At the 2023 World Credit Union Conference Day 1, credit union leaders highlighted the resilience of their institutions in the face of adversity – a reaffirmation of the movement’s enduring dedication to putting people over profit.
Elissa McCarter LaBorde, President and CEO of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), underscored the transformative role credit unions play in her State of the Movement address. She brought to light the efforts of financial cooperatives in assisting their members through various challenges – a war in Ukraine, an earthquake in Turkey, and the growing migration in Latin America.
McCarter LaBorde highlighted examples from Peru and Ecuador, where the WOCCU has been instrumental in creating an inclusive financial ecosystem. These initiatives, working in conjunction with government agencies, tech companies, and local authorities, aim to enhance the economic inclusion of vulnerable citizens. She emphasized, “Credit unions are bridging gaps, driving inclusive growth and reaching out to those often left behind.”
Regulatory Landscape: Embracing Change
The conference also shed light on regulatory changes and how credit unions can maintain resilience. WOCCU International Advocacy leaders addressed potential shifts in regulatory frameworks, including payments, Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT), and sustainable finance.
Panya Monford, WOCCU Assistant General Counsel of International Advocacy, urged attendees to prepare for the new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) reporting requirements in 2024. Andrew Price, WOCCU Senior Vice President of International Advocacy and General Counsel, assured that credit unions should be capable of providing disclosures based on accessible data.
Ukrainian Resilience Amid Crisis
In a breakout session, Ukrainian credit union executive Volodymyr Sydorovskyy discussed how his members remain resilient amid Russia’s invasion of his country. Despite initial uncertainties and disruption, he highlighted a growing demand for loans in 2023, especially for small and medium enterprises looking to resume operations.
Sydorovskyy’s Credit Union Anisia is part of the USAID/WOCCU Credit for Agriculture Producers (CAP) Project, working to improve access to agricultural loans. Ewa Sierzynska, Chief of Party for the CAP Project, stated that partner credit unions have shown stronger performance and resilience compared to others in the sector.
In their ongoing support, the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions has raised nearly $2 million through its Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement Fund, implementing seven relief programs since February 2022.
Futures Thinking: Embracing Technology
The 2023 World Credit Union Conference featured its first keynote address by Alison Burns and James Taylor, “The Ethical Futurists”. They previewed the potential of technologies like artificial intelligence and discussed the future of business, urging attendees to utilize technology proactively to overcome future challenges.
Taylor acknowledged the concerns surrounding technology but emphasized its potential to augment human capabilities. He advocated viewing these technologies as new collaborative partners, a view that underscores the forward-thinking ethos of the credit union movement.
In conclusion, the conference demonstrated the resilience and adaptability of credit unions amid global challenges and their commitment to ethical and inclusive financial services. As the world evolves, the credit union movement stands ready to meet these changes, embodying resilience and fostering innovation to ensure a brighter future for their members.