January 16, 2017

How Will You Approach Lending in 2017?

By Eric Nelson

Charles Darwin once said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” In an age of rapidly evolving technology, consumer expectations and industry challenges, these words are as true as ever today - especially for credit unions. 

While 2016 made credit unions rethink how they lend to members, market conditions suggest this year will present strong, continued credit union loan growth. In fact, loan balances are forecast to grow by 9 percent in 2017 in our industry. 

In a recent article, Maximize Lending in 2017: Three Keys, in Credit Union Magazine, our SVP of Commercial, John Wallace, provided insight on how credit unions can achieve their lending potential. His top tips include:

  • Capitalize on pent-up auto lending demand. Record sales of 17.75 million new vehicles are forecast for 2017.
  • Develop a simple, seamless consumer experience. Members have applied for more than $3.3 billion in auto loans via mobile apps!
  • Adapt to new ways of issuing and servicing loans.
Overall, 2017 presents a great opportunity for continued credit union loan growth. By staying current with trends in data, digital channels, technology and online experiences, you can invest to meet changing member needs. And, to retain and grow lending share, look for solutions that can further support your members' financial security. 

How are you approaching lending in 2017?

January 15, 2017

MLK Day: Why Do We Give Back?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has inspired many of us in many different ways. His legacy of service is one that many across our industry will honor on MLK Day this year, including us.

With this in mind, we asked our employees to tell us why giving back and serving others means so much to them.

Their stories inspire us, and we think they might hit home with you too. After all, “people helping people” is a big part of the credit union difference.

You can see more of what employees had to say about volunteering here.

Why is giving back important to you?

January 12, 2017

MLK Day of Service: What Are You Doing for Others?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” This focus on “people helping people” is a cornerstone of the credit union movement. Credit unions invest time and effort in volunteering and local giving all year long in the communities they serve.

Many will also be sharing their sprit of giving this coming Monday – for MLK Day, the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. It’s a great way to honor Dr. King’s legacy, as he devoted his life to advancing equality and economic opportunity for all, and he and taught us everyone has a role to play.

We’ll be observing a “day on, not a day off” on Monday with dedicated volunteer efforts in our Fort Worth, Madison and Waverly locations. And, individual volunteer work will cascade across Great Bend and the many other cities where our employees live and work.

We’ll share some of our story through social media as a way to honor Dr. King and the credit union difference on Monday. So, if you’re not already connected with us through Twitter, FacebookInstagram and LinkedIn, we welcome you to join us there!

No matter what inspires you to volunteer, remember: You can join us and countless credit unions who will make Monday a day of service.

How will you give back?

January 11, 2017

Is Your Risk Management Effective? Our 2017 Credit Union Protection Webinars Can Help

By Brad Neumann

Managing risk is critical to protecting your credit union. Think about it. When you’re blindsided by a problem, a lack of risk management is usually to blame. But, when you recognize existing risks and anticipate new ones, you’re in a better position to safeguard your credit union against losses.

We offer Credit Union Protection webinars for this very reason. In 2017, we’ll host 13 live webinars on a variety of risk and compliance topics. Through these, our experts will provide insights on the risks, trends and losses impacting credit unions today. They’ll also feature ways to mitigate risk.

Offered exclusively as a no-cost benefit to CUNA Mutual Group Bond policyholders, the webinars have had nearly 40,000 registrants over the last five years and attendee satisfaction is consistently high. In fact, over 40 percent of attendees report that the webinars have helped them mitigate risk and/or recover from loss.

As an added benefit, credit unions can qualify to win a $1,000 donation to a charity of their choice – just by attending the webinars.

Here’s how it works: Attending six or more of the 2017 Credit Union Protection Webinars earns your credit union a chance to win the charitable gift through a random drawing. The more attendees from your credit union, the better your credit union's chances are for winning the donation, because every attendee from your credit union earns you an entry for each webinar attended.

View the complete schedule of the 2017 Credit Union Protection Webinar series and register to attend here

Each webinar will be recorded and made available on-demand for credit union leadership and staff to access in the Protection Resource Center.

We hope to see you at our first webinar, titled “Risk & Compliance Oversight: Member Business Lending,” on Wednesday, Jan. 18. Register here!

