Florida Story Archive

New Florida Legislation Proposes Notification Requirements for Certain Financial Institutions When They Terminate, Suspend, or Take Similar Action to ‘Restrict’ Customer Account Access

Courtesy of David C. Ashburn of Greenberg Traurig, LLP  –  Financial Regulatory & Compliance News

Dec. 15, 2023 — On Nov. 20, 2023, Florida Rep. Bob Rommel introduced legislation in the Florida House of Representatives, Florida House Bill 585 (HB 585), to require, starting July 1, 2024, that state-chartered and state-authorized financial institutions in Florida (including Florida-chartered banks, trust companies, credit unions, international bank agencies and international branches of foreign banks) and Florida qualified public depositories (QPDs) (collectively, Financial Institutions), file a termination-of-access report with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), each time the Financial Institution terminates, suspends, or takes any “similar action restricting” a customer’s account access… Read more

LSCU and SECUF Deliver Power and Supplies to Idalia-Ravaged Communities

Sept. 8, 2023 — The League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates (LSCU) and the Southeastern Credit Union Foundation (SECUF) put its resources and teams to good use in the past week since Hurricane Idalia crashed through Florida’s Big Bend Region and South Georgia. More than 2,000 credit union branches and offices were impacted by the massive storm’s effects last week, though thankfully, the vast majority escaped mostly unscathed. For those hit hardest by Idalia, LSCU and SECUF have begun delivering direct assistance to help them recover and rebuild. Read more

The Lee County GOP is calling for the creation of a State Sovereign Bank of Florida.

The resolution passed at the organization’s with “an overwhelming majority,” and calls on Gov. Ron DeSantis to call a Special Legislative Session for the purposes of setting up the entity.

“This proposed central bank would be run by the State of Florida, not the Federal Government, and would ensure a viable pushback against Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC). CBDCs are proposed digital currencies that would be tracked and controlled by the Federal Reserve and could potentially be used to eliminate cash altogether,” a release issued today by the Lee GOP. Read more

How One Florida Credit Union Exec’s Efforts are Helping the Underserved

July 14, 2023 — As the chief mortgage banking officer for VyStar Credit Union in Jacksonville, Florida, Jennifer Kouchis is helping the credit union navigate rising interest rates by diversifying its underwriting portfolio. Read more

Florida Attorney General Moody Demands Chase Bank Stop Discriminating Against Customers Based on Religion and Political Affiliation

May 5, 2023 — Attorney General Ashley Moody today is demanding JPMorgan Chase & Co. stop discriminating against religious beliefs or political affiliations. The company publicly promotes inclusion yet arbitrarily denies service to customers with different beliefs.

In its public-facing statements, Chase professes openness and inclusivity. Attorney General Moody, with 18 other state attorneys general argue that Chase “has not extended its openness and inclusivity to everyone,” and points out the company’s pattern of targeting and denying service to religious and conservative-leaning customers, like the National Committee for Religious Freedom. In a letter sent to Chase, Attorney General Moody and the multistate coalition of other attorneys general also call for greater transparency in how the bank treats viewpoint diversity. Read more

After Starting at CU at Age 19, Long-Time Leader John Deese Retires

thumbnail_Deese JohnCourtesy of CUToday

Jan. 6, 2023 — John Deese, the long-time president and CEO of Guardians Credit Union, has retired after 44 years of service. Deese began with the credit union in May of 1978 at the age of 19 and during his career oversaw growth to $303 million from $1 million.

During his career Deese served on the CUNA board, the National Credit Union Foundation board, and as a board member, treasurer, vice chairman and chairman the Florida Credit Union League. Deese was also an active supporter and contributor to the World Council of Credit Unions and Inclusiv, as well as locally for the Palm Beach Chapter of Credit Unions where in years past, he served as president and treasurer. Read more

Pen Air Credit Union Converts to A State Charter

Sept. 29, 2022 — Pen Air Federal Credit Union (Pen Air) members have voted in favor of converting to a state charter. Effective October 1, the credit union will officially become Pen Air Credit Union.

“Pen Air is currently celebrating our strongest financial position in our history,” says Delbert Lee Morgan, Pen Air Federal Credit Union’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Changing our charter and expanding the geography we serve is an important step to ensure we continue attracting new members. We remain committed to our existing members who have helped us grow and prosper, while expanding our ability to enhance people’s lives across a larger geographic area,” says Morgan.

The Pen Air Federal Credit Union Board of Directors unanimously approved a recommendation to change from a federal charter to a state charter. Pen Air is a not-for-profit institution and therefore the by-laws require a member vote to approve a change to the charter. The charter vote was held on Wednesday, September 28, 2022.

