Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Do You Believe

Do You Believe ?

When I was a little girl, Christmas was all about Santa Claus, Christmas carols, Christmas lights and Christmas trees. When I was little girl, Christmas was all about what I wanted most in the world: a Barbie Dream House. And Santa, in his ultimate generosity and to my delirious delight, provided me with just that on Christmas morning.

Now, I didn’t realize at the time how much more fun it is to do the giving rather than the receiving. However, over the years (no, it didn’t really take me years to learn this) I’ve learned that lesson, and recently got a small taste of exactly what it feels like to play Santa to many unsuspecting school children.

Verity hosts a Corporate Citizenship Committee whose sole purpose is dedicated to providing charitable donations to worthy causes in King County. V.E.R.B.S.: Verity Encourages Resources for Back to School is one such cause. Generous members and employees alike donated school supplies and money for those children whose circumstances didn’t allow for their parents to purchase backpacks, pencils and notepads for them for that “back-to-school” debut.

Lea Hills Elementary in Auburn and Asa Mercer Middle School in Beacon Hill were the delighted recipients of the VERBS donations from Verity's Auburn and Beacon Hill Branches. They expressed grateful appreciation to Verity and our members for their generosity.

Lea Hill's Principal Ed and the Student Body President, Jackson, stood in front of a beautiful mural at the school to accept Verity’s donation from Operations Manager Robyn, and myself.
They received a $561.00 check as well as a variety of school supplies.

At Asa Mercer, Student Body President representatives Adriana and Sade accepted a check for $561.00 as well, in addition to a large tub of school supplies from our Beacon Hill Operations Manager, Tim and me.

The pleasure of seeing such happy, smiling faces at the sight of this gift from Verity and our members was such a treat for me personally, that I can hardly wait for our next adventure in giving: Share the Warmth-- contributing coats and mittens to homeless children and their mothers here in King County. I have that same little girl anticipation of waiting for Santa, only this time, I’m playing the role of Santa Claus through Verity Credit Union.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Other Institution Reports Phishing Attack

Another financial institution that was caught in the same spoofing attack as Verity has just informed us that their customers received a phishing email today.

While there is no indication that any email addresses were gathered in Verity’s spoofing attack two weeks ago, we do want to remind members that we will never send you an email that directs you to a site where you are asked for credit card numbers or any personal information.

In addition, we will not be sending you any emails in the next few days that instruct you to log on to Home Banking.

If you receive any emails that look like they came from us, please do not click on any links embedded in the text. We will no longer be sending emails with links to our site.

If you have any questions, please call us at 800-444-4589.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Latest Information on Weekend Spoofing

As you can see, we brought the website back up. We have put several enhanced protections in place and are monitoring the site very closely.

As a precautionary measure, we are requiring password changes for all Home Banking users. You will be asked to change your password the next time you log in.

Additionally, we urge any member who gave any credit card or personal information to the redirected site on Saturday, November 11 to call us immediately at 800-444-4589 so that we can cancel your credit card account and issue you new numbers.

Please make sure that your home computer is equipped with up-to-date anti-spyware. Also, it is critical that we have your current phone number. We are monitoring all accounts closely for any signs of fraud. We will call members immediately if we see any suspicious activity.

Once again, we thank everyone for their patience.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Re-Setting All On-line Passwords

As a precautionary measure, we have instructed our Home Banking vendor to reset all passwords.

Starting at about 2:45 pm today, when you log on to Home Banking, you will be asked to change your password.

If you do not have up-to-date anti-spyware software on your home computer, we recommend that you protect your computer immediately. There have been two reports of the spoofing link trying to download spyware onto a computer.

Again, we recommend

In addition to the password changes, we have restricted certain functions within Home Banking.

Please call us if you have any questions. 800-444-4589.

Spoofing Update - Monday Morning

We have learned that we are one of several financial institutions that were affected by this spoofing scheme. We are all working together on the problem.

