RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif.—A 10-member contingent from China's rural credit cooperative (RCC) and regulatory systems visited California credit unions and their trade association last week to better understand credit unions' role among U.S. financial service providers. The trip, arranged by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), brought eight managers and directors from China's Guizhou Provincial Rural Credit Cooperative Union and two managers from the Guizhou branch of the Chinese Banking Regulatory Commission together with California credit union and league executives to study competitive advantages, particularly those offered as part of "the credit union difference."
"This was a meeting of complementary approaches, with each group learning from the other," said Brian Branch, WOCCU's executive vice president and COO who led the five-day visit. "WOCCU is committed to continuing to help the Chinese RCCs adapt credit union principles and systems to provide access to financial services to China's rural communities."
The Chinese contingent visited the California Credit Union League, WesCorp and San Mateo Credit Union in Redwood City, Calif., to learn from a variety of sources how the U.S. credit union system is organized and the benefits credit union members receive over bank customers. The group sought tools and techniques applicable for use in China's RCCs.
The list of Chinese visitors included Jiang Min and Zhang Guoze from the Guizhou office of the China Banking Regulatory Commission. The Guizhou Provincial Rural Credit Cooperative Union was represented by Gong Xiaogang, Jiang Li, Ma Hong, Suo Meiying, Wang Liming, Wu Yong, Xue Wen and Zhao Qiling. In addition to Branch and other WOCCU staff, numerous California credit union, league and industry officials and multiple translators participated in the visit.
Having undergone significant reforms over the past decade, particularly in the country's Guizhou Province, China's rural credit cooperatives and rural cooperative banks are working to modernize their management and operational practices while trying to maintain their member focus. Participants were particularly interested in the strategic planning processes many California credit unions use and how this enables them to provide better member service. The visitors also expressed particular interest in San Mateo Credit Union's management of human resources, including the performance evaluation program and compensation strategy.
Participants described the transition of RCCs, which currently serve 200 million households on mainland China, as moving from social, mission-driven entities operating largely as charities to market-driven financial institutions with a social mission. RCC participants explored U.S. credit unions' networking efforts to maximize member service breadth and quality in hopes of understanding strategies that would help their institutions evolve and expand their own service profiles, according to participants.
The Chinese regulators explained the role of the provincial central organizations as one of setting uniform systems and standards from the top down. This approach provides for greater efficiency and consistency, they admitted, but the challenge then becomes how to provide better service to members at the credit union level.
"This meeting was another in a series of efforts by WOCCU to share experiences as financial cooperatives and measure how those experiences might be applied to RCCs in China," said Barry Jolette, CEO of San Mateo Credit Union and WOCCU's first vice chairman. "This ultimately will lead to a partnership between RCCs and California credit unions."
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.