|Participants in the meeting between the Iowa CU league (ICUL) and COFEP included (left to right) Murray Williams, ICUL COO; Leonor Samudio, COFEP board secretary; Thom Belekevich, WOCCU consultant; Jacinto Villarreal, COFEP CEO; Patrick Jury, ICUL president and CEO; and José Montenegro, COFEP chair.|
DES MOINES, Iowa—Advocacy and legislative activities topped the agenda for Panamanian credit union and trade association representatives who last week visited their counterparts at the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL) as part of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnership Program. Representatives from the Corporación Fondo de Estabilización y Garantía de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Panama, R.L, known as COFEP, continued lessons started during earlier visits to better understand and apply advocacy, as well as gain ideas for new products and services on behalf of Panamanian credit unions.
Effective lobbying can be challenging in many Latin American countries, including Panama, since interactions with government officials are often seen as signs of corruption or under-the-table dealings. COFEP sought ICUL's advice on ways to keep legislative activities transparent and leverage member needs to positively influence legislation.
"In the United States, credit unions have found advocacy to be a vital component of our movement's success," said Patrick Jury, ICUL president and CEO. "Everything credit unions do is impacted by the political process, so we must have a strong collective voice. Our goal is to help Panama's credit unions feel more comfortable in this process and create more urgency in their engagement with elected officials."
The delegation from COFEP, which began its WOCCU partnership with ICUL in 2006, included José Montenegro, chairman; Leonor Samudio, board secretary; and Jacinto Villarreal, CEO. The visitors started their week in meetings with ICUL not only to better understand advocacy's role, but also determine how different products and services offered by ICUL and its subsidiaries might be adapted for use in Panama. In addition, the delegation studied cooperative business lending, matched savings programs utilizing individual development accounts and ways to reach underserved populations.
The delegates had the opportunity to meet with Iowa Corporate Central Credit Union representatives to discuss CD Access, its liquidity product. CD Access is a mechanism that credit unions needing liquidity can use to tap credit unions with excess liquidity through the intra-industry sale of certificates of deposit. The group discussed the success Iowa credit unions have had investing in certificates of deposits at other institutions and how that process could work in Panama. COFEP delegates will give a CD Access presentation to their organization's board of directors and may engage ICUL in a webinar early in 2010 to promote the product.
Finally, the delegates toured Iowa's capitol building and visited 1st Gateway Credit Union, Camanche, and EdCo Community Credit Union, Des Moines. Pat Drennen, 1st Gateway's president and CEO and ICUL's chair, met with the group to discuss the credit union's goal-setting for its products and services. The goal of 1st Gateway, Drennen explained, is to have each member using 2.8 products and/or services by the year's end. In addition to tracking progress towards the goal, the credit union also analyzes service popularity, which enables more effective future planning.
"I'm always willing to share our experience in credit union operations," said Drennen. "We welcome every opportunity to work with our Panamanian partners in order to improve the service and the experience that credit unions give to their members."
The visit concluded with a planning session in which COFEP, ICUL and WOCCU mapped the next steps for the partnership in 2010. Among other activities, those steps may include a translated webinar on CD Access and/or cooperative business lending, a credit union-to-credit union partnership and a return visit to Panama by an ICUL delegation.
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.