CETNET Interviews: 2018 Next Top Credit Union Exec Presentations Feature Five Fabulous Ideas for CUs

CU Broadcast

CUES 2018 Next Top Credit Union Exec finalists took the stage to share their innovative ideas that will benefit the credit union industry in more ways than one for sure. Former winner (2015) and now CUES Vice President of Membership Jimese Harkley kicked off the competition, sharing how the contest changed her professional life helping her get to where she is today.

Next Top Credit Union Exec Creator and Currency Marketing President & Creative Director Tim McAlpine then commenced with the finalists introductions for the audience and judges to listen to their polished presentations -- and hopefully vote for the one of them as the 2018 champion.

First up was Fort Knox Federal Credit Branch Manager Union Clark Duncan, outlining his "Flip the Switch" program for future leaders in innovation.

Second was Emily Strybosch, Brand Specialist at Libro Credit Union, explaining her "Plan with Purpose" app, displaying how we can help members plan for their future and keep them on track to achieve their personal prosperity.

Third was Jodi Maus, Talent Development Specialist at Central Minnesota Credit Union, outlining her online Management Courses for executives. Jodi plans to develop and implement an eight session “Management” courses customized to the needs of current and future leaders of the credit union. 

Fourth was Lynette Cupps, VP Organizational Development at MAX Credit Union, describing her project that supports small businesses and community organizations beyond the money. Lynette's project provides cost effective professional development to smaller credit unions, local small businesses and non-profit organizations to support the credit union movement, community advocacy, and employment stability and economic growth. 

Our fifth and final finalist was Blaine Bartholomew, AVP of Member Experience at Unitus Community Credit Union, sharing his Member Rewards Account Program that focuses on the ownership/membership difference, promoting technology and saving, and attracting Millennials.

Check it out and let us know your thoughts -- and stay tuned for the winner announced on Wednesday, November 7.

+ Original article

NTCUE Interviews: Unitus Community's Blaine Bartholomew Outlines His 'Member Rewards Account Program'

CU Broadcast

It's that time of year again when we feature some pretty amazing folks: the CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalists. (Stay tuned for more finalist features over the next few days.)

First up is Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Branch Manager Clark Duncan sharing his "FLIP the Switch" project. Clark also discussed why he entered this year's NTCUE contest, as well as career goals, how he sees the competition benefiting the industry, what he's learned throughout the contest's process, and much more.

Check it out and let us know your thoughts. Another exceptional group of NTCUE finalists, so lend them your ear and give them some support. More than likely, they are our industry's future leaders.

Created by Currency Marketing
Supported by DDJ Myers

+ Original article

NTCUE Interviews: Libro’s Emily Strybosch Shares Her Contest Project — ‘Plan with Purpose’

CU Broadcast

Our next Next Top Credit Union Executive finalist is Emily Strybosch, Brand Specialist at Libro Credit Union in London, Ontario, Canada. Emily's project consists of how might we help credit union members ("owners" in Canada) plan for their future and keep them on track to achieve their personal prosperity.

Fascinating topic for sure. So take a few minutes and check it out and let us know your thoughts.

Created by Currency Marketing
Supported by DDJ Myers

+ Original article

NTCUE Interviews: Central Minnesota’s Jodi Maus Shares Management Course Series for CU Execs

CU Broadcast

In our continuing coverage of CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalists, we talk with Jodi Maus, Talent Development Specialist at Central Minnesota Credit Union. Jodi joined us to discuss her competition's project Management Courses for credit union employees looking to enhance their careers.

Jodie's 8-session “Management” courses are customized to meet the needs of current and future leaders of credit unions nationwide. Check it out and let us know your thoughts.

Created by Currency Marketing
Supported by DDJ Myers

+ Original article

NTCUE Interviews: MAX Credit Union’s Lynette Cupps Shares Her Unique Small Business Support Project

CU Broadcast

In our continuing series of featuring CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalists, we chat with Lynette Cupps, VP Organizational Development at MAX Credit Union. Lynette's project involves supporting small businesses and community organizations beyond the money -- certainly a different twist here.

Lynette's plan is to provide cost effective professional development to smaller credit unions, local small businesses and non-profit organizations to support the credit union movement, community advocacy, and employment stability and economic growth.

Check it out and let us know your thoughts.

