Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Poor Banks--Members Demand CU Small Biz Loans

Poor banks. They're having to fight credit unions who have the audacity to try to serve their members with small business loans. That's the tone of a tongue-in-cheek article written by the San Antonio market's top business columnist.

David Hendricks' article, "Man, credit unions have really got their nerve," appears in the San Antonio Express-News (Feb. 26). It notes that "those darn credit unions" are "at it again, trying to lure business away from banks."

He tells the story about credit unions responding to member demands for small business loans. And then the banks got selfish.
"That's when credit unions became alarming, and banks knew what to do. They hired lobbyists to make sure the credit unions didn't get too big for their britches. Congress set things straight in 1998 by limiting credit-union business loans to 12.25 percent of any credit union's assets."

Mr. Hendricks is one smart business columnist. Read the entire piece here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kansas Activist: 'Banks Try to Limit Choices'

Glenda Overstreet, an active volunteer in Topeka, Kansas, railed against bank efforts to limit financial choice in her state. She urged her fellow citizens to stand up for themselves.

Overstreet says she's not anti-bank, but notes anything that suppresses the consumer's right to choice is of deep concern.
"Don't get me wrong--I'm not against banks because I also use them. I'm against any effort that would restrict freedom of choice because I believe competition keeps companies focused on ensuring quality customer service."

She urges readers to contact state lawmakers to make their views known.
"Those whom I have visited with on this issue believe many banks, with the exception of a few, don't meet the needs of the community when it comes to providing financial alternatives for small-business loans, emergency personal loans or financial matters that help meet low-income or working poor challenges."

Read the entire post "Glenda Overstreet: Banks try to limit choices."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Miss America's Credit Union!

The tune, "There she is, Miss America..." replayed in my head for more than an hour after I read this follow-up story in the NY Daily News. (The worst part is those are the only lyrics I remember from when my parents and I watched Bert Parks croon yet another teary-eye beauty queen. I needed a strong shot of Linkin Park to rinse it away.)

Check it out: Former Miss America an East Harlem homeowner thanks to credit union.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Actors Have Their Own Credit Union

Since it's Oscars week, a story in today's New York Daily News is especially timely. Actors Federal Credit Union in New York City focuses on the needs of--you guessed it--actors.
The credit union's first mortgage borrower was "Law & Order" star Jerry Orbach, who died in 2004. When he got a loan for a West Side brownstone in 1967, he had a role in "The Fantasticks," which became the longest-running off-Broadway show ever.

One credit union loan officer named Paul Cole is a former actor. When making a home loan, Cole doesn't just consider a potential borrower's credit history. He really knows his members:
"When a would-be borrower's main source of income is a play, Cole checks ticket sales, reads reviews and tunes into industry buzz to assess its chances for a continued run."

The story explains why this credit union is so focused on these thespians:
Because it's a credit union, it's a nonprofit owned by its members. Deposits fund the mortgages. It keeps its $35 million mortgage portfolio, rather than reselling the loans to investors, the common practice which contributed to the subprime mortgage mess.

Cole also explains his prudent due-diligence in making mortgage loans:
"We are determined to make our members homeowners, but we're not a charity," he said. "We must also protect our assets."

Click here for the complete story. That's a wrap!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Credit Unions = People

A scene on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., during one cold February morning warms my heart.

People, like me, lined the sidewalks to let lawmakers know warm-blooded Americans embody credit unions. "Purpose" is the difference between credit unions and banks.

People drive credit unions. Profits drive banks.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wall Street Journal: Credit Unions Offer Lifeline On Mortgages

"When it looked like Candido Rodrigues would lose his home, he was rescued by an unexpected source: a credit union."

That's the opening sentence of the a story which appeared in the Feb. 13 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

It's a story about how credit unions are helping Americans like me get unstuck from the subprime mortgage muck. After years of record profits, banks--and their investors--now are stinging from losses and reluctant to accept additional risk. "Credit unions to the rescue," exclaims the Journal:
"Unlike big lenders, credit unions didn't suffer heavy losses in recent months because they never made risky subprime loans.

The story says many credit unions continue to refinance subprime loans and offer banking products no longer available from other lenders, including five-year adjustable-rate mortgages. And why do credit unions do this?
"Credit unions," says Allen Fishbein, director of housing and credit policy for the Consumer Federation of America, "offer more personalized service" than banks, which "can make the difference between people getting approved and refinanced out of a loan."

Candido Rodrigues is one happy guy--like me! You can read more at the Wall Street Journal website.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

If the Word Fits, Wear It

I consider myself a life-long learner--or at least a person trying to improve my brain which otherwise went unfilled during elementary school daydreams. (“Little Guy? Little Guy? Hello…Earth to Little Guy.”)

Merriam-Webster emails me each morning a new “word of the day.” It’s like learning the dictionary one-word-at-a-time. Today’s word struck a credit union tone:

collegium • \kuh-LEG-ee-um\ • noun

: a group in which each member has approximately equal power and authority

Example Sentence:
Each paper published by the journal has been approved by a collegium of scientists.

Credit unions are not-for-profit, democratically controlled cooperatives, where each member gets an equal say--no matter how much money he or she has in the place.

So if the word fits, wear it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Report: Credit Unions Are a Financial Services Haven

I thought the term "sub-prime" was some type of U.S.D.A. meat rating. That is until we all started hearing about "exotic loans," "teaser rates," and "mortgage meltdown." Ugh.

Perhaps I was unaware because my credit union shielded me from such nonsense--that's the word on the street, anyway. That's, which says "Credit Unions Give Banks a Run for Their Money." To quote:
"Credit unions are somewhat of a financial services safe haven in today's volatile consumer loan market. They avoided much of the sub-prime debacle by not offering the types of exotic loans and teaser rates that were widely available at the time."

Is that conclusion any surprise? Shouldn't be--since credit unions are ultimately only responsible to their owners, who collectively (and cooperatively) own the place. also pointedly notes that's in opposition to banks--which are responsible only to their shareholders., in the posting titled "Credit Unions Give Banks a Run for Their Money," also points out how many credit unions are developing "innovative products to attract customers."

Among them: Credit cards, which the posting quotes Linda Sherry of Consumer Action as saying:
"You should be able to expect fairer terms from your credit union because [it] is owned by its membership, not a profit making entity. Not all credit union credit-card contracts contain arbitration clauses, for instance, which leaves members free to settle disputes through the court system, rather in front of someone who works for a private group often chosen by the bank."
Check it on ...

Who’s Looking Out for the Little Guy in ‘08?

Do your legislators have an eye on the Little Guy this election year? They should. The Little Guy represents the more than 90 million hard-working Americans who count on not-for-profit credit unions for affordable financial services. (Browse the blog to learn more.) If for-profit banks get their political way, credit unions' lower rates and fees will be history.

Call or email your legislators to remind them that if they want your support in '08, they should look out for the little guy by looking out for credit unions. Because we can't afford to live in the banks' greedy world.