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16 posts categorized "Mortgages"

July 10, 2012

They'd Like to Leave, You'd Like to Have Them…Technology's the Bridge


by Ron Daly

When we started this blog, we wanted to call it "CU Soapbox" because it was meant to be a place to stand up and shout about the industry. I've been doing a little "shouting" recently and I thought I'd make it a point to do the same on this blog, because hey, this is the right place, isn't it? 

I've done a little reading about a recent Javelin study about big-bank customers and why they want to make the switch to another FI...but don't. The Financial Brand does a great job of making all this digestible and points out one very important piece of information: 40% of surveyed consumers WON'T LEAVE their big bank because of that bank's online/mobile banking service. Do they want to leave? Yes, of course they do. Who wouldn't? Getting beaten by fees and losing a ton of money that you could hang on to would make anyone want to leave...what keeps them hanging on is the illusion of convenience. 

I say "illusion" because the kind of technology that would bend the bow in credit unions' favor is out there, and it can be had. We could be courting these on-the-fence big bank customers and their billions in collected assets. Why aren't we? 

I believe there are two problems:

  1. We're not promoting the technology/convenience we have and already offer, and
  2. We're not positioning ourselves to bring in the technology that levels the playing field. 

 I wrote two articles recently that sum up my thoughts on the topic. Go read: 

Then, start asking yourself the four major questions that need to be answered, and fast:

Question 1: "Are our current members utilizing the online services we offer, and if not, why?"

The best and easiest research to conduct for yourself is on your own member base. If you have 10,000 members and only 1,000 are using online banking, what could be done to get more people to sign up and start using it? Maybe they already did and it was such an excruciating experience that they swore off of it (I can't imagine that happening, but who knows?). What can you do to make it right?

Question 2: "Is our website (or OLB/mobile app/email newsletter/social media feed) everything it should be?"

Websites need updates and overhauls. It comes with the territory. Marketing hates to hear that they have to write new copy and make new graphics and IT hates the hassle of creating and implementing sweeping changes. I have two words for both: tough toenails. If the site needs a face lift, give it one. If it needs a total reboot, give it one. Make it easy for interested outsiders (and undereducated insiders) to get all the information they need.

Question 3: "What next-generation technology would best suit our members?"

Audience is everything. If you serve a member base that's always on the move (military, air travel industry, etc.), why not include remote deposit capture and a smartphone app? If you serve a large area that's tough to reach on foot, more drive-thru ATMs make sense, don't they? Don't just throw everything at the wall and see what sticks...make an informed decision for the member.

Question 4: "Who's in charge?"

So often, technological advances and purcahses are made without clear goals in mind, or anyone to enforce them. Set expectations and meet them. It's not difficult and it means there's a person driving these endeavors from the inside. 

Final Thought

Did you ever hear the riddle about the frog in the well? 

A frog falls into a well, 20 feet deep. Every morning, he wakes up and hops three feet up the side of the well. Every evening, he falls asleep and slides back two feet. How many days does it take him to get out of the well? 

The answer: Considering he jumps three feet every day and falls two feet each night, it would take him eighteen days to get within three feet of the top. Then, on the nineteenth day, he'd jump three feet and clear the well. So simple it's complicated, right? 

Let's put a CU-spin on this. If a credit union gains ten members a month and loses nine by the end of the month, how long will it take that credit union to compete with Bank of America in terms of sheer numbers? 

The answer: You can't compete with BofA on locations. You can't compete on "number of members vs. number of customers". Their product offering is too abundant, their reach is too wide and too far. Where you can compete is on an emotional level -making a lasting impact on your member. You can also compete on member service. You can also compete on rates. You can even compete on technology...provided you're willing to make it happen. 

Start jumping.

February 16, 2012

The Great Mortgage Refi: Should We?


by Ron Daly 

Remember Superman: The Movie when Superman flew around the world and spun time backwards? That way, he could save Lois Lane, stop Lex Luthor, and whitewash all the unpleasantness that ever happened. I'm not a physicist, but I'm not so sure that would work. And if it did, why stop there? Why not keep flying backwards and stop Lex Luthor before he even hatches his evil scheme? 