Created by Currency Marketing
Supported by DDJ Myers

+ Original article

NTCUE Interviews: Fort Knox FCU’s Clark Duncan Shares His ‘FLIP the Switch’ Project

CU Broadcast

It's that time of year again when we feature some pretty amazing folks: the CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalists. (Stay tuned for more finalist features over the next few days.)

First up is Fort Knox Federal Credit Union Branch Manager Clark Duncan sharing his "FLIP the Switch" project. Clark also discussed why he entered this year's NTCUE contest, as well as career goals, how he sees the competition benefiting the industry, what he's learned throughout the contest's process, and much more.

Check it out and let us know your thoughts. Another exceptional group of NTCUE finalists, so lend them your ear and give them some support. More than likely, they are our industry's future leaders.

Created by Currency Marketing
Supported by DDJ Myers

+ Original article

Affording Adoption

Minnesota Parent | By Abbie Burgess

Two Minnesota families are helping others find funding for their forever families.

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An Adoption LOC

Geoff and Nicole Bullock of Brooklyn Park can’t imagine life without their daughters, 7-year-old Alaya, who brings her diary wherever she goes, and 5-year-old Annika who wants to be outside in the backyard 24/7.

“You don’t know how many times I’ve watched Frozen,” their dad said. “I know it word for word.”

Both girls joined the family as infants through domestic adoptions through Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

When unexpected costs arose with their second adoption (ultimately totaling more than $35,000), the Bullocks refused to give up.

Geoff Bullock said: “We literally sold our house to adopt Baby No. 2. We were lucky we had the equity in it.”

Knowing others won’t necessarily have that option, Bullock, a financial educator at Firefly Credit Union, came up with the idea of a special line of credit for adoptive families, allowing them to borrow money as expenses arise.

Instead of paying interest on an entire sum as is customary with a traditional loan, the adoption line of credit requires a payment only on the amount borrowed, making it more affordable.

“You can take out what you need — for example, for a home study,” Bullock said of the long and involved evaluations families go through to receive adoptive placements.

On Jan. 2, Firefly Credit Union’s nine Twin Cities locations launched the new line of credit.

The idea won an industry competition and grew in momentum: Now credit unions around the country are contacting Firefly to pursue the concept.

“People are priced out of adoption,” said Bullock, who hopes to change that fact.

Keep in mind that a tax professional can help to determine eligibility for state and federal adoption credits for all types of adoptions. Also, many workplaces offer adoption benefits, including financial assistance for adoptions

and/or parental leave.

+ Original article

How Firefly Credit Union Helps Foster Families Afford Agency Expenses with Low-Interest Adoption Loans

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CardRates.com | By Lauren Keys

In a Nutshell: Minnesota-based Firefly Credit Union aims to bring families together by providing a fixed line of credit that can be used to fund up to 90% of adoption expenses. Working with two US agencies, Firefly launched its adoption loan program in early 2018 to assist growing families in managing the cost of taking a child into their homes. Today, the credit union continues to expand its network of adoption agencies as it helps families welcome kids into their forever homes.

Deciding to grow your family through adoption is one of the biggest and most impactful choices you can make — not to mention one of the most expensive.

On average, the cost of raising a child is upward of $200,000, and adopting a child in the United States can set parents back between $35,000 and $50,000. The steep cost of adoption can be a barrier that prevents parents from even setting foot in an agency.

Firefly Credit Union’s Geoff Bullock is an adoptive parent who knows the process is challenging.

Firefly Credit Union aims to make adoption more accessible to families by easing the financial burden the process entails with its new, low-interest adoption loan program, launched in February of 2018.

 Firefly Credit Union’s Geoff Bullock is an adoptive parent who knows the process is challenging.

Firefly Credit Union’s Geoff Bullock is an adoptive parent who knows the process is challenging.

“Here in the United States alone, over 20,000 kids age out of foster care every year without finding a forever family and over 26 million kids worldwide are double-orphaned and in need of a home,” said Firefly Community Engagement and Education Specialist, Geoff Bullock. “We said, ‘Wow. It’s just unbelievable that all these kids will never know what it’s like to be part of a family. It’s heartbreaking.'”

As an adoptive parent himself, Bullock has firsthand experience with the intimidating price tag and complexity attached to the adoption process.

“I’ve dealt with it, and I know other people at Firefly who have as well,” Bullock said. “We felt that this was a need we could fill, and we had the resources and the opportunity to do it. We’re big believers in family.”

A Fixed Line of Credit Eases the Financial Burden on Parents

Bullock noted that, while other institutions throughout the US offer adoption loans, Firefly is unique in offering its borrowers an unsecured fixed-rate line of credit with flexible repayment terms.

