Dominican Republic and Wisconsin ignite new partnership

The Wisconsin Credit Union League and Asociacion de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Credito sign an International Partnership agreement through WOCCU's International partnerships department at Wauwatosa Credit Union in Wauwatosa, Wis.

On Tuesday, November 6, six representatives from Asociacion de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Credito (AIRAC) traveled to Wisconsin to meet with the Wisconsin Credit Union League and experience technical visits at credit unions throughout the state of Wisconsin. AIRAC and WCUL have been pursuing a partnership through WOCCU’s International Partnership Program. During this trip, a partnership between the two entities was made a reality through the signing of a partnership agreement.

In Pewaukee, WI, the representatives met with Brett Thompson, CEO of WCUL, and were given a presentation about the history, function, and operations of the league. Afterwards, the group was given technical tours of the headquarters and two branches of Wisconsin’s largest credit union, Landmark Credit Union. The representatives also made a stop at one of the Wisconsin Shared Service Center to learn about how shared branching works in the U.S.

The final stop of the first day was Wauwatosa Credit Union where the group viewed credit union operations and met with Dean Wilson, Board Chairman of WCUL. There, the group signed the partnership agreement.

On the next day, the representatives made their way to Madison, WI to visit Heritage Credit Union where they received presentations about IT, targeted marketing, and online banking.

The representatives were also able to learn about the regulation and laws that credit unions face in Wisconsin from their meeting with the Department of Financial Institutions where they were able to converse with Lorrie Keating Heinemann, Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Financial Institutions and Suzanne Cowan, Director of the Office of Credit Unions. The group finished the day by visiting the office of WOCCU.

The group spent the final day in Marshfield, WI and Appleton, WI visiting Marshfield Medical Center Credit Union and Prospera Credit Union. During those visits, the representatives were able to have one on one discussions with local credit union CEOs and board members.

By the end of the visit, both parties were pleased with the opportunities the new partnership will bring and have hopes of many reciprocal exchanges and visits between the two countries.

Written by Josh Fetting, International Partnerships Program Specialist


North Carolina signs partnership agreement with Caja Morelia-Valladolid

The Caja Morelia representatives stand out front a North Carolina credit union after a technical tour.

On October 29, 2007, twelve delegates from Caja Morelia Valladolid traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina to sign a partnership agreement with the North Carolina Credit Union League (NCCUL) through World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program. This will be the North Carolina’s second WOCCU partnership. Its first partnership is with the South American country of Suriname.

The agreement will allow a free exchange of information between the two entities. Both are looking for ways to better serve their members. The NCCUL is especially interested in tapping knowledge that would help them to secure the Hispanic market, focusing on issues like service delivery, branch design, and marketing.

During the trip, the delegates also visited three local credit unions in the Triad-area, including Premier Federal Credit Union, Truliant Federal Credit Union, and Allegacy Federal Credit Union. During these visits, the delegates were able to discuss topics such as information technology systems, branches, points of service, and accounting systems with credit union staff and executives.

Juan Juarez, CEO of Caja Morelia and one of the visitors, is most interested in learning about new technology. One issue that his credit union faces in Mexico is not being able to offer ATM service to Caja Morelia's members.

The new partners are also planning other credit union visits in other parts of the state for the future. Also in the works, the NCCUL is looking to do a return visit to Caja Morelia in Mexico.

Written by Josh Fetting, International Partnerships Program Specialist

Oregon discusses strategic planning with Belize at ACUC

Thirteen Belize credit unions attended Mid Oregon Credit Union’s Annual Credit Union Convention in Fort George, Oregon to celebrate International Credit Union Day and also discuss strategic planning for the future. Mid Oregon Credit Union’s Vice President, Kyle Frick, spoke to the 180 attendees of the convention about similarities of the credit union movement in mid-Oregon and the country of Belize in relation to history and growth comparisons. Using these comparisons, examples of U.S. models, and WOCCU models from Rwanda, Kenya and Columbia, Mr. Frick offered constructive solutions for bringing services to all credit unions through joint agreements.

Mr. Frick’s main message was for the credit unions to develop ideas based on what successes other credit unions were having. The challenge here lied with the need to progress with a strategic marketing plan that included financial literacy, public relations, and building community relationships.

To jump start people’s ideas, Mr. Frick reminded the attendees why credit unions are special and what makes them different from other financial institutions. Many of the advantages come from being a not-for-profit institution. Mr. Frick boasted the ability for credit unions to offer lower loan rates and higher savings rates, the member ownership aspect, and the opportunity for the members to be involved in volunteer leadership.

