Knowing the consumer need for trustworthy financial guidance while tight credit union budgets often restrict the number of staff able to attend a live training school, the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL) offered a unique guided self-study financial counseling training program last year that resulted in 72 new Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors from 33 Michigan credit unions. Since then, MCUL has reached an estimated 170 credit union staff and more than1,850 consumers.
Combining the lower cost and convenience of CUNA’s self-study Credit Union Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) enhanced with webinars and local in-person training and networking, the training enables credit union staff to become more confident in helping members build stronger financial futures. Read more about the enhanced FiCEP program here.
With the help of a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation’s REAL Solutions program, MCUL extended their FiCEP efforts in 2011, with an additional 101 credit union staff from 26 credit unions enrolled. The guided self-study portion provides bi-weekly interactive webinars on each of the eight FiCEP modules and two live training and testing sessions over a six-month period resulting in participants earning their designation of Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor. A major component of the enhanced training is working with counselors to develop a strategic plan to be implemented at their credit unions to obtain maximum impact for the credit union and the community.
Kathryn Greiner from University of Michigan Credit Union presents on the "Budget Counseling Process" at an in-person FiCEP training.
“Using this information, I have been able to guide members through difficult decisions,” said Andrea Hacker, Northville Branch Manager at Community Financial Members Credit Union in Plymouth, Mich. “Before, I could tell members what they should be doing, but now I can work with them. It leaves both of us feeling empowered.”
Impact and Outreach to help Michigan’s economy
MCUL’s goal is to increase the number of credit unions providing financial counseling to assist Michigan residents to successfully manage their money and avoid problems such as bankruptcy, foreclosure and loan defaults. With an estimated 170 Certified Credit Union Counselors throughout the state, Michigan’s credit unions are attracting the interest of statewide partners such as Habitat for Humanity and United Way’s 2-1-1 system as a source of trustworthy financial guidance for the families they serve.
With just 24 credit unions reporting in the first half of 2011, counselors logged in close to 1,200 hours of counseling activity, helping more than 1,850 consumers. To extrapolate those results to the full group of 170 credit union financial counselors in 56 credit unions, it would translate into an annual reach of over 8,800 consumers. Second Quarter NCUA Call Report data has shown the program’s impact in that Michigan credit unions are experiencing fewer delinquencies and charge offs and a reduction in the rate of bankruptcy among members.
“Members are always thanking us because we helped them and no one else would,” said Lisa Blevins, a FiCEP participant from Education Plus Credit Union in Monroe, Mich. “Our charge offs and DQs are way below our peers and we take pride in keeping it this way because that tells us we are helping more members than charging them off as a loss.”
Michigan will continue to increase the number of certified credit union financial counselors in the state with a 2012 guided self-study financial counseling certification training program in partnership with NCUF’s REAL Solutions program. Current counselors will share and improve their skills with ongoing networking and training sessions and a networking listserv will continue information-sharing among Michigan’s financial counselors and educators. Experienced financial counselors working in MCUL’s Financial Education Council are also compiling a best practices document to share successes in counseling and program implementation.
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 www.realsolutions.coop, and state and national conferences. As NCUF’s signature program over the past four 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 (ncuf.coop):
The National Credit Union Foundation is the US credit union movement’s primary national philanthropic program provider, fundraiser and grant-maker. 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.
NCUF 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 a real impact in the credit union community.
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.