“There are other institutions nationwide that have versions of adoption loans, but they’re all installment loans — and oftentimes they require collateral. One of the things we found is that not everyone has the collateral they might need to cover a forty-something-thousand dollar loan,” Bullock said.

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Amounts for Firefly Credit Union’s adoption loans start at just $5,000 and can reach a maximum of $40,000. Upon approval, borrowers have 24 months to access funds, and begin repaying the loan after funds are first used.

“With installment loans, if you take out a $40,000 loan, you have to pay interest on $40,000 the first month you’re paying the loan back. Instead of doing an installment loan, we have a line of credit. You do two years to lock it in, and then you pay 1.5% of the balance back,” he added.

The credit union estimates that families who borrow the maximum $40,000 amount and pay back the minimum balance can expect to repay their loan in full within 89 months.

Firefly Expands Services After Successful Rollouts in 2018

When Firefly Credit Union launched its adoption loan program in February, it had partnered exclusively with two adoption agencies, the Children’s Home Society and Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota. Firefly recently extended its loan eligibility to include families whose adoption applications are approved by other agencies.

“We still verify and approve the individual adoption agency to make sure they’re a trustworthy place, but it’s expanded to be not just the Children’s Home and Lutheran Social Services anymore, which is a very exciting development,” Bullock said.

The complexity of the adoption process, especially in the case of international adoptions, often means that multiple agencies will be involved in a single adoption. This is because each agency is offered only a few “adoption slots” from each country, which sometimes necessitates collaboration across multiple agencies to bring a child to his or her new home.

“For instance, there was an adoption agency in Portland that was working with Lutheran Social Services in Minnesota to help a family in Wisconsin through another agency in St. Louis — and they were adopting a kid from Thailand,” Bullock said. “It’s so unbelievably complicated. Just working with one or two agencies wasn’t going to cut it; we had to expand beyond that.”

Investing in the Future: Approved Applicants Receive a Gift for Their Child’s First Savings

Firefly Credit Union’s adoption loan program exists to provide a brighter future for the children who need forever homes with loving families. From the moment kids arrive home to their adoptive parents, Firefly embraces them into the credit union culture by making a $500 deposit to an FFCU savings account in the child’s name.

“We welcome them to membership here, and we start them off with savings,” Bullock said. “We don’t just want to help them join the family, but we want them to thrive financially throughout their life, so it’s an initial deposit for them to get started.”

At its heart, Bullock said Firefly Credit Union’s adoption loan is focused on people rather than profit.

“When people ask, ‘How did you make the interest rate that low?’ and ‘Why are you giving a gift at the end?’ the answer to a lot of it is because we care about the people. It’s really a people-focused product,” he said.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

+ Original article

Financing For Adoptive Families

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CreditUnions.com | By Sharon Simpson

Firefly Credit Union’s Adoption Loan provides a much-needed, low-cost financing option to cover up to 90% of the costs associated with adoption, which can range from $5,000 to $45,000.

 Minnesota's Star Tribune ran a piece in early 2018 about Geoff Bullock's adoption experience and the adoption loan from Firefly Credit Union that followed.  Read it here .

Minnesota's Star Tribune ran a piece in early 2018 about Geoff Bullock's adoption experience and the adoption loan from Firefly Credit Union that followed. Read it here.

The Need

When Firefly Credit Union ($1.3B, Burnsville, MN) launched its Adoption Loan program in February 2018, the credit union didn’t expect the niche product to have such a big impact or attract such local press coverage.

But the credit union’s own community engagement and education specialist, Geoff Bullock, knew from firsthand experience what a powerful loan this could be.

“I have two adopted daughters,” Bullock says. “When we found out the legal fees to adopt our youngest were going to be $35,000, it was a ‘what do we do?’ moment.”

Bullock’s family was able to scrape together the money, but he recognizes the challenge other prospective adoptive families face.

The Solution

Firefly Credit Union looked at the need for adoption financing from the borrower’s experience — not knowing exactly how much the fees and other expenses would total — and created an affordable, lockable line of credit.

“The product is similar to a HELOC,” Bullock says. “The draw period is two years. If a borrower takes out the maximum $40,000 and makes minimum payments, it will take eight years to repay.”

The loan is an unsecured line of credit, which offers lower rates than many signature or personal loan options. And Firefly deposits a welcome gift of $500 in the new child’s savings account.

