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July 30, 2014   

Financial Inclusion // Core Capabilities

 

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World Council of Credit Unions is the leading international trade association and development agency for credit unions. Since 1971, World Council has increased access to high quality financial services worldwide by strengthening credit unions using a well defined and thoroughly tested development model. Member-owned and established at the grassroots, credit unions are sustainable financial intermediaries that serve a broad base of members from all income and wealth levels.

In addition to offering innovative technology solutions, World Council's technical assistance programs equip credit unions and other types of financial cooperatives with the tools and techniques necessary to strengthen their financial management and deliver fairly priced financial services to large numbers of poor and low-income people. Unlike many microfinance technical assistance providers that focus exclusively on credit, World Council's approach emphasizes the mobilization of member savings as the primary source of financing. This savings-based approach allows credit unions to reach great scale in financial service provision and instills a level of financial discipline that ensures long-term sustainability.

At the second-tier level, World Council builds national credit union networks that enable safe and sound institutions to reach greater efficiencies of scale, employ new technologies and provide a broader array of services and service points to members. World Council also works closely with credit union leaders, national government officials and policy makers to create appropriate and effective regulatory environments for credit unions.

World Council has a long and successful history working with multinational, bilateral and private partners to develop and strengthen member-owned credit unions and their national/regional systems around the world. World Council has implemented more than 275 long- and short-term technical assistance programs in 71 countries with funding from various donors, such as:


World Council's Unique Approach

World Council's technical assistance methodology achieves results in a variety of operating environments, placing high priority on employing innovative technology solutions and transferring knowledge to local credit union staff.

World Council's model for strengthening credit unions and increasing access to financial services on a mass scale results in the provision of affordable, available and accessible financial services.


Model Credit Union Building Expansion, Products & Services Network Building

  • Policies and procedures
  • Financial disciplines
  • Business planning
  • Deposit and credit systems
  • Information technology (IT) for front and back offices
  • Governance
  • Marketing
  • Savings mobilization
  • New product development
  • Branch offices
  • Deepening outreach
  • Partnerships and alliances
  • Networking
  • Transaction services— payment, remittances, cards
  • IT systems
Affordability Availability Accessibility

Instills the disciplines, efficiency and structure to keep costs low and protect member savings.

Creates the appropriate mix of financial services to mobilize savings as the core source of financing and dramatically expand outreach.

Broadens and deepens outreach by enabling credit unions to pool resources to procure new technology and create a wide network of service access points.

World Council's core capabilities are grounded in its drive to provide millions of poor and low-income people access to the array of financial services they need through credit unions, regardless of challenges posed by the surrounding environment. Most recently, World Council has proven its capabilities meet this mission in eight key areas:

Providing Access to the Rural Poor

World Council combines the fundamentals of financial services with new technology to help credit unions reach poor people in rural and remote areas often ignored by other financial institutions. In all cases, World Council assesses the local climate and develops an outreach strategy based on local demand and available resources.

In Bolivia, World Council helped credit unions establish profitable new branches in remote areas and worked at the sector level to bring ATM access to rural areas and advocate for a sound regulatory framework for microfinance.

In Mexico, World Council developed a successful methodology to take both group-based and individual savings and loan products to poor members in some of the most marginalized areas of the country, so that members no longer have to travel long distances to access savings and loans.

World Council worked with rural credit unions in Peru to introduce financial products tailored to the needs of small producers and vendors along value chains to help bring products to market and encourage fair commercialization.

In Afghanistan, where World Council built a credit union system from the ground up, credit unions offer members financial products and services compliant with Islamic Law.

Recognizing the critical role credit unions play in reaching the underserved, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded World Council funding to establish and test an application service provider (ASP) for small credit unions in Kenya. The ASP, or data center, provides back-office software solutions to credit unions that cannot afford it on their own.

Developing Integrated Business Networks

In addition to strengthening individual institutions, World Council helps credit unions band together to build national business networks that enable them to reach greater efficiencies of scale, employ new technologies and provide a broader array of services to members. In countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Rwanda, the standard-driven networks create a unified national presence for credit unions.

The technology-driven networks developed by World Council in Bolivia and Ecuador provide the architecture for centralized data storage that enables services such as liquidity pooling, reinvestment and deposit insurance among credit unions, as well as bill payment, national and international shared branching, remittance distribution, ATM networks, card services and mobile services for members.

