|John Dill (fourth from right), Credit Union Association of Colorado president and CEO, poses with a group of association staff and visitors from CACPE PASTAZA credit union in Ecuador. The group includes (left to right) Pablo Santos, Tim Dore, Karina Espín, Melia Heimbuck, José Miguel Acuña, Janeth Carrillo, Dill, Pietra Dávila, Carmita Medina and Naila Espín.|
DENVER—A delegation from CACPE PASTAZA credit union in Ecuador visited the Credit Union Association of Colorado (CUAC) and some of its member credit unions last week, not to see how they had managed to avoid the global economic crisis, but to examine how well they continued to serve members in spite of the challenges. By all accounts, both the delegation and the credit unions came away enlightened, according to John Dill, CUAC president and CEO.
“Our Ecuadorian friends visited Colorado at a particularly important and busy period for the U.S. credit union movement,“ said Dill, whose organization maintains a relationship with its Ecuadorian counterpart through World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program. “Our credit unions are recovering from the challenges posed by the U.S. economy's meltdown, and we're in the middle of major legislative fights over interchange fees and member business loans while struggling with member growth. These are all good things for our South American partners to experience and understand.“
The seven-person delegation came from Ecuador specifically to gain an overview of the U.S. credit union movement, with a focus on the trade association's role and the products and services it offers. The Ecuadorians studied the association's financial education curriculum, its grassroots outreach and lobbying efforts, compliance products and other services provided to its members. Closer looks at the association's credit union service organization (CUSO) and its Credit Union Service Network were also on the agenda for the weeklong visit.
“There are a few ideas we can already implement in Ecuador,“ said Naila Espín, manager of CACPE PASTAZA's risk management department. “Technology is what we need to introduce very quickly.“
The delegation tapped into the expertise of several Denver-area credit unions, including Denver Community Credit Union (DCCU), where the two groups discussed ways in which DCCU might better attract and serve Latino members. The Ecuadorians also came to understand DCCU's successes to-date using “low-wealth“ products, such as payday loans and financial education, to establish a strong Latino member base.
At Premier Members Federal Credit Union (PMFCU), Boulder, the delegation shared an overview of Ecuador's credit union system, including the country's strict regulatory climate and the challenges that small, unregulated credit unions pose to the system as a whole. PMFCU staff members shared their strategies for managing risk and contingency planning. At BCS Community Credit Union, Wheat Ridge, discussions focused on how small credit unions can improve efficiency and thrive by utilizing the CUSO, something that enables the six-person staff of the credit union to provide services similar to those of institutions many times its size.
Throughout the week's discussions, ideas and information were exchanged in both directions, providing the delegation's Colorado hosts with some insight into the challenges faced and successes achieved by credit unions in Ecuador.
“No one should doubt that credit unions from thousands of miles away have more in common with each other than we do with a local banker around the corner,“ said Dill. “The long standing partnership between Colorado and Ecuador is proof positive that the ‘people helping people' philosophy knows no boundaries, no geography and no limits.“
Espín agreed. “The trip has been very fruitful for me and my co-workers,“ she said.
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, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.