Mr. Frick concluded the convention by reminding the attendees of empowerment that they are instilling into their communities and the knowledge, skills, and financial help that they are able to provide to those people.

Currently, Northwest Corporate Federal Credit Union in Portland, Oregon is in the midst of planning a visit to Belize in order to pursue a possible partnership with the credit unions there.

Written by Josh Fetting, International Partnerships Program Specialist


Partnerships share experience and counsel at Partnership Workshop

One day after International Credit Union Day, World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) held their annual International Partnerships Workshop. Representatives from nine international partnerships along with representatives from WOCCU and Credit Union National Association met to discuss their respective international partnerships. The representatives are involved in WOCCU’s International Partnerships Program. WOCCU’s International Partnerships program facilitates networking experiences between developed and developing credit union movements through delegation visits, meetings, internships and volunteer assignments.

Victor Corro, International Partnerships Manager WOCCU, gave opening remarks and a short overview of the International Partnership Department status. Currently, WOCCU has 22 signed partnerships and 7 progressing to sign up.

Afterwards, the representatives gave briefings on their partnership experiences and shared knowledge about the challenges and successes that they have faced. The presentations were mostly done in a casual manner allowing for discussion amongst the different partnerships. The representatives were able to exchange counsel and information in regards to handling certain themes with their partners. Some popular topics discussed were shared branching, lobbying, information technology platforms, and branding.

The workshop also featured special presentations. Janette Klaehn, Senior Manager of Communications WOCCU gave the first presentation which was about engaging others in the international credit union movement. She spoke about marketing tactics and media that can be used to plug their partnerships every chance they get. The representatives stated that they were frequently searching for more ways to publicize their partnership internally and externally.

The next presentation was by Oscar Hidalgo, General Manager of CoopeServidores of Costa Rica. Oscar spoke about the credit union situation in Costa Rica, gave the history and statistical data of their credit union system, FEDEAC, and also briefed the group about his credit union and the partnership they have with Family Security Credit Union in Alabama. Oscar Hidalgo had been in Alabama on a partnership visit the week before the workshop.

Finally, Valerie Breunig, Executive Director of the Worldwide Foundation WOCCU, briefly addressed the group on leveraging the International Development Fund (IDF) to support your international partnership.

Overall, the workshop presented a great opportunity for all to discuss, share, and learn about the partnership process and what it entails. If you would like information on attending next year’s International Partnerships Workshop or the International Partnerships Program, please contact Victor Corro at vcorro@woccu.org.

Written by Josh Fetting, International Partnerships Program Specialist


Immersion program teaches culture, language and marketing

A group of participants stand in front of one of Caja Popular Mexicana's branches during their internship.

Starting on September 16th, World Council of Credit Unions’ International Partnerships department held their first-annual Hispanic Marketing Immersion Program. Eighteen participants from nine states participated. The program offered either a one- or two-week option. The program consisted of a combination of language classes, home stays with Mexican families, and practical internships in a Mexican credit union (or cajas, as they are called in Mexico).

This special combination allowed for the participants to fully immerse themselves in Mexican culture, while at the same time learning the tactics and strategies that the Mexican Cajas use in their marketing campaigns. They explored marketing devices such as the use of volunteer marketing committees, branding, mascots, financial education materials and cultural holiday celebrations.

The participants began their days with four to five hours of intensive Spanish courses based on their language ability. After classes, the participants returned home for an authentic Mexican lunch and had the opportunity to practice what they had learned in class.

The afternoon held a portrayed a different atmosphere with the practical internship at one of the four Mexican cajas: Caja Popular Mexicana, Caja Libertad, Caja Alianza and Caja Morelia Valladolid. Each caja offered a different experience about credit union operations, marketing tactics, microfinance opportunities and financial products that meet the needs of working families.

The internships took place in a variety of environments and branches, showing the diversity of the Mexican market and the strategies needed to market services to the people. Activities were also very diverse, consisting of presentations, operational tours, and meetings with marketing teams and executives.

The Texas and California leagues have a partnership with Caja Popular Mexicana through WOCCU’s International Partnership Program; the Arizona Credit Union System is partnered with Caja Libertad; and the Credit Union Association of New Mexico has a partnership with Caja Alianza. The Hispanic Marketing Immersion Program was a direct result of the partnership deliverables for 2007.

The participants also had the chance to partake in a workshop in Guanajuato, September 22-23, which included presentations by all four cajas and visits to local businesses financed by microentreprise loans.

In light of the program’s great success, the next Hispanic Marketing Immersion Program will take place in Mexico’s heartland, September 21-October 4, 2008. Stay tuned to WOCCU’s website for more details: http://www.woccu.org/.

