Spirits High in Russia Where Credit Unions Face Challenges
WOCCU's Jeff Merriam visits with representatives from eight credit unions, local government officials, media and the Kusbas Oblast (state) credit union association.
Washington, DC—At the request of the
Russian Credit Union League, the World Council
Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) deployed a three-
member assessment team to Russia from June 1 to
June 11 to assess the status of the country's
credit unions serving 400,000 members and the
newly established three-tier credit union
system. The team, made up of WOCCU senior
manager Mark Cifuentes, WOCCU business
development manager Jeff Merriam, and WOCCU
volunteer and president of the Louisiana Credit
Union League, Anne Cochran, visited St.
Petersburg and Moscow together before splitting
up to visit smaller cities and rural areas.
"We found many small and young credit
said Merriam. "The current law limits their
ability to grow by setting membership limits.
But despite their challenges, we found credit
unions to be serving people on fixed incomes,
students and the working poor, giving them
to financial services when the banks don't
consider them to be worthy customers."
Regional credit union associations, explained
Merriam, provide training to credit union staff,
consult on methodologies, provide assistance
information systems and promote the credit union
movement. The regional associations provide the
link that allows the national-level Russian
Credit Union League to gather information from
and provide services to credit unions.
"A number of the credit union people we
encountered during our visit demonstrated
purpose and no small dose of competence," said
Merriam. "But organization is critical if the
League is going to reach the many credit unions
operating throughout this huge country. Indeed,
the sheer size of Russia presents a major
challenge to the three-tier structure of credit
WOCCU now turns its attention to working with
Russian Credit Union League—WOCCU's newest
association member—to develop a road map
lead to viability of the credit union movement
Russia, including making available specific
tools and training.
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, 51,000 credit unions in 100 countries serve 196 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.