"Better to start small than to not start at all," Emerson told attendees of the Co-operative Credit Union League of Trinidad & Tobago's (CCULTT) recent leadership conference on the island of Grenada. "Ethics are a scalable solution that can and should be used by organizations of all sizes."
Emerson as well as representatives from three Connecticut credit unions participated in the four-day conference as part of CULCT's role as CCULTT's partner through World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program. In addition to Trinidad & Tobago, the conference drew attendees from credit union movements and government offices in Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, including Tillman Thomas, prime minister of Grenada.
The April conference came at a crucial time for Caribbean credit unions. With the global economic crisis casting deepening shadows across island economies, Caribbean credit unions are finding an increasing need to develop new strategies and find new tools to tackle growing economic challenges, Emerson said.
"Caribbean credit unions are watching from afar," Emerson said. "They have seen an uptick in unemployment and delinquencies as the result of declining economies. They are looking for new ideas for growth."
Emerson, one of several presenters, spoke at length on ethical operations, citing familiar examples of unethical behavior by companies such as AIG, Enron and Madoff Investments. Defining ethical strategic planning and pointing to the pitfalls of failing to follow through, Emerson emphasized the board's role in assuring the presence of ethical credit union practices.
"Leadership starts with and is the responsibility of the board," Emerson stressed. CULCT's president also spoke with CCULTT member Eastern Credit Union about leading board training sessions at a future date.
Conference presenter Kathy Chartier, president and CEO of Members Credit Union, Stamford, Conn., led a session on the importance of engaging the youth market during tough economic times. As part of their youth educations efforts, CCULTT member credit unions plan to hold student "reality fairs" in local high schools, offering life education skills training. Participating students are given fictitious careers and salaries and then are required to budget for food, housing, utilities and other expenses. Students will also meet with financial advisors to learn effective ways to adjust expenses and expectations.
Prior to the conference's start, several Connecticut attendees had the opportunity to meet with their partner credit unions from Trinidad & Tobago. Carol Bayreuther, president and CEO of Hartford (Conn.) Healthcare Credit Union, and representatives from new partner San Fernando Community Credit Co-operative Union Society Ltd., Tobago, met face-to-face for the first time. Keith Weimert, president and CEO of Seasons Federal Credit Union, Middletown, Conn., attended a branch opening of partner COPOS Credit Union Cooperative Society Ltd., Tobago. Janet Brooks-Duncan, the island's administrator of enterprises and business development, also attended the opening.
CULCT and CCULTT have been partnering participants in the WOCCU program since 2001.
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