MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica — The need to strengthen and unify Jamaica's credit unions has taken on greater importance in light of increased competitive pressures in the country's financial markets. Working effectively together to improve credit union operational efficiency was one of the issues dominating the recent strategic planning session between the Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union League Ltd. (JCCUL) and the Texas Credit Union League (TCUL). The two associations, affiliated through World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program since 2005, met late last month to help JCCUL plan the next five years of growth and development for Jamaica's credit unions.
"The partnership between Jamaica and Texas continues to be successful, with a healthy exchange of ideas and growing assistance between the two organizations," said Yvonne Ridguard, immediate past board president of JCCUL and a WOCCU director. "JCCUL has received tangible benefits from the Texas League, including helping establish 22 individual credit union partnerships between the two countries."
Last month's five-year planning session, a follow-up to an initial joint planning session in 2005, focused on readying Jamaica's credit unions for the pending regulations. In addition, planners discussed the need to diversify income sources in the face of declining interest income, move to a more pro-active microlending program to strengthen credit unions' bottom lines and increase service penetration, develop stronger risk management awareness and programs, and re-engineer processes to cope with a changing environment.
"Effective strategic planning plays a more important role in credit union success than ever, and I was impressed by the foresight and dedication displayed by JCCUL and its member credit unions during the planning session," said Mike Delker, TCUL's vice president of credit union relations who had traveled to Jamaica twice before to assist the country's credit unions. "Their vision for Jamaica's credit union movement was thoughtfully articulated and supported with goals and objectives that will enable them to even better serve their members in the future."
Session content, drawn in part from a prior survey of Jamaica's credit unions and executives, emphasized overall strengthening of credit unions and the Jamaican movement. Ideas on ways to strengthen staff capabilities and improve operations — including strategically merging institutions to result in fewer, yet stronger credit unions — provided food for thought for the more than 150 participants of the two-day event.
"Jamaica's credit unions have developed tremendous market penetration and public awareness over the past five years," said Dave Grace, WOCCU vice president of association services, who helped facilitate the meeting. "As a result of the Jamaican government's fiscal belt-tightening, the days of large margins have passed. Jamaica's credit unions will have to focus on ways to make their operations more efficient through strategic, collaborative efforts designed to improve their market position and member-service capabilities."
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.