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Madison, WI-Final preparations are being made for the launch of the world's first international shared branching network, which will connect credit unions in Ecuador and the United States. During the last week of September, the leaders of several Ecuadorian financial cooperatives, accompanied by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) technical officer Steve Schaefer and representatives from WOCCU-Ecuador and the European NGO Swiss Contact, visited Atlanta and Denver to learn more about the system they will soon be using.
The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has been working with project partner Credit Union Service Corporation (CUSC) over the last year to develop the pioneer network, and WOCCU estimates the project should be ready to "go live" by the end of the year.
When it does, Ecuadorian credit union members living in or visiting the United States will have access to all the services they'd find at home, and vice versa. These services include withdrawals and deposits, loan payments and advances, Visa or MasterCard advances, transfers between accounts, account history reviews and more. The system will offer convenience and safety to members badly in need of them, especially recent Ecuadorian immigrants who still have dependents in their home country.
It was with these visions that the travelers embarked on their cross-country tour of shared branching enablers. The delegation met at CUSC facilities, where the technological aspects of the project will be managed. They also observed shared branching operations in three separate Denver, Colorado credit unions. The Colorado Credit Union League (CCUL), experienced in shared branching and linked to Ecuador through WOCCU's International Partnerships program, has been key to WOCCU in laying the foundation for the new network.
The last stop for the delegation was SunCorp, a corporate credit union based in Denver, where the CEO of FINANCOOP, the Ecuadorian equivalent, signed papers for a new account after a roundtable discussion with SunCorp leaders. With the opening of the account, the settlement of the shared branching network is complete, and another step has been taken toward the reality of a cross- border network.
WOCCU technical officer Steve Schaefer explained, "It was a successful trip. The people from Ecuador were grateful to WOCCU because they will go back with a better understanding of shared branching that will allow their network to succeed." Schaefer, who is managing the logistical aspects of the connection, is equally hopeful about the new venture.
When the network launches, history will be made. Although shared branching has existed in the United States since the 1970s, the world has yet to see it tried on the international level. If the enthusiasm of WOCCU, CUSC and Ecuador is any indication of the level of commitment of those involved in the project, the cross-border idea has a very bright future ahead of it.
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.