Representatives of the DC League Visit Nicaragua to Facilitate the Improvement of IT and Security

September 14, 2005

With the assistance of World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) the International Partnership between the Washington D.C. Credit Union League and the Central de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito Financieras de Nicaragua, or Central Service Organization (CSO), was formed in November of 2002 with the intention of promoting the exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas that could mutually benefit the leagues and member credit unions involved.

In August, Wilfred Morgan, Chief Technology Officer, FDIC Federal Credit Union; Anthony E. "Rusty" Vellek, Consultant; and John Link, Treasurer, Agriculture Federal Credit Union prepared an interactive workshop to address issues of business continuity planning, information technology management and security within several Nicaraguan credit unions. Hosting the group were; Juan Altamirano, CEO of CSO; Chris McHugh, CFO of CSO; and the staff of the Nicaraguan Credit Union Central. The Conference took place on Thursday, August 25th at the Princess Hotel in Managua. In attendance were managers and directors from each of the 12 credit unions affiliated with the Nicaraguan CSO, totaling approximately 60 participants. Most participants came from out of town and traveled considerable lengths to get there.

As their operations are more sophisticated, Nicaraguan credit unions are now becoming familiar with the use of financial software that integrates their accounting processes with their operations. Earlier in the partnership, the DC League conducted a similar exercise with CSO on the importance of backup routines, anti-virus protection, network security and general information security, but lacked an adequate, defined framework of policies and procedures regarding these and other areas of information technology security. The August trip was planned after CSO sought assistance from the DC League in planning solutions in the IT areas.

To maximize participation by Nicaraguan credit union leaders, training was scheduled to take place in Managua, requiring that a team from the DC League travel to Nicaragua to plan and facilitate the training event during the week of August 21, 2005. The training session was divided into two parts: a morning session devoted to business continuity/contingency planning issues, and an afternoon session addressing issues of IT management and security. Following the training session, the consultants presented the CSO staff with additional materials and suggestions for following up the sessions.

Prior to the conference the visitors were given an orientation on the Nicaraguan credit union system, the WOCCU project (including aggregate financial data for the participating credit unions) and the Nicaraguan CU Central. This information was invaluable to develop a contextual foundation for understanding the movement and developing the content of the presentation.

One of the credit unions the league visited was Iaguei Credit Union. Since last year, Iaguei had absorbed another credit union that had suffered severe financial setbacks. The credit union also had experienced some recent storm damage which gave the team a chance to discuss contingency planning issues.

Following the site visits, the team worked with the CSO staff at their office to finish preparation of materials for the presentations, in some cases using materials brought from the United States and adapting them to the Nicaraguan environment, and developing additional materials (especially for the IT management and security session) based on information gathered during our visit.

In addition to the training and materials presented, the CSO has a great opportunity to build on our efforts and to strengthen its own organization and the credit unions that it serves by providing additional services in the IT and planning areas. These and similar initiatives can help strengthen the Nicaraguan credit unions, as well as enhance the role of the CSO in serving its members.

"We departed Nicaragua, much more cognizant of the contextual differences between our two movements, and more aware of the cooperative principles that link us," said Link on behalf of the group. "We wish our Nicaraguan friends continued success."

*This release contains significant portions of a partnership progress report written by Wilfred Morgan, Anthony Vellek, and John Link of the DC League.

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.

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