The Results

Despite the multiple agencies involved and long waiting period that are common in the complex adoption process, the credit union has had seven families book loans so far. Six are for domestic adoptions, and one is for an international adoption.

“A few of the loans have come from members but most have come from non-members who join because of the loan,” Bullock says. “We have other families in the process but haven’t booked the loan yet.”

The credit union is now working closely with adoption agencies and has begun expanding its network. For their part, the borrowers are promoting Firefly within their own networks.

What makes the loan a standout is the fact there aren’t many true adoption financing options available. Firefly’s program is a stand-alone adoption loan with a low rate and no collateral.

“Some adoption loans are just personal loans and come with the higher interest rate,” Bullock says. “Or they’re HELOCs marketed as an option, but obviously that requires using your home as collateral.”

Parting Advice

“It’s easier than it looks,” Bullock says.

The credit union leader admits creating the product was daunting at first, but the process went more smoothly than expected. And the loan has made a significant impact.

“It is a lifelong connection you’re building with these members,” Bullock says. “They are highly motivated knowing they have an advocate in us.”

+ Original article

Firefly CU Launches New Adoption Loan

CUtoday.info

BURNSVILLE, Minn.–Firefly Credit Union has introduced a new Adoption Loan it said provides the opportunity to further support families in the communities it serves.

Firefly-Adoption_large.png

“The cost to adopt can be an intimidating factor, one that may even prevent many families from starting the process,” the credit union said. “Firefly’s Adoption Loan is an unsecured, fixed rate line of credit that can be used to fund up to 90% of adoption expenses. This loan helps fill the gap between willing adoptive parents and the finances they need to grow their family.”

Once a family is approved through an accredited adoption agency, they can take advantage of Firefly’s new loan. As a welcome gift to help families celebrate and get settled in with their new addition, Firefly said it is offering to deposit up to $500 in the member’s account.

“As an adoptive parent myself, I know firsthand the vast financial hurdles that stand between parents and children,” said Geoff Bullock, Firefly’s community engagement and education specialist. “It is a pleasure to be part of an organization that extends their support to all families, for all purposes.

Info on the program can be found at fireflycu.org/adoption.

+ Original article

The Top 10 Applicants For CUES’ Next Top CU Exec Advance

CUtoday.info

Public voting has ended and CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec (NTCUE) has announced its Top 10 applicants for 2018.

The NTCUE competition–held in partnership with DDJ Myers and powered by Currency–searches for emerging leaders age 35 and under from within the credit union industry.

“We were pleased to have had 163 worthy young credit union leaders nominated for this, our ninth year of competition. Of those nominated, twenty-three applied by submitting an entry video,” said John Pembroke, CUES’ president/CEO. “After putting the twenty-three applicants to a public vote, we were delighted to see the votes flood in; we had well over 3,200 this year.”

The top five vote-getters automatically advanced to the Top 10 phase, and five additional applicants were chosen by a special judging panel of former NTCUE finalists to round out the Top 10, CUES said.

Named to the Top 10 in the CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec competition are:

  • Lorna Adams, 34, Talent Management Specialist, Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union, St. Louis, Missouri, United States

  • Blaine Bartholomew, 35, AVP of Member Experience, Unitus Community Credit Union, Portland, Oregon, United States

  • Lynette Cupps, 35, VP Organizational Development, MAX Credit Union, Montgomery, Alabama, United States

  • Clark Duncan, 26, Branch Manager, Fort Knox Federal Credit Union, Radcliff, Kentucky, United States

  • Aubrey Gallagher, 31, Compliance Assistant, Heartland Credit Union, Hutchinson, Kansas, United States

  • Brittany Martin, 24, Business Development Specialist, Mill City Credit Union, Minnetonka, Minnesota, United States

  • Jodi Maus, 33, Talent Development Specialist, Central Minnesota Credit Union, Melrose, Minnesota, United States

  • Mackenzie Schultz, 25, Loan Processor, Blackhawk Community Credit Union, Janesville, Wisconsin, United States

  • Symantha Sermino, 34, Commercial Loan Processor, Northwest Community Credit Union, Eugene, Oregon, United States

  • Emily Strybosch, 31, Brand Specialist, Libro Credit Union, London, Ontario, Canada

CUES said the Top 10 will now submit a blog post update about their project to NextTopCreditUnionExec.com. To provide additional value to the competition experience, they’ll each receive an executive coaching session from DDJ Myers. A judging panel of two CUES members and Deedee Myers of DDJ Myers will then score the Top 10’s applications and blog posts, narrowing the competition to the Final Five, who will move on to the finals.