Pen Air remains federally insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) which is managed by the NCUA and backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

By converting to a state charter, the credit union can:

  • Pursue growth opportunities across 17 counties, ranging from Mobile County in Alabama, all the way to Leon and Wakulla Counties in Florida.
  • Reduce the barriers toward joining by expanding the field of membership. Anyone who lives, works, worships, or goes to school in the approved service area will be eligible to open an account.
  • Produce additional value for all Pen Air members, such as the addition of convenient branch and ATM locations, the opportunity to provide lower rates on loans, provide higher rates on deposits, and lower fees and more.

For more information regarding the charter change, and other ways in which the credit union is working to enhance the member experience, visit penair.org.

Florida CU’s Newest Addition: A 12-Year, $20M Deal for Naming Rights to Arena

Courtesy of CUToday.info

Addition ArenaSept. 6, 2022 — The University of Central Florida and Additional Financial Credit Union have entered into a 12-year, $20-million deal that extends its naming right agreement for the school’s 10,000-seat arena.

The facility is home to UCF’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, in addition to other programs and events.

As CUToday.info reported earlier, the credit union originally obtained naming rights when it was known as CFE Credit Union for what was then CFE Arena. When it changed its name, the name on the arena was also changed.

The new deal, expected to be approved next week by the UCF Athletics Association, will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, according to the organizations.

“Knight Nation has truly inspired us along their journey to the Big 12, and we look forward to embarking on that journey alongside them as we extend our partnership,” said Kevin Miller, president and CEO of Addition Financial.

‘Great New Venture’

Added Terry Mohajir, UCF VP and athletics director, “This is a great new venture with outstanding community partners. Resources will be paramount as we transition into the Big 12 Conference a year from now, and Addition Financial will play a key role for us as we invest more resources to enhance our education and athletics missions.”

As CUToday.info has also reported, Addition Financial has been active in other partnerships with the UCF athletics department, and has also signed several UCF athletes to name, image, likeness (NIL) deals.

A Flordia CU CEO’s Perspective Included as Part of Report on How Consumers are Handling Inflation

Courtesy of CUToday.info

July 12, 2022 — The perspective of one credit union CEO was included as part of a local media report on how consumers are struggling to make ends meet as inflation leads to ongoing price increases.

The report, by WCJB, noted that in the Sunshine State a recent University of South Florida survey found that out of 600 Floridians polled, nearly half agree that the rise of inflation has made it more difficult for them to pay for essential bills, and more than three-fourths of them reported it impacted their grocery bill.

It’s caused many to re-think where their money goes, the report stated, quoting on woman in Ocala, Fla. to discuss how she has changed her grocery buying behavior.

“We help the members as much as we can, and each individual has a different situation,” said Ocala Community Credit Union President and CEO Steven Nazaruk.

Steps to Take

Throughout the pandemic, Nazaruk told WJCB he has not only had to balance his own budget for the credit union but also help members through these tumultuous times.

He advised consumers feeling the strain to take several steps.

“The first thing you do is, you pay your bills. The second thing is [to] feed your family. The third thing is to save money for a rainy day, for the future,” he told the news outlet.

VyStar Credit Union, BCU and Reseda Group, (a wholly-owned CUSO of MSU Federal Credit Union) Invest in AKuvo
Courtesy of FinExtra/Akuvo

May 2022 – AKUVO, a technology-based organization specializing in credit risk and delinquency management, has announced a round of new funding from three credit unions.

The investments by VyStar Credit Union, BCU and Reseda Group, a wholly-owned CUSO of MSU Federal Credit Union, will be used to further develop Aperture, the company’s innovative collection and credit risk platform.

Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., the $12 billion VyStar Credit Union is one of the 15 largest credit unions in the country. VyStar regularly seeks out fintech organizations that can provide best-in-class products and services to its members, as well as investment opportunities for the cooperative.

“VyStar works to improve the lives of our members and the communities we serve,” said Eric Weatherly, SVP, Loan Administration at VyStar Credit Union. “Investing in AKUVO will allow us to be a greater force for change for our members and the credit union community.”

The $5.5 billion BCU is headquartered in Vernon Hills, Ill., in the greater Chicago area. This fast-growing credit union has a strong focus on helping members achieve sustainable financial wellbeing.

“Our goal is to empower members to discover financial freedom, and I am optimistic AKUVO’s data science solutions will help us accelerate our ability to do just that,” comments, Jim Block, EVP, COO at BCU. “We anticipate rapid growth over the next decade, and the Aperture platform has the promise to scale with our membership.”

