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Iowa league Greater unity will help Panamas CUs
PANAMA CITY, Panama (5/6/10)--Greater unity among Panama’s credit unions could benefit their overarching goals, according to the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL).
Click to view larger image Credit unions worldwide benefit when they can bring a simple message in a unified voice to lawmakers, Iowa Credit Union League President/CEO Patrick S. Jury told a group of credit unions meeting in Panama. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
Stressing the need for greater unity, a delegation of officials representing ICUL and three Iowa credit unions traveled to Panama last week to participate in the fourth International Seminar on Best Practices and Credit Union Operations, which addressed challenges facing Panama's credit unions. Panama’s credit unions are concerned that government regulations not specifically designed to address financial cooperatives’ unique nature could raise further challenges for an industry already struggling with growth and the ability to provide competitive services to members. Executives and staff from the ICUL have pledged to help their Central American counterparts vault this hurdle. The meeting was the latest event in the ongoing relationship between ICUL and Corporación Fondo de Estabilización y Garantía de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Panamá, R.L. (COFEP), brought together in 2005 through the World Council of Credit Unions' (WOCCU) International Partnerships Program. This year’s meeting included Congreso Nacional de Cooperativas de Panama, the country’s national cooperative trade association with which COFEP last year formed an alliance so cooperatives could speak with Panama's lawmakers in one voice. “ICUL has made significant contributions to WOCCU's International Partnership Program even beyond its six-year relationship with Panama,” said Victor Miguel Corro, WOCCU senior manager in charge of the program. ICUL and WOCCU have assisted COFEP’s efforts to seek credit union-specific legislation and establish shared branching since the beginning of the partnership. ICUL delegates this year focused on ways to build a coalition to better realize the benefits in supporting COFEP’s efforts. They discussed benefits of forming for-profit ventures to help mitigate risk and share rewards among partners while alleviating reliance on the banking industry, according to Patrick S. Jury, ICUL president/ CEO. “Iowa's role is to help COFEP with its efforts to create unity and collaboration among the Panamanian credit unions in order to move the industry forward,” said Jury. “By sharing our examples we hope to give COFEP additional tools and support needed to enhance its system.” Iowa Credit Union representatives gave presentations on advocacy, regulation and risk management to more than 50 Panamanian credit union attendees during the day-long seminar. ICUL staff members Murray Williams, chief operating officer, and Emily Oliver, marketing and public affairs director, spoke about the importance of grassroots lobbying efforts and maintaining a consistent advocacy message. The pair also discussed consensus and cohesion as the building blocks of an effective advocacy campaign, helping Panama’s credit unions better understand the need for a unified approach toward critical regulatory issues, said Jacinto Villarreal, COFEP CEO. “We are in a crucial moment in Panama; the movement needs to unite to face growth and regulation challenges,” Villarreal said. “I’m glad that WOCCU and ICUL are our allies in this fight.” The seminar also featured its annual panel of Iowa credit union CEOs, including ICUL Chair Pat Drennen, CEO of 1st Gateway CU, Camanche; ICUL Director Tim Wallen, CEO of Ace Community CU, Ames; and ICUL Director Joe Gonzalez, vice president of Alliant CU, Dubuque. They addressed credit union regulation, risk management and asset growth.
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