World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) executives used the first full day of the 2023 World Credit Union Conference to stress the resiliency of credit unions in the face of of high inflation, regulatory challenges, migration and even war.
“These challenges test our resolve, but they also offer us an opportunity to meet those challenges and show our commitment to a shared purpose of putting people over profit. That is the credit union way,” said WOCCU President/CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde in her annual State of the Movement address.
Speaking during the first general session of WCUC 2023, McCarter LaBorde laid out the ways credit unions and financial cooperatives have helped their members stay resilient during a war in Ukraine, after an earthquake in Turkey and during an upswing of migration in Latin America.
“In one example, in Peru and Ecuador, where World Council has been working for almost five years now, credit unions are part of a national ecosystem, working with government, working with tech companies and municipalities to try to advance the economic inclusion of the most vulnerable citizens in those communities—working with migrants, especially with women, who have been forced to flee their home countries,” said McCarter LaBorde. “And this is a remarkable program, because it shows that even in the face of disruption, credit unions are part of bridging that gap and driving inclusive growth, even with those who are very hard to reach and often left behind.”
International Regulatory Update
WOCCU International Advocacy leaders built on the CEO’s messaging in their own Monday breakout session on how credit unions can stay resilient despite what future regulatory frameworks might look like on issues such as payments, AML/CFT and sustainable finance.
Panya Monford, WOCCU Assistant General Counsel of International Advocacy, who wrote the WOCCU guide, “What Credit Unions Should Know About Sustainable Finance”, earlier this year, advised attendees to prepare to respond to new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) reporting requirements in 2024.
“The purpose of IFRS S1 and S2 is to create common language for sustainability and climate-related disclosures. They want to create a baseline that everyone can follow,” said Monford.
Andrew Price, WOCCU Senior Vice President of International Advocacy and General Counsel, said the good news is that credit unions should be able to provide disclosures based on information that is reasonably available to them, which won’t require them to pay a consultant to gather outside data.
“I think that’s the biggest reason credit unions are going to be able to be compliant,” said Price, who advocated for the inclusion of that proportional language.
Fostering a resilient future for Ukraine
A Ukrainian credit union executive focused on the resilience of his members amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of his country during a breakout session organized by Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions.
“The first year of war, 2022, it was a shock. There was psychological, military and general uncertainty, so, of course people moved a lot, they didn’t want to take loans and they wanted to withdraw their deposits. But as we see the trend in 2023, the demand is growing for loans, especially small and medium enterprises. They want to resume their operations, especially in the agricultural sector,” said Volodymyr Sydorovskyy, CEO of Credit Union Anisia, based in Lviv, Ukraine.
Credit Union Anisia is one of 24 credit unions in Ukraine that partner with the USAID/WOCCU Credit for Agriculture Producers (CAP) Project, which works to expand access to agricultural loans for their members.
“When we compare them (partner credit unions) to the entire 123 credit unions across the sector, we are performing better. Our losses are smaller, our portfolios have better quality and the drop in assets, loans and deposits are much smaller than on average,” said Ewa Sierzynska, Chief of Party for the CAP Project.
Since February 2022, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions has raised nearly $2 million through its Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund and implemented seven relief programs totaling over $646,000 that have focused on providing immediate assistance to Ukrainian credit unions and their members. For more information, please see the WFCU Relief Results report.
To donate to the Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund, click here.
An ethical future
Monday also featured the first keynote address of the 2023 World Credit Union Conference. Alison Burns and James Taylor, “The Ethical Futurists”, previewed the promise and challenges of topics like sustainability, artificial intelligence and the future of business. They advised conference attendees to embrace technology to get ahead of future challenges.
“For some, this pace of change is too much. Hardly a week goes by when an AI billionaire or a politician warns us about some of the dangerous threats in these technologies. Those threats pose dangers to everything from jobs to data security to altering elections and financial inclusion,” said Taylor. “But what I think is more likely, is that that I think these technologies will actually augment our human curiosities. We look at them as new types of collaborative partners.”
Still to come
The 2023 World Credit Union Conference continues Monday afternoon with World Council of Credit Unions’ Annual General Meeting and the presentation of WOCCU’s 2023 Digital Growth Awards.