Cornerstone Resources has formed a new advisory committee comprising credit union leaders to get a first look at the potential new products and services that will be offered to the greater Cornerstone League membership.
Cornerstone Resources is the wholly owned service corporation for the Cornerstone League, which represents the interests of credit unions in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Cornerstone Resources provides industry-leading solutions and expertise to credit unions across the country.
Previously, Cornerstone Resources relied on its extensive internal expertise to vet new products and service providers. Once the vendor was approved, it was endorsed and promoted to the membership. The Cornerstone Resources Advisory Committee takes the vetting process to the next level.
“We’re listening to our credit unions and getting direct feedback through the Resources Advisory Committee,” said Cornerstone Resources Chief Revenue Officer Ryan Dold. “By bringing together the unique knowledge and skills of each committee member to help navigate and evaluate new products and services, we can be assured that we’re fulfilling their direct needs.”
“I’m excited for this new endeavor,” added Dold. “Cornerstone Resources is committed to ensuring that the products and services we endorse are relevant to our members’ needs and provide significant value. Having credit union CEOs as part of that process ensures we are true partners in their success.”
The committee members were appointed informally and will serve one-year terms.
For more information about the Cornerstone Resources Advisory Committee, please contact Ryan Dold at email@example.com.
DONATIONS BY ASCEND FEDERAL CREDIT UNION AND ITS MEMBERS PROVIDES MORE THAN 300,940 MEALS TO MIDDLE TENNESSEANS...
Ascend Federal Credit Union is donating $70,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to help individuals and families have access to food this holiday season. Credit union employees and members also contributed an additional $3,235. In total, the donations will pay for more than 300,940 meals for Middle Tennesseans.
Ascend’s members were encouraged to make donations to Second Harvest via a special link provided by the credit union during November. The credit union decided to go the extra mile and add $70,000, increasing the overall donation to $73,235.
“The $70,000 amount is notable as Ascend celebrates its 70th anniversary this year,” said Ascend President and CEO Caren Gabriel. “Second Harvest continues to do important work in our community and our members once again led the way, contributing a significant amount to this donation. The large number of people fed by this caring organization will make a substantial impact in Middle Tennessee.”
“This generous donation from our partners at Ascend Federal Credit Union is so important during this holiday season,” said Nancy Keil, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. “The demand for our services continues to remain high, and there are many families facing hunger that will be fed and given hope with this contribution.”
Ascend employees also held a corporate-wide food drive, collecting a credit-union wide fund-raising total of 8,846 items to contribute to Second Harvest Food Bank.
Alaska USA Insurance Brokers is pleased to announce it has acquired INW Insurance Solutions based in Mesa, Arizona, effective December 1, 2021. INW Insurance Solutions is an independent insurance agency serving more than 850 clients predominantly in Maricopa County, Arizona. Acquisitions are part of the growth strategy for Alaska USA Insurance Brokers, an organization with a high level of client support and excellent opportunities for transitioning employees whenever necessary.
“INW Insurance Solutions built a fantastic business that aligned nicely with our products, carriers, and mission to deliver high-quality coverage and knowledgeable support,” said Julia Niziolek, president of Alaska USA Insurance Brokers. “We are thrilled to welcome INW’s clients and will continue providing them with outstanding service while making Alaska USA’s many valuable offerings available.”
About Alaska USA Insurance Brokers
Alaska USA Insurance Brokers was established in 1986 as a subsidiary of Alaska USA Federal Credit Union. With a staff of nearly 40 insurance professionals, it provides personal insurance for nearly 18,000 individual clients. Alaska USA Insurance Brokers has offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau, Soldotna, and Wasilla, Alaska, in Glendale, Arizona, as well as in Renton and Tacoma, Washington.
Learn more at alaskausa.org/insurance/.
A new suite of three business checking products geared towards the needs of small business.
