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Credit Unions Win Desjardins, Louise Herring National Awards

Credit unions in Missouri are committed to bettering their communities—and they have the awards to prove it! This year, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) announced that five Missouri credit unions earned national awards in the Desjardins and Louise Herring categories.

These five credit unions included Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union (St. Louis), Mazuma Credit Union (Kansas City), Electro Savings Credit Union (St. Louis), St. Louis Community Credit Union and CommunityAmerica Credit Union (Kansas City).

Read on to learn more about each credit union’s entry.

Louise Herring Award Winners

The Louise Herring Award recognizes model credit union efforts to materially improve their members’ lives through programs other than personal finance. Examples of activities in this category include managing a credit union difference campaign, outreach to an underserved population, implementing special loan modifications and implementing a predatory lending alternative.

$250 Million - $1 Billion Asset Size: Mazuma Credit Union received second place for a number of programs that assisted members, including loan refinance campaigns, mobile banking and, most notably, its collection modification program, which offers more flexibility for members. 

Mazuma's Recovery Department consists of creative Mazumans that find new solutions to old problems, which helps members significantly reduce delinquency. 

Recognizing that many members were still feeling the impact of the 2008 economic downturn, Mazuma implemented a more flexible plan for debt collection. Best practices were identified and implemented into regular collection processes. The recovery team works one-on-one with members to find solutions to their specific financial situation.  

As a result, delinquency is declining and many members have improved not only their payment record with Mazuma, but overall. 

“The award helps to keep Mazuma focused on what makes credit unions a step above other financial institutions,” says Cynthia Little, Mazuma coordinator of Corporate Responsibility. “It is a great way for us to recognize the contribution our team has made to Mazuma’s success and the genuine impact we have on our members’ lives.” 

Mazuma states what is good for the member is good for the credit union, and this approach has made a difference in a number of its members' lives. 

“We see it as our responsibility to make the communities we serve happier places to live and work,” says Brandon Michaels, Mazuma president and CEO. “It’s an honor to receive national recognition for the work we love to do every day.”

More than $1 Billion Asset Size Category: Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union (ABECU) received an honorable mention for its disaster assistance loan program. This loan program is activated when a significant natural disaster occurs where ABECU members reside. If a natural disaster occurs where members live, pertinent information about the program is sent out from the nearest branch, its website and social media. A detailed contact list of members is also created and provided to local staff for direct follow up with members.

“ABECU designed the disaster assistance loan as a means of providing members with the cash they need for temporary living expenses and repairs until disaster relief or insurance payments are received,” says Pier Alsup, ABECU senior vice president of Marketing and Communications. “This loan is unique in that it has an interest-free period of six months and a rate of 1% below the prime for the following twelve months."

While the loan is available at all times for members affected by natural disasters, ABECU actively communicated about the disaster assistance loan from May 2012 to May 2013, which was a period of time marked by three major storms, including a Missouri tornado and hailstorm, Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma tornadoes.

“Building sustaining relationships is a major component of ABECU’s core promise,” continues Alsup. “We feel helping our members when they need us most is important in building and maintaining a strong relationship.”

Desjardins Award Financial Education Winners

The Desjardins Financial Education Award recognizes model credit union efforts to teach personal finance concepts and skills to members and nonmembers. The youth category covers participants under age 18. The adult category encompasses participants over the age of 18.

$50 - $150 Million Asset Size Category: Electro Savings Credit Union (ESCU) received first place for the adult category of the Desjardins Award. ESCU strives to be a leader in financial education in its communities by keeping presentations consistent, non-pushy and requirement-free. The credit union finds that this strengthens word-of-mouth recommendations and builds valuable partnerships.

Laura Mugge teaches financial literacy class.

This year, ESCU partnered with the Missouri Career Center to provide clients with life-skills training on topics such as budgeting and credit reports. The credit union also held “Ask the Expert” seminars geared toward member and nonmember small business owners. Industry professionals spoke on subjects, including business plans, financing tips, QuickBooks and marketing. ESCU held 64 financial education seminars that reached 941 adult attendees between May 2012 and May 2013.

ESCU even provides one-on-one financial counseling to members via BALANCE Financial Fitness and online learning modules through BALANCE Track. 

“We have grown our financial literacy efforts over the past few years reaching out to local community groups, schools, businesses, and individuals to offer educational presentations, materials and counseling,” says Laura Mugge, of the ESCU  Community Development and Relations department.

Additionally, ESCU takes a proactive approach to financial education. Staffers visited 64 business partner sites to provide assistance with account maintenance, new accounts, budgeting and credit/money management questions.

“We believe in taking our credit union resources out to the people instead of waiting for them to come to us,” says Mugge. “It’s an honor for us to be recognized at a national level for our financial literacy outreach efforts here in the St. Louis area.”