I bring it up because someone wants us to fly backwards and undo a disaster. Not a physical or natural disaster, but a financial disaster. The article "Time to consider mass mortgage refinancings" by Allan Sloan in the Washington Post sheds light on a shocking idea: that we could refinance the mortgages of qualified-but-financially-stressed borrowers and actually save ourselves some money and some risk.

From the article:

I’m talking about providing a cheap, streamlined and simple way to refinance fixed-rate mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own about half the nation’s mortgages and are now effectively owned by the federal government. Fannie and Freddie creditors were bailed out in 2008 when Uncle Sam put the firms into conservatorship to avoid their having to file for bankruptcy; as we’ll soon see, those creditors, consisting primarily of big financial institutions, would bear the cost of helping homeowners.

Mass Fannie and Freddie mortgage refis could provide billions of dollars of economic stimulus and support the prices of homes, many Americans’ biggest single asset. All while costing taxpayers nothing.

This isn't Sloan's idea - it was formulated by a group of experts from Columbia University; among them, a former economic advisor to George W. Bush. Their data and their proposal are available for review [click here to see it]. All of this comes around the same time as President Obama's plan for widespread refi, mentioned in his State of the Union 2012 address [click here], which draws much of its power from new taxes on institutions with more than $50 billion in assets. Many praised that plan, but it seems as though Congress won't play ball [click here].

My questions:

  1. Should these massive refis happen? 
  2. Will they happen, and when?
  3. Will it be the saving grace of the embattled housing market? 
  4. How will credit unions be affected? Positively or negatively? Do we get anything out of this? 

If you've got answers, I'd love to read them. Leave us a comment below and let's talk about it. 

August 31, 2010

Get your college student out of your house...and into your other house?


by Ron Daly

Most of you folks have already taken your college students back for another year of higher learning. Man, is that on campus housing ever expensive!  Wouldn't it be nice if there was available real-estate near your child's college? 

Chances are, there are houses and apartments abound near your young person's school...and that could mean a real-estate treasure trove for you. 

From the Washington Post

By buying a place and taking out a mortgage, non-deductible dorm rents can be converted into tax-deductible mortgage interest payments.

Parents also benefit from tax deductions for real property taxes, depreciation and the costs of repairs and replacements, as well as travel expenses to locate, acquire and periodically inspect the investment property. The parents' tax burden might also be lessened by the capitalization and amortization of capital improvements made to the residence.

The article presents a pretty compelling case for buying a piece of real estate near a school, focusing mostly on write-offs and tax deductions, but also points out the benefits of not moving your student every year they're in school (hallelujah) and the eventual resale value of a building for whom there will always be interested buyers and renters. 

It's not all smiles, however; the article presents several drawbacks to owning a home near the university, including...well, the fact that your university student will have a home of their own to manage - or not manage - or, heck, outright destroy. Being a landlord is tough enough, but then there's dealing with your own kids as tenants and college students. 

My take? If you've got the means, you should go for it. Your student needs a place to stay, you need a write-off or two, the economy needs a pop in first-time home sales - everyone wins! If the money's cheap, make it happen. Just be very specific about your expectations to your young person before you hand over the keys. 

My take as far as credit unions go? How about a lending-bundle? Programs like Student Choice are making student loans from CUs more convenient to find and programs like CU Realty are giving you great mortgage rates and even cash back. A borrower that's smart enough to smell the opportunity is a borrower you want. 

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below. 

March 03, 2010

HAMP Hampered


by Ron Daly 

The successes of President Obama's financial programs have been debated by pundits for the past year or so. Some say that progress is naturally slow in recovery and that the seeds of these initiatives will bear fruit for years to come. Others say that the programs have not helped enough in the short term to warrant their continued support. 

One program being debated currently is the Home Affordable Mortgage Program, or HAMP. A recent story from ABC News talks about the program - its proponents, its opponents, and its short-term success. 

Watch the video below. [EMAIL READERS - please visit the website to view the video. Flash player required.]

According to the online version of the story, only 116,000 homeowners have taken advantage of the $75 Billion program thusfar. Only 116,000 on a program designed to help 2 million? Why? Because bankers won't help customers and would rather foreclose. This has led some lawmakers to call the program a "failure" and has prompted the Treasury to suggest a stronger hand. If the Treasury and the Obama Administration had their druthers, banks would be required to see if homeowners qualified for HAMP help prior to foreclosure. Banks would only be allowed to begin the foreclosure process after a borrower had been officially unqualified. 