Connex Credit Union is recognizing the needs of local small businesses and non-profits during these changing times by completely revamping its Business Checking line. Small businesses and non-profits based in Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex and New Haven Counties can compare and choose the best business checking options that match their specific needs. What’s more, the credit union has created a dividend-earning checking account just for non-profits.
“We know that small businesses and non-profits need a helpful and experienced partner that can offer them professional services and checking accounts that are flexible and tailored to their needs,” said Carl Casper, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Connex Credit Union. “And with our Complete Business Checking line, they no longer need to worry about big-bank-type fees for check writing, rolled coins, cash and check deposits.”
The new Complete Business Checking options consist of:
In addition to having fewer transactional fees, the new line provides many free services, including Online Banking with Bill Pay, Mobile Check Deposit, Business VISA® Debit Card and e-statements. All Connex Complete Business Checking Accounts integrate easily with top-rated credit card processing service provider Clover® Merchant Services.
$1 Million Cumulative Contribution by Ascend Members Commemorates 10-year Partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee
Milestone coincides with donation of 70 large trees to Root Nashville campaign, to help local communities affected by severe weather
Ascend Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in Middle Tennessee, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, announced today that its members have contributed more than $1 million to The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee since the non-profit organizations partnered in 2011.
Ascend President and CEO Caren Gabriel has been a member of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Tennessee Board of Trustees since 2014. Ascend and TNC share similar traits and values. Both organizations were founded in 1951, are non-profit with a volunteer Board of Directors and focused on improving the lives of the members and communities they serve.
In addition to the partners’ financial commitment, the credit union physically demonstrated its commitment to conservation this year by donating 70 trees to Root Nashville to commemorate its 70th anniversary.
“We’re so proud of our members for reaching this historic milestone. Planting 70 trees is also a spectacular way to celebrate our 10-year partnership with The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, as well as coinciding with each organization’s 70th anniversary,” said Gabriel. “It also perfectly aligns with Ascend’s ongoing commitment to financial literacy and environmental stewardship, making Tennessee a better place to live.”
TNC is also a partner and advisory board member of Root Nashville. Led by the Cumberland River Compact and Metro Nashville, Root Nashville is a citywide campaign to plant 500,000 trees by 2050. The goals of the campaign are to create an equitable canopy distribution, provide environmental benefits that improve public health, improve air and water quality and create meaningful community engagement.
“I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish together ever since forming a partnership with Ascend—based on shared values and a commitment to community education--to grow both organizations’ memberships and impact Middle Tennessee,” said Terry Cook, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. “Their support helps TNC implement natural climate solutions in communities across the state and work with farmers to protect soil health and keep waterways clean. This partnership is one in which everybody truly wins.”
Ascend’s recent donation of 70 large trees, each about eight feet tall, were delivered and planted during the week of Oct. 11th in the neighborhoods of Lincoya Hills and Maplecrest in Donelson -- two areas devastated by the March 2020 tornado. Grassroots efforts by community leaders, called “Neighborhood Planting Captains,” spread the word about available trees to their neighbors and encouraged them to sign up.
“Thousands of trees were lost in the 2020 tornado, but with partners like Ascend Federal Credit Union, who sponsor the planting of new trees, we are able to continue the replanting process," said Cumberland River Compact Executive Director Mekayle Houghton. “These trees provide not just much-needed shade, stormwater runoff prevention and clean air, but also a sense of hope and progress for these hard-hit communities.”
Cumberland River Compact, Metro Nashville and partners worked together to analyze social, environmental, and public health data to reveal areas where trees would provide the most immediate and long-term benefits for the Root Nashville campaign. Neighborhoods including North Nashville, Madison and South Nashville fall within the Root Nashville impact areas. Thanks to all of Nashville's participating nonprofits and government departments, 20,000 trees have been planted since October 2018.
The Iowa Credit Union Foundation (ICUF) today announced Jelena Babic Barnes will be the next Executive Director.