We have decided not to bring our website back on-line until we have more information. You may see the site come back up temporarily – this is so we can run a few reports. After we have the information we need from the reports, we will pull the website down again. If you log in and see the site up, that is fine. We are monitoring the link to Home Banking closely and have enhanced several protection measures.

In the meantime, we encourage all members to CALL US if they logged on between 6:30 am and 12:00 pm on Saturday November 11 and gave any credit card or other identifying information through the hi-jacked site. We will close your credit card account and change your Home Banking password. Our number is 800-444-4589.

As always, we remind you to keep your anti-spyware updated on your personal computers. Here is one product we recommend. (click there to be redirected)

We will continue to keep you posted through this site.

Again, we thank you for patience.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Home Banking is Now Accessible

We have taken down the website and initiated a direct link to Home Banking. This is a safe and secure way to access Home Banking. Click here for the link.

We will continue to keep you posted on the progress of bringing the entire website back up.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Spoofing Alert

It appears that our log-in button has been re-routed to an unauthorized website. We are in the process right now of trying break the link or pull down our site.

Please do not log in to home banking at this time.

If you did try to log on earlier today and were asked for your credit card numbers AND YOU GAVE THEM, please call this number immediately to notify us at 1-800-444-4589 option 2. Please leave us a message and we will return your call as soon as possible.

We will keep you updated on this blog site.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lavinia Peters Member of the Year Award

It was on January 28th, 1953 that Lavinia Peters first walked through the doors of Verity Credit Union.

Of course, at that time, we weren’t called Verity. We were NW Federal Employees Federal Credit Union. We weren’t at our nice modern building on Meridian either. In fact, we were in a very small, slightly rundown building on 2500 Elliott. Lavinia remembers that Bob Salen was the president of the credit union (but back then, CU presidents were simply referred to as the “credit union manager”).

Through the years we have helped Lavinia with the things she is most proud of – assisting her son through medical school, purchasing her two condos and buying her 1978 hot pink Dodge Aspen.

That’s right. Lavinia (also known as the “Pink Lady”) drove a hot pink Dodge Aspen for many years. The staff at Verity would love to see her drive up, with her PKLADY license plate and her great smile, when she visited the branch every Saturday.

Lavinia knows most of us by our first names. She has kept track of many of us who have left. She stops by just to say “Hi!” She refers Verity to her friends and neighbors. She has been known to catch a dividend calculation mistake or two over the years. She gives us suggestions. She gives us praise.

And on October 25, we honored her with the first ever “Verity Member of the Year Award.” After she gave her acceptance speech, the room exploded in applause. She received a standing ovation from all of Verity’s 100 employees.

It is not often that a company can call a woman like Lavinia Peters a friend. We are proud and fortunate that we can.

Lavinia, we appreciate you.

The State Or Quality of Being True or Real

As Verity Credit Union nears our 4th anniversary of our “new” name, I watch my fellow credit unions forge their way through name changes.

If you haven’t heard, King County Credit Union is becoming Prevail Credit Union and Weyerhaeuser Employees' Credit Union is becoming Red Canoe Credit Union.

They’ve been taking their lumps in the press. I have great empathy for them. Reading the blog comments and the recent editorials, makes me cringe for the staff over there.

I’ve been doing some remembering about when we changed our name. Credit unions change their name for a variety of reasons. In our case, we were converting from a federally chartered credit union to a state charter. We had to drop the “federal”.

In the 73 years we have been a credit union, we have actually gone through several name changes. We started out as Postal Workers Credit Union #8. We then changed to Federal Employees Credit Union a few years later. In 1969, we became NW Federal Employees Federal Credit Union. That was a lot of Federals for one name, so our forefathers took one out in 1978 and we were NW Federal Credit Union for many years.

When it was time to take the other federal out, we decided to tackle another issue that had become a bigger problem with the advent of the world wide web.

See, NW was not short for Northwest (as many people believed). As a matter of fact, there is a Northwest Federal Credit Union in Virginia. (although I never knew what was Northwest about the state of Virginia). As more and more people started relying on websites for their source of information, there became more and more confusion between the two of us.

