DUBLIN, Ohio—A contingent of credit union and bank leaders from Bolivia visited the Ohio Credit Union League Monday as part of a continuing partnership between the Latin American country and League and Corporate One Federal Credit Union (Corporate One), operating under the auspices of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) International Partnership program. Through an interpreter, League staff briefed their guests on the services they provide to the 427 credit unions in Ohio and the impact of state and national regulations on not-for-profit financial institutions in the United States.
Although located on two different continents, League officials and members of the Bolivian contingent quickly realized that the issues facing their respective financial institutions share similarities and differences. Discussions surrounding deposit insurance revealed that Bolivian financial institutions are federally insured up to $5,000 and that they must reach a certain asset amount to garner federal insurance. One service of particular interest to the foreign contingent was shared branching and the technology needed to become a credit union service center. Both groups discussed capitalization levels, including what level is considered adequately capitalized and how that level is monitored in their respective regions. Bolivian officials also shared how foreign federal legislation, such as The Patriot Act in the U.S., has impacted their operations.
"This was a unique opportunity to learn from each other and share best practices," said Paul Mercer, president of the Ohio League. "It was truly educational, and although there was a language barrier, we all speak the same language when it comes to serving our members in the best possible way."
Both sides agreed to continue the discussion at some point in the future, including the possibility of a group from Ohio visiting Bolivia.
The partnership isn't WOCCU's only activity in Bolivia. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is funding WOCCU to carry out a three-year financial sector support program in Bolivia. The program aims to improve the economic and social well-being of the rural population in underserved areas by connecting various microfinance institutions to the credit union-owned shared branching network and unite them into an association to advocate for an effective regulatory environment in Bolivia.
During the Bolivian's current visit to the United States, the group also met with representatives from Western Credit Union, Columbus, Ohio; CES Credit Union, Mount Vernon, Ohio; and Corporate One Federal Credit Union, Columbis. Kelly Schermerhorn, CEO of CES Credit Union, and Kurt Lykens, vice president and chief technology officer for Corporate One, have previously visited Bolivia as part of a WOCCU delegation. The group will also travel to Washington D.C. to meet with the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors.
Participating in the meeting from Bolivia were Fernando Prado, executive secretary of ASOFIN, which specializes in microfinancing; Reynaldo Marconi, general manager of FINRURAL, an association of financial institutions serving rural populations; Marcelo Montero, executive secretary of ASOBAN, as association of private bankers in Bolivia; Vittorio Valdez Rocha, president of the ATC, a technical association representing 13 credit unions; Antonio Kierig, executive secretary of UNIVIV; Rolando Salazar, project director of WOCCU-Bolivia; and Thom Belekevich, a consultant with WOCCU.
The Ohio Credit Union League, with offices in Dublin, is a state trade association representing 427 credit unions.Ohio credit unions provide savings, loans, and other consumer financial services to their 2.6 million members. To learn more, visit www.OhioCreditUnions.org.
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.