Continue reading "HAMP Hampered" »

February 26, 2010

Your One-Stop GAC Wrap-Up


by Ron Daly 

Being based just a few miles outside DC has its advantages. Chief among them, we were able to pop in and out of the GAC and meet with our clients, our friends, and our fellow CUSOs. While we didn't hit any of the big talks or breakout sessions, we didn't feel out of the loop. Nor would anyone else, I would wager, as CU professionals from across the country that were attending the GAC were eager to share their thoughts via blogs, emails and social media outlets of all kinds. We thought we would do a service to our followers that might have missed some of the highlights of the week and try to bring all those links and stories together in one place. If you feel there's a link or two missing that might be vital to people reading along at home, leave us a comment with the link in it down in the comment section. 


morrischrisFor all you GAC attendees & burger lovers, there is a Five Guys about a block from the convention center. Thought you should know. #GAC10

A few enterprising CU professionals created a "hashtag" label for Twitter posts related to the GAC. If you want to see how the whole thing unfolded in 140 characters, go to Twitter's search page and search #gac10

Certainly one of the most talked about parts of this particular GAC was the "Crashers", a group of young CU professionals dedicated to making their CUs better. Crash the GAC was started by Brent Dixon of The Haberdashery and Filene, who took the idea to CUNA. CUNA offered a number of scholarships so that attendees wouldn't technically be "crashing" in the traditional sense, and Palmetto Cooperative Services LLC sponsored a number of beds at the DC Hostel for attendees. As Crashers went about the conference, they wore their custom CU*Swag shirts with their slogan "Five Star Leaders, Two Star Lodging". Having received a CU*Swag shirt (Jimmy won one and gave me his - It's a nice shirt!), I can say they'd be great for any CU that wanted to deck out tellers in some custom gear. 


From the conference - thanks to A+ FCU

aplusfcuPacked crowd here at the GAC Opening Session. Lots of talk about job creation. #gac10

The kickoff started with David Gergen, former presidential advisor and pundit, talking leadership in the Nation and in finance, and stating "The great American job machine is broken" and that innovation will be the key that gets it started again. 

CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica was greeted by a standing ovation when he took the stage for what will be his last GAC in said position. His talk centered around raising the MBL, the hot-button issue this year to be sure. His talk seemed well received by the majority of CU citizen journalists in attendance. [Read Dan Mica's opinion column here]

The MBL echoed throughout the conference, with more and more breakout sessions and private meetings devoted to its discussion. Gigi Hyland, also of the NCUA board, spoke her mind on day two about raising the MBL cap and the forward momentum of CUs through 2010, which she admitted would be a "tough year". She also gave due attention to the Crash folks, much to their delight. 

Debbie Matz, the newest chairperson from NCUA, took the stage to talk about what she felt should be key goals for every credit union in the nation, including expansion of online services and payday loan alternatives. [Some more thoughts from Matz in this article from]

CU_NinjaRT @Paulsworld: Debbie Matz: 4 ways for CU's to succeed. Alt capital, biz lending, payday alternative and electronic services. #GAC10

There were quite a few impressive guests this year, including Joe Scarborough, Alan Greenspan, Ondine Irving, and even Reggie Bush snuck in at one point to the delight of attendees. Needless to say, if you weren't there, you missed out on a lot of interesting talk and a lot of insight. 

Hike the Hill! by @robwright

robwrightHike the Hill! #gac10

Wednesday was the day for attendees to "Hike the Hill", visiting with representatives and lawmakers from across the country on CU matters. Representatives Barney Frank and Spencer Bachus (MA and AL, respectively) stopped by Wednesday morning for a chat with attendees on Interchange Fees (which Frank said was not on the table) and, of course, more MBL talk (which Bachus said would be a tough fight for CUs to push through). Attendees then met with lawmakers to talk credit union issues, racking up pictures and stories along the way. 

Jimmy Marks, our CMD, and some of his Crashing buddies were also behind a "tweetup", a meeting of Twitter users in attendance. I'm told it was a big success and that there were some great conversations happening in the midst of all those young whippersnappers. 


I couldn't possibly tell you everything that happened at the conference and around the conference - to do that, I'd have to start blogging Monday and not quit until the end of the week. Which the folks below did!