December 14, 2016

New Research Shows How Credit Unions Can Better Support the Sandwich Generation

According to Pew Research Center, nearly half of U.S. adults aged 40–59 years have a parent aged 65 years or older and support either a younger child or a grown one. Squeezed from above and below, these Boomers and Gen X Americans are known as the sandwich generation. 

To explore this further, we commissioned a new study via the Filene Research Institute that published this week. It's called “Relieve the Squeeze: The Sandwich Generation.” Results suggest this generation may be at its financial tipping point. Here's why:

  • More than 70 percent of respondents said money was tight while only 28 percent reported they were living comfortably.
  • The majority of respondents were either just meeting their basic needs or meeting them with just a bit leftover, while 8 percent said they couldn’t even fully cover basic expenses.
  • Half of respondents said providing financial assistance to their parents and grown children made it difficult to pay their own household expenses.

The research provides insights to help credit unions understand this population and offers suggestions for the types of financial products and services to best support the sandwich generation.

Credit unions have an opportunity to alleviate some of the stress burdening their sandwich generation members. This includes introducing targeted products and services that can lessen the strain such as:

  • Flexible savings accounts
  • Specialized access to parents’ and adult children’s banking accounts
  • Facilitated communication between generations
  • Multigenerational financial planning
  • Solutions that address the rising costs of healthcare

To read member stories and learn more about the needs of the sandwich generation, download the full report.

December 12, 2016

Our Support for LGBT Equality Earns A Perfect Score!

Last week, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) announced we've earned a score of 100 percent – the highest score possible – for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in the workplace. The index has become a roadmap and benchmarking tool for U.S. businesses in this evolving area.

"We're extremely honored and proud to receive a top score on the Corporate Equality Index, said Cedric Ellis, Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer. "It's representative of our core value to be inclusive and respect all individuals."

A few things that contributed to our index score include corporate policies that protect the rights of LGBT staff and vendors and extend to the charities we choose to support through corporate giving. And, this year, we also rolled out transgender health benefits in our 2017 Open Enrollment.

"As an insurance and investment company that serves credit unions and their members, we were founded on the philosophy of equality and people helping people," said Ellis. "Whether it’s financial, racial, religious, gender or sexual orientation, we appreciate the differences that make each of us unique. Our commitment to supporting an inclusive culture – especially for the LGBT community and its allies – is steadfast and we work diligently to enhance our employees and customers’ experience every day. For us, it’s simply the right thing to do."

In addition to the corporate efforts we continue to make, our Prism Employee Resource Group (ERG) includes LGBT staff members who volunteer in the local communities we serve.  

We thank our employees and the Prism ERG who made this prestigious recognition possible.

December 6, 2016

Twelve Holiday Fraud Prevention Tips for Credit Union Members

By Robert Jarosinski

The holiday season brings family time, delicious food and good cheer. Unfortunately, it also brings fraud. 

Fraudsters fill with glee between Black Friday and New Year’s Eve as unsuspecting members let down their guard when holiday shopping. And, what’s on every fraudster’s holiday shopping list? Data.

So, how can credit union members protect themselves during the holiday season? Use these tips:

1. Think before you click on suspicious emails, online ads, deals and even apps. Suspicious emails and online offers may introduce malware once clicked. In addition, some fraudulent offers request sensitive information, which can be used to compromise accounts.

2. Keep an eye on your accounts.  Review checking, savings and credit card accounts daily and report any unusual activity.

3. Create complex, unique passwords for sites that store your sensitive information. Since it might be difficult keeping track of all the passwords, password management services can be a great option.

4. Use payment methods that offer tokenization. Many mobile wallets offer mobile, online and in-person settings that include tokenization.

5. Sign up for transaction alerts if offered. Or, at the very least, monitor statements closely for suspicious activity and report it immediately to your credit union.

6. Ensure home computers, laptops and tablets are protected with antivirus, anti-spyware and a firewall.

7. Close/exit out of shopping sites or turn off your computer, tablet or mobile device, once you’ve completed your purchase.

8. Be on the lookout for ATM tampering, skimmers or anything suspicious. Also, be sure to survey the ATM surroundings for safety.

9. Key an eye on your wallet and/or purse while shopping. It may seem obvious, but distracted shoppers make easy targets for thefts. 

10. Shop online with trustworthy merchants who require security information such as address verification and the CVV2/CVC2 number on the back of your card.

