Madison, WI—Eleven credit union professionals from eastern Russia recently participated in a two-week credit union management and governance training in California. San Mateo Credit Union hosted the visit, with support from World Council of Credit Unions, Inc., Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI) and the Chatfield Fund.
CCI contacted San Mateo Credit Union CEO Barry Jolette to arrange training for Russian credit union executives in California. Jolette worked with World Council chief operating officer, Brian Branch, to develop topics, arrange speakers and provide training facilities.
"It was a terrific opportunity to work with one of the newest member countries of World Council," said Jolette, who also serves as second vice chairman on the World Council board of directors. "Our new friends from Russia, a country larger than the United States, came with an equally large interest in learning all they could about our United States credit union system."
The former Soviet Union suspended its once thriving credit union system in the 1930s until the Russian Federation emerged sixty years later. World Council has provided technical assistance to Russia since its credit union revival in the 1990s. Today, there are approximately 750 credit unions and 490 rural credit cooperatives serving 500,000 members across Russia. The Russian Credit Union League became a World Council member this year.
During their stay in California, the Russian delegates attended a series of business management training sessions led by business leaders and credit union professionals.
Jolette and the San Mateo Credit Union staff led sessions on the US credit union system, financial management and planning, marketing strategies, lending, staff training, information technology, savings and risk management and governance. The visitors also attended a San Mateo Credit Union board meeting to witness rules of governance and structure in action.
World Council's Steve Schaefer, who provides support on information systems to World Council field offices and credit unions as program manager for Latin America and the Caribbean, led a session on PEARLS monitoring software.
California/Nevada Credit Union League CEO, Bill Cheney, and vice president of research, communications and public affairs, Lucy Ito outlined league services to the group.
My Credit Union hosted a training session on lending services; Palo Alto Community Federal Credit Union welcomed the delegation for a session on marketing; and the group traveled to United Health Credit Union to explore its menu of credit union products. The credit union executives also visited Redwood City Sequoia School Employees Federal Credit Union.
The director of National Credit Union Administration's Office of Public and Congressional Affairs and the credit union regulator from the Department of Financial Institutions also met with the group to discuss legislation, regulation and supervision.
Branch explained that the visit exemplified the wealth of knowledge US credit unions have to share with developing credit union systems like that in Russia. In June, for example, RCUL invited a World Council team—including Louisiana Credit Union League CEO Anne Cochran—to carry out a credit union assessment. As follow-up, World Council staff and a team of five US league volunteers visited Russia in September to begin developing a long- term strategy for strengthening RCUL.
"Through their outreach, US credit unions help provide financial access and democracy building worldwide," Branch said.
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.