QUITO, Ecuador—“Éxito!” exclaimed Carroll Beach as he made a US$20 deposit to his account at Westerra Credit Union, Denver, Colo., through a teller at Cooprogreso Credit Union in Quito, Ecuador. “Success!”
The first cooperative transactions between two separate shared branching networks in two different countries were completed successfully thanks to the efforts of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), technology from CO-OP Shared Branching powered by Credit Union Service Corporation’s (CUSC’s) Next Generation Network (NGN) and support from the Colorado Credit Union Association and affiliate Credit Union Service Network in the U.S., along with Red Transaccional Cooperativa (RTC) and Multisoft in Ecuador. COONECTA, the new network, connects credit union members via direct transaction capabilities in the United States and Ecuador.
In addition to the deposit made by Beach, president/CEO of CO-OP Shared Branching, Laura Pizzarelli, CO-OP Shared Branching’s senior vice president of corporate relations made a US$30 withdrawal at the same Cooprogreso teller window from her account at Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The transactions open the door to Ecuadorians living and working in the United States to conduct business with credit unions in their home country, as well countless U.S. visitors to Ecuador who now have the same opportunity in reverse.
“We are extremely honored to have been able to work with RTC and WOCCU on such a monumental event,” Beach said. “Our vision to connect credit unions around the world to their members has truly come alive today.”
Affordable account access is extremely important to immigrants living in the United States who want to send money home, said Steve Schaefer, program manager for WOCCU who spent four years driving this project along with Oswaldo Oliva and Oscar Guzman, directors of the WOCCU program in Ecuador. The transactions by Beach and Pizzarelli flowed effortlessly, clearing the way for what those involved say will be a groundswell of opportunity to better serve members.
“Every year, billions of dollars are sent out of the country, and huge amounts of money are spent on traditional remittance services to do it,” said Schaefer. “International shared branching gives members a means to access their accounts directly and better the lives of their families at home while maintaining their relationships with their credit union.”
Currently, 13 Ecuadorian credit unions with 154 service contact points connect with nearly 3,000 contact points supported by credit unions in the United States, said Manuel Rabines, WOCCU second vice chairman and head of FENACREP, Peru’s national credit union association, at a public unveiling following the historic event. By sharing facilities, credit unions can offer greater convenience for members in both countries.
“The network will enable Ecuadorians, both in their own country and the U.S., to better manage their financial services,” Rabines told attendees. “In addition, tens of thousands of Ecuadorians working in the U.S., primarily in metropolitan New York and New Jersey, will be better able to easily and economically send funds to their loved ones back home.”
In addition to dignitaries from WOCCU, CO-OP Shared Branching and SwissContact, another organization critical to spearheading the effort, participants also included Alexandria Panehal, a director from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which provided funding for the WOCCU credit union development program in Ecuador that led to COONECTA’s launch. Credit union officials from throughout Ecuador, as well as neighboring Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, also attended the event with the idea of eventually expanding the international network to their countries.
“More than two million Ecuadorians live outside of their country,” Panehal said. “This is a very rich environment with which the U.S. movement can link and the new technology will help drive credit union growth in Ecuador.”
Shared branching has been active within Ecuador’s borders through RTC since mid-2005, when the NGN switch messaging format and other technical aspects were implemented to help reach underserved communities. NGN’s dynamic open-architecture framework gives members the ability to safely transfer funds into their local credit unions. The credit union-owned and designed technology has the flexibility to adapt to any credit union environment and allows CO-OP Shared Branching to lend the software to help further the worldwide movement.
About CO-OP Shared Branching
Credit Union Service Corporation and CO-OP Shared Branching recently combined operations to form the largest shared branching network representing 80 percent of national credit union participants. Made up of credit unions, leagues, CUSOs, CUNA and CUNA Mutual, the CO-OP Shared Branching network is designed to offer credit union members convenient access to their accounts at multiple locations with extended hours. CO-OP Shared Branching’s proprietary ground-breaking technology, The Next Generation Network, offers credit unions lower cost, enhanced transaction functionality, and greater information capacity, making it possible for more credit unions to offer shared branching to their members.
The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide.
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.