Babic Barnes has served as the program manager for the Iowa Credit Union Foundation (ICUF), the philanthropic arm of the Iowa Credit Union League, since 2020. Prior to joining ICUF, Babic Barnes worked in the non-profit sector in Europe for more than 13 years, helping non-profits, business support organizations and institutions focus on community development.
“Jelena is a passionate advocate for the underserved in Iowa,” said Ann McMillian, board chairperson of ICUF. “As we searched for a new executive director, it was imperative that this person have an understanding of philanthropic organizations, have strong values that align with ICUF’s, and would serve as a passionate advocate for financial well-being for all. We are very excited to see where Jelena will take ICUF in this new role.”
As executive director, Babic Barnes will oversee the daily operations of ICUF, support ICUF’s strategic directives, lead capacity building through strategic fundraising, administer programs and strengthen relationships with Iowa credit unions, community partners and other key audiences.
Investment will expand Aperture, AKUVO’s flagship delinquency management platform
AKUVO, a technology-based Credit Union Service Organization (CUSO) specializing in portfolio risk and delinquency management for financial institutions, today announced an investment from Coastal Federal Financial Group (CFFG), a CUSO of the $4.5B Coastal Credit Union, based in Raleigh, N.C.
This investment, along with a recent private funding round, will be used to accelerate the development and marketing of the company’s flagship product, Aperture. Aperture is the industry’s first integrated portfolio analytic and delinquency management platform developed from the ground up for the cloud. Built on the Microsoft Azure platform, Aperture features the latest data science tools, like AI (Artificial Intelligence), Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing.
“The significant interest, and this financial investment we’ve seen, validates a confidence that credit unions have a genuine desire to partner with fintechs like AKUVO. The ability to leverage AI and other applications of data science will allow credit unions to thrive and accelerate growth in today’s complex and competitive environment,” said Jay Mossman, Founder and CEO of AKUVO.
“We’re excited about our partnership with AKUVO and are looking forward to being able to employ the Aperture technology to further optimize our operations, “said Jim Pack, Coastal Credit Union’s chief member service officer.
AKUVO creates, delivers, and supports data-driven technology and services that are rooted in the latest data science applications, including machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing. We strive to ensure credit unions have the right tools and technology to compete and win in the financial services market.
Coastal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, member-owned, financial cooperative, offering a full range of financial products and services. Coastal was chartered on August 31, 1967 with the mission of fostering the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.” Today, with $4.49 billion in assets, Coastal serves 296,000 members from 1,800 business partners and is among the leading financial institutions in North Carolina. Coastal operates 23 branches in central North Carolina and serves members in all 50 states through a network of 5,000 shared branches, 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs, mobile banking featuring mobile check deposit, and a robust offering of online services at www.COASTAL24.com.
Travel Spending Rebounds in Dramatic Fashion over the Thanksgiving Holiday
Credit union cardholders hit the road and hosted big feasts this Thanksgiving, transacting with gas, grocery and travel merchants at rates sometimes more than double those in 2020. The findings are a part of CO-OP Financial Services’ analysis of card transaction data from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday 2021.
Among many additional insights, the analysis shows the volume of gas purchases up 101 percent year-over-year; lodging up nearly 50 percent; grocery purchases up 82 percent; and other travel transactions up 92 percent. The “other travel” segment includes things like airline, car rental, travel agency, cruise line, toll and parking transactions. All combined travel segments were up an impressive 98 percent in volume and 115 percent in spend.
Travel spending overshadowed online gift shopping, which saw only slight increases as compared to 2020 in CO-OP’s analysis. It’s an observation echoed by Adobe Analytics, which reported Black Friday and Cyber Monday decreases in year-over-year sales.
“It’s clear credit union members were anxious to rejoin their families and friends in celebration of the holiday this year, often prioritizing getting together over online shopping,” said Beth Phillips, Managing Director, Strategic Portfolio Growth, for CO-OP. “However, the dramatic increase in travel spending was a welcome rebound for credit unions. Travel activity alone yielded an aggregate interchange increase of more than 431 percent for CO-OP’s card issuing partners.”
