ICUL Service Corporation
 
 
February 2013
 
 
 

 

Important News

Governor Quinn signs landmark fast track foreclosure legislation into law

ICUL Service Corp partners with CU Mobile Apps for mobile solutions

League announces governmental affairs staffing changes

Illinois CUs kick off 3rd year of financial counseling program

Help members keep Sprint discount - and your CU its marketing incentive

Six steps to prepare for cyber attacks

A solid year in visits, searches for aSmarter Choice

Governor Quinn signs landmark fast track foreclosure legislation into law

League key advocate in helping to pass bill to address local government abandoned property relief, counseling

Surrounded by representatives from the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL), state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, housing advocates, county officials, and other interested community stakeholders, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn last Friday signed into law SB 16, a measure that establishes a "fast track" expedited foreclosure process to help address the issue of abandoned residential properties in Illinois.

"A home is the foundation of our families and our communities," Governor Quinn said. "This law will help restore neighborhoods and property values while fighting crime and blight by decreasing the time a home sits empty and getting it back on the market quickly. It also allows us to make major investments to keep families in their homes by preventing foreclosures in the first place."

After nearly two years of negotiations, ICUL played a key role in advancing this critical legislation.  SB 16 cleared both chambers during the second week of the "veto" session of the Illinois General Assembly (IGA), passing the Illinois House on December 4, 2012 by a vote of 87-17 and the Illinois Senate on December 5, 2012 by a vote of 47-0.  The bill, now Public Act 97-1164, carefully balances the interests of consumers, lenders and local governments and provides a meaningful solution regarding the social issue of abandoned properties.   Key elements of the legislation include:

  • Establishment of a “fast track” expedited foreclosure process.   The fast track concept has been of paramount focus and a fundamental priority for ICUL.  The league’s approach has been to work with sponsors in an attempt to “fine-tune” the mortgage foreclosure process to make it more efficient and expedient, and avoid provisions that penalize lenders (and, ultimately borrowers) through increased fines and penalties. SB 16 has accomplished these goals by allowing lenders to shorten the foreclosure process for abandoned properties by approximately 18 months. As a result, lenders will obtain title to these properties more quickly and then assume responsibility under applicable ordinances to maintain and secure them, which will be good for neighbors, neighborhoods, and local governments.  Lenders will benefit, too, because they will acquire properties that have suffered less damage and deterioration and can be sold for much more, and they will also save 18 months of costs like property taxes, insurance, and loan servicing fees. The negotiated language includes a better and more efficient foreclosure process for lenders and good protections for consumers.

  • Funding for remediation of abandoned property as well as pre-foreclosure counseling.  The bill includes an additional residential foreclosure filing fee to provide support for local governments and struggling homeowners.  Institutions that have filed 175 or more foreclosures during the preceding calendar year will pay a $500 fee, those that filed 50-174 foreclosures will pay a $250 fee, and institutions that filed less than 50 foreclosures will pay a $50 fee.  The vast majority of community banks and credit unions will pay the $50 fee.  These fees are expected to annually generate approximately $41 million, with $28 million going towards abandoned property clean-up and the remainder for housing counseling for homeowners.  The fees will be remitted by the court clerks to the State Treasurer.  The Illinois Housing Development Authority will then draw upon the funds to make grants to local communities and housing counseling agencies throughout the state.

  • Bankruptcy relief provision.  In addition to the fast track and funding provisions, SB16 contains language that clarifies that a portion of the Conveyances Act is permissive, not mandatory, so it cannot be used to affect the validity or priority of a properly recorded mortgage by a trustee in bankruptcy.  This provides a tremendous benefit to every Illinois credit union by protecting against the avoidance of mortgage liens in bankruptcy proceedings.

Additional provisions of the bill clarify the method of delivering foreclosure notices to municipalities, and also require delivery of the notices to Chicago aldermen.  The measure also directs lenders to notify the insurance company for the property, after confirmation of the property’s sale.  Further, the bill protects lenders and their agents from criminal and civil liability when entering, securing or maintaining abandoned residential property.

The topic of foreclosure has been an overarching focus during the 2011 and 2012 spring sessions of the IGA.  Although it has been widely acknowledged by lawmakers that credit unions were not the cause of the crisis, numerous measures were introduced to address this issue. SB16 represents a fairly balanced compromise that will not only benefit credit unions but also the citizens of Illinois.  Said former Rep. Joe Lyons, "This legislation will be an enormous help to communities across our state and it would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of so many staff members and advocates over the past two years.  These unsung heroes behind the scenes have done and continue to do great good on behalf of the people of Illinois."

