A meeting with Assemblywoman Norma Torres (D-Pomona), the first Guatemalan immigrant to serve in California's state assembly, and a signing of a partnership agreement with the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues capped a weeklong visit by representatives from the Federación Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito (Federated Cooperative Credit Union System or FENACOAC), Guatemala's national credit union trade association.
League President & CEO Bill Cheney and FENACOAC CEO Oswaldo Oliva signed the agreement September 29, establishing a mutually beneficial cooperative relationship between the two credit union movements. The partnership will operate as part of the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program.
"We're looking forward to working with credit unions in Guatemala now and in the future," Cheney said.
As part of the newly formed partnership, the leagues will be working with the Guatemalan federation and WOCCU in the areas of advocacy, shared branching, and the implementation of a share insurance fund in the Central American country. The recent meeting set the stage for considerable efforts to come, according to FENACOAC's Oliva.
"We learned a lot from our visit, and we're leaving with a list of things we're going to implement immediately," said Oliva.
The delegation concluded their visit on October 2, meeting with Assemblywoman Torres, a member of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee, at the leagues' Ontario, Calif. offices. Torres, a long-time credit union member, said credit unions have special relationships with their members in that they know each member by name. She pledged to support the credit union cause both in California and in Guatemala, and encouraged the Guatemalan delegation to stress the role credit unions play.
"You need to tell people about how credit unions are different from banks," Torres said.
In addition to Oliva, the FENACOAC delegation included Guillermo Peralta, board chairman; Carlos Flores, strategic marketing manager; and Mario Salvatierra, business coordinator. The delegation was in California to learn about the U.S. credit union system, league operations, risk management, marketing, branding and shared branching. The leagues also arranged for the delegation to meet with Altura Credit Union, Riverside; SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, Santa Ana; and Financial Service Centers Cooperative, San Dimas.
WOCCU's International Partnerships Program seeks to connect developed and emerging credit union movements to form collaborative and mutually beneficial partnerships. The new relationship brings WOCCU's active partnerships to 25.
"Partnerships show that cooperation among credit union organizations is important in strengthening our industry worldwide," said Victor Miguel Corro, WOCCU senior manager for international partnerships, who participated in the visit. "I have no doubt that California/Nevada's and Guatemala's willingness to share and exchange knowledge will make for better services offered to members."
The Guatemalan credit union movement has more than 400 credit unions and one million members. FENACOAC is an emerging credit union federation with 25 credit unions that serve 900,000 members, or about 90% of the total credit union membership in the country.
The California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues represent more than 350 credit unions in California and Nevada. More than nine million Californians and Nevadans are credit union members.
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