It was evident hosts were entertaining their guests outside the home, as well, with restaurants and recreation categories experiencing significant activity. Dining purchase totals were up 60 percent on credit and 46 percent on debit year-over-year. Recreation purchases were up as well, with a 27 percent increase on credit and 14 percent on debit.
Computer, Retail and Digital Goods Experience Bumps in Activity
Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales growth remained on the smaller side, CO-OP analysis revealed a few merchant category winners: computers were up 64 percent, retail up 42 percent and digital goods up 40 percent.
“The increase in computer sales is interesting,” said Phillips. “We’re likely seeing a couple of trends play out there, namely fears over lingering chip shortages and the continuation of work- and learn-from-home circumstances in various pockets throughout the country.”
Indeed, out-of-stock messages in November 2021 were up 258 percent vs. November 2019, with electronics being among the highest categories of out-of-stock goods.
Two categories that experienced year-over-year declines were camping (down 14 percent) and office supplies (down 4 percent). This may be due to heavy pandemic-inspired purchases of campers and equipment, printers and paper during the lockdowns and remote-working days of 2020.
Debit Purchases on Amazon Decline for Third Consecutive Year
As for holiday gift shopping, CO-OP’s analysis revealed several important trends. Chief among them, debit purchases on Amazon declined for the third year in a row, suggesting consumers are more comfortable shopping at this major online retailer with a credit card. While the number of credit transactions only outpaced debit transactions by 2 percent, credit generated a 17-percent year-over-year increase in interchange vs. debit’s 10-percent increase.
Consumer preference for credit cards this holiday extended beyond Amazon. Debit card purchases in grocery stores, for instance, did not increase at all as compared to 2020. Credit card purchases in grocery stores, on the other hand, increased 82 percent. Retail purchases via credit were up 42 percent, whereas debit purchases in the retail environment were up just 4 percent.
The preference for credit cards may be due to several factors, including the scaling back of government stimulus. This can also be seen in consumer use of emerging credit access tools, such as buy now pay later (BNPL). On Cyber Monday alone, BNPL providers reported a 21-percent year-over-year increase in revenue.
However, average transaction totals processed by CO-OP were similar across debit and credit at roughly $47 per transaction regardless of the card type. This indicates consumers perceive additional benefits to credit card use beyond access to credit, such as rewards and/or fraud protection.
“Data on consumer card spending continues to underscore the value of offering members access to multiple payment vehicles,” said Phillips. “When the go-to debit card isn’t a viable option – maybe there’s been a job loss or change in personal cash flow – members still want to rely on their trusted credit union for day-to-day money movement. Whether it’s a credit card, a peer-to-peer network or a BNPL-style solution, its vital to offer members different ways to transact. That’s how credit unions maintain primary financial relationships during the financial disruptions everyone experiences at one time or another, pandemic or not.”
About CO-OP Financial Services
CO-OP Financial Services is a payments and financial technology company whose mission is ensuring the success of the credit union movement. CO-OP payments solutions, engagement services and strategic counsel help credit unions optimize member experiences to consistently provide seamless, personalized multi-channel offerings, while delivering secure, sophisticated fraud mitigation service. For more information, visit www.co-opfs.org.
Ascend Federal Credit Union today announced it has donated $12,923 to the Tennessee chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The contribution includes $10,000 from the credit union and $2,923 from Ascend employees. The money will help fund local breast cancer detection and support projects for those with critical needs, with the goal of eliminating barriers to lifesaving services.
Employee donations were raised via an annual casual dress program called Passionately Pink for a Cure, in which Ascend employees donate a minimum of $5 every Friday and Saturday in October to wear blue jeans, breast cancer awareness T-shirts and Susan G. Komen pins to work. Including the $2,923 raised this year, Ascend employees have raised $16,178 for Susan G. Komen since 2018.
