FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — Nine staff members from Cooperativa Financiera de Ahorro y Crédito San Francisco, a credit union located in Ambato, Ecuador, focused on new technology and branch service strategies during a recent visit to the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) and four credit unions in Oregon and Washington. World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) organized the international study tour, which became a cultural exchange where both sides benefitted from learning new credit union strategies.
The week-long visit began at the headquarters of NWCUA. The association serves credit unions in the Pacific Northwest from offices in Beaverton, Ore., and Federal Way, Wash. NWCUA President Troy Stang briefed the group to make sure visits to their credit unions would best fit the group's objectives and to understand just what insights delegation members themselves had to offer.
"Ecuador's credit unions have some innovative strategies that our members could learn from," Stang said. "This was a really wonderful opportunity not only for our friends from Ecuador, but also for the association to share our commitment to growing the credit union movement throughout the world."
Cooperativa San Francisco has US$89 million in assets and serves more than 120,000 members. The credit union has 110 employees and operates nine branches, which it is looking to augment through a greater use of technology.
"My credit union is going through a tremendous transformation, and we
are looking to integrate technology into our product and services
offerings," said Cooperativa San Francisco General Manager Estuardo Paredes. "We have been serving members who have
traditionally used our physical branches to do their business. However,
to attract younger members, we would like to incorporate the technology
and services they are used to.
"American credit unions have offered a valid example, and I am taking back several concepts to Cooperativa San Francisco," Paredes added.
The Ecuadorian credit union delegation visited Sunset Science Park Credit Union, which offered the visitors an inside look into the credit union's innovative cellular phone banking capabilities, while Providence Federal Credit Union shared its branding strategy and applications. Both credit unions are located in metropolitan Portland, Ore.
The group also traveled to iQ Credit Union in Vancouver, Wash., to review the credit union's home banking system, including an electronic check deposit service that allows members to scan checks for deposit at home. The credit union also shared information on the features and management strategies behind its six secondary school branches.
Ecuador does not have corporate credit unions, so the delegation spent a half-day visit at Southwest Bridge Corporate Federal Credit Union to learn how these organizations operate and fit within the wider system.
Other stops included a visit with Oregon state Sen. Jason Atkinson and credit union regulator Janet Powell, who discussed how the state's credit unions are regulated using the National Credit Union Administration's CAMEL system. CAMEL, an acronym that stands for Capital adequacy, Asset quality, Management, Earnings and Liquidity/asset-liability management, is used to regulate many of Ecuador's credit unions as well.
The delegation also visited Portland's Doernbecher Children's Hospital, which Oregon and Washington credit unions have supported for many years with more than US$11 million in donations. The entire experience provided crucial input during a time of change for the Ecuadorian credit union, according to Paredes.
The Northwest Credit Union Association is the not-for-profit trade association serving Oregon and Washington's 200 credit unions and their 4.2 million members. The NWCUA is the voice of the Northwest credit union movement, providing legislative, regulatory and public advocacy in addition to education, compliance, networking support and business solutions to its 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 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.