"With the signing of SB 16 into law, the bill has now received the support of the Governor, as well as the Illinois Attorney General, and both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly," said Stephen R. Olson, ICUL Executive Vice President and General Counsel. "Throughout the two-year process, the excellent reputation and respect credit unions have earned with legislators were very apparent.  The active participation and support of Illinois credit unions played a key part in helping to pass this critical measure."

ICUL Service Corp partners with CU Mobile Apps for mobile solutions
ICUL Service Corporation, a subsidiary of the Illinois Credit Union League and one of the nation’s leading credit union service organizations, announces its recent partnership with Tennessee-based CU Mobile Apps, a rapidly-growing provider of progressive mobile banking solutions.

The agreement was recently finalized and made public by George W. Fiegle, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of ICUL Service Corp, which serves nearly 3,000 of the nation’s 7,000 credit unions, in coordination with 42 state leagues and CUNA Strategic Solutions.

The decision to partner with CU Mobile Apps is expected to materially support and enhance the mission of ICUL Service Corporation, which is to help credit unions compete, says Fiegle.  "We do so by providing them with tools in the form of products and solutions that enable them to compete for their members’ business and enrich their financial lives.

"Including mobile apps capabilities in that tool chest of offerings will not only provide greater flexibility and convenience to our client credit unions, but will also help them expand their appeal to a younger market segment that has traditionally been less accessible to our industry," added Fiegle.

Increasingly tech savvy consumers expect to control shopping, entertainment, and banking functions from their iPhones and other mobile devices; consequently, mobile apps are being downloaded by the billions: to date, users have downloaded 8.8 billion apps from the Android App store, more than 25 billion apps from the Apple Apps store, and according to technology research expert Gartner, Inc., by 2014 annual downloads of mobile applications from app stores will surpass 70 billion.

In response, ICUL Service Corp began searching several years ago for a mobile solution to meet the needs of credit unions, said Fiegle.  "We were not willing to deliver something that was less than an ideal fit for our credit unions, so we’re delighted that we found CU Mobile Apps!  Their product is very reasonably priced, the links are already in place, it’s highly customizable, implementation is quick—and they have an excellent understanding of the industry’s needs.

"Another aspect of the partnership that appealed to us is the potential for building mobile applications into our existing products, especially our reloadable prepaid debit product, where we are already the industry leader," Fiegle pointed out.

Since their introduction in 2005, ICUL Service Corp’s hugely popular prepaid debit card products have been embraced by more than 2,000 of their credit union customers within the 42 state leagues they recognize as partners.  

"Our society is thriving on mobility," agrees Rick Hargis, owner-partner of Member Service Solutions (MSS), a provider of insurance and financial solutions for credit unions and financial institutions, who offers the CU Mobile Apps product.  "We were honored to be chosen as an ICUL Service Corp partner.  As mobile technology continues to evolve, we look forward to a long-term partnership with them for many years to come."

In recent months, the groundbreaking financial app for smartphone users has been making waves, fuelling growth, and garnering increased member satisfaction and profits for a growing number of credit union subscribers to the service, reports MSS partner Tom Gray, a trainer, consultant, and creator of tailored profitability solutions for client companies nationwide.

"Due to the widespread popularity of smartphones—which are normally regarded as essential to their owners and always carried on their person or within easy reach—an efficient and versatile mobile app allows credit unions to reach their members virtually 24 hours a day with messages they won’t miss," Gray points out.

What gives the CU Mobile Apps product its unique edge in the exploding app market, however, says Hargis, is a combination of advantages: "It’s fast, flexible, multi-talented, affordable, user-friendly—and it lives up to its promises."

The product’s unique "AppEngine" platform works with both iPhones and Android devices, including iPod Touch and iPad, as well as Android Mobile, Android Tablet, and Kindle Fire devices.  Its future-forward design allows it to seamlessly accept and integrate newer technologies as they become available, without costly, inconvenient restructuring/redesign delays—and without additional subscription charges.

"Tom and I are very excited about our partnership with ICUL Service Corp," added Hargis. "We look forward to developing the significant potential of our mobile apps product’s capabilities to provide outstanding service to the credit unions in their state partner leagues."

Established in 1967 as a business subsidiary of the Illinois Credit Union League, ICUL Service Corp has been supplying a lengthy list of products and services to credit unions, including credit cards, ATM and debit card services introduced in 1985, and their prepaid, reloadable debit card, which entered the market in 2005. 

