EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada — Mexico's credit unions took a giant step forward in January when Caja Popular de Ahorros Yanga, better known as Caja Yanga, became one of the first rural Mexican financial cooperatives to launch fee-free, credit union-owned automatic teller machines (ATMs), offering electronic transactions and debit card services to its members.
To learn more about ATM processes and procedures, Caja Yanga turned to Servus Credit Union in Alberta, Canada, to discuss the possibility of a technical internship. Caja Yanga and Servus had established a relationship in 2009 through World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program, and the Mexican credit union's inquiry was in keeping with the goals and objectives of the partnership. In March, Servus Credit Union welcomed Caja Yanga's Aida Maceda, IT manager, and Liliana Gonzalez, ATM manager, to Edmonton to study the daily maintenance and operations of ATMs in Servus branches.
"These technical visits really crystallize the value each party brings to the partnership," said Vern Albush, Servus Credit Union's director of corporate social responsibility. "Our goal for this technical internship was to help Caja Yanga successfully launch its first cash dispensing ATMs and gain a better understanding of the process involved in making the IT and banking system expansion decisions necessary to address rapidly growing demand."
The two Caja Yanga delegates spent seven working days with Servus employees, learning to manage in-branch ATMs and discussing everything from proper balancing procedures and machine troubleshooting to the physical security of the ATM itself. Servus managers and participants stressed the importance of dual custody of combinations and showed how proper security procedures for staff working with ATMs help boost confidence and reduce liabilities that employees shoulder when dealing with the machines.
The pair also had the opportunity to job-shadow Servus employees during a typical daily ATM check and balance at a local branch. Maceda and Gonzalez were able to witness the process first hand as two employees ran through their daily ATM routines.
"Having access to Servus technical staff is extremely beneficial given their decades-long experience in administering ATM operations," said Maceda. "I learned a great deal, especially why planning for growth is so important instead of simply concentrating on immediate needs of the ATM network and card services."
Caja Yanga also was the first credit union to implement WOCCU's MatchSavings.org program, a savings initiative launched in October 2008 that captures donor funds pledged through www.matchsavings.org to match the first formal savings of the working poor. The rural savers become full members of the credit union and receive a 100% match after making six monthly deposits for housing, microbusiness, education or healthcare.
The Mexican credit union is currently in the process of updating many of its systems after installing brand new computer servers in December, so the visitors also looked at the credit union's IT and communications infrastructure. Maceda took particular interest in server software and usage as well as commercial electronic messaging options.
Maceda and Gonzalez have already identified areas in which Caja Yanga can implement some of Servus' operating practices. Gonzalez will be changing the way ATMs are serviced and balanced by Caja Yanga employees, as well as implementing stricter policies and procedures, including surprise cash counts. Maceda will be making some changes of her own as she reviews new e-mail and communications infrastructure for the credit union.
"Visits such as this internship provide a unique opportunity for the partners to experience the work environment of each organization," Albush added. "This provides context to know what information and learning is readily transferrable."
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.