11. Always access authorized websites – such as your credit union’s or an online merchant’s – by typing the website into the address bar of the web browser. This will help you avoid “spoofed” websites attempting to steal your information.

12. Remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Cybercriminals are adept at mimicking legitimate content, so err on the side of caution if you are asked to hand over your information.

Looking for more ways to ensure you have the best holiday season? Check out these six hacks for a healthier holiday season.

November 28, 2016

Uniquely Suited: Opportunities for Women Advisors Have Never Been Greater

A Q&A with Mary Wong-Young, VP, Strategy, Marketing & Planning, CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI)

Women may still be under-represented in the financial advisory industry, but “the stereotype of this business being a ‘boys club’ is quickly fading,” says Mary Wong-Young, Vice President of Strategy and Planning, for CUNA Brokerage Services, the leading broker/dealer serving credit unions and their members. She explains why women are uniquely suited to meet the needs of today’s clients and how CUNA Brokerage is creating exciting new opportunities for women interested in joining this fast-growing profession.

Q: Where are the opportunities today for women in the financial advisory industry?
A: With pensions disappearing and financial literacy falling among younger generations, we’re seeing a growing need for financial guidance, and clients today are looking for advisors who are approachable, knowledgeable and can make them feel at ease. Women are particularly good at making people feel comfortable and helping them break through that paralyzing fear that keeps them on the sidelines. When you look at households in the United States, increasingly you find women are the families’ financial managers. In fact, women now control more than half of the wealth in this country, and most of them say they would prefer to work with female advisors. That’s why I think there has never been a greater opportunity for women in this field, particularly in the credit union space.

Q: Does CUNA Brokerage have any initiatives focused on women advisors? 
A: Our Women of Distinction program recognizes the top female advisors in the organization. It provides opportunities for networking, sharing best practices, and the women in the program all have a very strong commitment to mentoring other female advisors. And it’s generating results. Many advisors in our mentoring program have raised their production enough to become Women of Distinction themselves. We hosted a conference last year, helping create a community for all women advisors at CUNA Brokerage. Beyond being advisors, though, there are plenty of other opportunities for women throughout our company. We are actively recruiting women in our compliance, broker/dealer and customer services divisions too. In fact, CUNA Brokerage has been ranked among the best independent broker/dealers for women.

Q: What makes the credit union niche special? 
A: Credit unions have a unique dynamic that allows advisors to be rewarded both financially and personally. On the personal side, we share the same mission as the credit union, which is breaking down the barriers to financial security for everyone. Our advisors have the time to get to know all of their clients on a much more personal level. We hear over and over again from our advisors that working with CUNA Brokerage has allowed them to fulfill their purpose of doing what’s best for the clients. Financially, about a third of the U.S. population is a member of a credit union, and credit unions now hold more than $1 trillion in assets, so there’s a big market opportunity too. Another advantage is that credit unions offer a smaller, family-friendly atmosphere, and those advisors who have that ability to make clients feel at ease tend to excel in that environment.

Q: What does the career path at CUNA Brokerage Services look like? 
A: We have a very flexible career path that varies based on each person’s experience and interest. Some advisors may start as coordinators or working internally with the broker/dealer or as junior advisors. Others come to us more tenured. Wherever they start, and wherever they want to go, we have a great training program to help them get there. In fact, one of our training programs was recently nominated for a national award. Advisor graduates of CUNA Brokerage’s Honors Academy, a year-long program that helps them build their practices, are averaging over 40% increase in production within one year of completing the course.

Q: How do compensation opportunities compare with other broker/dealers? 
A: We’re competitive. And, our advisors post higher-than-average production numbers. Beyond compensation, though, it’s really about the total opportunity that we provide. While the earnings potential is very strong, we also offer back-office and marketing support, training, and there is no overhead for office space. Plus, we also have great benefits, including a pension plan, which is very rare in the industry. Then there’s the credit union environment, which is very supportive. Our advisors consistently rank us high in overall broker/dealer satisfaction.

Q: What excites you about your own career? 
A: I’ve been in the financial services industry for more than 30 years, and I have never been more excited about my job. Working within a purpose-driven organization is really rewarding. I’m part of the movement to close that gap in financial education and helping find ways to ensure that more people can retire securely. With CUNA Brokerage Services, I get to work across the business allowing me the opportunity and the reward of guiding the business and determining where we go next.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2016 issue of Financial Planning, in the Women’s Summit publication. 