Carla Day of CU Chat Up was a one-woman GAC reporting supercomputer. She typed her poor thumbs right down to the knuckle on her Palm Pre, live-blogging and reporting events as they happened. To get a great recap of the whole experience, see her personal Twitter feed.  

To read about the full day's worth of events through Wednesday, spend some time with Rob Rutkowski's "That Credit Union Blog" which did a day-by-day recap. Read all about it here

The CU Water Cooler gang made time for a "Liquid Lunch" chat podcast, which can be heard here

If it gets summed up much better than this, let me know: 

Matt_VanceAt DCA getting ready to fly home. GAC has come to a close but the ideas, projects & action are just getting started #gac10.

December 01, 2009

What Did We Learn?


by Ron Daly

2009 has been a year of learning. We've learned all about credit default swaps. We've learned how badly our new members had been treated by their former big banks. We've learned how to do more with less when it comes to marketing budgets, collections budgets, staff shortages - it's been a make-or-break year for the industry, to say the least. 

Here's some basic lessons: 

1) The amount of financial advice out there in the world is astounding. The quality of that financial advice is embarrassing. 

2) Just when you think our industry has hit the bottom of the problems we're facing from this recession, someone throws us a shovel and yells "keep digging". 

Let me cut to the point here...did you ever think we'd be looking at a time in our country when walking away from a mortgage was a good idea? How about a time when people recommended it? 

People like Dr. Brent T. White. A law professor at the University of Arizona, Dr. White recently published a paper titled "Underwater and Not Walking Away: Shame, Fear, and the Social Management of the Housing Crisis".  

His recommendation? The 15-million people with underwater mortgages should just walk. 

15 million people? Let's be optimistic and say those people only borrowed $300,000 on average. That's $4.5 trillion dollars that'll never be recouped. For better or worse, the housing market will never again be what it was. So banks and CUs won't be able to unload those houses, nor does the land beneath them necessarily mean anything to anyone, as developers in personal and business real estate aren't making any moves until the picture's less bleak. Whenever THAT is. 

What's more, it doesn't seem as though Dr. White is in the minority. This story from highlights "walk-aways" and a service designed specifically to help them work toward a strategic default.

This isn't a new problem (that NPR story is from two years ago, when the bottom just started coming up at us). A segment of this Newsweek piece from March states: 

The study is based on the data of some 45 million properties that carry a mortgage, which accounts for more than 85% of all U.S. mortgages. The data was filtered to include only properties valued between $70,000 and $1.25 million. 

The most severe "underwater mortgages"—mortgage loans that are 125% or higher than the value of the property—are in five states: California (723,000), Florida (432,000), Nevada (170,000), Michigan (128,000), and Arizona (122,000). Underwater homes are of serious concern because for some homeowners there is little incentive not to walk away and allow the home to fall into foreclosure. Foreclosed homes drag down the prices of neighboring properties, possibly dragging more homes underwater. 

A veteran real estate broker in Las Vegas who declined to be named said that in 2004 there were only 2,000 homes on the market; now there are some 20,000 and growing. "Everybody became crazy," she said. "In certain areas [home prices are] off 60% from the peak. It's really sad because there's no equity and people can't refinance."

We're looking at a quicksand situation here. If people start walking away from their mortgages on "good advice" like that mentioned above, it will just topple what little is left of the housing market like a string of dominoes. And whatever happened to "promoting thrift"? We must not be doing a great job of that, considering the number of bad mortgages floating around out there. But, then again, maybe people weren't as willing to listen to us "conservative lending institutions" then as they are now. Is now the time to remind people that running away from your crummy mortgage will hurt you? When and how can we make people learn that cut-and-run won't do?

I haven't read Dr. White's entire paper, but I do know this - a default isn't a good thing. And no, I don't agree that you can recover from it inside of two years by paying down the balances on your cards and being otherwise responsible. Where do you live after you've been booted from your home? How do you start recovering? Because like it or not, those two years back to your healthy credit rating are going to be a tough slog.

I'm sure there is a great counterpoint as to why consumers should just walk away...I'd love to hear it.

June 01, 2009

Duh of the Week: A PennyMac for your thoughts


by Ron Daly 

Once upon a time, there was a giant lending house called Countrywide. When the financial crisis struck down a number of lenders in 2008, Countrywide was one of the first to go. Having gone through two years of controversies, lawsuits and accusations by the SEC, Countrywide had to be absorbed by Bank of America. BofA has decided to dissolve the Countrywide brand altogether, as thousands lost their homes and their mortgages due to over-inflated appraisals and bad lending and payment policies. 

