Madison, WI—After the success of a recent meeting between representatives from the New York State Credit Union League (NYSCUL) and a number of Puerto Rican financial cooperatives, it seems likely that the World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) will soon see its first International Partnership between a US state league and a US territory.
Three NYSCUL leaders, president and CEO William Mellin, board chairman John Gibardi, and NYCUF executive director Diane LaVigna Wixted; one representative from Empire Corporate Federal Credit Union, senior vice president of corporate relations Dirck Van Deusen; and WOCCU International Partnership manager Victor Corro made the trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico from November 8-11 to informally jumpstart the partnership.
During the visit, LaVigna Wixted and Van Deusen gave presentations on the services offered by NYSCUL and Empire Corporate to representatives from more than 10 Puerto Rican cooperatives, or credit unions. Representatives also had the opportunity to meet with the major Puerto Rican regulatory body, COSSEC. Aside from these few structured events, the implicit goal of the trip was to establish a relationship between Puerto Rico and New York that will lay the groundwork for the new partnership. On all fronts, the trip was a success.
"I observed great camaraderie and a lot of interest on both sides," said WOCCU's representative, Victor Corro. He explained that the many similarities between Puerto Rico's credit union system and that of the US make the collaboration extremely viable. The Puerto Rican system is highly developed, well regulated and has evolved parallel to the US system. With 140 native credit unions and a strong federal credit union, Puerto Rico is an ideal position to both benefit from and offer much to a Partnership.
LaVigna Wixted also noted the partnership's potential, calling Puerto Rico a "unique case" because of its status as a US territory. "Puerto Rico is subject to the same rules and regulations we are," she explained, adding that because of that, there are "exciting opportunities" to work together on everything from federal advocacy to human resource issues.
"Given the large Puerto Rican population that exists in New York State, there is a commonality between Puerto Rico and New York," added Mellin. "I believe that building a relationship through WOCCU's partnership program would be multifaceted and mutually beneficial. The opportunity for us to make our core services accessible to their credit unions through this type of association also speaks directly to the heart of the 'people helping people' credit union philosophy."
In the next step towards official partnership status, Puerto Rican ambassadors will travel to Albany, New York this spring. While there, they will have the opportunity to learn more about their areas of interest. NYSCUL and WOCCU hope the visit will culminate in the signing of a formal partnership agreement.
On the goals of the prospective partnership, WOCCU's Corro said, "I see education and compliance as the focus of the initial activities," adding that these details would be discussed in coming months. For now, all parties are pleased with the results of the initial meeting.
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.