November 22, 2016

‘Tis the Season for Fraud: Seven Prevention Tips for Credit Unions

By Robert Jarosinski

With the holiday season around the corner, fraudsters are ready to attack. They know transaction volumes are significantly higher this time of year, so it's harder for victims to detect fraud. They also see new opportunities as consumers now make more online and mobile purchases than ever before.

So, rather than focusing solely on plastic cards this year, they’re moving to other means for stealing consumer data. This includes retail website databases, social media sites and more. And, once they secure key personal information, they can use it to take over accounts and spend hard-earned dollars that don't belong to them.

With unsuspecting members letting their guard down for holiday shopping, fraudsters may strike in any number of ways. Credit unions can protect themselves through the giving season by following a few tips:

1. Check your card parameter settings and current fraud rules. Ensure they're aligned with expectations. Use the holiday season to trigger check-ups at least annually. As one example, credit unions with card suppression settings turned off have have experienced significant losses because fraudsters were able to bypass protective card fraud rules.

2. Ensure that your member service center is on guard for fraudsters impersonating members. Implement strong authentication protocols and consider adding technology to score member interactions for risk if you don't already use it.

3. Review suspicious activity and confirmed cases of fraud in as close to real-time as possible.

4. Create fraud management rules to monitor and counter exhibited patterns of fraud. In particular, monitor for 3-D secure transactions (verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode). Credit unions have reported increases in fraud from this channel with no liability shift opportunity.

5. Validate CVV2 / CVC2 and Address Verification Services are used to ensure chargeback rights are preserved in a Card-Not-Present environment. This is especially timely because some reports suggest that nearly 50 percent of holiday shopping will involve online transactions.

6. Provide members with the ability to receive account alerts and promote its usage.

7. Stay on alert for “friendly” fraud perpetrated by members. Consider consequences that follow the law to help minimize and deter this kind of chargeback behavior. Maintain a positive member experience by scripting good questions for members and developing prepared answers to common objections.

Unfortunately, holiday fraud risks exist outside of credit union control. Credit unions and members working together is the best bet for mitigating risks. Check back soon for tips your members can use to protect themselves against holiday fraud. 

Looking for more risk management insights? Log into the Protection Resource Center or keep up with RISK Alerts – both available exclusively to Bond policyholders.

To obtain access to:
Protection Resource Center – Visit My Services at cunamutual.com. A RISK Alert subscription is included with your access.
RISK Alerts – Visit Edit Subscriptions. Select Credit Union Protection from the center menu and check the box for RISK Alerts.

November 16, 2016

Six Hacks for a Healthier Holiday Season

The holiday season is approaching fast. For many, this means extra time with family and friends, shopping for the best bargains and some time off from work. It also means good food – and lots of it.

To counteract the latter, here are six hacks for a healthier holiday season.

1. Opt for homemade meals.
Cooking your own meals presents an opportunity to control what goes into the food. Consider healthier alternatives – like using milk instead of cream in mashed potatoes – when preparing your meals. Also, think about integrating new health-conscious dishes into your repertoire. For example, add extra vegetable dishes in place of dense, carb-heavy sides.

2. Control portion sizes.
Start by using a smaller plate if you have one available. Then, ensure you’re reaching for items that span all food groups. Eating an assortment of vegetables, proteins, fruits and carbs will prevent you from stocking up on the unhealthy items available.

3. Indulge reasonably.
Go ahead, have some dessert! But, try to stick with one choice from the dessert table. This will help you avoid feelings of deprivation without breaking the caloric bank.

4. Don’t forget to drink water.
Try to drink a glass of water before each meal. Water can help you feel fuller longer, control your appetite and occupy your hands and mouth so you aren’t tempted to overeat.

5. Choose snacks wisely.
Eating snacks throughout the day can help curb your appetite. Just make sure to pick healthy ones, like fruit or nuts. Also, consider eating a small, healthy snack before leaving for a holiday party so you're less likely to overeat at the party.

6. Don’t forget about exercise.
While this time of year is often packed with activities, try not to let your exercise regimen slip. Even a short walk can help make a difference in how you feel.

Happy (healthy) holidays to you and yours!