World Council Young Credit Union Professionals’ (WYCUP) alumni and scholarship winners looked back on their achievements and ahead to future growth during a virtual 20th anniversary celebration featuring stories about the program’s influence from across the globe.
WYCUP began in 2001 as a World Council of Credit Unions' scholarship program to promote and engage the next generation of credit union leaders in the international credit union movement. Today, the program has become a platform for young credit union professionals—including current recipients, alumni and past scholarship nominees worldwide—to connect, share and live the credit union values of cooperation and people helping people.
“We think globally, but we act locally. That’s just what we do. At the local level you’re working to expand financial inclusion and provide a values-based alternative for your communities. And together we’re having a global impact. Together we’re stronger. And together we’re inspiring hope for a global community,” said Thom Belekevich, World Council of Credit Unions’ WYCUP Director and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Influencers helped WYCUP grow
Credit union influencers who took the initiative to build the network and increase its global membership, scope and visibility shared stories about how it has grown over the years.
Ben Janzen, Director of Values Integration at Kindred Credit Union in Toronto, won a WYCUP Scholarship at the 2013 World Credit Union Conference (WCUC) in Ottawa, Canada—good for an all-expense paid trip to WCUC 2014 in Gold Coast, Australia.
“When I heard people from the Caribbean, from Africa, from Australia, North America, South America and Asia talk about how they were delivering financial services and how they were meeting the needs of communities—I thought, ‘wow, there’s all these young people and we should continue to be connected beyond this conference,” said Janzen, who became a founding member of the first WYCUP Advisory Committee in 2015—which looked at different approaches credit unions around he world were taking to engage young people in building the movement.
Brandi Stankovic, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Operating Officer for Advisory Solutions at CU Solutions Group, talked about how being a part of WYCUP has changed her life—so much so that she wanted to see it reach its full potential.
Stankovic wrote a business plan in 2017 to take WYCUP beyond just a scholarship program for young professionals.
“And that business plan was based on three fundamental principles: to generate revenue, create an infrastructure for growth and to invigorate momentum,” said Stankovic, who sits on the WYCUP Steering Committee. “The program, of course, must be self-sustaining. And in the last three years we’ve raised nearly $200,000—and the future is bright.”
A network of networks
WYCUP has influenced several of its alumni to start regional and national young credit union professional organizations of their own. Many of them talked about how that influence has only helped to grow the global network.
The Association of British Credit Unions Limited (ABCUL) launched its Young Professionals Network in 2019—and already has 123 members.
“So we’re delighted with the start, we’re delighted to give young people a chance show their worth within our sector and show that they’re leaders of today, and we’ll continue to support that as we go forward,” said ABCUL CEO Robert Kelly.
ABCUL featured a number of its YPN members during the webinar as well, including Ruksana Kauser of Calderdale Credit Union.
“My proudest moment to date is working as a young ambassador for the credit union foundation board, where I put forward the idea for a youth forum within the credit union movement,” said Kauser.
2019 WYCUP Scholarship Recipient Maureen Njoroge is the Members Engagement and Outreach Coordinator for the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA). She helped to launch the African Youth and Coops Network through ACCOSCA last October.
“This network was formed to elevate the voice of the youth within cooperatives in Africa and start awareness amongst them on the need to join credit unions, thus reducing the gap in financial inclusivity,” said Njoroge.
A bright future
Despite how far WYCUP has come, Belekevich and the other speakers all agree it still has a lot of potential for future growth.
“I have a vision where WYCUP is a truly global network of networks—connecting young people around the world who recognize the power of the cooperative model, leveraging our shared resources and experience to empower the next generation of leaders, and creating a force for diversity, equity and inclusion," said Belekevich.
By working together over the next year, Belekevich believes WYCUP can grow to represent a global network of 10,000 connected, global professionals.
“If that doesn’t inspire hope for a global community—I don’t know what will."