Idaho Credit Union League representatives visited Moldova in Eastern Europe in May to sign a new international partnership agreement.
The agreement with Moldova’s Central Association of Savings and Credit Associations (CASCA) is the newest of 20 international partnerships managed by the World Council of Credit Unions. The goal of these partnerships is to unite credit unions around the world to share ideas, best practices, and technical expertise.
“Exchanges like this are extremely valuable,” says Shane Berger, chairman of the Idaho League and president/CEO of $195 million asset Beehive Federal Credit Union in Rexburg. Berger also is a member of CUNA’s World Leadership Development Committee.
“We’re learning from each other about the different ways to approach our work,” Berger notes, “while at the same time communing over the similar challenges we face, such as increasing youth membership, emerging technologies, and protecting small credit unions.”
World Council fosters partnerships across the globe. U.S. credit unions and leagues have relationships with credit union leaders in places such as Guatemala, Russia, Ghana, Peru, and the Dominican Republic
Partners provide guidance and expertise to each other on many international activities. Past partnerships, for example, have led to cooperative advances on projects such as:
“The partnerships program is a true reflection of what World Council does, which is connect the global movement to share strengths and improve lives and communities through credit unions,” says Victor Corro, World Council vice president.
In the new partnership, the Idaho League and World Council seek to provide a variety of operational and technical assistance to Moldovan credit union organizations. The assistance may take many forms, including savings growth strategies, regulatory support, and marketing assistance to bolster consumers’ awareness of and participation in credit unions.
Cornerstone Credit Union League, representing nearly 600 credit unions in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, has engaged in a number of international partnerships.
And they‘re true partnerships, says Cornerstone President/CEO Dick Ensweiler. “We live in an ever-shrinking world. What credit unions are doing today in one country, others will be doing soon. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
“The World Council knows the other countries and the strengths and weaknesses of their systems,” he continues. “They can create partnerships where best practices can benefit both parties.”
That’s a lesson Ensweiler says he and Cornerstone learned during their first partnership with Caja Popular Mexicana (CPM). With more than one million members, it’s Mexico’s largest credit union.
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The 2002 partnership also included the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues.
CPM wanted to learn about collections, marketing, and information technology, while the American credit unions wanted to better understand how to market to Hispanics in the U.S.
“It was a true partnership where we would help each other. It lasted about eight years and we both deemed it a success,” Ensweiler says. “Understanding the culture in Mexico and CPM was a fascinating learning experience. CPM wanted a partnership, not a ‘here is how you should do it’ mentality from us.
“The credit union leadership and staff are really good at what they do, and by being open, we learned at least as much as they did,” he adds.
Cornerstone would form two more international partnerships.
A chance meeting and quick friendship between Ensweiler and Glen Francis, president of the Jamaica Cooperative Credit Union League, led to an ongoing relationship. This time, the two approached World Council for support instead of the other way around.
“Glen and I really hit it off and said, ‘We have much in common so let’s stay in touch,’” Ensweiler says. “We did, and soon found it would be helpful to have credit unions in Jamaica and Texas create partnerships to learn best practices from each other.”
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World Council set up a third partnership with SICREDI—a network of more than 100 credit unions in Brazil—about six years ago.
“Their totally integrated system has brand recognition and mandated collaboration, which is the envy of all of us in the U.S.,” Ensweiler says. “So, we learn much from each other in this active partnership.”
Cornerstone has gained new ideas, perspectives, and even more passion for collaboration and the credit union movement through these international partnerships, which Ensweiler describes as “eye-opening to our credit unions.”
Fresh ideas materialize after studying how these systems operate and how they differ from the day-to- day operations of U.S. credit unions, he explains.
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