AL/FL CUs Work To CreateInsurance Fund For Costa Rica

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LAKE MARY, Fla.-Representatives from credit unions and the League of Southeastern CUs may play a role in Costa Rica someday having a national share insurance fund.

The LSCU, along with five credit unions, spent a few days in Costa Rica addressing government officials and working with credit unions to improve operations. The League (initially as the Alabama Credit Union League, which has since merged with the Florida league to create the LSCU) has partnered with Costa Rica since 2005 through the World Council of Credit Unions' International Partnerships Program.

Costa Rica has 76 credit unions with 600,000 members; however only 31-those with more than $1 million in deposits-are regulated, according to the league. Credit unions also are the only "banking" component without government deposit backing, the league reported.

Joe Melbourne, CEO of the $1.2-billion CFE FCU, in Lake Mary, Fla., made the trip, and related that the U.S. contingent shared best practices on working with elected officials to help Costa Rica's credit union leaders approach legislature about establishing a share insurance fund. "They wanted to learn more from us about the value of the NCUSIF, how it affects our members, and why it is beneficial, so they can better present a case for having a similar fund in their country," Melbourne said.

The LSCU group met with members of the government, including Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla Miranda. Melbourne said the meetings with the Costa Rican government were productive, with the president thanking credit unions for their place in the economy.

Peter Alvarez, Hispanic program manager for the $2.8-billion Redstone FCU in Huntsville, Ala, said beyond the knowledge the group shared with Costa Rican CU leaders, the trip presented an opportunity to demonstrate that international support exists for establishing a share insurance fund in the county. "Hopefully our trip will help move things along," Alvarez stated.

Those among the U.S. contingent benefitted, as well, Alvarez pointed out. "We got to see that the credit union movement is alive and well in Costa Rica, and that they are promoting credit unions and are talking a lot about the cooperative spirit-something we should do more of in the U.S. We talk about our products and service to our members, but not as much about the cooperative spirit. That was eye opening."

Participants included Melbourne, Alvarez, Andy Price, general counsel for Florida Commerce CU in Tallahassee, Fla; David Southall, CEO of Innovations FCU in Panama City, Fla.; Gina Turner, AVP of Operations and Branch Administration at Alabama Teachers CU in Gadsden, Ala.; and Laura Vann, LSCU VP, cooperative initiative.

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