World Credit Union Conference Opens with Color, Splendor
WOCCU Chairman Stresses Member Service as CUs’ la Raison d’Être
HONG KONG—With the colorful unfurled flags of 48 countries leading the way, World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) yesterday opened its 2008 World Credit Union Conference at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre with lions dancing to the sound of Asian drumming, an engaging display that has become an annual tradition for the Madison, Wis.-based global credit union trade association. More than 1,300 attendees had gathered for this year's four-day event, co-hosted by the Credit Union League of Hong Kong and the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions.
Officials from the hosting organizations and Hong Kong government agencies welcomed attendees. WOCCU Chairman Melvin Edwards applauded those present for their dedication to credit union service and in recognition of what their efforts to attend this year's conference might say about their commitment to member service.
"The primary purpose of any such gathering is a realization of our identity and a reaffirmation of our purpose," said Edwards, who represents the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions, during his welcoming remarks. "As members of this unified body, we are one group and together we will achieve the mission which defines our reason for being here. It is la raison d'être, as we say in French, our ‘reason for existence' that means so much to us and to the members we serve."
Dignitary John C. Tsang, financial secretary for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, also welcomed participants, recognizing credit unions and WOCCU for their contributions to the financial wellbeing of middle- and low-income people worldwide. WOCCU's effort to bring its conference to Asia for the first time in 30 years says a great deal for the organization's commitment and the growth of Asian credit unions, he added.
|John Tsang, financial secretary for the Hong Kong Administrative region of China, addresses the WOCCU opening general session crowd.
"This conference is like the Olympics for credit unions," said Tsang, referencing the upcoming Beijing summer games in August. "We're deeply honored that WOCCU has chosen our city."
Prior to Sunday's opening ceremonies, WOCCU held several other meetings, including its sixth annual Regulators' Roundtable, which attracted 37 regulators from 18 countries across six continents. This two-day event convenes regulators from both mature and developing credit union systems to exchange ideas and regulatory best practices.
The regulators participated in wide-ranging discussions on topics such as the credit crisis and its impact on credit unions, off-site surveillance as a supervisory tool and supervising in a distressed environment. Most of the discussion focused on the day-to-day difficulties regulators face. Ushua Thorat, Central Bank of India's deputy governor and Saturday's keynote speaker, identified several of these in her presentation on the components of a strong supervisory system.
For many, if not most of the participants, the most valuable aspect of the roundtable was the opportunity it provided them to learn from one another and to share experiences. First time participant Loi Bakani, deputy governor and deputy registrar of Savings and Loan Societies for the Bank of Papua New Guinea, said the roundtable, "gave him valuable insight into the way that other regulators from around the world implement regulations and exercise their supervisory authority."
|WOCCU Chairman Melvin Edwards (left) listen as Liu Kwei-Kin, assistant director and registrar of credit unions in Hong Kong, makes a point.
While the regulators discussed policies, this year's nominees for WOCCU's Young Credit Union People Program (WYCUP) and other conference attendees age 35 and under spent Sunday discussing strategies for credit unions worldwide to attract and retain the younger members. Productive conversations developed from a SWOT analysis of marketing to the 18-35 market, with countries sharing personal stories of their own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in this area.
"It is apparent that no matter the country, we all face similar challenges," said Eleonora Zgonjanin Petrovik, 2007 WYCUP winner and a co-facilitator of the session with fellow 2007 WYCUP winner Izabela Rutkowska. "We need to take advantage of these similarities and learn from each other, if we want to make more headway with the younger credit union market." Zgonjanin Petrovik is employed by FULM Savings House, Macedonia, while Rutkowska is with SKOK Stefczyka in Poland.
The World Credit Union Conference, an annual event organized by WOCCU and its host member countries, runs through July 16.
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, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.
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Contact: Rebecca Carpenter
Organization: World Council of Credit Unions