Iowa CU League Supports CU Regulation in Panama
At the Plaza de Francia outside Panama's presidential palace (l-r): Murray Williams (ICUL), Enereida Barrías (COFEP), Manuel Tejada (COFEP), Magda Araúz (COFEP), Mark Kilian (Community Lenders), Justin Hupfer (ICUL), José Montenegro (COFEP), Pat Jury (ICUL), Pat Drennan (ICUL), Jacinto Villarreal (COFEP), and Victor Corro (World Council).
Madison, WI—Five delegates from the
Credit Union League spent last week in Panama to
support the educational and lobbying initiatives
of Corporación Fondo de Estabilización y Garantía de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Panamá, R.L. (COFEP) to
establish credit union regulation. The visit
grew out of the organizations' international
partnership through World Council of Credit
At the start of their partnership activities
years ago, World Council, COFEP and ICUL
identified the lack of credit union-specific
regulation as the main weakness of Panama's
credit union system. In the partnership's fourth face-to-face partnership exchange in two years,
ICUL's Pat Jury, president and CEO, Murray
Williams, vice president, Justin Hupfer, vice
president of governmental affairs and internal
counsel, Mark Kilian, CEO of Community Lenders,
and Pat Drennen, ICUL board director and general
manager of 1st Gateway Credit Union, sought to
directly assist COFEP in pushing for specific
credit union regulation.
Pat Jury speaks at the conference while Pat Drennan looks on.
During their weeklong visit, the ICUL group
visited four credit unions and met with
government officials and COFEP executives. The
week's activities culminated in a day-long
conference on credit union best practices, in
which over 100 credit union staff and board
members attended. Panama's regulator was also at
At the event, Jury shared ICUL's experience
developing its network of services; Drennen
spoke about specialized supervision and savings
mobilization; Kilian explained how credit unions
could support community projects; Hupfer
imparted lobbying strategies; and Williams
discussed how to effect positive change in the
credit union. World Council's Dave Grace, senior
manager of association services, also explained
what the Basel Accord meant to credit union
regulation and how it could be applied in
Panama. Victor Corro, international partnerships
manager, explained the benefits of international
credit union partnerships and facilitated a
planning meeting for future activities among
World Council, COFEP and ICUL.
"For the great majority, a relatively new
like lobbying or lobbying to achieve positive
things for the credit unions was interesting,"
said Jacinto Villarreal, CEO of COFEP. "The
topic of regulation was also important,
considering that the fact that Panama still
doesn't have special regulation for credit
unions is a concern for many people."
Drennan said a hurdle they have had to
in the partnership is convincing their
counterparts that lobbying is a good thing.
"The issue of…lobbying is kind of
in Panama because the mindset is that if you're
talking to a government official, you're bribing
them," he explained. ICUL has worked with credit
union leaders in Panama to educate them on
lobbying activities and promoting the industry
as a safe and trustful partner.
In a symbolic gesture at the end of the
conference, ICUL gave the director of human
resources for the government of Panama, Arnulfo
De León, a letter directed to the
President. The letter expressed the need for
credit union-specific regulation in Panama and
World Council and ICUL's willingness to
contribute their resources to make it a reality.
"In order to be heard, you need to speak,"
Corro, explaining the reason and meaning of the
letter. "The letter was one of the first
lobbying efforts to get legislation passed in
De León, the highest ranked government
official attending the conference, delivered the
letter to the President's secretary, Martin
Torrijos, on Monday.
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.