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Mich. league CUs visit St. Lucia partners
CASTRIES, St. Lucia (3/25/09)--Jonathan Elliott, CEO and manager of MemberFocus Community CU, Dearborn, Mich., sees both similarities and differences between Michigan’s credit unions and those on the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia. Elliot is part of a recent seven-member Michigan Credit Union League delegation that recently visited St. Lucia as a part of the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) International Partnership program.
Click to view larger image Michigan Credit Union League delegation members (from left) Jonathan Elliott, Bill Harvey and Jan Rose learn about member services from a St. Lucia credit union staff member.
Click to view larger image St. Lucia Co-operative League CEO Alexander Joseph (left) provides a tour of island credit unions for Michigan league delegation participants Bill Harvey, Kathleen Bennett and Martha Ninichuck. (Photos provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
“We're all trying to educate our members about financial issues to help them save and think about the future, and the youth market is a concern for all of us,” Elliot said. “The major difference has to do with a lack of financial transaction technology in St. Lucia. The availability of electronic services is just not there.” One of the delegation's goals was to work towards increasing technological capabilities by conducting a needs assessment of St. Lucia's credit unions during its visit to the island. A daylong seminar on new product promotion, cooperative advertising, credit union consolidation, mergers and shared branching was a focal point. A seminar on operational solutions, including technological ones, and a peer job-shadowing exchange also highlighted the visit. Participants found the differences between the two credit union systems sometimes striking. “It's easy to take for granted the luxuries afforded us,” said Lauren Vance, marketing manager for Christian Financial CU, Roseville, Mich. “Things like technology, innovation and sharing cooperative concepts characterize our industry at home, but not in St. Lucia. Visiting the island allowed me to play an active role in pushing our movement forward on a global scale.” Other Michigan delegation participants in the weeklong visit included Bill Harvey, board chair for MemberFocus Community CU; Kathleen Bennett, board vice chair, and Jan Rose, CEO, of E&A CU, Port Huron; Jim Kirk, director of business and community development for the University of Michigan CU, Ann Arbor; and Martha Ninichuck, director of membership relations for the Michigan league. According to WOCCU's 2007 Statistical Report published in June 2008, St. Lucia's 15 credit unions serve more than 60,000 members. While mergers may be inevitable for the small system, shared branching offers promise toward helping credit unions expand to reach more of the island's population, according to Victor Miguel Corro, senior manager of WOCCU's International Partnerships Program. “Participants were very curious about shared branching and agreed that credit unions in St. Lucia should make a serious effort toward this goal,” Corro said. “Shared branching may be the next logical step for this partnership to pursue.” The needs assessment during the visit identified a demand for more long-distance training, such as webinars, which can be attended for a relatively low cost. Alexander Joseph, CEO of the St. Lucia Co-operative League, identified financial education, budgeting practices and building a savings culture as webinar topics St. Lucia's credit unions would find useful.
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