The five Finalists will receive additional coaching, airfare, accommodations and registration to CUES’ CEO/Executive Team Network, Nov. 5-7 in Nashville, where they will give their final presentations. The winner will receive further coaching, airfare, accommodations and registration for two CUES’ CEO Institutes, a total prize package valued at $20,000.

+ Original article

Ten CUES® Next Top Credit Union Exec applicants advance

CUInsight

Public voting has ended and CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec (NTCUE) has announced its Top 10 applicants for 2018. The NTCUE competition–held in partnership with DDJ Myers and powered by Currency–searches for emerging leaders age 35 and under from within the credit union industry.

“We were pleased to have had 163 worthy young credit union leaders nominated for this, our ninth year of competition. Of those nominated, twenty-three applied by submitting an entry video,” said John Pembroke, CUES’ President/CEO. “After putting the twenty-three applicants to a public vote, we were delighted to see the votes flood in; we had well over 3,200 this year.”

The top five vote-getters automatically advanced to the Top 10 phase, and five additional applicants were chosen by a special judging panel of former NTCUE finalists to round out the Top 10.

Named to the Top 10 in the CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec competition are:

  • Lorna Adams, 34, Talent Management Specialist, Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union, St. Louis, Missouri, United States
  • Blaine Bartholomew, 35, AVP of Member Experience, Unitus Community Credit Union, Portland, Oregon, United States
  • Lynette Cupps, 35, VP Organizational Development, MAX Credit Union, Montgomery, Alabama, United States
  • Clark Duncan, 26, Branch Manager, Fort Knox Federal Credit Union, Radcliff, Kentucky, United States
  • Aubrey Gallagher, 31, Compliance Assistant, Heartland Credit Union, Hutchinson, Kansas, United States
  • Brittany Martin, 24, Business Development Specialist, Mill City Credit Union, Minnetonka, Minnesota, United States
  • Jodi Maus, 33, Talent Development Specialist, Central Minnesota Credit Union, Melrose, Minnesota, United States
  • Mackenzie Schultz, 25, Loan Processor, Blackhawk Community Credit Union, Janesville, Wisconsin, United States
  • Symantha Sermino, 34, Commercial Loan Processor, Northwest Community Credit Union, Eugene, Oregon, United States
  • Emily Strybosch, 31, Brand Specialist, Libro Credit Union, London, Ontario, Canada

The Top 10 will now submit a blog post update about their project to NextTopCreditUnionExec.com. To provide additional value to the competition experience, they’ll each receive an executive coaching session from DDJ Myers, a Silver CUESolutions provider for their succession planning, executive recruitment and leadership coaching services. A judging panel of two CUES members and Deedee Myers of DDJ Myers will then score the Top 10’s applications and blog posts, narrowing the competition to the Final Five, who will move on to the finals.

The five Finalists will receive additional coaching, airfare, accommodations and registration to CUES’ CEO/Executive Team Network™, November 5-7 in Nashville, where they will give their final presentations. The winner will receive further coaching, airfare, accommodations and registration for two CUES’ CEO Institutes, a total prize package valued at $20,000.

To follow along with the next stages of the competition, visit NextTopCreditUnionExec.com.

+ Original article

Brooklyn Park Couple Promotes Affordable Adoption Idea

CCX Media | By Shannon Slatton

There's never a dull moment in the Bullock house. Seven-year-old Alaya and 4-year-old Annika keep life busy and their parents on their toes. Their parents, Nicole and Geoff, wouldn’t have it any other way.

When Nicole and Geoff married 11 years ago, they knew they wanted to build a family.

"We thought about it the traditional way, but we kept going, we felt a call, a burden, a tug to go in another direction," remembered Nicole. 

The couple became foster parents first, then went a step further.

"It turned from foster care into adoption and we met our oldest daughter though foster care and she’s amazing and we had the opportunity to adopt her three months into having her, so here we are," said Nicole.

A few years later, they had the opportunity to adopt Alaya's sister, Annika. But the price to adopt a newborn was high.

"I told Nicole, I’ll work five jobs if I have to, she’s our daughter and this needs to happen," said Geoff.

Instead, the couple sold their Brooklyn Park home and used equity and savings to pay for the adoption.

