Brazilian Network Shares Signage, Design

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It may surprise many to learn that the credit union movement in Brazil actually precedes that of the U.S.

The first CU in the giant South American country was chartered in 1902 and based on the same German Raiffeissen model that was used in the United States.

It may also surprise many in the U.S. to learn how one group of credit unions in Brazil is collaborating as part of their competitive strategy.

Operating in eight Brazilian states, 133 "SICREDI" credit unions now serve 888,382 members through 858 branches and 6,680 employees. As part of the network, there are five central credit unions, one league, and one credit union-owned bank.

Manfred Dasenbrock, VP with Central SICREDI, said the participating credit unions have all helped to create one model operating statute under which they operate. They have similar bylaws, the same trademark (a stylized, green and yellow windmill), and even similar branch layouts.

The uniform strategy appears to be working. Dasenbrock said membership growth among the SICREDI credit unions was 18% during 2004. Total assets are now $1.6 billion.

"I think at the end of this year we will go over one-million members," he said.

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