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NCUA Shuts 8 Branches

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.-In an attempt to trim operating expenses, Arrowhead Central CU, run under NCUA conservatorship since June, announced last week it will be closing eight more branches by year-end, atop of the four branches sold this summer to Alaska USA FCU.

The branches slated for closure include one in north Fontana, as well as branches inside Stater Bros. Markets in Loma Linda, Beaumont, Wildomar, 40th Street in San Bernardino, and Eagle Glen in Corona. The Mt. Vernon branch in San Bernardino and the Norco branch will also close.

The 11 Arrowhead branches to remain open are located within minutes of most locations scheduled to close.

The one-time, $1.1-billion credit union reported a $3.8 million loss for the first nine months of the year, after a $47.8 million loss for 2008. Assets had dwindled to just $707 million by Sept. 30.


WikiLeaks Targets A Bank

WASHINGTON-WikiLeaks, the controversial website that released thousands of classified State Department cables last week, says it plans to reveal potentially damaging documents from a major U.S. bank early next year.

The site's founder, Julian Assange, told Forbes of his plans in an interview earlier this month, the magazine said on its website.

Assange declined to provide Forbes with details on exactly when the documents will be unloaded or which bank they are from, but did say the documents "will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume. For this, there's only one similar example. It's like the Enron e-mails."


CUES, CUNA Mutual Partner

MADISON, Wis.-The Credit Union Executives Society and CUNA Mutual Group said they have entered into a partnership aimed at helping credit unions attract and retain talent by enhancing their executive benefits and retirement plan services.

"This new alliance will match the benefits needs of credit union executives and board members with a diverse mix of solutions to help retain, recruit and reward C-Level executives," said Scott Albraccio, business development and marketing manager for CUNA Mutual, in a released statement.

The service, called "Executive Benefits and Retirement Service Solutions, Presented by CUNA Mutual Group," will offer what the two companies called "much-needed continuity" during a difficult economy. The program will include a "gap analysis" to identify shortfalls in a senior leaders' retirement plan and design programs to specifically fill those gaps.

Each of the eight options available will allow organizations to remain competitive and comes with a specialist who goes through a five-step process to create and implement an effective program, CUES and CUNA Mutual said.

CUNA Mutual currently manages more than 7,500 plans with more than 500,000 participants and $11 billion in assets.


Fomer MSR Stole $440,000

ORLANDO, Fla.-A former member service representative for Fairwinds CU pleaded guilty last week to an identity theft scheme by which she stole or tried to steal some $440,000 from accounts at the credit union and Royal Bank of Scotland, most of it from elderly or dead customers.

Nazreen Mohammed , 47, who worked at the credit union's Lake County branch, confessed to accessing member accounts without authorization between April 17, 2009 and July 18, 2009 and transferring funds from those accounts to her own. Authorities said she tried to obtain $127,000 and was successful in transferring $82,300 in members' funds to her accounts. As part of the scheme, Mohammed used the funds from other Fairwinds members to hide the movement of the money.

Then from November 2009 to January 2010 Mohammed went to work for RBS where she had access at least $313,000 in customer money.


World AIDS Day Reminder

MADISON, Wis.-World AIDS Day last week led to a reminder from the World Council of Credit Unions about the work being done by the The Busia Compassionate Centre in Busia, Kenya, with funding from WOCCU. The Centre is helping combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic by supporting orphans who have lost their parents to the disease or who are infected themselves. WOCCU noted that the "observance of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 emphasizes the importance of universal access to treatment and human rights, something that many of Kenya's savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), or credit unions, have been working to further for several years.

WOCCU began working with Busia Compassionate Centre as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded program in Kenya aimed at mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on economic growth through credit union modernization. During the program, which ran from 2006 to 2010, many of the involved credit unions played active roles in providing HIV/AIDS prevention education to members and providing food produced by farmers who received credit union loans to orphanages that help AIDS-affected children, WOCCU said. Program staff taught volunteers to plant food crops on the orphanage grounds, introduced irrigation, made renovations and worked with program credit unions to finance additional food and scholarships for older orphans to attend secondary school. WOCCU said it has has since focused on providing the orphanage continued financial support through its affiliation with the worldwide credit union movement.

Donations can be made to the Busia Compassionate Centre through the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions.

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Challenge Brings Donation

MADISON, Wis.-CUES reported that as its CEO/Executive Team Network conference drew to a close recently in Dallas, Tina K. Hall, vice president of organizational development, Verity Credit Union, Seattle, was crowned CUES' Next Top Credit Union Exec. Upon accepting her award, however, CUES noted that Hall did something selfless, donating half of her educational prize package to the runner up, Ronaldo Hardy, branch coordinator, La Capitol FCU, Baton Rouge, La.

In her acceptance speech, Hall challenged each conference attendee and the industry at large to donate $50 so each Next Top Credit Union Exec finalist would have the opportunity to attend CEO Institute I: Strategic Planning, April 3-8, 2011, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

CUES reported that attendees and vendors have already donated $3,050, with CUES also announcing it is matching all donations and contributing $2,500 toward each of the four remaining finalists/ attendance. CUES said that makes a total of $16,100 raised to date, and means that each finalist now has $4,025 to offset tuition and airfare to attend CEO Institute I.


'CU Finder' App Introduced

COLUMBIA, Md.-The new "Credit Union Finder" app at the Apple App Store for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad users has now been downloaded by nearly 1,000 people. The application, created by the Credit Union Foundation of Maryland & DC is called "Credit Union Finder," and includes all credit unions and locations across the U.S. It was underwritten via an Innovation Grant from the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF), with graphics support from Visions, Ink.

Users of the Credit Union Finder app can search for credit unions near their current location or search any site in the U.S. by entering a zip code or city and state. They can also search credit unions by name. Results can be displayed as a list or on a map. Contact information for the credit union is also displayed including their web address.

Within the first month of Credit Union Finder's launch, the app was downloaded over 200 times and has now been downloaded over 900 times. It currently has a 3 1/2 star rating (out of 5) from user reviews in the Apple App Store.


Dwolla Goes Nationwide

DES MOINES, Iowa-Dwolla, the peer-to-peer online and mobile cash system supported by The Members Group (TMG) and The Veridian Group, last week announced the nationwide release of its service. The move follows a $1-million investment made in Dwolla by TMG and The Veridian Group, both subsidiaries of the Iowa Credit Union League.

In addition to the national availability of its mobile and online offerings, Dwolla also unveiled its social integration with online communities, such as Facebook and Twitter.

TMG said it will be the primary distribution channel for Dwolla as a product offering to community-based financial institutions, giving credit unions and community banks entree to the next-generation payments market. Dwolla, which allows cash payments to be transferred digitally between two users, is taking aim at the established electronic payment platforms that are costing businesses and consumers billions of dollars each year.

Unlike traditional payment platforms, a Dwolla user receiving funds never gains access to a sender's personal information. The transaction, which is funneled through a single point of access, is similar to online banking and ensures the highest level of security for Dwolla users.

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