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International Partnerships program adds two CUs
CORDOBA, Mexico (3/17/09)--Two innovative North American credit unions may pair up through World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program.
Click to view larger image Steve Blakely, Servus CU president/CEO (left), confers with a Caja Yanga financial representative during a transaction with one of the Mexican credit union's rural members.
The proposed partnership would be the first time a Canadian credit union has individually participated in the program with an institution in another country, WOCCU said. Officials from both Servus CU, in Alberta, Canada, and Caja Popular de Ahorros Yanga, S.C. de A.P. de R.L. de C.V., better known as Caja Yanga, in Veracruz, Mexico, agreed to implement the two-way flow of lessons in transaction technology, management strategies and credit union philosophy they will share as part of the new relationship. The fact that Servus CU has assets of nearly $8 billion and Caja Yanga has assets of about $20 million strengthens the relationship through exposure to different approaches they bring to member service, WOCCU said. “As your credit union grows larger it can sometimes be a challenge to maintain your co-operative roots,” said Steve Blakely, Servus CU’s president/CEO. “At Servus CU, we believe deeply in our roots and that being a credit union makes a difference to the members we serve. Caja Yanga continues to help members through innovative delivery channels and services and products designed to fit its members. We were very impressed with its approach and success in growing its membership, particularly in the youth service area.”
As part of its semilla cooperativa (cooperative seed) methodology, Chja Yanga sends financial representatives, often on motorcycle, to serve members kiving in rural areas. (Photos provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Caja Yanga has taken an additional member-service step outside of its partnership role to pilot WOCCU’s MatchSavings.org. The online program allows people worldwide to match the small savings of individual Caja Yanga members through a dedicated website. By helping Caja Yanga members save for things like housing, microenterprise, education and healthcare expenses, MatchSavings.org participants help the credit union’s poorest members build savings habits as a first step toward overcoming poverty, WOCCU said. For more information, use the link. Servus CU is the first Canadian credit union to explore a direct credit union-to-credit union partnership under WOCCU’s partnerships program. As an initial step, the two partner-credit unions last week met in Cordoba, Mexico, to examine Caja Yanga's outreach to rural communities and the success of WOCCU's PATMIR II project funded by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing and Food. The project has helped Caja Yanga grow its membership and strengthen its role as a financial institution. The Servus delegation traveled from village to village within the state of Veracruz, then visited the small community of El Moral where Caja Yanga has implemented WOCCU's semilla cooperativa (cooperative seed) model. Members using the semilla cooperativa model form small groups of 10 to 20 people in their communities. Group members encourage each other to save and sometimes guarantee individual loans within the group. Before Caja Yanga became involved, it was impossible for El Moral's residents to receive credit or even open a savings account, because residents have few financial resources and live far from the nearest city. To serve El Moral, Caja Yanga sends field officers to the small town armed with personal digital assistant devices and handheld printers to process financial transactions in real time. Caja Yanga provides the same service to more than 60 small communities around the state. In addition to WOCCU staff members and Blakely, Servus CU delegates visiting Caja Yanga included: board member Penny Reeves, also a WOCCU board member; K. Wayne Cook, vice president of credit; and Mike Dickinson, senior manager of corporate communications. Reeves said they hope the partnership will encourage other Canadian credit unions to participate in the WOCCU partnerships program.
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