MADISON, Wis. — Despite the 2009 global economic crisis, credit unions worldwide last year experienced positive growth in both savings and membership, an indicator of the movement's increasing strength. Economic and regulatory changes last year have also brought complexity that can sometimes drive smaller institutions to merge in hopes of gaining strength critical to addressing new regulations. Those and other key themes topped the agenda for last month's meeting of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) G-10 members in Florida.
The WOCCU G-10, comprised of the world's 10 largest member credit union systems, meets each January to discuss issues affecting financial services in general and credit unions in particular. This year's topics fell under the shadow of last year's global economic crisis, from which many systems are still recovering.
"None of us have gone untouched by the recession, but some of us were able to better weather the storm than others," said Pete Crear, WOCCU president and CEO. "The G-10 meeting affords a unique opportunity for the largest credit union systems from around the globe to gather and share solutions to such problems."
All participants shared a concern that new regulations must be appropriate for credit unions in the countries they serve. The impact of new laws in Kenya and South Africa have yet to be felt, while other countries that have been proactive in regulatory development, often with WOCCU's help, had insights to share about best approaches to offer lawmakers assistance. The extent to which the experiences can be shared with government bodies in the formative stages of drafting legislation may help credit unions better serve members, particularly as financial markets change and institutions continue to grow.
"The U.S. credit union movement can and does learn a great deal from the burgeoning worldwide movement, particularly with regard to building wealth for members," said Dan Mica, president and CEO of Credit Union National Association, WOCCU's U.S. member and a G-10 organization. "Sharing success stories and even challenges among our respective organizations helps ensure that no ideas are overlooked, and that all challenges may be addressed."
In addition to Mica, WOCCU G-10 members in attendance included Manfred Dasenbrock, Confederação Interestadual das Cooperativas Ligadas ao SICREDI, Brazil; Carilus Ademba, Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives; Yvonne Ridguard and Ralph Wharton, Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions; Mark Bailey and Kieron Brennan, Irish League of Credit Unions; Louise Petschler, Abacus Australian Mutuals; Victor Fierro Robio and Ramón Imperial, Caja Popular Mexicana, Mexico; and David Phillips, Credit Union Central of Canada.
In addition to Crear, WOCCU officials and executives participating in the meeting included Chair Barry Jolette, United States; and Dave Grace, WOCCU vice president of association services. The two-day meeting was moderated by Mark Sievewright, corporate senior vice president, strategic marketing, for Fiserv, Inc., and Bill Knight, president of Hebb, Knight and Associates. Representatives from the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions, Poland, and the Federación de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Costa Rica, the remaining two G-10 nations, were unable to attend this year's meeting.
"As a member of the U.S. Congress, where I served on the Foreign Relations Committee, I learned the value of international cooperation and communication," said Mica. "The G-10 gathering reinforces my commitment and belief to both of those values."
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 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.