Offering Domestic and International Remittances

World Council's international remittance network offers credit unions in the United States, Kenya and Latin America access to money transfer networks for originating and distributing remittances. Transactions flow through the infrastructure of established money transfer operators with which World Council has partnered. Credit unions offer the services on both the sending and receiving sides in regions with high levels of migration.

Credit unions do much more than offer more affordable options for sending money. Recognizing the potential of remittances for attracting unbanked clients as future savers and borrowers, credit unions invite both members and non-members to send and receive remittances. World Council has worked with partner credit unions in Latin America to develop remittance-linked savings and credit products.

Rebuilding During and After Conflict

In communities torn apart by conflict, the community-based credit union may be the only institution that people still trust because of its ability to meet their basic needs for access to finance. World Council's approach to technical assistance has proven to be adaptable and successful in conflict and post-conflict areas.

In Afghanistan and Colombia, World Council has increased credit union outreach in areas still experiencing fighting. In Sri Lanka, World Council is strengthening credit unions in areas affected by the conflict with the intent of restoring financial stability and a broader sense of security. In Macedonia and Rwanda, World Council improved credit union financial performance while bringing people of different ethnicities together to rebuild their communities through credit unions.

Supporting Communities at Risk

As trusted organizations in their communities, credit unions are effective vehicles for supporting communities at risk. In Kenya, World Council worked through credit unions on peer-to-peer training to raise awareness, share information and mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDS through prevention. Taking an integrative approach to stemming further spread of the disease, World Council provided vulnerable and affected households with labor-saving devices and offers education savings accounts for adolescents affected by the disease.

Reconstructing after Disaster

When disaster strikes, access to financial services is critical for people to rebuild their lives; credit unions provide that access. In Sri Lanka, World Council worked with local credit unions to rebuild after the 2004 tsunami. World Council also supported disaster relief and rebuilding through credit unions after Haiti's earthquake in 2010.

Establishing New Credit Union Systems

Experienced with both grassroots organizing and engaging in dialogue with national governments to ensure that credit unions are permitted to operate, World Council has built credit union systems from the ground up in countries like Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Taking local customs, religious beliefs and traditional practices into account, World Council helps credit unions develop products and services tailored to the local environment to meet the needs of members and potential members. In countries where credit unions do not exist, World Council begins by building strong individual institutions and then links them together via a national business network to achieve economies of scale.

Encouraging Legislative Reform and Regulatory System Development

World Council works directly with credit unions and national governments to develop laws and regulations that support safe and sound credit union systems. To that end, World Council has developed a model credit union law, an international comparative analysis of credit union legislation and model regulations that are available online and by request.

World Council has worked directly with governments in countries as diverse as Ecuador, Kenya, Mexico, the Solomon Islands and Uzbekistan to provide technical assistance in legislative reform and regulatory system development. World Council also supports healthy regulatory environments by helping credit unions develop the capacity to advocate for appropriate legislation on the national level and comply with standards once established.

World Council Creates Long-term Relationships

World Council's dual function as a development agency and trade association provide it with a unique ability to continue supporting partner credit unions in their efforts to increase access to financial services long after technical assistance programs end.

Membership

Many of World Council's technical assistance programs are carried out with credit unions and their associations that are already World Council members, while other national associations become World Council members as a result of participating in World Council development programs. Whichever the case, World Council members have continued access to new technologies, educational forums, best practices, peer networking at the global level and World Council's technical expertise.

Educational Forums

World Council supports the exchange of knowledge and skills through networking and education at international events such as its annual World Credit Union Conference, Regulators' Roundtable and regional technical congresses.

International Partnerships

As part of its exit strategy in development programs and as a member benefit, World Council facilitates international partnerships between developing credit union systems and U.S. state and Canadian provincial credit union leagues to encourage the direct transfer of technology, skills and experience among peers across borders.

World Council Services Group Country Offices

World Council of Credit Unions Services Group (WSG) is a wholly owned subsidiary of World Council, established to strengthen national credit union systems by offering credit unions access to sophisticated financial products such as shared branching, debit/credit cards, long-term lending and remittances in countries where World Council has had or currently has development programs. WSG offices also provide fee-for-service technical assistance beyond the length of a donor-funded program. World Council currently runs WSG offices in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya, Mexico and Peru.

Learn More

For detailed information about program results, visit the "Financial Inclusion" section of the World Council website at www.woccu.org/financialinclusion. For information on how to fund a World Council technical assistance program, contact projdevt@woccu.org.