Madison, WI-As the recently released 2003 Statistical Report indicates, the World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) and credit unions around the world experienced remarkable growth last year in all major areas. In 2002, membership stood at approximately 118 million. In 2003 it jumped to over 123 million, and five new member countries were added for a total of 84. Total savings, capital and assets all climbed more than 10%, with assets topping US$758 billion at year-end. During the last 4 years membership grew in the range of 3 – 5 % per year, whereas all the other growth indicators showed growth worldwide of more than 10 % per year, or double the membership growth. The number of credit unions in the world is still growing every year, despite the steadily increasing number of mergers in the more mature markets like the US and Canada, where the actual number of credit unions is decreasing by 3 respectively 6% per year.
"Credit unions are demonstrating that they are very much alive," was World Council president and CEO Arthur Arnold's enthusiastic assessment during the opening General Session at the 7th International Credit Union Leadership Institute in the Bahamas last week. And if these statistics are not enough to convince any skeptics, the success of two of WOCCU's key programs, International Partnerships and the International Remittance Network (IRnet) may.
IRnet saw several remarkable successes itself in 2003, adding a second service provider, Travelex, and three new receiver countries. More impressively, it nearly quadrupled both its volume and the total monetary sum it used to transfer, saving users US$4 million worldwide. "Credit unions are doing what they are supposed to do—benefiting members, enabling millions of people to grow," said Arthur Arnold. More information about the many ways WOCCU strived to accomplish this in 2003 can be found in WOCCU's Statistical Report. The recently published 2003 Annual Report, elaborates on the growth of International Partnerships, IRnet and other important development programs. Growth is, in fact, the main theme of all the articles within the report.
As World Council leaders reflect on 2003's successes, they look for ways to repeat those successes through the end of 2004. According to Arnold, the biggest barrier to maintaining high levels of growth is corruption—and the best way to fight corruption is through good governance. Therefore this will be a priority to World Council in coming years. "While providing access to affordable financial services is in every credit union's mission statement," Arnold explained, "We have to recognize that this can only be achieved in a credible and sustainable way, by adhering to good governance."
Currently, WOCCU is using the input of member countries to formulate a system for Good Governance based on Best Practices Principles. "We have identified three levels where good governance is necessary," explained Arnold. "At the individual's level (for Board, Committee and Staff members), at the internal level for credit unions and externally, towards the outside world."
At the individual good governance level: integrity, competence and commitment (codes of conduct and/or ethics, conflict of interest statements, term limits, remuneration, and speaking with "one" voice) go a long way in doing the job.
Internal good governance means adhering to the democratic process within the credit union (the Annual General Meeting of the general assembly, the Board election process, sharing information with members), securing continuity (by doing 3 – 5 year strategic planning, including annual plan & budgeting, succession planning for Board and Management and disaster recovery planning), and accountability (clear separation of functions between the Board, Management and Staff).
And last but not least, external good governance, which includes creating transparency (full disclosure) and compliance with the legislative and regulatory framework in respective countries.
WOCCU will publish these guidelines by the end of 2004. "There is a direct relationship in terms of growth, between those credit unions who practice good governance and those who don't. Those who do, are the engines for growth, those who don't are falling behind. We owe it to the 123 million credit union members in the world to continue to go full speed ahead with good governance," said Arnold. Click to view Arnold's presentation "CUs = the Engines for Growth."
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.