World Update on Credit Unions

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World Council Marks 40th Birthday

MADISON, Wis.-The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has turned 40.

Officially incorporated on Nov. 9, 1970 in Madison, Wis., WOCCU is the global credit union trade association and development agency.

"The organization has spent four decades seeking ways to improve people's lives through credit unions, and the number of people WOCCU has touched and the number of ways those lives have improved are immeasurable," said WOCCU Chairman Barry Jolette, president and CEO of San Mateo Credit Union in Redwood City, Calif.

WOCCU was originally the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) World Extension Department, developed in the 1950s to attack usury, one of the greatest abuses in developing countries, on a global scale, according to the World Council. "During that era, international credit union development programs emphasized community as well as economic development," WOCCU said. "CUNA officials believed the department could work with private and government funding agencies to help credit unions foster the creation of modern economies in less developed countries. The work of this department, in conjunction with the efforts of cooperative systems in Australia, Canada and Europe, led to the organization of credit unions worldwide over the next two decades."

During its lifetime, WOCCU has implemented more than 275 technical assistance programs in 70 countries around the world. In recent years, it has worked with credit unions to employ innovative rural outreach technologies, create an Islamic finance model for cooperatives in Afghanistan and develop agricultural finance programs that connect small farmers to markets.


Canadian Group Visits Mexico

CÓRDOBA, Mexico-Four executives from Servus Credit Union in Alberta, Canada visited Caja Yanga CU here to provide training in governance, risk management and technology. While on-site, the Canadian delegation also learned firsthand about Semilla Cooperativa [cooperative seed], a rural outreach model developed by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and implemented by Caja Yanga. The visit was part of the international partnership between Servus Credit Union and Caja Yanga, organized through WOCCU's International Partnerships Program in 2009.

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Co-ops Cited For Rural Role

MADISON, Wis.-A new report from the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and The World Bank Group has found that 45% of financial cooperative branches-more than any other type of financial institution-are located in rural areas where financial services tend to be least accessible.

The report, "Financial Access 2010: The State of Financial Inclusion Through the Crisis," also states that financial cooperatives hold the second largest global network behind commercial banks, with 23% of all physical branches, ATMs and POS terminals worldwide.

The World Council had encouraged CGAP and The World Bank Group to take a closer look at financial cooperatives for this year's report.

"These statistics highlight the crucial role that credit unions play in ensuring financial access, especially in rural areas," said Dave Grace, WOCCU VP-association services. "The challenge for many countries is how to translate this into higher membership growth."


US AID Allocates $4M For Program

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded the World Council of Credit Unions $4 million to implement a five-year Cooperative Development Program (CDP) with CUs in Guatemala, Mexico and Kenya. The program will focus on creating and testing agricultural and financial tools to improve rural economic and financial sector development, livelihoods and food security.

According to WOCCU, the resulting "toolbox" will include a replicable and scalable method to meet the financial service needs of small farmers and agribusinesses and increase their access to markets and technical assistance for production.

"Credit is a crucial component to increasing the income of rural producers, but credit alone does not always solve economic problems," said WOCCU EVP/COO Brian Branch. "With the CDP program, we apply an innovative approach that addresses both the financial needs and market barriers."


Regulators Get Some Reminders

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica-The 43 CU supervisors from 17 Caribbean island nations who participated in the Caribbean Credit Union Supervision Workshop were urged to ensure they understand CU financial performance in context. Sponsored by the World Council and the International Monetary Fund's Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Center, organizers noted that growing liquidity in the region has brought the need for better supervision and stronger regulations to ensure that credit unions are making prudent investments on behalf of their members, who need access to deposit insurance systems comparable to those offered by banks.

CU assets in eight Caribbean nations currently represent 10% or more of their country's gross domestic product.

Participants received detailed training and examined case studies on asset quality assessments, credit union capital structure, credit union and bank comparisons and WOCCU's PEARLS monitoring system.


Role Of Organization Is Stressed

MADISON, Wis.-The World Council of CUs held a Corporate Strategic Conference here at which the message was that engaging CU executives and volunteers from developed countries in WOCCU programs and activities is the best way to gain organizational support, as well as reignite the CU philosophy among credit unions worldwide.

Representatives from U.S. credit union leagues and credit union organizations in Canada and Ireland met with WOCCU staff to better understand the organization's inner workings and help define strategic approaches for 2011.


Canadian Centrals Explore Merger

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia-Credit Union Central of Nova Scotia has announced plans to acquire the Credit Union Centrals in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as part of an effort to create greater efficiencies. The merger would require legislative changes in each province. Canada's Credit Union Centrals provide both financial and trade association services to member CUs. The three provinces represent 68 CUs, 340,000 members and $3.5 billion in assets.


Nominations Sought For Award

MADISON, Wis.-The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is calling for nominations for its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award (DSA). Nomination forms for individuals and organizations are due no later than March 25, 2011. Award presentations for 2011 will be made at WOCCU's World Credit Union Conference.

According to WOCCU, the DSA honors the outstanding achievements of individuals and organizations within the global CU movement whose activities have furthered WOCCU's vision of "improving people's lives through credit unions."

WOCCU noted it does not necessarily award the DSA every year but bestows the honor based on the viability and worthiness of candidates in the eyes of the awards committee.

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Registration Open For Scotland Mtg.

GLASGOW, Scotland-Registration is open for the World Council's World Credit Union Conference, to be held here July 24-27.

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