“We extend gratitude once again to Ascend for another generous donation to Susan G. Komen,” said Tim Newman, Susan G. Komen Tennessee State executive director. “This money will mean so much to the many people who are trying to make financial ends meet as they undergo treatment against cancer. The financial demands of pain medication, chemotherapy and other needed services can be overwhelming. This thoughtful gift will help continue the fight.”
“We are extremely proud of our 18-year partnership with Komen,” said Caren Gabriel, Ascend president and CEO. “Our employees continue to show a giving spirit and demonstrate how committed they are to helping Middle Tennesseans in need. Our hope is that this donation will assist those battling breast cancer to access the best treatment and healthcare available.”
Susan G. Komen, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, is focused on saving lives and creating a world without breast cancer. Since 1997, Susan G. Komen and its supporters in the state of Tennessee have contributed more than $12.1 million to support breast cancer research in the state and across the U.S. Since 1982, Komen has awarded $19.1 million for 56 research grants to organizations in Tennessee.
About Ascend Federal Credit Union
With more than 233,564 members and more than $3.5 billion in assets, Ascend Federal Credit Union is the largest credit union in Middle Tennessee and one of the largest federally chartered credit unions in the United States. Based in Tullahoma, Tenn., the member-owned financial institution offers banking, loan, retirement and investment services from its 27 branches, more than 55,000 free ATMs worldwide, online banking portal and mobile app. The credit union’s mission is to serve by offering financial literacy education and giving back to its community in a variety of ways — including being the naming rights sponsor of Ascend Amphitheater, downtown Nashville’s premier open-air live music venue at Metro Riverfront Park. Ascend is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. For more information, visit ascend.org.
CUTEK, a nationwide provider of IT products/services for credit unions, reports that Credit Union of Texas has exceeded all expectations with the tech provider’s multi-factor authentication Member Verify solution (MFA). CUTEK’s MFA validates credit union members’ identities via their smartphones calling into the call center.
According to Credit Union of Texas SVP/Chief Administrative Officer Angela Faust, MFA allows her credit union’s team to verify if they’re speaking to a member using the information they already have on file. This verification process has allowed Credit Union of Texas to reduce the time it takes to verify the member and allows staff more time to meet members’ needs. In addition, Faust says MFA has been a welcomed additional layer of fraud protection.
“At Credit Union of Texas, validating our members' identities is extremely important, and we needed a way that wouldn’t be overly burdensome on the members,” she says. “CUTEK’s MFA has not only decreased the time it takes to verify a member but has reduced members’ frustrations with having to provide multiple pieces of personal information.”
Faust provided monthly usage results since Credit Union of Texas started using CUTEK’s MFA in February 2021:
“Overall, our staff has loved this feature because it’s plugged right into the core and validates the member in real-time,” Faust says. “We use this in conjunction with other out-of-wallet questions, but the adoption has been well-received.”
She added that the credit union’s fraud and wires team also uses this solution as an additional layer of security. Credit Union of Texas’ members and employees have quickly adopted the One Time Passcode as an easier and more secure way to authenticate themselves.
Based in Boerne, TX, CUTEK offers IT consulting, programming, and products for credit unions nationwide – along with unparalleled Symitar® Episys® experience. For more information, visit www.cutek.com.
About Member Verify (MFA)
CUTEK’s Member Verification Multi-Factor improves member account security by providing a reliable means to confirm the member’s identity. This can especially be helpful when members are conducting business remotely, for instance calling into phone centers or other business units. The member contact information presented is updated in real time, which means there’s no need to mine for this information on the host, including transactions.
The integrated system is quick and easy to use and ensures information on file for the member is used to confirm their business with the credit union.
Author: Mike Lawson
Married to a most gorgeous and wonderful wife, raising 5 kiddos (including twins!), enjoy helping others tell their stories, and love surfing SoCal waves. Keep it simple.