Reseda Group, CUSO of the $6.8 billion MSUFCU, completed its second round of AKUVO funding with this new investment. Headquartered in East Lansing, Mich., the CUSO first invested in AKUVO in January 2022 while MSUFCU also signed on to use Aperture.

“AKUVO’s Aperture platform will change the way we provide members with individual credit solutions that maximize recoveries. Aperture’s data-based decisioning also ensures we meet regulatory and legal requirements,” said Jim Hunsanger, Chief Risk Officer for MSUFCU and its CUSO, Reseda Group. “We’re excited to be an AKUVO client and early investor.”

All three credit unions will have a representative on AKUVO’s Advisory and Product Boards as a result of their investment position.

Florida and Georgia Credit Union Members Receive Millions in Benefits During 2021

Florida Members Receive Nearly $468 Million in Benefits
April 2022 – Florida credit unions continue to prove they provide more financial benefits to members than other financial institutions, according to data from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and Credit Union National Association (CUNA). CUNA estimates that Florida credit unions provided $467.7 million in direct benefits to 6.4 million members during the one-year period between September 2020 and September 2021.

The Florida Membership Benefits Report shows credit unions generally offer lower loan rates, higher savings rates, and fewer fees than other financial institutions. During that same one-year period from September 2020 to September 2021, Florida credit unions saved their members a total of $73 per member or $153 per member household compared to what banks offer their customers. This is because credit unions return excess profits to their members, who are shareholders of the organization.

“Floridians realize the benefits of being a credit union member,” said Patrick La Pine, CEO of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates (LSCU & Affiliates). “Credit unions across America provide several options including everyday checking and savings accounts, and even more personalized solutions that keep families out of debt. It’s all part of the credit union mission to improve financial well-being for all and advance the communities they serve.”

According to the benefits report, financing a $25,000 new car for 60 months at a Florida credit union will save members an average of $205 per year in interest compared to what they would pay at a banking institution. Overall, Florida members received a benefit of $390.5 million for all types of auto loans during the 2020-2021 annual period.
Florida credit unions also pay members higher average dividends on share draft checking, money markets, certificates, IRAs, and more. The average certificate interest rate for a credit union earns 0.34%, while a bank only earns 0.21% for members.

VyStar Announces Agreement to Merge With First Coast Federal Credit Union

VyStar Credit UnionApril 11, 2022 — VyStar Credit Union announced today it has signed a Merger Agreement with First Coast Federal Credit Union, a federally chartered credit union headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

“As a growing credit union, VyStar continues to look for strategic partnerships that strengthen our ability to serve more members and support the places we call home,” said VyStar President/CEO Brian Wolfburg. “First Coast Federal Credit Union has a long history of exceptional service in Northeast Florida, and we look forward to honoring their legacy by welcoming their employees and members to our organization.”

VyStar, which has more than 800,000 members and over $12 billion in assets, will remain the 14th-largest credit union in the country by asset size. The transaction is expected to close later this year and is subject to standard closing conditions as well as First Coast member vote and regulatory agency approvals.

First Coast Federal Credit Union has served Northeast Florida residents since 1935 and has about 1,700 members and $11.2 million in assets. Members of the credit union consist of employees of Select Employee Groups (SEGs) and their family members. First Coast Federal Credit Union has one branch located in Jacksonville, Florida. All First Coast Federal Credit Union employees will be offered employment opportunities at VyStar.

“After careful consideration, First Coast Federal Credit Union has chosen to merge with VyStar Credit Union because of the strong commitment and presence VyStar has on Florida’s First Coast community,” said Richard A. Tipping, Jr, Director and Supervisory Committee Chairman of First Coast Federal Credit Union. “FCFCU’s merger with VyStar will provide FCFCU members with a wide array of products and services, including innovative electronic banking services and access to a growing network of more than 60 branches and hundreds of ATMs located throughout the state of Florida and the Southeastern United States. FCFCU could not have found a better merger partner to serve its members than VyStar.”

VyStar Announces $150,000 Matching Challenge Toward National POW/MIA Memorial & Museum
Representatives from group will join credit union at Veterans Day Parade

Jacksonville, Florida — VyStar Credit Union announced today it would match up to $150,000 in community contributions for the initial phase of the National POW/MIA Memorial & Museum at Cecil Commerce Center.

The National POW/MIA Memorial & Museum will be located on a 26-acre property formally known as Naval Air Station Cecil Field on Jacksonville’s westside. Once completed, it will be the first of its kind in the country and honor all those who have been classified as prisoners of war or missing in action.