"We are delighted that, working with the CU Mobile Apps organization, we will be able to deliver an affordable, thorough, well-developed product that’s easily customizable and quickly implemented for credit unions.  It’s a perfect fit for us in delivering customer service to credit unions," concluded Fiegle.

More information on ICUL Service Corporation is available at
www.iculsc.com ; to learn more about CU Mobile Apps, visit www.cumobileapps.com or call (800) 537-9035.

League announces governmental affairs staffing changes
The Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) has announced the addition of two individuals as well as other staffing changes to its governmental affairs unit.

Ashley Niebur accepted the position of ICUL’s Manager-State Governmental Affairs, effective January 14, 2013.  Niebur will be based in ICUL’s Springfield office and assist with its advocacy efforts at the Illinois General Assembly.  A native of Edwardsville, Illinois, Niebur holds a law degree from SIU-Carbondale and her Bachelors’ degree from SIU-Edwardsville.  Prior to joining ICUL, she worked as a lobbyist/staff attorney for the Illinois Municipal League over the last two years.

Joe Lyons also joined the ICUL staff as a retained lobbyist effective February 1, 2013 and will provide legislative consulting services.  He will serve as a key advocate for Illinois’ credit unions at the Illinois General Assembly.  Lyons comes from a background as a very well-respected former state lawmaker and volunteer credit union board member for more than 25 years.  He most recently served as Illinois State Representative representing the 95th House District from 1996 – 2013, including as assistant majority leader. 

The new hires are in light of an upcoming retirement Donald Edwards, ICUL Senior Vice President of Federal Governmental Affairs.  Edwards will be retiring effective March 1, 2013 after nearly 40 years of dedicated service to the credit unions of Illinois.

As a result, Keith Sias, ICUL Vice President, Governmental Affairs will now oversee federal in addition to state governmental affairs activities for ICUL.  He will also supervise the activities of the Credit Union Political Action Council (CUPAC) and serve as liaison to ICUL’s Legislative Committee. Sias joined ICUL in March of 1993 and during that time has served as its registered lobbyist representing credit unions before the Illinois General Assembly.  He will continue to be based in ICUL’s Springfield office.

Dick Lockhart, Founder of Social Engineering Associates will remain as one of ICUL’s retained lobbyists.  He has served as a well-respected and dedicated professional lobbyist for 55 years, including representing the interests of Illinois credit unions for the last 37 years.

Brad Bergmooser, an attorney in ICUL’s Office of General Counsel with experience in governmental relations law, will have an increased role in ICUL’s advocacy efforts.  Bergmooser will serve as a registered lobbyist for ICUL and provide technical support and expert testimony as needed before the Illinois General Assembly and administrative agencies.

In addition, Pat Huffman has been promoted to ICUL’s Political Action Director.  She will continue to be based in ICUL’s Naperville office and serve as liaison to the CUPAC board and assist with federal governmental affairs activities.

Lastly, Debbie Bindler, Governmental Relations Assistant in ICUL’s Naperville office and Jennifer Midden, holding the same position in the Springfield office, have both been given increased responsibilities as a result of the department’s reorganization.

"A key component of the Illinois Credit Union League is to advocate on behalf of credit unions in the legislative and regulatory arenas in Springfield and throughout the state," Stephen R. Olson, ICUL Executive Vice President and General Counsel.  "The addition of Ashley and Joe along with the departmental reorganization will serve to further enhance our already effective and successful advocacy efforts." 


Illinois CUs kick off 3rd year of financial counseling program
For the third year, the Illinois Credit Union Foundation is bringing the REAL Solutions enhanced version of the Credit Union Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) to the credit unions of Illinois.

This is a unique partnership between the National Credit Union Foundation/REAL Solutions, Credit Union National Association’s Center for Professional Development (CUNA CPD), the Illinois Credit Union League and Illinois credit unions to train staff who are then able to give professional financial counseling and education to members and potential members throughout the state.

The Illinois program for 2013, which began January 30, will see 57 new participants from 19 credit unions as well as representatives from CUNA Mutual Group take part. In the first two years of the Illinois program, more than 60 individuals from 30 credit unions "graduated" as Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors (CCUFC). Each year, a "class reunion" is held with the new crop of CCUFC’s, along with other individuals who have previously achieved this designation.

"FiCEP participants are gaining knowledge and skills that help them provide personalized service to credit union members in keeping with our 'People Helping People' philosophy," said Dan Plauda, Illinois Credit Union League President/Chief Executive Officer. "I am pleased to see the number of certified financial counselors in Illinois triple during the last two years and is set to nearly double this year."

