ST. JOHN'S, Antigua - Veteran lenders know that solid underwriting standards and effective member service can help a good loan program expand and perform at even higher levels. Four Arizona credit union executives traveled to Antigua last week to share that knowledge and other industry information with the Caribbean island's financial cooperative community as part of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships program.
The Antigua & Barbuda Cooperative Credit Union League and the Arizona Credit Union System (ACUS) signed a partnership agreement in March under the auspices of the WOCCU program. The relationship is one of 28 current international partnerships operating as part of the program.
Melanie Smith, assistant vice president of branch support for Arizona State Credit Union, Phoenix, and Lisa Krogstad, learning development specialist for First Credit Union, Chandler, offered member service training to the staff of all five credit unions in St. John's, Antigua's capital. Robin Romano, CEO of Marisol Federal Credit Union, Phoenix, and an ACUS board member, provided training in loan underwriting to help credit union staff and credit committee volunteers better understand how to calculate debt ratio, use gross income standards and implement standardized loan policies.
"Debt ratio management and assessing risk were two of the most important aspects of loan underwriting we covered during our training," Romano said. "The credit unions' loan portfolios would become more efficient if they were to implement a debt ratio and check the member's credit history by calling and verifying it with other financial institutions. Currently, most credit unions in Antigua require the member to have 25% of the loan amount saved before granting the loan, ultimately limiting their loans. Using good underwriting skills allows them to be less afraid to make more loans."
The member service training sessions attracted groups of three to more than 20 staff members from Antigua's credit unions. The loan underwriting training also was met with a high turnout, including Jennifer Whyte, the new general manager of St. John's Cooperative Credit Union.
"Having the experience to meet with the Arizona delegates and discuss important issues such as managing our loan portfolio, collections and reducing default was very important not only for my loan officers, but also for me as a new manager," Whyte said. "It has helped me to develop self-confidence and learn to trust my instincts."
While the other representatives were busy with the training sessions, Mary Lee Blommel, ACUS member service consultant, and Josh Fetting, WOCCU's International Partnerships program specialist, facilitated the Antigua & Barbuda League's strategic planning session. The session took place over a two-day period with league and credit union board members and credit union managers to develop a series of goals that would allow Antigua's credit union movement to grow through league involvement.
By the end of the planning session, participants had crafted new mission and vision statements for the Antigua & Barbuda League, identified key areas of assistance and recognized possible league projects to provide assistance to its member credit unions. Participants agreed the planning session was extremely valuable to credit union stability and growth efforts.
"I am optimistic about the future of the league after having completed our strategic planning sessions with the presence and input of the Arizona Credit Union System and World Council of Credit Unions," said Ellis Southwell, president of the Antigua & Barbuda League. "We now have clear goals to take to the Antigua & Barbuda Cooperative Credit Union League forward. We also are appreciative they could bring us the loan underwriting and member service training which our members have clamored for. We look forward to collaborating on future initiatives to bring benefits to our members."
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 105 countries serve 217 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.