near-real-time payments are the evolving but unclear demand for the capability and an unclear business case at all points on the payments supply chain, she said. But, Pianalto added, the opportunities to save money in processing costs, ease cross-border transactions and unearth future consumer benefits outweigh the challenges. "A faster payments solution must be built on standards that preserve opportunities to offer unique services in the market while ensuring interoperability across the industry," Pianalto said, citing the participation of banks, vendors and processors in establishing the credit card system, ATM network and ACH that are the backbones of today’s payments system.
|LIBOR Lawsuit One to Watch
NCUA filed suit in federal District Court in Kansas on September 23rd against 13 international banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase. The suit alleges violations of federal and state antitrust laws transacted by manipulation of interest rates through the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) system. NCUA said manipulation of LIBOR, the benchmark for setting interest rates around the globe, resulted in a loss of income from investments and other assets held by five failed corporate credit unions: U.S. Central, WesCorp, Members United, Southwest and Constitution.
|New NCUA Region III Director Announced
Myra Toeppe will replace Region III Director Herb Yolles when he retires at the end of this year, the NCUA reported on September 23rd. Toeppe is the NCUA's current acting director of supervision in the Office of Examination and Insurance. She joined the NCUA in 2011 as associate regional director for operations in Region III, and has also served at the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta during her 25-year government career. With the announcement, the agency thanked Yolles for his 35 years of service to the NCUA. The agency noted Yolles has worked with every NCUA board member since Congress created the NCUA Board in 1978. Georgia credit unions will recall Yolles joined them this past May in Savannah at the GCUA Annual Meeting.
|Burdened by Bank Fees? Today Show Says CU!
In a September 27th segment strongly criticizing banks for assessing unneeded fees on their customers, NBC's Today show offered credit unions as an alternative for consumers. Dozens of not-so-standard fees are popping up, leaving customers surprised in many cases, CNBC's Kayla Tausch reported. The NBC piece cited PNC Bank policies wherein customers with "Virtual Wallet" accounts could see a $7 monthly fee if they bank in a branch. Among the ways to waive the $7 charge: be a student, hold a minimum balance of $500 or pledge to bank only online, by mobile or at an ATM. Wells Fargo's move to charge a fee to customers electing to receive paper statements is also highlighted in the report. All in all, the average checking account can have 30 to 50 fees built in, Tausch said. Banks will bring in around $41 billion in fee income this year, she said.
|Atlanta Makes #2 for Overdraft
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported on September 30th Atlanta’s banking costs are among the highest in the nation and growing, according to a new Bankrate.com analysis of 25 large markets.
|Rigged Bids at Auctions
No, not cattle auctions – foreclosure auctions! On September 25th the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported federal prosecutors have charged an Atlanta company, Penguin Properties LLC, with rigging bids at public foreclosure auctions so it could buy properties at "artificially suppressed prices." Filed Sept. 25 in federal court in Atlanta, prosecutors say the alleged conspiracy lasted from February 2007 to the beginning of 2012. Court documents do not disclose how many properties were purchased.
Having money woes? What about 1.3 BILLION worth?! The Washington Post reported on October 1st that Freddie Mac announced Wells Fargo, Citigroup and SunTrust Banks have agreed to pay a total of $1.3 billion to resolve claims on millions of home loans that have soured or may go bad. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have been seeking compensation from banks they claim misrepresented the quality of home loans sold to it during the housing boom. When the housing market crashed, homeowners defaulted on those loans en masse, saddling the mortgage finance companies with billions of dollars in losses.
Wells Fargo, Citigroup and SunTrust are among many lenders that sell home loans to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which bundle them into mortgage-backed securities and cover the losses if a homeowner defaults. Since the government took control of Fannie and Freddie in 2008, the mortgage giants have been aggressively working to recoup losses, in part to repay the $188 billion they received in bailout funds. Fannie and Freddie have combed through millions of loans looking for shoddy underwriting to force mortgage lenders to buy them back. The pair has focused on mortgages issued between 2005 and 2008, a boom time in the housing market and a period that has led to a high number of delinquencies and defaults.
Freddie Mac’s settlements largely mirror the efforts of Fannie Mae. In July, Fannie Mae reached a $968 million settlement with Citigroup to resolve claims on 3.7 million home loans. The deal followed an agreement Bank of America struck with the financier to spend $6.7 billion to buy back about 30,000 troubled mortgages at a discount to their original value.
|CFPB Releases Report: Credit Card Law Led to $1.5 Billion Less in Late Fees
A 2009 law calling for new regulations on credit cards was largely a success, according to a new report from the federal financial watchdog.