“VyStar’s deep appreciation for our military community dates back to our founding at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in 1952 and remains strong today,” said VyStar President/CEO Brian Wolfburg. “We are proud to support the National POW/MIA Memorial & Museum and look forward to enriching our community with a place of honor and remembrance.”

“We appreciate VyStar’s support in completing the first phase of our vision,” said Mike Cassata, Executive Director of Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial, Inc. “This is a win for both our Jacksonville community and the families of the more than 80,000 service members still unaccounted for since World War II.”

The community match strengthens an important partnership for VyStar, which previously gave $100,000 to support the National POW/MIA Memorial & Museum. VyStar is proud to have representatives from the National POW/MIA Memorial & Museum join their float as part of the City of Jacksonville’s Veterans Day Parade festivities. VyStar is an annual sponsor of the parade, which officially begins at 11:01 a.m. and will traverse through downtown Jacksonville.


Tropical Financial Credit Union Awards $10,000 in Scholarships to Local
Author: Lizeth George; Southeastern CU News

MIRAMAR, Fla. – (June 7, 2021) – As colleges prepare for what they hope will be a somewhat normal fall semester, three students will have a little less to stress about thanks to scholarships from Tropical Financial Credit Union. This year, Tropical Financial awarded three scholarships totaling $10,000. One grand prize of $5,000 and two $2,500 scholarships to students.

This is the eighth year for the program created to help local students further their education. The scholarship winners are:

  • Amanda Koplman is the recipient of TFCU’s $5,000 scholarship. This will help her pay the expenses needed after her impressive grades got her a full ride to Boston University where she plans to study Biomedical Engineering. Amanda graduated from NSU University School and is also a highly decorated Girl Scout.
  • Ethan Rogge is one of the two $2,500 scholarship winners. He will be heading to the University of Central Florida to study Business Administration. A graduate of Cypress Bay High school, Ethan has completed a whipping 177 community service hours and has received multiple awards through DECA.
  • Luz Gonzalez is TFCU’s second $2,500 scholarship winner. When her husband passed away, Luz decided to go back to school for herself. She will be attending Florida Atlantic University and is an active member of Broward Up.


OFR Announces Top Investor Threats for 2021

MARCH 9, 2021 — Tallahassee, Fla. – The Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) today reminded investors to be on the lookout for investment schemes pitched through the internet and social media, particularly those involving precious metals, cryptocurrencies, promissory notes and foreign exchange markets.

Schemes related to these products were identified as the top threats facing investors this year in a survey by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), of which OFR is a member. The survey includes responses of enforcement officials with state and provincial securities regulators throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The survey found fraudulent internet- or social media-based frauds as the top threat to investors. Ranked second are cryptocurrency-related and precious metals-based investments, especially those purchased through self-directed individual retirement accounts (IRAs), which lack the services and protection of traditional IRAs and can be fertile soil for scammers. Foreign exchange-related schemes rounded out the top three threats. In particular, enforcement officials expect to see a resurgence of high-yield foreign exchange and cryptocurrency-related schemes targeting investors this year disguised as membership or investment programs.

The NASAA survey also indicated that 82 percent of state and provincial securities regulators anticipate that bad actors will continue to attempt to leverage investor fear and anxiety related to changes in financial markets and the economy due to COVID-19 to illegally sell securities this year.


Florida OFR promotes Brinkley to Credit Union Bureau Chief
Sept. 27, 2019 — Mr. Brinkley has been with the OFR since July 2005. He started as a Credit Union examiner in our then Jacksonville Field Office. He quickly rose and became an analyst in Tallahassee Headquarters, serving both in the Credit Union Bureau and South Florida Banking Bureau. He earned a promotion to the Financial Administrator over the South Florida Banking Bureau in 2012, before rejoining the Tallahassee Credit Union Field Office as a supervisor in 2014 and becoming Area Financial Manager in 2017. Ben Brinkley replaces former Credit Union Bureau Chief Bruce Ricca.

After urging by LSCU, FL Bar adopts amendment clearing path on IOLTAs
Aug. 2, 2016 — At the urging of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU), the Florida Bar has passed an amendment to the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar relating to Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTAs) to give attorneys the opportunity to open their trust accounts at credit unions.

State finalizes acquisition of a bank by A credit union
State and federal regulators approved the acquisition of Calusa Bank, a $165 million state-chartered bank in Sarasota and Charlotte counties, by Achieva CU in Dunedin.

Florida’s credit unions hit records in memberships, deposits
July 2, 2015 — Florida’s credit unions surged to new highs in membership and assets, according to the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates..

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