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European financial experts visit northwest CUs
OREGON CITY, Ore. (4/18/12)--Financial experts and policy advisers serving nine European Union countries visited Clackamas FCU, Oregon City, Ore., as part of a multi-city fact-finding tour of U.S. financial markets. The delegation wanted to explore the differences between credit unions and banks, and how credit unions navigated the global financial crisis that began in 2008.

The "European Regional Project" participants were invited to the U.S. through the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA promotes international mutual understanding through a wide range of academic, cultural, professional and sports exchange programs.

The program was arranged by the World Affairs Council of Oregon, a member of the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), under the sponsorship of the IVLP.

Countries represented included Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and the United Kingdom. The delegates are employed in high-level roles in their native countries such as advisers to prime ministers, portfolio strategists and parliament members.

The team visited the headquarters of Clackamas FCU, where they saw personal service in action, while credit union members conducted financial transactions in the lobby. They also met with credit union leadership and representatives of the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), which represents credit unions in Washington and Oregon.

Led by Clackamas FCU President Diann Owen and senior managers of the 26,000-member credit union, the participants learned how credit unions remained safe and sound financial institutions throughout the financial crisis, with well-managed risks and investment strategies.

"The opportunity to meet and engage in dialogue with financial experts from these various European countries" was very worthwhile, Owen said. "It was interesting to exchange financial concepts, models and policies with them, as well as learn more about the credit union structure in their prospective countries."

Owen and the Clackamas FCU team walked the visitors through the cooperative model and gave examples of how member loyalty and service are fostered in their locally operated credit unions. There are no shareholder dividends to pay and each account holder gets to vote for the volunteers who serve on the board of directors, giving local consumers a unique voice in the financial arena, the visitors learned.

"The cooperative financial services model is inspiring to learn about, and even more so when it's possible to see it in action, in a real credit union," said Kasey Rockwell, NWCUA director of outreach programs.

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