SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic—Wisconsin's credit unions and their
trade associations are helping their Dominican Republic counterparts
develop a better regulatory environment for the Caribbean nation's
financial cooperatives. Thanks to steps taken during last week's visit
by executives from the Wisconsin Credit Union League (WCUL), its member
institutions and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), the
country's credit unions have come closer to achieving this goal.
The visit, part of the International Partnerships program sponsored
by Madison, Wis.-based WOCCU, brought state credit union and
association officials together with leaders from the Asociación de
Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Crédito (AIRAC), WCUL's counterpart
in the Dominican Republic. The three organizations met with the
country's Central Bank, its Superintendency of Banks and the Institute
for Cooperatives in hopes of updating regulations and examination
procedures that would better address specific needs of the Dominican
Republic's credit unions.
The country's current legislation dates back to the 1960s. Credit
unions would like to modernize it to match the industry's growth, as
well as manage risks inherent with operating on a larger scale to
better serve growing member demands.
"Credit unions in the Dominican Republic have an opportunity to
significantly modify their legislative and regulatory environment for
the first time in 45 years," said Dave Grace, WOCCU's vice president of
association services. "We are happy that WOCCU and the Wisconsin Credit
Union League have been able to contribute to this effort and that
industry input is being sought by the country's lawmakers."
After the meeting, Dr. Pedro Silverio, CEO of the Central Bank, asked
AIRAC to submit comments to the current bill before it is introduced to
Congress later this year. The request marks a step forward for the
country's credit unions, according to Virginio Rafael Gerardo, AIRAC
"It's a major achievement that the government asked us to give our
input," Gerardo said. "I am confident that we will find a way to make
the movement strong."
In addition to WOCCU executives, Wisconsin participants in the visit
included Dean Wilson, WCUL chair and CEO of Focus Credit Union,
Wauwatosa; Brett Thompson, WCUL president and CEO; Mary Bliss, WCUL
EVP/COO; Tom Liebe, WCUL vice president of government affairs; Kim
Sponem, president of Summit Credit Union, Madison; and Greg Hilbert,
president of Fox Communities Credit Union, Appleton. In addition to
meeting with Dominican Republic government officials, the group visited
two credit unions: Cooperativa Empresarial in Santo Domingo and
Cooperativa Maimón, located in a rural setting.
"It's apparent that credit unions offer financial services; in a
developing country they also often become an agent of development in
their communities," said Wilson. "In Maimón, for example, we could see
how the community revolves around its credit union. In addition to
financial services, the credit union also provides potable water to two
neighborhoods, has put up street signs in town and offers all sorts of
training opportunities for its members."
The Wisconsin delegation also participated with their Dominican
Republic counterparts in a seminar covering a broad range of financial
topics, including the U.S. economy and its global impact. WCUL's Liebe
spoke on lobbying techniques. The seminar ended with an interactive
panel of credit union CEOs discussing mergers, financial products and
services and shared branching.
Next steps for the Wisconsin-Dominican Republic partnership may include
an executive exchange program designed to teach credit union officials
about their specific credit union responsibilities, officials said.
To view the complete press release, click here.