World Council, Ukrainian group tackle CUs' challenges

April 16, 2015
LVIV, Ukraine (4/17/15)--Operating a credit union can be challenging. Now imagine doing so in a time of war.

Click to view larger imageFrom left: Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Unions president/CEO; Grzergorz Bierecki, World Council chair; Petro Kozynets, Ukrainian National Association of Savings and Credit Unions president; and Volodymyr Sydorovsky, Anisia CU chair. (World Council of Credit Unions Photo)
Such is the situation facing credit unions in Ukraine, a country that has been locked in a battle with Russian-backed militants for more than a year. 

The World Council of Credit Unions' board of directors recently traveled to Lviv, Ukraine, to meet with the Ukrainian National Association of Savings and Credit Unions (UNASCU) to learn more about the challenges facing the nation's credit unions as Ukraine grapples with this difficult time.

UNASCU President Petro Kozynets and CEO/General Manager Ludmila Kravchenko told the board that the political conflict, shifting regulatory and accounting requirements, shortage of liquidity, declining growth, and low-consumer awareness have negatively affected the Ukrainian credit union's ability to serve its members.

"Naturally, credit unions have much more trust than the banks, so there is an opportunity for their expansion," Kozynets said. "Yet, (the) overall situation very much depends on when the war is over."

The Ukrainian credit union movement's immediate goal is to procure new sources of funds, the representatives told the board. An improved regulatory and legislative framework is also a top priority.

Though it's hard to imagine that anything is more concerning for the nation's credit unions than the conflict with Russia.

Over the last six years, UNASCU said, credit unions have lost roughly 1.7 members and more than 70% of assets because of the war and the subsequent devaluation of the country's currency. 

But the board reported that despite the recent hardship, Ukrainian's credit unions still hold optimism that they can help people by providing high-quality financial services, especially as banks continue to cut down their activities.

"Since 1992, World Council has worked to grow and strengthen Ukraine's credit union system," said Brian Branch, World Council president/CEO. "Despite various challenges, we have come a long way and will continue to provide support."