So… since NW didn’t represent an employee group nor the word northwest, we decided to change our name all together.

I’ll never forget the process. It’s hard. If you have ever named a child or a pet, you know what I am talking about. Now, imagine you had to name your child or pet AND they were 13 years old AND you had to get the buy in from everyone in your family (from siblings to distant second cousins). That is what changing a credit union’s name feels like.

We had a few criteria for our name. We wanted something that was a real word – you could look it up in the dictionary. We wanted something that was unique (lots of credit unions in this area have names with northwest connotations and we wanted to stand out). We also wanted something that resonated with our staff.

I remember when I told Dave Miller, our consultant from Phinney Bischoff, that we were going to put the names out to our 23 managers and decide as a group. He had been through the process several times before and gave me strong warnings against that tactic.

Man, did our team ever deliver! We put out the ten suggested names for scrutiny. I remember catching the nervous look on Dave’s face as we engaged in an extremely vigorous debate over each name candidate. But after about an hour, I suggested we each vote.

But after a lively back and forth, we eliminated all but two of the names.

The next day, a smaller group reconvened and after thinking about it for a night, we all agreed on Verity. It was the name that just seemed to fit. It was an easy choice.

Verity means the quality or state of being true or real. It is the word that verify is derived from.

That concept really spoke to us. Being truthful, honest and acting with integrity is a critical part of our core values. We liked the idea of naming ourselves after one of our fundamental creeds.

Of course, I took some ribbing about it. Shortly after we announced the name, the latest James Bond movie had Madonna playing a character named Verity. Many people asked if we had named our credit union after her. My husband asked me why we chose a name that most west coast people can’t pronounce (we tend to be lazy with our t’s and say things like wadder, ledder and veridy instead of water, letter and verity). We did get our share of member complaints. Change is hard.

But four years later, we have a name that our members have come to appreciate and our staff has come to love.

Do I, like everyone else, have an opinion on Red Canoe or Prevail? Well, I know the president and marketing person over at King County Credit Union and they are good people. So I don’t wish any negative press on them. I do have to admire Weyerhaeuser’s spunk in choosing a name as different and memorable as Red Canoe. I guess at the end of the day, I am just thankful we made our change before the invention of the blog.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

finally, some of my thoughts on the Blog Business Summit

So, I’ve had a little time to digest the information I learned at the Blog Business Summit a couple weeks ago. Unlike a lot of the other attendees, I didn’t blog live from the Summit. I’m kind of old-school in that I like to actively listen and take notes with pen and paper. Then, I go over my notes and think about them before I write anything down that I’m going to share. It scares me to write and think at the same time. It reminds me of people who just blurt out their thoughts as they enter their mind. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.

Anyway, I still haven’t had time to really go over my notes, but a few things from the conference have been stuck in my head and I’d like to share them before too much time passes. Here they are:

I enjoyed the speakers at the conference and thought for the most part they were interesting and informative. At the same time, I felt like they are so keyed into the blogosphere that they don’t really know how to relate with people who aren’t. I contribute to 2 blogs right now, I use RSS and Bloglines, I know how to navigate Technorati, I’m somewhat comfortable with, and I know what the term Google Juice means, so I’m probably more familiar with the concept of Web 2.0 than a lot of folks out there. But, I didn’t relate to most of the “elite” bloggers (or bloggerati) at the conference who referred to themselves as tech geeks.

One of the things I would’ve liked to have learned is how to get people involved in blogging. There are many people out there who simply don’t get blogs. I have a handful of friends that contribute to blogs or read them; the rest of my friends think they are just online diaries full of inane ramblings. Sure, some of them read blogs without even knowing it, and I try to point that out, but for the most part they have no interest in the blogosphere. To them it has a negative connation, like MySpace has to me. How then, do we get them involved or interested? The feeling I get is, “if you build them, they will come;” that blogging and Web 2.0 is like the internet was in its infancy. People didn’t really understand the value of it at first, but over time it became an easy and important tool that everyone has accepted and now uses.

