LIMA, Peru—World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and FENACREP, Peru's national credit union federation, last week launched Kuskanet, Peru's first national shared branching network. Kuskanet is the first formal attempt to construct such network among credit unions in Peru.
Three credit unions are currently signed on to Kuskanet: Finantel in Lima, San Francisco in Huanuco and San Martin de Porres in Tarapoto. The credit unions have a total of 13 points of service across four "departments," Peru's equivalent of states. The network expects to add at least four more credit unions by the end of the year.
Kuskanet, which comes from the indigenous word kuska, meaning "together," will enable members from its affiliated credit unions in Peru to perform transactions and access their accounts at any of the credit unions' branch offices. The network plans to launch ATM and debit card services in the near future.
Credit union popularity is growing in Peru, but it currently represents less than 5% of the country's financial system. There are no credit unions that offer ATM or debit card services, and there are very few credit unions that offer their members the possibility to perform inter-branch transactions, which are possible only through credit union-to-credit union agreements.
Luis Jiménez, program director of WOCCU's Peru program, expects the network's added value of ATM and card services to entice credit unions to join. The network also will increase credit union competition against other kinds of Peruvian financial institutions and bring more appropriate and timelier financial services to the marginalized communities they serve.
"Kuskanet will enable credit unions to offer services that other Peruvian financial institutions offer the market, which would be very difficult for each credit union to do individually," Jiménez said. "On the basis of scale economies, the credit unions will now be able to offer financial services through the network that they couldn't in the past. We expect that affiliating with Kuskanet will favor an increase in membership and therefore strengthen credit union growth in Peru."
The shared branching network is the result of WOCCU's current program in Peru, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (2006-2009) and implemented in partnership with FENACREP. The program's objectives include expanding credit union outreach to the rural poor, developing market-driven financial products and services, establishing a shared branching network and facilitating market linkages among producers, traders and merchants through "value chain" financing. Value chain financing involves providing financial services to the small farmers, processors and buyers involved in bringing a specific product from production to market.
Manuel Rabines, FENACREP CEO, was emphatic about the positive change Kuskanet will bring to credit union members in the remotest areas of Peru.
“From the Peruvian Andes to the most remote Amazon villages and from Lima, the capital, to other coastal cities in the country, credit union members will now be able to make deposits or withdrawals of money at credit union branches outside of their communities, where members will be served as if they were at their own credit union,“ said Manuel Rabines, FENACREP's CEO and a member of WOCCU's board of directors. “Kuskanet will bring to more people, especially those in impoverished situations, better access to appropriate, dignified and convenient financial services.“
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.