ONTARIO, Calif. — Representatives from the Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito (FENACOAC), Guatemala's national credit union federation and a World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) member, would like to introduce international shared branching through its member credit unions to better serve the country's more than 1 million members. Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC), a California-based credit union electronic services provider and WOCCU associate member, is working in cooperation with WOCCU's International Partnerships Program to make the goal a reality.
A combined delegation from Guatemala's credit union system joined FSCC and WOCCU staff in a visit last week to Puerto Rico, where FSCC has been providing credit union shared branching services since 2008, to examine the application and implementation of shared branching among the island's credit unions. The delegation then traveled to California, where it met with officials both from FSCC and the California & Nevada Credit Union Leagues, which first partnered with FENACOAC through WOCCU's International Partnerships Program in 2009, to discuss in greater depth how shared branching could be implemented in Guatemala.
"It's the cooperation and collaboration that we bring as trade associations and CUSOs to help credit unions better serve their members no matter where they are located," said Bonnie Kramer, FSCC executive vice president and COO. "We feel technology is one of the best ways to get more consumers to look closely at the services credit unions can provide and help the movement grow."
Shared branching has served the Puerto Rican diaspora well, officials said, especially in connecting those living in New York and Florida with credit unions on the island. The delegation visited two credit unions in Puerto Rico - Jesús Obrero in Guaynabo and Bonicoop in Aibonito - where they reviewed FSCC's shared branching technology and measured its use and acceptance among Hispanic members. Puerto Rican credit union officials described the challenges they faced during implementation and the success they have enjoyed since they began offering the service. Delegates were also able to witness live shared branching transactions and closely examine the system and its operations.
The Guatemalan delegation included Vinicio Garcia, CEO of Guadalupana credit union; FENACOAC Chair Felipe Godoy, CEO of UPA credit union; and FENACOAC staffers Deeynar León, director of research, development and technology; and Magda Escalante de Barrios, treasury and comptroller coordinator. The trip to Puerto Rico also included Nathan Rogers, FSCC vice president of marketing, and WOCCU staffers Victor Miguel Corro, senior manager of partnerships and training, and Joshua Fetting, partnerships officer.
The group's meetings in California stressed the roles that the leagues and FSCC play in strengthening the credit union movement and facilitating technology solutions. Guatemalan delegates examined shared branching applications in depth, measuring their potential impact on improving credit union efficiency and service in Guatemala.
"Bringing new markets to the global credit union movement is a key aspect to the project we're pursuing here," said FSCC's Rogers. "I am confident that we're not going to run into any technological hurdles that we can't overcome."
One aspect that bears further discussion is addressing regulatory criteria about moving funds from the United States to Guatemala. New requirements under U.S. Regulation E, which governs electronic funds transfer systems, will affect the nature of disclosure and other aspects of transparency that participants in any shared branching system will have to face, including both sending and receiving institutions. But the capabilities such a system would bring to Guatemalans living in the U.S.and seeking a low-cost alternative to current remittance capabilities between credit unions in the two countries make all efforts worthwhile, delegates said.
"We see the link that shared branching provides as another opportunity to grow and improve products and services," said FENACOAC's Corday. "We envision credit unions that go beyond traditional business lines, making this initiative an anchor for growth and modernization. We will be relentless in our work toward connecting our national shared branching system to that of the United States."
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, 51,000 credit unions in 100 countries serve 196 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.