I still don’t understand how to measure the success of a blog. For example, we are a credit union who offers membership to those who live, work and worship in Washington State. If people in New Jersey are reading our blog, that’s great, but my goal is to reach out to people in my immediate community who can benefit from Verity’s products and services. I guess I don’t see how having good ratings in Technorati and Google make us successful. Maybe I shouldn’t even think about the success of our blog, but just as another way to communicate.

Right before I was set to post this, I came across Jeremy Pepper’s blog. I think he nailed some of what I was thinking (and definitely in a more succinct way) in this post.

Friday, November 03, 2006

where will we get our smoked almonds and trail mix now?

Sadly, one of unofficial perks of working at Verity officially ended yesterday.

Every Thursday following pay day, you could count on the following email hitting your in-box: "The Mountain Man is here!"

If you were a new employee at Headquarters, it became your rite of passage to be escorted down to the lobby by your boss or co-worker to be introduced to the Mountain Man and his cart of treats. I still remember when Shari, my boss did this; and her boss, our CU president, did this for her as well.

The Mountain Man would come to the main lobby of our Headquarters building in Northgate and set-up shop. His "shop" was a small metal cart full of snacks and goodies ranging from smoked almonds (our CU president's favorite) to Tropical Trail Mix to Honey Glazed Beef Jerky to Yogurt Covered Raisins. I was partial to the rice crackers and the occasional Beef Jerky.

Once the email went out, you could hear employees opening desk drawers throughout the office gathering purses and wallets to pick up snacks to hold them until the Mountain Man's next pay period visit. It always ended up being a nice gathering around the cart, sharing "how ya doin's" and making recommendations (try the malted milk balls, they're really good." )

And now that's over. I didn't go yesterday because I figured I'd catch him at his next visit. Where the heck am I going to find butter toffee peanuts as good as the Mountain Man's?!?!

According to his thank you-farewell letter (posted on our company Intranet), the Mountain Man (aka Christian) has gotten himself a new full-time job that will allow him to continue his photography business and coach soccer. Of course we wish him well, but we will miss his smiling face, kindess and ability to remember what your favorite snack is.

But all is not lost. True to great customer service form, the Mountain Man will still be able to satisfy our snack cravings once a month. He put together instructions and order forms. These have been posted on our company Intranet as well. These will no doubt be the 2nd most downloaded forms off the system (behind our member forms, of course!)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Exclusive Interview

Every month this blog shares with you an extraordinary feat in service performed by one of our employees. The previous blog posted by Melanie already breaks down why Kenressa is so deserving of winning this month’s EFy Award. So in the theme of Halloween I am going to play the role of the hard hitting reporter and Kenressa is going to play the role of…well Kenressa (I didn’t really think this out to good). Anyway here are the hard hitting questions that Kenressa answered for this exclusive interview.

What was the first job you ever held?
Like so many other kids it was at the fine establishment of McDonalds. This is unrelated but did you know that McDonalds website has a merchandise shop where you can buy a whole McDonald's outfit. For some reason that amuses me. Do you think if I come dressed in all McDonalds clothes they would give me a discount?

Is there a member service experience that really stands out to you?
The one that comes to mind is the one that all the buzz is about. This involved spending time with a member to truly get a sense of their needs, offering a solution that Verity could provide for them, and helping them move their business over to our institution. It also involved an invite by the new member to a family event!

How long have you been with Verity and in what position did you start?
I have been with Verity 3 years and 3 months (not that I am counting). I started as a floater (someone who travels from branch to branch), then was given the position of a full time teller (good for my car), from there it was on to Head Teller and then I was promoted to Operations Supervisor of the Auburn Branch.

What CD is in your car right now?
A mixed CD I made from my MP3s.

What is you favorite flavor of ice cream?
Jamocha Almond Fudge, yummmmmm.
Editor’s note: This is a great answer as Jamocha Almond Fudge is delicious.