As part of its financial literacy efforts, ESCU raised awareness through employee trainings, participating in Money Smart Week, posting to social media/website and visiting local community partners. Collaboration also plays a huge part in the credit union’s strategy—both with other credit unions and local community organizations, like schools, government agencies and other outreach groups.

$150 - $500 Million Asset Size Category: St. Louis Community Credit Union (SLCCU) won first place in the adult category for Desjardins. The SLCCU Community Relations team uses several of CUNA’s curricula, as well as staffed-developed educational modules to instruct adults of all ages. These programs included PowerPoint presentations, pre- and post-tests, handouts and other useful information to help adults gain a better understanding of important financial issues.

Emphasizing collaboration in its educational initiatives, SLCCU works with local partners from the area to present truly helpful classes that empower students. Local partners include representatives from social service agencies, employer groups, faith-based organizations and even banks.

Cheryl LaValle and Marlana Hairston (TRiO) talk about paying for college.

“We believe that financial education leads to financial capability and empowerment,” says Paul Woodruff, vice president of SLCCU Community Development. “By working with our partners, our financial education efforts play a major role in strengthening individuals and families. From our perspective, this is a critical giveback to the community.” 

Seminar topics included basic budgeting, emotional spending, avoiding payday lending, savings and checking basics, identity theft and credit. Additionally, the credit union has a full-time financial literacy specialist on staff and the CU Excel Center, where the seminars are taught. Its financial literacy specialist teaches classes and provides one-on-one financial counseling, which has received rave reviews by members.

From June 2012 to May 2013, SLCCU has reached 3,566 people with their financial education efforts, through both community-based events and at the CU Excel Center. Pre- and post-test results showed that on average seminar participants experienced a 50 percent increase in knowledge as a result of the services.

As part of its awareness efforts, SLCCU has regularly been featured in both print and television news segments; staffers have been guests on local television stations to provide insight on debit card breaches, bank fees and managing debt. Several letters from SLCCU’s CEO have been featured in publications, including the Wall Street Business Journal and the St. Louis Business Journal. Earlier in 2013, SLCCU launched a 13-week radio show entitled “The Community,” which highlighted financial education topics such as home buying, credit-building, small business basics and more.

More than $500 Million Asset Size Category: CommunityAmerica Credit Union (CACU) won second place in both the youth and adult Desjardins Award categories for its dedication to helping break the cycle of debt in America though financial education.

"CommunityAmerica is very pleased to be recognized again for its financial literacy activities and outreach," says Barry Brakeville, CACU director of Marketing and Corporate Communications. "We believe our practical financial literacy outreach to members and prospects in our community helps break the cycle of debt, creating very real, positive long-term change."

For adults, CACU took a multi-pronged approach to financial education, including a pilot financial education program that included Spanish-speaking workshops, partnering with Olathe Head Start to develop a six-month financial education program, participating in Money Smart Month and sponsoring a contest that emphasizes the importance of financial literacy.

A "Eating Health On a Budget" workshop is presented at the Olathe, Kansas Head Start.

CACU also raised awareness with the Savin’ Mavens, a group of employees who write on personal finance topics for the credit union’s website, Twitter feed and speak on regular segments for four Kansas City broadcast affiliates. Additionally, Kat Hnatyshyn, CACU branch manager and a Savin’ Maven, writes a weekly personal finance blog for The Kansas City Star, and the credit union hosts the Financial MOMentum blog that covers important family financial situations and creates a community that moms can rely on.

Regarding the youth segment, the credit union took a more traditional approach, which includes the Cash ‘n Coins Club savings account for those under 12, a kid-friendly app, Junior Achievement fundraisers and support of JA efforts. Additionally, it’s a Platinum Sponsor of the School of Economics, which economically prepares K-6 students for the future. The school achieves this goal through simulations such as “No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” and “Mini Town” that teach youth about expenditures and entrepreneurship (respectively). 

Demonstrating its vision of “Building Financial Success Together,” CACU reaches out to parents, teachers and other adults to make them aware of the tremendous youth financial illiteracy problem plaguing today’s society. Its media-savvy employees, Savin’ Mavens, speak publicly on topics that relate to youth financial literacy such as what to teach kids about finances. In The Kansas City Star, Hnatyshyn has written columns that relate to readers on a parent-to-parent level and touch on the importance of teaching children about finances early on.

Through its website, CACU spreads awareness to members by presenting an informative, visible section dedicated to “Kids & Money.” Articles address common financial themes such as age-appropriate money lessons for kids, how to teach kids about the basics of personal finance and what to consider before a kid takes a job. With its Financial MOMentum blog, the credit union provides parent advocacy to help moms impart responsible financial habits on their kids at an early age. 

For more information on the Louise Herring and Desjardins awards, please click here