LEON, GUANAJUATO, Mexico -- When one credit union succeeds, the whole credit union movement succeeds. Such was the message delivered by Texas Credit Union League CEO Dick Ensweiler to an audience of approximately 500 credit union professionals and volunteers at the recent second annual meeting of Comacrep, the Mexican credit union movement's equivalent of the Credit Union National Association.
The theme of the two-day conference at the Hotel Fiesta Americana was "Joining Forces for the Economic and Social Development of Mexico." Mexico President Vicente Fox and President-Elect Felipe Calderon each voiced their support of credit unions earlier in the meeting.
Ensweiler commended credit union leaders on their ability to overcome negative perceptions about their strength and vitality, sway public perception, and influence lawmakers at the highest levels of government. He urged credit union professionals and volunteers in the audience to keep up the good work and continue telling the credit union message.
"The message must be told at the credit union level to service clubs, churches, public opinion makers, legislators, and it must be taught in schools," Ensweiler stressed.
Ensweiler told the audience that the Mexican credit union movement today is experiencing much of what the movement in Texas experienced during its development years. And, as a credit union partner, Ensweiler said, "we are proud to stand in your corner, cheer you on and offer assistance when needed.
"We are in this together," Ensweiler added. "That is what makes the credit union movement so unique. We are a cooperative movement. We share ideas, experiences and knowledge. When one succeeds, we all succeed."
In his presentation, Ensweiler explained that the U.S. credit union system, as well as the Canadian system, provides financial integration as a lever to consolidate industrial institutionalization. He outlined the major components of the integrated system in the U.S., explaining the key role and functions of leagues, CUNA, World Council of Credit Unions, CUNA Mutual, U.S. Central CU and corporate credit unions. He also explained that integration is essential to a national credit union program.
"This financial integration is a key component in keeping our credit union system strong and united," Ensweiler told the crowd. "A similar system might likely bring direction and a process for marshalling human and financial resources nationwide to your emerging credit union community."
Once an industry with a tarnished reputation, President Fox told the audience he sees a different movement today, thanks in large part to the leadership of Comacrep Chairman and CEO of the Caja Popular Mexicana Ramon Imperial Zu?iga. While the movement has made great strides, Fox said there are still millions of Mexicans that need access to affordable financial services, and challenged the movement to continue their efforts in providing families with access to credit, savings and capital. Together, he told the crowd, all can improve the economic conditions in Mexico.
Imperial's position is that developing countries need a strong credit union movement, and President-elect Calderon apparently agrees. Calderon told the audience that he believes credit unions are part of the solution to creating jobs and ending poverty. In March of this year, leaders of Mexico's credit union movement met with Calderon to gauge his opinion and knowledge of credit unions and the role they play in communities, and to push for credit union friendly laws and regulations. Last week, he affirmed that he believes in the valuable role credit unions play in building communities and is committed to working with credit unions to build a stronger Mexico.
Attendees also heard from three elected officials representing the three major political parties in Mexico: PAN, PRI and PRD. All three political party representatives assured the audience that they too believe in the credit union system, see the value of cooperatives and agree that credit unions need to work together to strengthen the system. And while they differ on the degree of involvement, they all see government playing a role in the credit union system.
In order to maintain a strong movement that gains the support of the public and government, Ivan Ku Aguilar of the Federacion Sistema Coopera told his fellow credit union audience that greater translucency is a necessity. He said credit unions must also have: policies and procedures in place to protect members and their deposits; create an atmosphere where members have confidence in leadership; and insist on a culture that resists corruption and discourages internal politics and leaders that focus on personal gain. --firstname.lastname@example.org