Maryland and DC Credit Union Association Fosters New CU Federation in Colombia
COLUMBIA, Md. — Last week, a group of eight Colombian credit union representatives traveled to Columbia, Md., to sign a partnership agreement with the Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association (MDDCCUA) through World Council of Credit Unions' International Partnerships Program. The Colombian delegates represented the board of directors of the newly formed credit union federation, Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito Financieras (FECOLFIN), one of World Council of Credit Unions' newest members.
MDDCCUA and FECOLFIN, the newly formed Colombian credit union federation, sign a partnership agreement at PAHO/WHO FCU headquarters. Pictured left to right, Juan Carlos Borda, FECOLFIN vice chairman; John Bratsakis, MDDCCUA president and CEO; Jaime Chavez, FECOLFIN chairman; Miguel Boluda, PAHO/WHO FCU president and CEO; and Victor Miguel Corro, vice president of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions.
FECOLFIN's newly appointed board of directors sought a credit union association partner to jumpstart the organization in terms of best practices, policies and procedures. MDDCCUA offered to fill that role and assist the group of credit union CEOs and volunteers by sharing its business strategies and advising how to increase affiliation in this critical phase of development.
John Bratsakis, MDDCCUA president and CEO, shared his excitement about the new partnership. "We are honored and excited about this opportunity to partner with FECOLFLIN and look forward to sharing how the league system in the U.S. can be a framework to expand programs and services to [FECOLFIN's] member credit unions in Colombia," Bratsakis said. "Their excitement and commitment to developing programs that expand the ability of credit unions to serve and help more people is a great example of the ‘people helping people' philosophy."
The creation of FECOLFIN is an important milestone for the Colombian credit union movement. Although Colombia has one of the highest rates of cooperative membership, the infrastructure of the credit union sector was missing some key elements of a cohesive movement, such as a credit union federation. FECOLFIN will focus on giving a credit union-specific voice to its members before legislators and the government. The new federation will also seek to improve collaboration among credit unions in the country.
"Currently, regulations in the country are either inconsistent or lacking detail, and credit unions do not have a seat at the table during talks about regulatory changes," explained Jaime Chavez, FECOLFIN chairman. "The credit unions in Colombia need to come together with a unified voice to help tell our story and convince the regulators that credit unions need to be treated differently than banks."
The first phase of the partnership will focus on providing advocacy assistance to the Colombian credit union sector through workshops for credit unions and special visits with government officials. The partnership will also seek to help FECOLFIN develop an array of educational and other services relevant to its membership.
MDDCCUA hopes to learn from Colombian credit unions about the needs of South American immigrants living in the Maryland and D.C. area, as well as service strategies particular to that population that can be shared with MDDCCUA member credit unions.
"The International Partnerships Program is the most direct route to assure that our members and supporters connect with one another to keep the ideas flowing. These connections assure that the value proposition of credit unions remains strong and ultimately works toward improving the service to its members," said Victor Miguel Corro, vice president of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions. "We are glad to see MDDCCUA, one of World Council's strongest and long-time partners, join efforts with FECOLFIN, our newest member."
In addition to visiting the offices of MDDCCUA, the group also visited the offices of three member credit unions: Montgomery County Employees Federal Credit Union, Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union and PAHO/WHO Federal Credit Union. During the credit union visits, delegates focused on learning the characteristics of a U.S. credit union's balance sheet and the regulatory challenges U.S. credit unions face.
MDDCCUA plans to form a delegation of association and credit union representatives to provide onsite assistance and learn about FECOLFIN firsthand.
World Council's International Partnerships Program currently facilitates 19 international partnerships throughout Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific. For more information on the International Partnerships Program, visit www.woccu.org/partnerships.
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.
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