"We thought there has to be a better way for other families to adopt," says Geoff. "What about families that don’t have resources and what about families that would be great homes for kids, but don’t have $30,000 sitting around the house?"

An Idea was Born

Geoff works for Firefly Credit Union and came up with an idea to make a credit line available for families. He entered his idea in a national contest and won. On Jan. 2, Firefly Credit Union launched that new line of credit. Instead of taking out a loan where families are responsible for interest right away, a credit line is available so families only have to pay interest on the amount they use.

While the Bullocks say the decision to sell their home to pay for their second daughter’s adoption was an easy one, they are thankful other families won’t have to make this same decision.

"I really hope we can help families get over that barrier," says Nicole. "So they can reach out and connect with other children who need a home and forever families."

+ Original article

Brooklyn Park dad dreams up line of credit to help families adopt

Minnesota Credit Union Network The Pulse

Like her 7-year-old sister Alaya, 4-year-old Annika Bullock is a daddy’s girl — except when she’s under the weather. Then no one but Mom will do.

That’s why Nicole Bullock celebrated her recent 39th birthday with her feverish younger daughter on her lap, watching a movie in the family’s dining-room-turned-playroom.

“I’m the one that buys them too many stuffed animals and lets them break the rules, but when they’re in distress, I’m not as good as she is,” said dad Geoff Bullock of his wife.

The Brooklyn Park couple had to work hard to experience the everyday joys of parenting. In fact, they had to bet the house to build their family through adoption.

The Bullocks adopted Alaya from the foster care system when she turned 1. Two years later, they had taken custody of newborn Annika while preparing to adopt her. But complications in finalizing Annika’s adoption arose, and with them, almost $30,000 in legal fees and other expenses.

“We’d already had her for three months. We’d named her. I told Nicole, ‘I’ll work five jobs if I have to. She’s our daughter,’ ” Geoff said.

Although $30,000 may sound exorbitant, many families face those kinds of expenses when adopting. According to Adoptive Families magazine, which conducts an annual survey on the cost of finalizing adoptions, an average international adoption costs $42,000, while adoption of a domestic newborn averaged $37,000 in 2015-16.

To raise money to finance Annika’s adoption, the Bullocks sold the Brooklyn Park home they had bought as a fixer-upper, cashing out their sweat equity to pay the adoption-related bills.

“I thought there’s got to be another way, a better way for families like us to do this,” Geoff said.

He made it his mission to find one.

A financial education specialist at Burnsville-based Firefly Credit Union, Geoff went to work crafting a new type of loan — an adoption line of credit.

Because the adoption process often takes several years, this financing allows families to borrow bit by bit as expenses arise instead of taking out a large loan. That can dramatically lower their interest costs over the life of the loan.

Bullock entered his idea for an adoption line of credit in the CUES Next Top Credit Union Executive contest, a national industry competition that rewards innovative ideas from local credit union managers.

“We ask participants to come up with a product that could have industrywide impact, not just for their individual credit union,” said Tim McAlpine of Currency Marketing, the credit union industry organization that sponsored the competition.

“Geoff’s idea doesn’t solve a Minnesota problem,” McAlpine said. “It could be a nationwide solution to an issue.”

Bullock’s idea stood out among the thousand entries in the CUES contest. He was named a finalist in an October convention in Las Vegas, where he pitched his idea again, in a reality show-style competition — complete with a panel of judges, elimination rounds and online voting from the audience.

He was chosen as the national winner.

“Through his own experience, Geoff had beta-tested the concept and proved the relevancy of it,” said McAlpine, who presented the award. “He married an unmet market need with an applicable product. When the judges heard it, they had an aha moment.”

“When they made the announcement, I started crying,” Nicole Bullock said. “Not just because I was proud of Geoff but because I knew this means other people will be able to be parents and kids will get their forever families.”

Firefly Credit Union began offering its adoption loan — an unsecured fixed-rate line of credit — on Jan. 2. The loan is available so far only to adoptive families approved through Children’s Home Society/Lutheran Social Service, which is Minnesota’s largest adoption agency.

“We’ve known for years that financing adoption is a significant barrier for some families, so we’re always looking for new tools that a family can access,” said Alexis Oberdorfer, senior director of adoption for the agency. “We’re excited about the possibilities of an adoption line of credit. We met with Geoff and gave him input to help this option move forward.”

For kids, for families
Oberdorfer said families that adopt waiting children from the foster care system have minimal expenses, but confirmed that families who take the more expensive route of adopting infants face steep costs related to screening, transportation and legal fees.

