MINSK, Belarus — Joe Thomas, president and CEO of Fairfax County Federal Credit Union (Va.), visited the Republican Association of Consumer Cooperatives for Mutual Financial Assistance (RACCMFA) of Belarus last week as part of a World Council volunteer assignment to assist with membership growth strategies.
RACCMFA, the Belarus credit union trade association and World Council affiliate member, has focused efforts on achieving growth in members, assets and number of credit unions while operating in an environment with an emerging legislative and regulatory framework for credit unions and overcoming inflationary pressures discouraging investment and savings.
"World Council relies on credit union experts to lend their experience in many countries around the world," said Victor Miguel Corro, World Council vice president of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions. "There is a tremendous amount of talent and good will in the credit union movement in Belarus. Through collaboration within the international credit union system, volunteers like Joe reach out and make an impact in other countries."
During a five-day conference in Belarus's largest city and capital, Minsk, Thomas presented to a group of Belarusian credit union managers on identification and development of financial products and services, building the credit union brand and organizational and management strategies to achieve membership growth.
"The people I've met are some of the most dedicated and hospitable I've ever come across with a real desire to help their countrymen and women improve their financial and social wellbeing through credit unions," Thomas said. "It feels as if the credit union movement is ready to become a much more critical part of the local economy."
Thomas, accompanied by Alena Kaliada, RACCMFA chair, also met with the National Bank of Belarus to discuss the supervision of the country's 20 credit unions, which were all established within the last 10 years and represent over 3,000 members located primarily in urban areas.
"The visit of Mr. Thomas to Minsk and his conduct of a series of lectures is evidence of the strategic partnership between the Association and the World Council," Kaliada said. "I have no doubt that the knowledge that the participants acquired will let them increase the effectiveness of their organizations and lead them to a higher level."
Credit unions throughout Eastern Europe have spread during the past two decades with the help of combined efforts of World Council and the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions of Poland. For statistical information on the region, please visit www.woccu.org/intlcusystem.
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.