Friday, June 23, 2017

Why North Alabama Educators Credit Union?

Consumers have many choices out there, so why choose North Alabama Educators Credit Union (NAECU) for financial services? 

To begin with, we're a credit union. The financial structure of a credit union means that you as a consumer will receive a better overall benefit. NAECU is owned by our 10,200+ members and governed by our nine volunteer board members who are mostly either current or former employees of a school system. There are no outside investors from other states or countries making decisions that impact our local member-owners. NAECU is a "not for profit" entity so our objective is to maintain safety and soundness reserves while returning all other profits back to our members in the form of lower loan rates, higher savings rates, and much lower fees than traditional banking institutions. An example of this would be our low cost, low dollar loans of $500 or less that traditional for profit institutions are not interested in since they do not produce enough profit. Again, profit is not a primary motivator with a credit union. 

Being a mid-sized credit union at roughly $90 Million in Total Assets, NAECU has the ability to offer many of the same popular electronic services as the big multi-billion dollar institutions such as home banking, bill payment, mobile App, remote check deposit through SPRIG, debit card controls through our MobiMoney app, online loan applications by phone or tablet, and a Surcharge Free ATM locator App to find one of over 28,000 ATM's available. The big difference is that our members can actually speak with our staff and management about any issues or problems that need to be resolved. It is rare for account holders of the big regional banks to be able to speak with the CEO on an inquiry or problem on their account. As the CEO of NAECU my job is to work for our members so I am always eager to meet or speak with any of our members and do so quite often over the course of each week. Our staff has the time to be more friendly and helpful during member visits, something not always available at the much larger institutions where long lines tend to promote speed over service. 

There is nothing wrong with being members of multiple credit unions. Each credit union, regardless of their size, operate under the same "not for profit" structure. Each credit union offers different strengths that may change over time. Consumers benefit when they compare services available to them. It is our job at NAECU to offer the best services at the best prices whenever possible, recognizing though that we have to manage the balance sheet of our member's deposits and loans in the process. Our auto loan rates remain some of the most competitive in the area because our balance sheet right now could use more loans rather than deposits. It's not a bad thing but indicative of how pricing and availability of services takes place. Every credit union needs borrowers AND savers. 

NAECU has been around since 1955 and is still going strong. How many institutions can you think of that have been merged or sold in the last 10 years? One of the business models of small community banks is to build a customer base and then sell that bank, plus their customers, to a larger regional bank. The customers don't benefit from those acquisitions but the bank investors sure do. NAECU is the most local type of organization you can think of since the vast bulk of our member-owners live and work right here in the Tennessee Valley. 

It sounds corny but the primary objective of NAECU is to help improve the bottom line of our member-owners above our own. Ownership does have benefits. It is the difference between being a member of an organization that works for you versus being a customer of an organization that needs you to produce income for the real owners, the investors. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Don't be a Money Mule

A "Money Mule" is anyone who allows their banking account be used as a means of transferring funds to an unknown third party. Scams, frauds, and outright money laundering operations utilize a money mule to either move stolen funds or illegal funds. Account holders have a legal responsibility to know who they are transacting business with and are responsible for all funds that flow in or out of their account. 

Popular scams involving money mules are work from home offers, lottery/game awards, Secret Shopper programs, and inheritance scams. There is usually a money making component to these scams where a small percentage of the funds can be kept. Money can be received by cashier's checks or even electronic deposit in some cases. In most cases the checks are either counterfeit or stolen checks and electronic deposits can be money stolen from a victim elsewhere.

There is no good reason for anyone to allow a stranger to move money in and out of your own personal account. No legitimate employment would be processing their payroll through an individual personal banking account. If you ever did truly win a large lottery award you would not be asked to pay taxes and such up front. If money was stolen from elsewhere and deposited into your account, you could be held responsible both from a civil and criminal standpoint. 

If you ever have a suspicion due to a request to move funds through your own personal account, feel free to contact the management of your financial institution. I have personally assisted various credit union members over the years in preventing losses from scams and fraud cases. We would much rather help you before the fact rather than after!