Written by Josh Fetting, International Partnerships Program Specialist


Brazil and Florida meet to discuss prospective partnership

Guy Hood, President of Florida Credit Union League, welcomes the Brazilian delegates to Florida.

On July 25, 2007, delegates from the Brazilian credit union movement, SIDCREDI, travelled to Tallahassee and Jacksonville, FL to meet with the Florida Credit Union League (FCUL) about prospective plans for a partnership through World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program. The delegates were on their way to the World Credit Union Conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

On the first day, Guy Hood, President of FCUL, along with a few other branch managers welcomed the delegates at their headquarters in Tallahassee. The opportunity allowed for the two credit union movements to familiarize themselves with each other and share common challenges and successes. The discussions particularly focused on the challenges of lobbying in today’s world and dealing with politics.

The delegates also had the privilege to get to know Southeast Corporate very intimately. The group was able to tour both their Jacksonville and their Tallahassee offices. At the Tallahassee office, the group also met with William Birdwell, Southeast Corporate CEO and President to discuss the services offered by Southeast Corporate, such as share draft processing, virtual deposit, and a corporate synergies service. The group was specifically interested in the advanced IT system and Southeast’s ability to offer low cost investment opportunities to the credit unions.

At the Jacksonville office, the group was given an in-depth presentation on all of Southeast Corporate’s services led by Gisli Magnusson, Member Relations Manager of Southeast Corporate. The presenters included many of Southeast Corporate’s Vice-Presidents and Directors. The delegates were particularly fascinated by the check processing system and how the images are sent electronically.

The group was also able to visit Community First Credit Union of Florida and visit one of its local branches.

The delegates left Florida with a new hope of an international partnership between the two entities. There are plans in the works for FCUL delegates to visit SIDCREDI in Brazil in late March 2008.

The delegates included: Graziela Reis Bogorni, Valdir da Costa Silva, Luiz Emídio Dantas, João Carlos Spenthof, Sadi Beledelli, Ricardo Ce, Alcenor Pagnussatt, Manfred Alfonso Dasenbrock, Luis Roberto Baggio, José Olírio Alberton, Jair Kauffman, Orlando Muffato, Anildo Pedro Broch, and Ciro Bavaresco. The group included delegates from 4 different Brazilian states and numerous different SIDCREDI branches. Most of the delegates are vice-presidents or presidents of a branch.

Written by Josh Fetting, International Partnerships Program Specialist


Colorado shares shared branching expertise with Ecuador

(Pictured is (l to r): Backrow: Victor Corro,International Partnerships Manager WOCCU; Jose Guillen, Cooperativa San Jose; Josh Fetting, Program Specialist WOCCU; Doug Burke, President of CUSN; Oscar Guzman, WOCCU Ecuador Project; Santiago Saavedra, WOCCU Ecuador Project; Steve Schaefer, Program Manager WOCCU Ecuador Project. Front row: Rosemary Paddock, Manager of Operations CUSN; Laura Pizzarelli, Vice-President of Corporation Relations CUSC; and Janet Meyers, Boardmember of Colorado Credit Union League Foundation.) Photo taken at RTC Conference in Quito, Ecuador.

On July 9th, Laura Pizzarelli, CUSC; Doug Burke, CUSN; Rosemary Paddock, CUSN; and Janet Meyers, CCULF, traveled to Ecuador to observe operations at three credit unions and attend a conference on shared branching. The four representatives spent the first two days traveling throughout Ecuador’s beautiful countryside while on their way to various Ecuadorian cooperatives. Colorado’s Credit Union Service Network has been partnered with one of Ecuador’s credit union networks, RTC, through World Council of Credit Union’s International Partnership program since 1999.

The group made their first stop in Chimbo, a small town outside of Riobamba. There, they were able to view and discuss the credit union’s operations with José Guillén, Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito San José CEO. Burke was able to assess changes that had taken place in that credit union since his last visit in mid-2006. San José had increased security and added air-conditioning in its IT department.

Afterwards, the group made their way to Riobamba to visit Accion Rural Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito and speak with its CEO, Mauricio Rivera. Rivera pointed out many unique features of this credit union, including their ability to provide micro-enterprise loans to Ecuador’s rural population. Of Accion Rural’s members, 93% live in rural areas.

After spending a night in Riobamba, the representatives had the privilege to get to know one of Ecuador’s more cultural cities, Cuenca. In Cuenca, they made a stop at Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito Juventud Ecuatoriana Progresista.

On the last day, the representatives were invited to give a presentation on their findings and suggestions at a credit union network conference in Quito, where 18 other Ecuadorian credit unions were in attendance. The theme of the conference was shared branching. The group had many good suggestions, such as implementing a “secret shopper” program, forming a national marketing committee, and providing standardized training procedures.