Settle this debate, what is a better pet a cat or a dog?
Without a doubt it is a cat. I have two of them named Lilly and Bynx.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
It is between recently graduating from Verity University, and buying a house.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Star of the Month

In focus. That describes our “Star” of the month, Kenressa. Kenressa works at the Auburn Branch as the Operations Supervisor, and she comes in daily with a fastidious focus on maintaining a smooth running branch by providing outstanding customer service and team spirit.

Allow me to introduce Kenressa to you, so that when you visit our friendly little branch in Auburn, you’ll know who I’m talking about. Kenressa has been with Verity for three years and has worked for a little over a year at the Auburn Branch as the Operations Supervisor. She’ll have a bright smile and a twinkle in her eye when you sit down at her desk to discuss your new account, your CD or your problems with accounting, which is just the sideline, because she also runs the teller line and audits the branch monthly.

That’s precisely why we are highlighting Kenressa this month. She’s a jack of all trades yet she’s still eager to help members in financial difficulty with their budgets and saving for their future. She’s a recent graduate of Verity University, a program specifically designed to enhance the career path of the employees here at Verity. The University is unique to our credit union, and we are pleased that Auburn’s Kenressa has spent the two years and countless hours of her own time learning more in depth details about the financial industry as well as developing her own system for helping members in financial turmoil. Her project, Financial Planning and Education, is designed to assist people who have derailed in the middle of their track to financial success. She will patiently work with a member to determine a budget that will fit their finances and get them back on that track.

In addition, Kenressa is focused on creating a comfortable atmosphere for new members, and has had many people move accounts from their current financial institutions to Verity because of the personal touch with which Kenressa approaches each new member. So when you sit down with Kenressa the next time you’re at the Auburn Branch, be prepared to open a new account, fix your financial future, or share a little bit of your life with her. And if you happen to be in the military, as is Kenressa’s new husband, be prepared to “sit a spell.”

10 Signs You Need to go to the ER

I’ve got death and dying on the brain. It started after my visit on Saturday to Bodies: The Exhibition, which left me thinking about how complex yet fragile the human body is and no matter how well we take care of ourselves, our bodies could very well decide to shut down on us at any time. Then, I spent most of Monday in a first aid and CPR training class for work. Now I’m convinced everyone needs a defibrillator in their home and at the workplace. Sorry to be a downer!

Today I came across an article on how to tell when you need to go to the ER and I thought I’d pass it on because even though there are now at least 10 of us in the office who are certified in first aid and CPR training, we’re not always going to be around. And I want my co-workers, friends, family and readers to know when they need to get themselves medical attention.

Here are 10 warning signs from the American College of Emergency Physicians:

Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness
Changes in vision
Confusion or changes in mental status
Any sudden or severe pain
Uncontrolled bleeding
Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
Coughing or vomiting blood
Suicidal or homicidal feelings

Now, to lighten things up, how about a joke? A really bad joke about dying? Ok, I’ve got one right here:

    This guy goes into a doctor's office. The doctor says, "Oh, Mr. Jones! We have the results of your test. Do you want the bad news first or the very bad news?" The guy shrugs and says, "Well I guess I'll have the bad news first." "Well the bad news is, you have 24 hours to live," the doctor replies. The man is distraught, "24 hours to live? That's horrible! What could be worse than that? What's the VERY bad news?" The doctor folds his hands and sighs, "The very bad news is...I've been trying to contact you since yesterday."
Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

I'm digging HomeStreet ads

Along the same lines as Shari's post from early August, here's another bank trying to distance itself from the whole "banks are evil" image. I've been clipping out HomeStreet ads lately, and there are two in particular that I really like. One says, "1/3 less banky than other business banks" and the other says, "Do your business banking direct with our bank's owners."

Pretty clever. I wonder why they chose "1/3 less banky" though? Being 2/3 banky is still pretty banky. And wouldn't you rather actually be an owner of your financial institution, instead of just dealing with the owners when you go into the branch? Credit union members are credit union owners.

Nice effort HomeStreet, but you are still a bank.