Students used the CUNA CPD’s FiCEP to study for their Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor certification. CUNA staff graded all tests and issued students with their certificates.

As CUNA’s financial counseling certification self-study program, FiCEP enables all credit union staff to become more confident in helping members build a stronger financial future. FiCEP is designed for credit union staff members who work in the financial counseling, collections, and loan departments, or any others who are committed to helping members gain control of their financial futures.

Modeled after the CUNA Certified Financial Counselor Schools, FiCEP includes two parts of four learning modules each.  When participants successfully complete the proctored exams for both parts (eight total modules), they become a CCUFC ready and able to assist credit union members in reaching their financial goals.

The benefits to credit unions participating in the program include:

  • Proven financial counseling skills that become part of the credit union’s culture;
  • Written for all staff so anyone can offer financial counseling during every member interaction;
  • Certification that satisfies members’ needs as they continually look for the value of a credit union;
  • Differentiates a credit union by having certified financial counselors their your team; and
  • Helps members transform the way they deal with money through real-world counseling.

In the past two years, REAL Solutions has worked with fourteen state credit unions leagues and has completed thirteen programs. Two programs are currently in progress and four are scheduled to commence in the next month. Each program takes around five months to complete.  In addition to assisting students to achieve their certification, REAL Solutions places emphasis on developing a counseling and education plan as well as tracking, measuring and reporting the activities and the outcomes of their programs.

"FiCEP is a great program to help credit union staff counsel members to better prepare for their future and to assist when they are faced with financial difficulties," said Lois Kitsch, NCUF REAL Solutions Program Director. "That is a great extension of the credit union difference and the more counselors that are certified, the more consumers can achieve financial freedom."

Help members keep Sprint discount - and your CU its marketing incentive
As a result of participating in the Invest in America Sprint incentive program, more than 80 Illinois credit unions collectively received over $203,000 in 2012. Thank you for your continued participation in this great program!

To help ensure your members continue to receive their discount and the continued success of the program, please assist us in keeping up the momentum by spreading the word to your members regarding verification. When a member doesn’t validate credit union membership, they lose their discount (including any waived activation fees) and fall off of the credit union program – decreasing the marketing incentive pool.

The free Invest in America app is now available for both iPhone and Android. Members can now verify credit union membership using this app with its simple and secure verification process. And it takes just a few minutes to complete. Members using an iPhone can visit the Apple App Store while members using an Android can find the app in the Android Market. This app also lists all other Invest in America discounts.

Sprint is pleased to offer monthly discounts to credit union members, and to ensure the continued integrity of the program members must periodically provide documentation to verify credit union membership. New customers are required to verify within 30 days of activation. Current credit union Sprint customers are required to provide proof of credit union membership when upgrading their device if it has been more than 20 months since their last validation.

Please take the time to download the free Invest in America app, try it for yourself and see just how simple it is to use!  If your members would rather fax in their verification form,
the form and instructions can be found here.

To easily communicate this process to your members, we’ve created a newsletter article you can access in the
Sprint page under Marketing Materials in our Partner Center.

If you have any questions, please contact 
Vicki Ponzo, ICUL Senior Vice President of Member Services at (630) 983-3413 or Leslie Norush from Invest in America at: (800) 262-6285 ext. 542.

Six steps to prepare for cyber attacks
By Ken Otsuka

Cyber attacks against U.S. financial institutions are nothing new. In 2012, however, cyber criminals claiming to be politically motivated conducted several well-publicized, large-scale attacks on national banks. Two credit unions were recent victims of the attacks. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the scale and speed of these attacks was unprecedented.

The attacks disrupted online service at the impacted financial institutions. Other criminal groups launched similar attacks which served as smoke screens for attacks on customer accounts that diverted funds to accounts held by criminals at other institutions.

Here are six steps credit unions can take to prepare for a cyber attack:

