CUNA Mutual Group Ireland hosted 50 credit union managers and directors, as well as Ireland's credit union regulator, legislators and industry trade organizations, during a "Future of Finance" conference in Dublin, Ireland. The event focused on best practices from CU systems around the world with an eye toward helping Irish CUs endure the economy and capitalize on opportunities.
CUNA Mutual also shared results from a survey of Irish credit unions using information previously gathered by Filene Research Institute. Filene CEO Mark Meyer was a keynote speaker at the event.
"Irish credit unions are facing the most significant challenges since their foundation," said Paul Walsh, CEO of CMG's European division. "The economic climate in which they operate has collapsed. The Future of Finance conference provides our industry leaders with a unique window of knowledge to other systems."
The survey, distributed by CUNA Mutual prior to the conference, was designed to prompt discussion among credit union leaders at Thursday's event. Respondents included nearly 40 credit unions with a 57% loan-to-share ratio, representing 654,000 members and $4 billion in assets.
Survey results showed that 90% of respondents "feel optimistic they have a future as a financial services provider." The survey also revealed Irish credit unions face some of the same issues as other movements, including difficulties recruiting new volunteers and directors, the need to present a coordinated public message, and the need for a public image change to attract members.
"Change will occur, but how it looks and feels and whether it's a force for good or not will depend on whether you seize the initiative," Walsh said during his address.
Meyer said the economic downturn has driven credit union leaders worldwide to rethink their business model.
"This downturn doesn't just represent a cyclical moment," he said. "It's a rethinking of consumerism and of business."