Iowa lauded by NCUF for Hispanic, health care, savings initiatives

October 14, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (10/15/14)--The Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL), the recipient of the National Credit Union Foundation's (NCUF) 2015 Herb Wegner Memorial Outstanding Organization Award, distinguished itself by touching virtually every corner of the credit union system, and carving out a few new corners in the process, according to John Gregoire, chair of the NCUF Wegner Awards Selection Committee and president of The ProCon Group.

ICUL's award will be one of four Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special dinner hosted by the NCUF at the Marriott Marquis Washington on March 9 during the Credit Union National Association's 2015 Governmental Affairs Conference. Registration for dinner tickets and sponsorships will be available within the next month on the NCUF's website.

"The Iowa Credit Union League has been fortunate to have a series of leaders over the years who've all been pioneers in helping build the credit union movement," said Gregoire. "The breadth and depth of the organization shine through the league's focus on reaching the Hispanic population, health care and savings initiatives, as well as a host of other programs. You always know if the Iowa Credit Union League straps on a challenge, they'll go far and beyond."

In 2006, ICUL formed Coopera (which means "to cooperate" in Spanish) to meet the financial needs of the nation's largely unbanked Hispanic community. Coopera works with credit unions, leagues and CUNA to connect them with opportunities for growing and serving their Hispanic members.

As a result of Coopera's work, the median growth rate for the Hispanic segment has increased to 7.6% within credit unions it has served--nearly doubling the median growth rate (4.1%) of the non-Hispanic segment in those credit unions. Coopera has also cultivated growth in checking penetration, loan penetration and services-per-member within the Hispanic member-base.

The philanthropic arm of ICUL, the Iowa Credit Union Foundation (ICUF), has seen widespread success running the state's only active Individual Development Account (IDA) program--a matched savings program between credit unions and their low-income members. Funds raised by ICUF are matched with credit union members' personal savings achievements, enabling them to purchase assets that help promote financial stability and independence.

Through ICUF, ICUL has assisted more than 500 low-income individuals and families by providing more than $1 million in matching funds. Those funds have helped credit union members purchase first homes, start small businesses, invest in their educations and more. Today, the IDA program partners with 22 Iowa credit unions, covering 85 of the state's 99 counties.

Staff from ICUL worked with the founders of CoOportunity Health to launch a new, cooperatively structured, not-for-profit, member-owned health insurance provider at the beginning of 2014. After two years of collaboration, ICUL proposed a partnership whereby credit unions may serve as exclusive distribution partners of CoOportunity's products in the financial marketplace. ICUL also invited the Nebraska Credit Union League to join in the partnership.

Through ICUL's partnership with CoOportunity Health, 46 participating credit unions across Iowa and Nebraska--serving more than 365,000 members and their communities--are now able to provide this new insurance option to their members.

ICUL has a long-standing partnership with the World Council of Credit Unions through which it stimulates the growth of the credit union movement in developing countries. ICUL CEO Pat Jury is on the World Council executive committee, Chief Operating Officer Murray Williams has been inducted into World Council's International Executive Volunteer Corps, and more than 10 female executives within ICUL's family of companies are members of World Council's Global Women's Leadership Network.

Through World Council's social mission, ICUL has directly counseled hundreds of credit union leaders in more than 10 countries by leading international education and training programs on topics as wide-ranging as advocacy, regulatory modernization, payment innovations, governance and collaboration best practices.

ICUL has taken on the task of directly engaging Iowa's credit union members and mobilizing them to advocate on their own behalf. This comprehensive member engagement plan uses innovative social media and field team efforts to create a "grassroots army" of advocates who recently defeated an effort by the Iowa Bankers Association to cut banks' franchise tax by 90%, without providing service equity for Iowa's credit unions.

Over the past year, ICUL expanded its consumer advocacy database from 8,400 to more than 14,000 advocates. These credit union advocates were invited to ICUL's "Take the Pledge" campaign, which aims to educate, organize and activate Iowa's more than 1 million credit union members. ICUL also grew its credit union political action committee (CUPAC) to a record $284,939 in 2013, which placed it as the No. 2 political action committee in Iowa and was comprised solely of individual, non-corporate contributions.

National Credit Union Foundation Wegner Awards