  1. Don’t underestimate the threat of cyber attacks.  It’s true that most credit unions don’t face the same risk as national banks from attacks by high-profile cyber criminal groups. But the first thing to understand about cyber attacks is that we can’t predict the next type of attack to come along. We simply don’t know whether it will come from an established criminal organization or from a single perpetrator with an axe to grind. Don’t bet on behalf of your members that your credit union isn’t big enough to be a target.
  2. Mitigate the risk of service interruptions caused by “distributed denial of services” (DDoS). You may not be able to prevent DDoS attacks, but you can establish a process to identify them. For example, you can monitor bandwidth usage, use firewall logs to determine what is being attacked, and use an intrusion detection system to identify the type of traffic.
  3. Perform due diligence on third-party service providers.  Ensure that third parties such as internet service providers and web-hosting vendors address website problems caused by DDoS attacks. Confirm that the providers have a contingency plan for these types of attacks.  What is a ‘distributed denial of services’ (DDoS)? In the world of internet banking, DDoS generally refers to an attempt to disrupt or suspend online service by saturating the targeted institution’s network with external communication requests to overload its server. Legitimate users either can’t logon, or can’t use any services because the system is responding so slowly.
  4. Be prepared to provide timely and accurate information to members.  Have you ever run a drill at your credit union to simulate how you would communicate to members that your website has been disabled or compromised? Have a plan in place to get the word out. The faster you do so, the better you can control the message and counter any rumors or misconceptions about what’s going on. Prepare your staff to monitor social media and search engine results to find out what’s being said in cyberspace about any interruption to your online services. You may need extra staff or third-party assistance to work the phones and to contact local media, if necessary, to be sure the correct information reaches your members as quickly as possible.
  5. Check transfers initiated via online banking when an attack occurs.  When a DDoS attack occurs, the financial institution’s employees may be busy answering calls from customers who cannot access the institution’s website as well as performing other damage control steps. During the chaos, the institution may fail to notice fraudulent transactions initiated through online banking.  When a DDoS occurs, be sure to review transactions initiated through online banking to identify suspicious transfers. If necessary, delay executing the transfers until you verify their legitimacy with the members.
  6. Have a strong multi-factor authentication method in place for online banking systems.  Be sure your authentication process complies with the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council’s (FFIEC) updated authentication guidance issued in 2011. The FFIEC expects all financial institutions to have a fraud monitoring system in place to detect anomalies related to: 1. the initial login and authentication of members requesting access to the online banking system, and; 2. initiating fund transfers to other parties.

© CUNA Mutual Group, 2013. All rights reserved.  Ken Otsuka is a Risk Management Senior Consultant at CUNA Mutual Group. For more information about protecting your credit union from cyber crime and other risks, contact us at 800.356.2644 or cuprotection@cunamutual.com 

A solid year in visits, searches for aSmarter Choice
The year just ended was a pretty good one for aSmarterChoice.org, as it posted nearly 385,000 visits – a nearly 60 percent increase over 2011 – and 218,000 searches for credit unions, up nearly 18 percent from its first year.

In 2013, with the right mix of additional exposure of aSmarterChoice.org in the general press, plus promotion by leagues and credit unions to their members and consumers, even bigger numbers can be posted - and position the Web site and credit unions to respond effectively to any new phenomenon that arises, such as Bank Transfer Day.

Coming this year, a stronger emphasis will be placed on promoting use of the Web site, and helping consumers make "aSmarterChoice."  There will be more tools to help credit unions and improved methods for consumers to easily find a credit union to join.

The time is especially right to take a more rigorous approach. For example, some trends - quarter by quarter - indicate the "tail" from Bank Transfer Day is wearing off. That "tail" helped drive traffic at aSmarterChoice.org through the first half of 2012, as visits and searches continued at a relatively high rate (nearly 226,000 visits and nearly 120,000 searches).

However, over the latter half of the year, visits and searches – while remaining relatively robust – dropped off by about 30 percent and 18 percent, respectively (totals were 158,000 visits and 99,000 searches).

Since the whole purpose of aSmarterChoice.org is to get consumers to learn more about credit unions – and find a credit union to join – earned media continues to be the top method for driving consumer eyes to the website.

Case in point: The highest number of daily visits – 2,793 - in the fourth quarter came on November 21, when the holiday spending survey was presented at The National Press Club by CUNA and the Consumer Federation of America. ASmarterChoice.org was mentioned and included in the press release handout to the media in attendance.

There's no doubt media exposure is one of the most effective ways for consumers to hear about aSmarterChoice.org. In fact, traffic typically spikes whenever the Web site is mentioned, in newspapers, on radio - or on TV. The more often aSmarterChoice.org is seen in the media, at the top of search engines, and via social media, the easier it is for people to find a credit union to join.

During the fourth quarter of 2012, just over 84,000 visits were made to the site, resulting in over 49,500 successful searches conducted for a credit union.

Still using that old "Find a Credit Union.com" link/banner on your Web site? It’s time to trade that out for "aSmarterChoice.org!" Within the marketing resource section of the Web site, there is code/graphics available for you to easily make the switch. Just copy and paste in the current aSmarterChoice.org banner. It’s the beginning of an exciting year – make the change so you are ready to be part of it!


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