OXNARD, Calif. — Workers at Boskovich Farms, which has been growing and processing produce in California's central agricultural valley since 1915, have little break time during the busy harvest season. They also have no time to visit Ventura County Credit Union (VCCU), which serves Boskovich employees.
Last year, VCCU began piloting a mobile banking program that utilizes handheld technology to bring credit union services to members in the fields where they work. It was modeled after a World Council of Credit Unions development program in Mexico. The VCCU program has taken off this year, and studying its success was the focus of a recent engagement program for members of the Global Women's Leadership Network, a World Council initiative that brings together women credit union leaders from around the world.
The program's nine participants from the United States and Mexico reviewed VCCU's process for possible adaptation by other credit unions interested in serving difficult-to-reach population segments, such as immigrants and the elderly, according to Brian Branch, World Council president and CEO.
"Our past success serving previously underserved rural Latin American populations through mobile technology illustrated a new way that credit unions can prosper while meeting member needs," Branch said. "Ventura County Credit Union's application of cellphone technology to bring services to members has not only helped the credit union fulfill its mission, but also has given it a competitive edge in expanding market share."
VCCU began its program in late 2010. Roxy Ostrem, the credit union's chair and a member of Boskovich's management team, had heard a presentation by Dolores Rivera, general manager of Caja Zongolica, about her credit union's success through World Council's program in Mexico at the 2010 Global Women's Leadership Forum in Las Vegas. Ostrem saw potential application for the outreach approach back home and brought her two organizations together to launch the VCCU pilot program. To date, 160 Boskovich employees have participated in the program, a number that continues to grow, according to Joe Schroeder, VCCU president and CEO.
"Agriculture has been a vital part of Ventura County's economy for more than a century, and we know that the field workers who contributed to the industry's success here have limited access to financial services," Schroeder said. "We were very pleased that World Council was able to help us develop smartphone technology that allows us to take VCCU directly to the fields to assist folks with everyday financial transactions."
Both Ostrem and Rivera participated in last week's engagement program to see firsthand the success VCCU has had in serving its members. Participants in a follow-up engagement program to Queretero, Veracruz, Mexico, later this year will see the latest advances in the mobile technology program that led to VCCU's initiative. For more information and to register for the program, scheduled for Nov. 5–10, visit: www.cuwomen.org/gwln_news/engagementprograms.
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.