Santa Fe, N.M. – Treasury Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Randy Quarles met with credit union members and staff at Guadalupe Credit Union here today to see the international remittance process in action. Guadalupe is one of nearly 200 credit unions in the U.S. using IRnet®, the World Council of Credit Unions' International Remittance Network.
"Assistant Secretary Quarles' participation today is a testament to the commitment of the Treasury Department to support low-cost alternatives to conventional remittance products," said Molly Schar, governmental affairs manager for the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). "U.S. credit unions offering IRnet® have an incredible opportunity to reach out to traditionally underserved people in their communities because the people most likely to send remittances are the people least likely to have safe and affordable places to save and borrow."
A Guadalupe Credit Union member since 1989, Louis Alvarez explained to the group that he sends money home each week to family members living in a small town near Mexico City. He became a member of the credit union, he said, because he learned from friends about the friendly service and good values. He has sent international remittances through the credit union since it began offering the service about five years ago. Alvarez sent $50 today while participants of the event watched the process.
During his remarks, Quarles thanked credit union staff, members and volunteers for an "impressive morning." It is "interesting," he said, "to see on the ground how this process is making a difference." Quarles explained that remittances are a part of a larger international development agenda and that the Treasury Department has focused for several years on encouraging more financial institutions to get involved in the remittance process. "The potential development impact of that [money] is obviously extreme," he said.
WOCCU first launched the International Remittance Network (IRnet®) with transfers directly from U.S. credit unions to credit unions in El Salvador and Guatemala. In 2000, WOCCU formed a strategic alliance with money transfer operator VIGO Remittance Corp. to access its substantial network infrastructure. WOCCU links national credit union organizations in other countries together with money transfer operators so that senders in the U.S. can send funds from 3200+ outlets in 38 U.S. states for distribution through credit unions.
On the receiving side, credit unions in six countries are distributing remittances using IRnet®. The national credit union organizations have tripartite contracts with WOCCU and participating money transfer operators. The national credit union organizations receive the electronic data transfers of the remittances from money transfer operator partners and distribute them to their member credit unions that in turn distribute the funds to remittance receivers. After transferring the funds to the credit unions, the national credit union organizations are reimbursed by the money transfer operators via deposits into a clearing account at an international bank.
Quarles will spend an hour this afternoon in a classroom in Albuquerque with students in the Career Enrichment Center's Money, Success and Power program, which prepares young adults for a career in the financial services industry. The program was developed in part by New Mexico credit unions and is offered through the Albuquerque public schools system.
Randal K. Quarles was sworn in as the Treasury Department's Assistant Secretary for International Affairs in April 2002. Prior to his current appointment, Quarles served as the U.S. Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund. Quarles served the Treasury Department from 1991 to 1992 as Special Assistant to the Secretary for Banking Legislation and from 1992 to 1993 as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions.
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.