At the end of the presentation, an open forum was conducted to allow a real time exchange of information between the Ecuadorian credit unions and the U.S. credit unions. The end of the conference brought about many compliments from both sides of the table and many wishes for a continuance of the collaboration between these to movements for years to come.

Written by Josh Fetting, International Partnerships Program Specialist


Maryland & D.C. League lend Nicaragua expertise on Nominating Committee

On July 8th, John Link, Treasurer of Agriculture Federal Credit Union, and Michael Di Gennaro, a volunteer at Federal Reserve Board Federal Credit Union, both from Maryland & District of Columbia Credit Union Association (MDDCCUA) made a visit to Nicaragua’s Central Service Organization (CSO). The objective of their trip was to assist CSO with the process of forming a Nominating Committee and give a few pointers on governance. MDDCCUA and CSO have been partnered through World Council of Credit Union’s International Partnership program since 2002.

The big challenge here was finding a way to overcome Nicaragua’s unique credit union regulations. The pay-off would be helping to tackle one of the Nicaraguan credit union movement’s biggest problems with their governance. Due to some issues with governance, Nicaraguan credit unions typically experience high delinquencies and losses. Inadequate oversight has led to high expenditures in fixed assets, such as buildings and has resulted in a loss of capital.

Link and Di Gennaro had three days to gather information and construct a presentation to help Nicaraguan credit unions in the process of nominating qualified candidates for their boards. The presentation was presented in front of a group of credit unions. The first presentation was focused on “first principles” governance with a main message of “Boards Govern, Managers Manage, and Members Own.” The presentations also covered everything from the history of credit unions, volunteer and staff roles, and, of course, the Nominating Committee.

Link and Di Gennaro felt that they had reached the goal of helping the Nicaraguans overcome their misconceptions of the Nominating Committee and had given them a model from which they could produce positive results. However, the Nicaraguan movement must still form their concepts in order to overcome their unique institutional barrier.

Written by Josh Fetting, International Partnerships Program Specialist


Nicaragua and MDDCCUA renew partnership!

The Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association recently welcomed visitors from the Nicaraguan Central Service Organization, Juan Altamirano, CEO of the CSO, and German Membreno, CSO Vice Chairman and CEO of Dinamica Credit Union. The trip included attending MDDCCUA’s Annual Meeting and Convention, where the theme was “CSI: Common Sense Innovations” – highlighting the marriage of the practical with the cutting edge. Approximately 700 credit union board members and managers were in attendance. The visitors were invited to participate in the convention’s educational sessions and also in several visits to credit unions in the Baltimore-Washington area.

MDDCCUA CEO Michael Beall, who hosted the visit with Sarah Turner, MDDCCUA Vice President of Strategic Alliances, explained, “The topics covered during this convention—growth, governance and services—are challenges both MDDCUA and CSO face. Through the partnership exchange, we can overcome these challenges together.”

CSO and the former DC Credit Union League established a partnership through the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) International Partnerships program in 2002. The visit marked the first meeting between CSO and the new MDCCUA since the DC and Maryland credit union leagues merged last year.

In July, MDDCCUA will send two volunteers to Nicaragua to provide training on nominating committee and governance best practices. In coming years, MDDCCUA will provide technical assistance to CSO on shared branching, and CSO will work with credit unions in DC and Maryland to enhance outreach to immigrant groups.

The partners concluded that the visit had an important impact on both sides, and displayed one of the most valuable outcomes of a partnership, the bonds that grow between the people of different cultures, especially when they have the commitment of credit union development.


Villarreal and Corro Visit Superintendency of Banks in Panama

Jacinto Villarreal, COFEP's CEO and Victor Miguel Corro, WOCCU's international partnerships manager recently visited the Superientendency of Banks in Panama (SBP), During their visit Corro and Villarreal explained the international partnership between the Iowa Credit Union League and COFEP, WOCCU's member in Panama.

Superintentendent Olegario Barrelier was briefed on the concern of the lack of specific credit union regulation and oversight in the country. Barrelier and SBP management team expressed awarenes of the lack of adequate oversight and committed to helping Iowa and Panama find ways to strenghten the regulatory and examination framework for credit unions in the country.

WOCCU will share its Model Credit Union Law with the Superintendency of Banks. IPACOOP is the Panamanian Goverment Agency that oversees cooperatives in the country. Credit Unions are under IPACOOP's watch.
Panama and Iowa credit union movements have been engaged in a partnership for almost three years. Several lobbying efforts have been conducted at high levels in the Panamanian goverment to create awareness of best regulatory and examination practices when it comes to credit unions.