Some families qualify for a federal adoption tax credit, and others can take advantage of grants or adoption expense reimbursement programs offered in some company benefit packages.

More affluent families may be able to front the costs, but many prospective parents end up borrowing from their retirement savings, hitting up friends and relatives for loans or taking second jobs.

“When families learn about the costs, so often their hearts sink and they have to slow down, go back and regroup,” Oberdorfer said. “We want families getting ready to engage with the process to have every vehicle possible to move forward.”

In the years since the Bullocks sold their fixer-upper to finance their bills, they’ve finalized Annika’s adoption and moved into a new house.

While winning the credit union contest has been a professional highlight for Bullock, he said, he’s more delighted that his idea may help other couples in their quest to become parents.

“Credit unions are collaborative. They don’t hold onto something and say, ‘This is a proprietary idea that’s mine.’ They’re willing to share,” he said. “Folks came up to me after the competition, [and asked] ‘How do I get this at my credit union?’ This is going to be good for them and good for kids who need families.”

That makes Bullock’s work on the credit line more than worth it.

“You could not find two sweeter, kinder, more loving girls than my daughters,” he said. “Our greatest joy in life is being their parents. You can’t put a price on that.”

+ Original article

Brooklyn Park dad dreams up line of credit to help families adopt

StarTribune  |  By Kevyn Burger

Like her 7-year-old sister Alaya, 4-year-old Annika Bullock is a daddy’s girl — except when she’s under the weather. Then no one but Mom will do.

That’s why Nicole Bullock celebrated her recent 39th birthday with her feverish younger daughter on her lap, watching a movie in the family’s dining-room-turned-playroom.

“I’m the one that buys them too many stuffed animals and lets them break the rules, but when they’re in distress, I’m not as good as she is,” said dad Geoff Bullock of his wife.

 RENÉE JONES SCHNEIDER • RENEE.JONES@STARTRIBUNE.COM

RENÉE JONES SCHNEIDER • RENEE.JONES@STARTRIBUNE.COM

The Brooklyn Park couple had to work hard to experience the everyday joys of parenting. In fact, they had to bet the house to build their family through adoption.

The Bullocks adopted Alaya from the foster care system when she turned 1. Two years later, they had taken custody of newborn Annika while preparing to adopt her. But complications in finalizing Annika’s adoption arose, and with them, almost $30,000 in legal fees and other expenses.

“We’d already had her for three months. We’d named her. I told Nicole, ‘I’ll work five jobs if I have to. She’s our daughter,’ ” Geoff said.

Although $30,000 may sound exorbitant, many families face those kinds of expenses when adopting. According to Adoptive Families magazine, which conducts an annual survey on the cost of finalizing adoptions, an average international adoption costs $42,000, while adoption of a domestic newborn averaged $37,000 in 2015-16.

To raise money to finance Annika’s adoption, the Bullocks sold the Brooklyn Park home they had bought as a fixer-upper, cashing out their sweat equity to pay the adoption-related bills.

“I thought there’s got to be another way, a better way for families like us to do this,” Geoff said.

He made it his mission to find one.

A financial education specialist at Burnsville-based Firefly Credit Union, Geoff went to work crafting a new type of loan — an adoption line of credit.

Because the adoption process often takes several years, this financing allows families to borrow bit by bit as expenses arise instead of taking out a large loan. That can dramatically lower their interest costs over the life of the loan.

Bullock entered his idea for an adoption line of credit in the CUES Next Top Credit Union Executive contest, a national industry competition that rewards innovative ideas from local credit union managers.

“We ask participants to come up with a product that could have industrywide impact, not just for their individual credit union,” said Tim McAlpine of Currency Marketing, the credit union industry organization that sponsored the competition.

“Geoff’s idea doesn’t solve a Minnesota problem,” McAlpine said. “It could be a nationwide solution to an issue.”

Bullock’s idea stood out among the thousand entries in the CUES contest. He was named a finalist in an October convention in Las Vegas, where he pitched his idea again, in a reality show-style competition — complete with a panel of judges, elimination rounds and online voting from the audience.

He was chosen as the national winner.

“Through his own experience, Geoff had beta-tested the concept and proved the relevancy of it,” said McAlpine, who presented the award. “He married an unmet market need with an applicable product. When the judges heard it, they had an aha moment.”

“When they made the announcement, I started crying,” Nicole Bullock said. “Not just because I was proud of Geoff but because I knew this means other people will be able to be parents and kids will get their forever families.”

