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Global womens networks inaugural outreach in Kenya
NAIROBI, Kenya (11/21/11)--Credit unions are a global movement no matter where they
Joe Finnigan, board treasurer, Vermont FCU, discusses the World Council of Credit Unions' Kenya strategy during the recent Global Women's Leadership Network engagement program.
are located and supporting other institutions is the responsibility of all credit unions. Those  are among the key lessons learned by participants of World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) Global Women's Leadership Network's inaugural engagement program trip to Kenya.

"There's no question that credit unions have a responsibility and role to play in helping smaller institutions at home and abroad," said Joe Finnigan, board treasurer for the Vermont FCU, Burlington, Vt. He and other program participants visited a variety of enterprises supporting Kenya's many small savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs, or credit unions).  "We can and should be making a difference," Finnigan added.

The network's engagement program provides members of the international credit union movement experiences to share ideas from their different systems. Participants learned about WOCCU activities that support and foster growth among Kenya's SACCOS, shared their expertise to strengthen the development program's implementation, and evaluated ways to adapt the information and apply it back home.

Mark Cifuentes, right, senior vice president of  WOCCU Services Group, discusses WOCCU's application service provider program supporting small Kenyan credit unions, with Joe Finnigan, left, Vermont FCU, and Hank Hubbard, Communicating Arts CU.
Participants met with staff of WOCCU's Kenya program and its for-profit arm, WOCCU Services Group, in their Nairobi office and officials of the Kenyan Union of Savings & Credit Cooperatives, Kenya's credit union trade group and a WOCCU member.

The group also traveled to Kisumu to visit Busia Compassionate Centre, a credit union-supported orphanage on the Ugandan border. The visits provided insight into how SACCOs reach underserved markets, and showcased their outreach and  their increasing capabilities through WOCCU technology applications, said WOCCU President/CEO Brian Branch. "Kenya's credit unions also have come to play an important role in the lives of their members," Branch said. "There are many good lessons to learn in Kenya."

In the program, participants:

  • Learned about challenges facing Kenya's more than 4,000 credit unions, many of which are small.
  • Discussed WOCCU's application service provider (AP), which allows credit unions access to affordable banking solutions by connecting them with a central computer platform in WOCCU's Nairobi office.
  • Addressed using cellphones linked to a mobile money transfer service to provide members access to financial transaction services.
Hank Hubbard, president/CEO of Communicating Arts CU, Detroit, is greeted by an orphan at Busia Compassionate Centre in Kenya. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions).
Trip participant Hank Hubbard, president/CEO of Communicating Arts CU (CACU) , Detroit, noted the cell phone concept would be useful to his credit union. CACU's past efforts to reach its marginalized member base, 90% of whom are African American, were based on the community development credit union's attempts to provide more affordable versions of existing services. The trip to Kenya has changed how he approaches that process.

"Brainstorming during the engagement program has put a crack in my thought processes about how best to serve our members," Hubbard said. "The trip has caused me to take a look at our operations from a different angle, and I will now be thinking about new strategies that aren't necessarily tied to traditional financial service delivery," he added.

In addition to Finnigan and Hubbard, program participants included: Gene Brody, president/CEO of Bay Ridge FCU, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Linda Darling, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Suncoast Schools FCU, Tampa, Fla.; Linda Hardy, compliance officer, and Sandra Paynter, financial services representative, of Consolidated CU, Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island, Canada; and Stacey Walker, volunteer with Xcel FCU, Forest Hills, N.Y.
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