In recognition of his 50 years of service as a worldwide voice for the credit union movement and his tireless work in creating stable financial systems in Latin America, the National Credit Union Foundation has named Angel V. Castro, president of Castro y Asociados, as the recipient of a 2018 Herb Wegner Memorial Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement.
Castro’s award will be one of four Herb Wegner Memorial Awards presented at a special fundraising event hosted by the Foundation at the Marriott Marquis Washington on Feb. 26 in conjunction with the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). Registration for dinner tickets and sponsorships will be available on the Foundation website later this year.
"Our committee was unanimous in their praise and admiration for Angel's commitment to the credit union system worldwide," said John Gregoire, chair of the Foundation's Wegner Awards Selection Committee and President of The ProCon Group. "Angel also has a special place in his heart for this award as he actually worked with Herb Wegner in Panama, later even helping bring Wegner to CUNA."
From the beginning of Castro’s experiences in Latin America’s cooperative sphere, he realized that the U.S. model of consumer credit based poverty reduction would not fit the needs of the people he interacted with. His willingness to revisit the underlying assumptions of CUNA’s original strategies was crucial to their success in the region.
In Ecuador, working in the rural sector rather than the urban became the new emphasis and priority attention was to go to a new system component focusing on the organization of credit unions offering member access to credit for agriculture and other productive endeavors. By homing in on the need to focus upon activities that would better address the income generating ability of members, Castro and his colleagues adapted their operating model to the environment surrounding them. Additionally, Castro, while working with the CUNA Latin America Regional Office located in Panama, developed new credit union system components focused on centralized liquidity management and a computerized accounting data processing outsourcing service referred to as COFAC.
In 2000, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the World Council of Credit Unions, which is the highest honor an individual or organization can receive from the World Council.
Castro’s work with the Latin American Credit Union Confederation (COLAC) consistently advocated for robust training activities for credit union leaders and management personnel. In 1976, Castro headed the project initiative to organize FECOLAC, a non-profit foundation specializing in offering cooperative education and credit union operational training to credit union leaders and managers from all the Latin American countries.
While working as a volunteer in Ecuador, he trained many on the basis of the established principles at that time which had a significant flaw given that they were critical of the concept of “profit”. By 1979, he realized that clarifications were needed to avoid interpretations that all positive financial results of a credit union should be distributed to members and that the concept of reserves was not relevant to the operations of a financial cooperative.
His creative participation in the process of drafting the credit union principles adopted by the World Council in 1982 was particularly important to teaching people about credit union operations with a more financially sound and sustainable approach.
For more than four decades, Castro has been involved in the Mexican Caja Popular movement, a cooperative financial services network which was first promoted by the Catholic Church in the early 1950s. More than 500 Cajas Populares were organized as informal financial services providers under the umbrella of private non-profit organizations over the following fifty years.
In 1991, the Mexican Federal Government established a regulatory framework which listed the Cajas Populares as legally recognized savings and credit financial institutions. 131 Cajas Populares later merged under one corporate umbrella and sought authorization to operate with these services. In December 1992, Castro was contacted by the national confederation (CMCP) for consultation and project management to merge these Cajas.
By the end of 2016, Caja Popular Mexicana had over 2.3 million members, more than $2 billion in assets, with a national network of 474 branch outlets complemented with 200 automated tellers. The financial situation is steady and demonstrates positive operational performance under the supervision of the federal banking regulator authorities. Caja Popular Mexicana is recognized as the largest credit union operating in the Latin American Region.