Posts From June, 2014

Foundation of 80 Years Ensures All Across Nation Can Join, Use a Credit Union 

Posted by Greg Michlig Thursday, June 26, 2014 12:45:00 PM

If given the choice, would you prefer to be a member or a number? If you belong to a credit union, you probably understand that the value proposition of membership outweighs the “number” status associated with simply being a customer.

For 80 years, the New Jersey Credit Union League has supported credit unions in the Garden State. We’ve been proud to represent our affiliates and provide them with resources to better serve you, the consumers of our state. Here, in the communities surrounding the world’s top financial center, consumers have continually sought alternatives to big banks. Over the years, millions of New Jerseyans have made the decision to choose a credit union because we’ve made collaborative banking a success while offering first-rate member service and savings. But none of that would be possible today if it wasn’t for the work done in 1934.

The foundation for a strong credit union movement was set 80 years ago, on June 26, 1934, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act into law, permitting credit unions to be formed across the country. Since that day, credit unions have developed considerably. Through the years, we’ve grown in membership as we’ve broadened our services to meet the needs of our members, from mortgage lending to education loans to digital banking.

Today, nearly 100 million people nationwide choose to be members of credit unions, with over 1 million here in New Jersey. Our state has over 190 independent, consumer-owned, volunteer-led, democratically controlled credit unions here to serve you.

As not-for-profit financial institutions, credit unions strive to be your best financial partner. In addition to values-based decision making focused on the communities and members they serve, credit unions return financial benefits directly to their members with higher returns on savings, lower rates on loans, and fewer, lower fees. Bank customers benefit too, as the presence of credit unions drives down loan rates, pushes up savings rates and influences fees. In fact, New Jersey consumers realized financial benefits of more than $47 million dollars in 2013.

We believe a key reason credit unions are your best financial partner is because we listen to the needs and interests of our growing membership by fostering service excellence. With services such as online banking, shared ATM access (the largest single ATM network in the country), and the growing number of convenient branch locations – and “shared branches” among credit unions – and dedication to competitive rates, credit unions’ top priorities are centered on those they serve, not in driving profits for a small group of shareholders. As a matter of fact, The American Consumer Satisfaction Index for credit unions is 85, compared to 73 for banks. We’re proud to note that in the most recent survey, credit unions were tied for the best Customer Satisfaction Benchmark among all 43 industries reviewed. 

We also believe it’s important to remove the barriers that exist to service, and we encourage members who are interested to become engaged on issues that are important to them. Members have stood with and come to the defense of their credit unions through strong grassroots support on many occasions over our 80 years. We believe it’s important that our elected officials hear from those who benefit from credit union membership and, as the state association for New Jersey’s credit unions, we continually work to foster open-door policies at the congressional level as well as with federal and state regulators.

As we move forward, it’s essential to look back and remember why credit unions were created. Credit unions are cooperatives that were developed to promote thrift among the American people – bound together by a common set of business principles and values. Volunteer leadership. Democratic control. Economic participation. Autonomy and independence. Member education. Cooperation among cooperatives. Concern for community.

Credit unions are living up to those business principles and values. At the New Jersey Credit  Union League, we will continue to be a voice for credit unions and deliver cooperative services that facilitate their growth. Together, we will remain steadfast in our efforts to put members first here in the state of New Jersey.

Plan to Win 

Guest Blog Post By: Chris Abeel
Posted by Greg Michlig Thursday, June 05, 2014 9:15:00 AM

In the midst of two of the most serious threats in recent memory to credit unions’ ability to fully serve their members, it seems timely to revisit the League’s participation in CUNA’s Plan to Win, A 435 Seat Strategy.

CUNA launched the Plan to Win in 2012 because banker opposition and overall Capitol Hill gridlock continued to stall some of our legislative initiatives. Little more than a year into the program, its importance became strikingly clear first when the credit union tax exemption came under threat, and a year later when NCUA unveiled its onerous risk-based capital (RBC) proposal.

What started as a proactive, offensive plan almost immediately demonstrated its value as a crucial defensive tool as well.

So what is the Plan to Win, A 435 Seat Strategy?

Simply put, it’s a set of advocacy goals, or vital steps, to ensure that every member credit union meets its collective responsibility to the credit union movement, so together we’re able to move lawmakers to where they “can’t say no” to credit unions.”

Let’s face it; we’ll never be able to compete with the deep pockets of bankers. But we have something bankers don’t, a committed constituency, the breadth and depth of which is the envy of every bank lobbyist. Our strength is in our numbers. Sure, bank customers outnumber credit union members, but how many bank customers actually like their bank, or more importantly, will take time to defend their bank to law and policy makers?

That’s why we regularly communicate to state and federal lawmakers the size of their credit union constituency. But the numbers alone are not enough. Lawmakers have to hear from those constituents. Otherwise we run the risk of being viewed as a paper tiger.

We got the message across when it came to municipal deposit reform with 5,000 postcards to Assembly members and 5,000 postcards to Governor Christie. Last year we got the “Don’t Tax My Credit Union” message through with 5,000 postcards to targeted members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation and more than 5,100 emails, telephone calls, and Twitter messages to our Capitol Hill lawmakers. Most recently, the system got NCUA’s attention with an unprecedented number of RBC comment letters from credit unions and lawmakers.

So how can a credit union ensure it’s meeting its collective responsibility? A good place to start is by ensuring its participation in various Plan to Win support components by regularly updating their Project Zip Code (PZC) numbers and ensuring they have an up-to-date Participation Agreement (PA) on file with the League.

PZC is safe, easy to use, and is a critical component of our advocacy program. Some 80 million CU members have already been counted nationwide. It is absolutely essential that we have 100% participation in N.J.

The law requires we receive the permission (PA) of NJCUL member credit unions in order to keep them informed of key CUNA and NJCUL federal political activities. Neither CUNA nor the League will contact any of your members directly, but it’s important that credit union professionals and volunteers know about these activities. Credit unions can decide individually whether they want to pass along this information to their members.

These tools are fundamental to communicating the size of, and mobilizing, our grassroots strength. In addition to participating in these vital Plan to Win steps, credit unions must also ensure that, at a minimum, their professionals and volunteers step up to the plate when we issue a Call-to-Action.

Credit unions should also consider participating in one or more of our various advocacy events such as the annual CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, Capitol Hill visits (Hike-the-Hill), meetings with state and federal lawmakers in their district offices, and Chapter Meetings that host elected officials as guest speakers.

As a cooperative system, each and every credit union has a responsibility not only to its own members, but to the members of every other credit union as well. While many of our credit unions are doing more than their fair share, it’s time that all assume responsibility for our mutual success.