Firefly Credit Union began offering its adoption loan — an unsecured fixed-rate line of credit — on Jan. 2. The loan is available so far only to adoptive families approved through Children’s Home Society/Lutheran Social Service, which is Minnesota’s largest adoption agency.

“We’ve known for years that financing adoption is a significant barrier for some families, so we’re always looking for new tools that a family can access,” said Alexis Oberdorfer, senior director of adoption for the agency. “We’re excited about the possibilities of an adoption line of credit. We met with Geoff and gave him input to help this option move forward.”

For kids, for families
Oberdorfer said families that adopt waiting children from the foster care system have minimal expenses, but confirmed that families who take the more expensive route of adopting infants face steep costs related to screening, transportation and legal fees.

Some families qualify for a federal adoption tax credit, and others can take advantage of grants or adoption expense reimbursement programs offered in some company benefit packages.

More affluent families may be able to front the costs, but many prospective parents end up borrowing from their retirement savings, hitting up friends and relatives for loans or taking second jobs.

“When families learn about the costs, so often their hearts sink and they have to slow down, go back and regroup,” Oberdorfer said. “We want families getting ready to engage with the process to have every vehicle possible to move forward.”

In the years since the Bullocks sold their fixer-upper to finance their bills, they’ve finalized Annika’s adoption and moved into a new house.

While winning the credit union contest has been a professional highlight for Bullock, he said, he’s more delighted that his idea may help other couples in their quest to become parents.

“Credit unions are collaborative. They don’t hold onto something and say, ‘This is a proprietary idea that’s mine.’ They’re willing to share,” he said. “Folks came up to me after the competition, [and asked] ‘How do I get this at my credit union?’ This is going to be good for them and good for kids who need families.”

That makes Bullock’s work on the credit line more than worth it.

“You could not find two sweeter, kinder, more loving girls than my daughters,” he said. “Our greatest joy in life is being their parents. You can’t put a price on that.”

+ Original article

CETNET Interviews: 2017 NTCUE Winner Geoff Bullock Shares His Winning ‘Bridging the Gap’ Project…

CU Broadcast

CUES' 2017 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition has a winner: Firefly Credit Union Financial Education Specialist Geoff Bullock took the top prize with his unique "Bridging the Gap" lending program for adoptive parents. Geoff's passionate presentation truly came from the heart, as he and his wife have personal experience in the very expensive world of adopting children. He saw a huge need to provide many, many adoptive parents out there with a clear way to afford the adoption process -- with credit unions leading the way.

Currency Marketing President and Creative Director Tim McAlpine joined us, as well, to share his thoughts on this year's competition, how it's evolved over the last eight years, and how this year's finalists were off-the-charts talented -- making it very difficult to choose a winner.

Check it out and let us know your thoughts -- and congratulations, again, Geoff. Well done!

+ Original article

CETNET Interviews: Firefly’s Geoff Bullock Shares His NTCUE ‘Adoption’ Loans Project…

CU Broadcast

Geoff Bullock, Financial Education Specialist at Firefly Credit Union and CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalist shares his competition project: "Bridging the Gap." Check it out and let us know your thoughts.

+ Original article

CETNET Interviews: Red Rocks’ Jessica Vartanian Shares Her NTCUE Member Experience Project…

CU Broadcast

Jessica Vartanian, VP, Project Implementation and Impact at Red Rocks Credit Union and CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalist visited us in the Studio Lounge just after her presentation to share further details on her NTCUE project: Re-engineering the Member Journey." Check it out and let us know your thoughts.

+ Original article

CETNET Interviews: Northwest FCU’s Derek Fuzzell Shares His NTCUE F.A.R.E. Project…

CU Broadcast

Derek Fuzzell, Vice President - Finance at Northwest Federal Credit Union and CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalist joined us in the Studio Lounge just after his NTCUE presentation to share further insight on his project: "F.A.R.E. Framework: Financial Management for Credit Union Professionals."  Check it out and let us know your thoughts.

+ Original article

CETNET Interviews: Y-12’s Lindsey McMillen Shares Her NTCUE Risk-Based Check Cashing Project...

CU Broadcast

Lindsey McMillen, Business Systems Analyst at Y-12 Federal Credit Union and CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec finalist dropped by the Studio Lounge after her presentation to share further insight on her NTCUE project: Risk Based Check Cashing. Check it out and let us know your thoughts.

+ Original article