MADISON, Wis. — Credit unions worldwide see a greater "internationalization" of regulation, and credit union associations should prepare crisis communications plans to help both themselves and their member institutions cope with the worsening global economy. Those resolutions topped the agenda for January's meeting of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) G7 members held recently in Florida.
The WOCCU G7, comprised of the world's seven largest credit union systems, meets annually to discuss issues affecting financial services in general and credit unions specifically. Due to the severity of the global financial situation, the group also held conference calls last year to better understand and analyze the current financial crisis.
"The financial issues facing credit unions today are as bad as they have ever been, not only for U.S. credit unions, but also for credit unions in many of WOCCU's member countries," said Pete Crear, WOCCU's president and CEO. "Collectively, credit unions in WOCCU's G7 group serve nearly 115 million people worldwide. The actions taken by G7 members affect nearly 65% of credit union members globally."
Participants agreed that regulatory "internationalization" presents challenges for credit unions and requires increased coordination at a global level. WOCCU staff and volunteers regularly lobby at the request of member organizations before various government bodies. In 2008, they successfully influenced credit union regulatory issues in both Poland and Costa Rica. One of Africa's first credit union laws was passed in Kenya late last year, the result of a six-year effort by WOCCU, U.S. leagues and credit unions and the Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-operatives Ltd., the country's own credit union association. Taking a more unified approach to global credit union regulatory development would strengthen credit union systems and institutions so each could better serve members, the group agreed.
Participants also stressed the need for crisis communication plans suitable for both associations and the credit unions they serve. Credit unions worldwide enjoy a high degree of member confidence and trust, G7 delegates said. Providing crisis plans will be critical to maintaining trust and service to members during tough times.
WOCCU G7 representatives in attendance included Dan Mica, CUNA & Affiliates, United States; David Phillips and Garth Manness, Credit Union Central of Canada; Kieron Brennan and Uel Adair, Irish League of Credit Unions; Wicktor Kaminski, National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions, Poland; and Michael Alleyne, Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions (CCCU). Louise Petschler, Abacus Australian Mutuals, attended the meetings remotely. Representatives from Brazil, the seventh of the G7 countries, were unable to attend.
In addition to Crear, WOCCU officials and executives participating included Chairman Melvin Edwards, CCCU; First Vice Chairman Barry Jolette, United States.; Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Branch; and Vice President of Association Services Dave Grace.
The G7 will next meet in conjunction with WOCCU's World Credit Union Conference in Barcelona in July.
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, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.