Illinois CUs Kick off 3rd Year of Financial Counseling Program

Number of Counselors Continue to Grow via REAL Solutions Enhanced FiCEP

For the third year, the Illinois Credit Union Foundation is bringing the REAL Solutions enhanced version of the Credit Union Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) to the credit unions of Illinois.

This is a unique partnership between the National Credit Union Foundation/REAL Solutions, Credit Union National Association’s Center for Professional Development (CUNA CPD), the Illinois Credit Union League and Illinois credit unions to train staff who are then able to give professional financial counseling and education to members and potential members throughout the state.

The Illinois program for 2013, which begins today, will see 57 new participants from 19 credit unions as well as representatives from CUNA Mutual Group take part. In the first two years of the Illinois program, more than 60 individuals from 30 credit unions "graduated" as Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors (CCUFC).  Each year, a “class reunion" is held with the new crop of CCUFC’s, along with other individuals who have previously achieved this designation.

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The Illinois Credit Union League's Melanie Murphy talks to Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors at a FiCEP class reunion at the League offices.

“FiCEP participants are gaining knowledge and skills that help them provide personalized service to credit union members in keeping with our ‘People Helping People’ philosophy,” said Dan Plauda, Illinois Credit Union League President/Chief Executive Officer.  “I am pleased to see the number of certified financial counselors in Illinois triple during the last two years and is set to nearly double this year.”

Students used the CUNA CPD’s FiCEP to study for their Credit Union Certified Financial Counselor certification. CUNA staff graded all tests and issued students with their certificates.

As CUNA’s financial counseling certification self-study program, FiCEP enables all credit union staff to become more confident in helping members build a stronger financial future. FiCEP is designed for credit union staff members who work in the financial counseling, collections, and loan departments, or any others who are committed to helping members gain control of their financial futures.  Modeled after the CUNA Certified Financial Counselor Schools, FiCEP includes two parts of four learning modules each. When participants successfully complete the proctored exams for both parts (eight total modules), they become a CCUFC ready and able to assist credit union members in reaching their financial goals.

The benefits to credit unions participating in the program include:

  • Proven financial counseling skills that become part of the credit union’s culture
  • Written for all staff so anyone can offer financial counseling during every member interaction;
  • Certification that satisfies members’ needs as they continually look for the value of a credit union;
  • Differentiates a credit union by having certified financial counselors their your team; and
  • Helps members transform the way they deal with money through real-world counseling.

REAL Solutions Enhanced FiCEP - Making Strides Nationally
In the past two years, REAL Solutions has worked with fourteen state credit unions leagues and has completed thirteen programs. Two programs are currently in progress and four are scheduled to commence in the next month. Each program takes around five months to complete.

In addition to assisting students to achieve their certification, REAL Solutions places emphasis on developing a counseling and education plan as well as tracking, measuring and reporting the activities and the outcomes of their programs.

“FiCEP is a great program to help credit union staff counsel members to better prepare for their future and to assist when they are faced with financial difficulties,” said Lois Kitsch, NCUF REAL Solutions Program Director. “That is a great extension of the credit union difference and the more counselors that are certified, the more consumers can achieve financial freedom.”

Credit unions interested in having staff trained to become financial counselors should contact Kitsch at

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About REAL Solutions®
REAL Solutions® is the signature program of the National Credit Union Foundation. REAL — ― “Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing” — Solutions works to help credit unions offer a wide range of products and services that have proven successful in serving working families with low wealth and modest means. Using product/business models created and tested by credit unions, REAL Solutions disseminates information to credit unions through special meetings, an online impact center at, and state and national conferences. As NCUF’s signature program over the past five years, REAL Solutions has been adopted in 40 states and is saving members tens of millions of dollars. It has now become a documented business strategy for credit unions to grow their memberships by serving the underserved. Real people with real needs are finding REAL Solutions at credit unions.

About the National Credit Union Foundation (
The National Credit Union Foundation is the US credit union movement's primary national philanthropic program provider, fundraiser and grant-maker, working to help consumers achieve financial freedom through credit unions. Through NCUF grants and programs, credit unions provide widespread financial education, create greater access to affordable financial services, and empower more consumers to save, build assets, and own homes.

Description: Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity sealNCUF is funded primarily by investments in the award-winning Community Investment Fund (CIF) and by generous Supporters led by the Credit Union National Association and CUNA Mutual Group. All NCUF donors provide support that empowers NCUF and state credit union foundations to make financial freedom achievable through credit unions.

The National Credit Union Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization. NCUF continues to earn the Better Business Bureau seal of approval as an “Accredited Charity” for meeting all 20 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for national charities.

About the Illinois Credit Union League (
The Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) is the primary trade association for credit unions in Illinois and provides its members with compliance and other pertinent operating information, legislative advocacy and educational development opportunities.  Membership is open to any credit union operating in accordance with the Illinois Credit Union Act or the Federal Credit Union Act.  There are 357 credit unions in Illinois serving almost 3 million members.