But the story doesn't end there. The former Number Two at Countrywide, Stanford Kurland, decided to open a new vulture firm - nicknamed "PennyMac"  [click here for the CU Journal story].

The business model, as it's explained in this Business Insider article, works as such: PennyMac buys bad loans from busted banks or the FDIC for next to nothing, follows up with the homeowner and asks if that homeowner wants to keep paying for the loan at a reduced rate, then makes double the price they paid for the loan in profit. 

Stop laughing, I'm not joking. 

Continue reading "Duh of the Week: A PennyMac for your thoughts" »

April 07, 2009

Guest Author Melina Young: Get a Coffee – Save $300 Million


Melina Young is an owner and president of Credit Union Strategic Planning. Her research has been featured internationally and most recently at a symposium in India. She is a regular guest lecturer at the University of Washington. Melina is the project lead for one of the fastest growing small credit unions in the world. She bats 1000 at grant writing, securing six figures annually for credit unions. Of the five grants she authored in 2008, all have received funding.

Melina is also one of the bright minds behind the American Debt Relief challenge, the widget of which recently debuted at the top of To give you more information, we asked Melina to be a guest author and walk you through the ADR - how it came to be, who's behind it and where she and her group hope to go.  
Get a Coffee – Save $300 Million

"You won't believe the 4-hour coffee conversation I just had," my business partner Jamie Chase said to me a few months ago. "We are going to help credit unions grow their net revenue while saving consumers $300 million." Intrigued? So was I...

Over that coffee our friend Scott Butterfield described a balance transfer program to Jamie which saved the average family $200 a month. That's a table full of groceries or a car payment for most families. "Credit unions across the U.S. are running balance transfer programs," Jamie said excitedly. "What if we measured the national savings?"

Continue reading "Guest Author Melina Young: Get a Coffee – Save $300 Million" »

March 11, 2009

The Non-Existant Red Line: Congress Seeks to Make CUs Do What They're Already Famous for Doing


by Ron Daly

In 1977, Congress sought to make banks pay for the unbecoming practice of "red-lining". This was a sort of financial gerrymandering, in which banks would not offer services to areas with low incomes or high minority populations. To scold the banks for this practice, Congress enacted the Community Reinvestment Act, or CRA

Fast forward 32 years. With a jaundiced eye on all financial institutions, Congress is seeking to hold anyone who lent or still lends money accountable for more community and low-income lending. This is not surprise to the Soapbox, as Dan Mica told us about Rep. Barney Frank's charge to make every lending institution accountable (read about that here). But Congress wants to push CUs into the CRA (click here for the CU Journal article). This, folks, is no good. 

Continue reading "The Non-Existant Red Line: Congress Seeks to Make CUs Do What They're Already Famous for Doing" »

March 02, 2009

If Capitol Hill Called Up the CU Industry...


[Industry Analyst Elliott Kashner from wondered what would happen if Congress decided to aim their judgement at credit unions. Elliott represents the proceedings with a script of the fictional conversation between lawmakers and CU industry head honchos: ]

I couldn't help but wonder how things might look if it were the CEOs of the ten top credit unions: Navy FCU, SECU, Pentagon, BECU, SchoolsFirst, The Golden 1, Suncoast Schools, Alliant, American Airlines, and Security Services. I'd like to imagine it would go something like this. (This did not actually happen, although the data was pulled from Callahan & Associates' First Look Program for Fourth Quarter)

Representative: Thank you all for appearing today in front of the Financial Services Committee. I'd like to start by taking a quick look back over 2008. As I am sure you all know, it was a brutal year. We’ve seen many financial giants fall. In response, Congress has passed several stimulus packages to get the economy back on its feet.
State Employees Credit Union: Well, 2008 was not such a terrible year for us. We actually saw our total assets grow by 11.28%.
Representative: I see you have been making use of TARP funds then.
American Airlines Credit Union: No, we are not currently receiving any federal funds. We were able to fuel our growth by attracting 19.41% in new shares and deposits.
Representative: Then how are you responding the to recession?

Continue reading "If Capitol Hill Called Up the CU Industry..." »