California’s Jolette Named WOCCU Chair

Tuesday General Session Speakers Offer Strategies to Attract New Markets

July 28, 2009

Organization: World Council of Credit Unions
Phone: (608) 395-2000
Barry Jolette and Melvin Edwards
New WOCCU Chair Barry Jolette (left) accepts the chain of office from Melvin Edwards. 

BARCELONA, Spain—Barry Jolette, president and CEO of San Mateo Credit Union in Redwood City, Calif., USA, has been named chair of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Jolette succeeds Melvin Edwards, who has represented the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions on the WOCCU board of directors for the past 11 years.

Jolette received the chain of office from Edwards during Tuesday's general session at WOCCU's World Credit Union Conference in Barcelona. Joining Jolette as new executive committee officers of the board were Manuel Rabines, Peru, as 1st vice chair; Grzegorz Bierecki, Poland, as 2nd vice chair; Mark Bailey, Ireland, as treasurer; and Penny Reeves, Canada, as secretary. Jolette accepted the position, calling for increased commitment from WOCCU members.

"Thomas Edison once said, ‘If we do all that we are capable of doing, we will astonish ourselves at what we can accomplish,'" Jolette said. "I've always been astonished at how far credit unions have come and how much value you bring to your members."

In other changes to the WOCCU board, Edwards and Neil McDonald, New Zealand, both announced that they would resign their positions as directors at the close of this year's conference. The balance of their terms, which expire in July 2010, will be filled by Yvonne Ridguard, Jamaica, representing the Caribbean Confederation, and Marlene Shiels, Scotland, representing the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd.

Following the presentation of the new board, two executives from credit unions in the United States and Canada discussed strategies for reaching new, often underserved market niches. Luis Pastor, president and CEO of Latino Community Credit Union, Durham, N.C., USA, and Eric Dillon, COO of Servus Credit Union, Alberta, Canada, explained how their credit unions began serving Hispanics and youth members, respectively.

Eric Dillon, Mark Degotardi and Luis Pastor
Luis Pastor (right) describes Latino Community Credit Union's growth strategies while fellow panelist Eric Dillon (left) and moderator Mark Degotardi look on.

"We didn't know the challenges that we faced," said Pastor, whose credit union was established to help stem the tide of growing violence against Durham's Latinos, many of whom carried cash because they lacked relationships with financial institutions. "I was asked if I had a plan B in case of failure, but I didn't even have a plan A."

What Pastor did have, he said, was a ready market waiting to be served. Latino Community grew quickly in size and sophistication, earning a Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Organization from the National Credit Union Foundation in 2003 for making financial services available to Durham's Latino community.

At Servus, Canada's third-largest credit union, concern over the graying of its membership prompted the establishment of "Young and Free Alberta." The award-winning program reaches out to potential members age 17-25 through a unique approach characterized by specific marketing imagery, products catering to younger members, an increased online presence and a spokesperson recruited from the same demographic group.

"These were members who did not want to belong to their parents' or their grandparents' institution," Dillon said. "We created a credit union within a credit union."

Both speakers said earning trust with their specific market segments was a critical factor to growth. They also cited a need for understanding the nature of the "community" that each credit union was attempting to serve.

"The definition of the term ‘community' has changed, especially for young people," said Dillon. "Your community is no longer made up of the people next door; today, it's wrapped around personal values and the concept of people helping people."

"Young and Free Alberta" has been so successful that it has spawned similar programs in Texas and South Carolina.

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 300+ technical assistance programs in 89 countries. Worldwide, 68,882 credit unions in 109 countries serve 235 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at

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