|Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and COO, meets with Francisco Pérez Armas, Caja Yanga's director of marketing development, and other credit union managers prior to the January launch of the credit union's first ATMs.|
CÓRDOBA, Mexico — Caja Yanga, a credit union in rural central Mexico, is realizing double-digit monthly membership growth rates thanks to the implementation of new technologies late last year. The installation of high-powered computer servers and the use of handheld transaction devices like personal digital assistants (PDAs) have helped the 40,000-member credit union grow at a rate of 15% per month, reaching new members in remote areas.
Caja Yanga works closely with World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) development program in Mexico funded by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food (SAGARPA) through its Proyecto de Asistencia Técnica al Microfinanciamiento Rural (PATMIR) project to expand financial services to marginalized rural areas. Caja Yanga is one of 53 credit unions implementing new technology into its outreach strategy, furthering rural expansion while maintaining the quality of services required to serve members living in urban areas where more competitive options may be available.
"Caja Yanga demonstrates the commitment not only to reach the very poor and marginalized of the economy, but also the commitment to provide these people with the best quality and transparency of financial services through applications of technology," said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and COO.
In December 2009, preceding the January launch of Caja Yanga's first automatic teller machines (ATMs), the credit union installed new information technology infrastructure, including four IBM blade servers, and moved its principal data center from its headquarters in Yanga to a branch office in nearby Córdoba. In addition to bringing the credit union into compliance with federal regulations, the move drastically improved data transfer efficiency, providing the capacity to support projected membership growth over the next five years.
"With the previous system, data transfer was relatively slow, but the new system makes it much faster," said Alejandro Rodríguez Peñuela, Caja Yanga information systems assistant. "We now have the switches in place that will provide for better data administration as we grow."
In addition to improved technology, Caja Yanga has implemented the WOCCU-developed Semilla Cooperativa (Cooperative Seed) outreach model to effectively and sustainably reach rural members. As part of the model, credit union field officers bring savings-focused financial services to groups of 10-30 members in communities within 30 km. (19 miles) of existing branch offices. Twenty-eight field officers from Caja Yanga's 13 branches visit 317 communities on foot or motorcycle and use PDAs to conduct transactions and transmit data. During 2009, field officers performed 80,960 PDA-based financial transactions for remote members, a capacity that's increasing along with Caja Yanga's member growth.
One of the challenges that Caja Yanga has faced is members' lack of confidence in financial institutions, a fear often fueled by predatory lending practices and pyramid-type schemes that have characterized financial transactions in rural Mexico and other developing economies. Implementing these technologies in the field has helped increase confidence by providing access to real-time data, proof of financial transactions with mobile printers and creating a professional and innovative image, according to Caja Yanga field officers.
Caja Yanga is also WOCCU's partner credit union in implementing the MatchSavings.org program, an online donor match program that helps Mexico's rural poor learn to save by matching small member deposits made for objectives such as housing, healthcare, education and microbusiness development needs. To learn more, visit MatchSavins.org or find the program on Facebook or Twitter.
WOCCU's Mexico program works with 53 credit unions and 4 credit union federations in 20 Mexican states, reaching more than 4,000 communities. Program credit unions use PDAs, ATMs, and handheld Point-of-Sale (POS) devices to bring credit union services to the members in communities where a physical branch would not be feasible. The program's objective is to recruit 200,000 new poor members who live in rural communities of 15,000 or less by the end of 2010.
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.